While the majority of UK cities are struggling to deal with the implosion of their high-streets, London is a juggernaut that keeps people spending. Thanks to tourist dollars and and an increasingly high-spending visitor, Bond Street, arguably London’s premier luxury shopping street, has seen a raft of new openings hoping to tap into London as the global retail destination. From Alexander McQueen to Loewe, this historical street has seen glorious new retail spaces tailored to this exclusive location open to entice more money from shoppers.
Left - Alexander McQueen's new three storey store
The Office for National Statistics has just released the final International Passenger Survey (IPS) results covering 2018 and it’s still looking good for London. While the number of visits to the UK in 2018 fell slightly (-3%) - 2017 was a record - to 37.9 million, the data from the last 10 months shows visitors spending huge amounts and are visiting Bond Street, in particular.
Data from Global Blue, a tourism shopping tax refund company headquartered in Nyon, Switzerland, shows that the average spend on Bond Street among international visitors increased by 4% year-on-year from January to October 2018. International shoppers spent a huge average of £1,341 per transaction during this time.
Global Blue has also just opened its first VIP Globe Shopper Lounge on Albemarle Street in Mayfair, just a stone’s throw from Bond Street. According to their figures, the top spenders were visitors from the UAE, Qatar and Hong Kong. UAE shoppers spent £2,074 per transaction, up 19% year-on-year. Qatari shoppers spent £1,964 per transaction (up 7%), while Hong Kong shoppers spent £1,837 per transaction (up 15%).
Interestingly, the biggest increase was seen amongst Indonesian visitors, averaging £1,551 per transaction, up 20% compared to 2017.
Right - Staircase in the new Celine menswear store
Paris is London’s closest luxury shopping competition and the 'yellow vests’ or Gilet Jaunes protests have been affecting its attractiveness and is putting off visitors. "We lost between one and two growth points in 2018 due to the yellow vests," said Mathieu Grac, Global Blue's vice president of intelligence strategy.
The weakness of the pound is making shopping in London more attractive and better value for money. The Chinese, in particular, have always chosen Paris over London, but this could be starting to change with new stats show record breaking results for the end of 2018 for London. Visits to the UK from China in this period were up 52% to 94,000 – the 9th consecutive record quarter for visits. These visitors spent £160 million in the UK between October and December 2018 – 30% up compared to the same period in 2017. In total there were a record 391,000 visits from China to the UK in 2018, up 16% on 2017.
Overall, UK visitor spend in 2019 is forecast to be £24.9B, up 7.8%, on a forecast of 38.8m visitors.
While many designer brands are closing stores and trimming their global retail network, others are realising that in order to stay ahead, you need to invest heavily in the world’s finest locations. The days of copy-cat, identikit stores are over and brands know they need to make something unique for its location.
Proving this point is the new ‘Casa Loewe’. The Spanish brand, Loewe, owned by LVMH, and famous for its puzzle bags, has opened a three storey boutique designed in the vision of creative director, Jonathan Anderson. Like an art gallery with clothes, but with a personality and warmth, the London store features work by a selection of internationally renowned artists, including three oak sculptures by Ernst Gamperl (winner of the LOEWE FOUNDATION Craft Prize in 2017) alongside 15 photographs by Alair Gomes, the ‘Vulcano Table’ by Anthea Hamilton, a long- standing LOEWE collaborator, William Turnbull’s 1956 sculpture ‘Idol 4’ and Grayson Perry’s ‘Mum and Dad’ vase.
Left - Casa Loewe showing Anthea Hamilton's 'Vulcano Table'
It feels a very creative space and is one of the few luxury boutiques on Bond Street to give you this full idea of a lifestyle. The sales assistant I spoke to said Anderson was often in the store talking to them through the product and also making sure things were working correctly. She also said they had a great many Chinese customers.
Further down Bond Street is the new Celine menswear boutique. The first time Celine has done menswear under new creative head, Hedi Slimane, it feels very déjà vu in the Saint Laurent mould and looks like all those other marbled minimal retail palaces from brands such as Neil Barrett or End Clothing in Soho. On the corner of New Bond Street and Grafton street, in the old Boucheron store, it is exactly what fans of Slimane will want and the quality of the clothes do look good. Downstairs is a compact tailoring area and while none of the extra skinny clothes had a price tag on, the raised front doors are automatic, just in-case those super-skinny rockstars don’t have enough strength to open them. Disappointly, this concept will look the same the world over.
Into Old Bond Street, Alexander McQueen has amalgamated all three of their London stores into the large, former DKNY outlet. The three storey boutique is a beautiful, sweeping space by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, his first retail project. It truly flows with giant glass tubes linking the floors and acres of matt walnut covering every surface including the two spiral staircases.
The ground floor is home to womenswear and the first floor to menswear. The top floor is like a museum, probably hoping to capitalise on the popularity of ‘Savage Beauty’, it illustrates the artistry of the current collections while being dotted with archive pieces. This area will also be used to host a programme of exhibitions and talks aimed specifically at inspiring students. It left me with a renewed respect of the work of the brand which I’ve often dismissed since McQueen’s death. There was a men’s coat, hand embroidered with silver graffiti, on sale for £100,000.
Stella McCartney has moved her store from the Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby designed Bruton Street to Old Bond Street. A difficult space, it is linked by a huge metal staircase reminiscent of the tanks at Tate Modern. More concrete and terrazzo, the front ground floor is peppered by giant boulders and moss. A small glade of silver birches decorate a roof garden and 'Airlabs' technology makes this the first indoor commercial space in London with the cleanest air possible.
The store carries all the brand’s collections including women’s and menswear ready-to-wear, accessories, lingerie, swimwear, kids, eyewear, fragrance and adidas by Stella McCartney. Stella McCartney said, “Old Bond street, it’s probably one of the most prestigious retail locations in the world. And for me being born and bred in London and having our business headquarters there and design studio, it’s an incredible honour for us. This store really tells the story of the World of Stella McCartney; incorporating sustainability, fashion and luxury.” Louis Vuitton’s giant Bond Street store is also being refurbished and will hopefully offer something bespoke to this prestigious location.
Right - Stella McCartney's ground floor showing boulders running through the centre
What this group of shops show is the huge investment still going into physical retail. If you’re going to entice those shoppers, you'll need to offer something original, something they'll want to investigate and explore and ultimately an experience of buying something truly great and memorable. By working and competing as a group, it gives more incentive to brands and people to make this the greatest destination and a positive cycle of openings and continued openings will keep this firmly as one of the most thriving luxury retail destinations in the world.
The Crystal Maze Jumpsuit
The all-in-one becomes a style adventure as the jumpsuit, finally, makes into men's wardrobes. Think of it as a cost saver, as you get a top and bottom in one.
From Left - Rochas, Prada, Prada, Lanvin,
Below - From Left - Ralph Lauren, Facetasm, Ami, Cerruti1881
The shirt is back! -you heard it here first - so that also means the collar is too. Wear it messy and open.
From Left - Prada, Marni, Wooyoungmi, Valentino
This trend followed on from London - here
Left - Prada
The Soviet Shoulder
Forget the Cold War, it's all about the cold shoulder for SS18. Think big and high. More hunched than hench!
From Left - Prada, Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Paul Smith
Below Left - Balenciaga, Wooyoungmi, Dries van Noten
Return of the Tie
We've seen the shirt - above - is back, so it only seems fitting that the neck tie makes a reappearance.
From Left - Marni, Marni, Kenzo, SSS World Corp
From Below - Paul Smith, Wooyoungmi, Fendi, Antonio Marras
The less it matches the better.
Left - Marni, Sacai
They make you taller & thinner? Where do I sign?!
Left - Marni, Balmain, Etudes, Haider Ackermann
Below Left - Paul Smith, Cerruti 1881, Ami
Long & loose. Just don't call it 'long-line'!
From Left - Thom Browne, Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten, Officine Generale
Florals on Mephedrone!
Below - Kenzo, Ami, DSquared2
Long Short Sleeves
It's all part of the larger-than-life, oversized trend of trying to make your polo shirt sleeves touch your wrists.
From Left - Balenciaga, Balenciaga, DSquared2, MSGM, Neil Barrett
When TheChicGeek met Neil Barrett - see here - he was just about to unveil this collection in Milan. He told TheChicGeek he was inspired by his childhood and the 1970s and the collection was a mix of his classic smart sportswear and 70s inspired chevrons and colours.
Neil really knows how to make clothes that flatter. Here we have a classic bomber given movement with the herringbone detail on the arms, a super luxurious knit polo with epaulettes and subtle jacquard trousers with a camo-type design. The look is finished off with smart, white gum sole shoes.
Credits - All clothes Neil Barrett from Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge, Trainers - Tim Little x Grenson, Spectacle - Salvatore Ferragamo, PRO LS All-In-One Face Cleansing Gel - Lab Series, Stress Fix Body Lotion - Aveda,
Shot on Olympus PEN by Robin Forster
More images & video below
Does menswear really need yet another luxury label? It does if it can offer something different that caters to wealthy men by making their lives easier, increasing comfort and looking smart while not being too difficult or ‘fashiony’ to wear. So, no challenge there then?!
Left - Helbers AW16 Luxury menswear staples with sports detailing and modern fabric mixes
Many traditional luxury menswear brands have fallen into that trap of trying to draw attention to themselves, the brand and the product and it risks alienating its core group and those who can really afford it. Just look at the new Brioni or Zegna’s, now, defunct Couture line. They are all chasing the same customers and these men are picky and know exactly what they want.
Well, I’m introducing, Helbers, a new label of luxury menswear staples from Dutch designer, Paul Helbers. When I first saw this, in the Spring, it was the attention to detail and quality which you could instantly see, and that was just the branded hangers!
You may have heard of Helbers before from his time in charge of Louis Vuitton’s men’s under Marc Jacobs from 2006 to 2011. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he has also worked at Maison Margiela.
AW16 is his first collection and I would describe it as Jil Sander meets Neil Barrett. Made in Italy, mostly near Venice, it is a small selection of classic and pure menswear pieces with athletic elements and fabric mixes. It is pricey, but I think this is a brand designed to complement the wearer rather than dominate.
Italians do it better. This seems to be the theme coming out of Milan fashion week where the Italians have taken the bull by the horns and produced some of the best menswear we’ve seen from them in a long time. You may as well go down in style!
Here are TheChicGeek’s trend highlights:
Think avocado and prawn cocktail sauce.
From Left - Gucci, Bally, Gucci
The seventies got a refresh and contemporary update. Chevrons were the order of the day.
From Far Left - Neil Barrett, Fendi, Dsquared2, Neil Barrett
(See TheChicGeek meet Neil Barrett just before this collection - here)
Knowing Fendi this is probably made from kittens. Get the robe out of the spa and take it to the street.
More bleach. It's one way of cleaning your clothes. (See how London did it - here)
From Left - Gucci, Dsquared2, MSGM, Bally
The most stylish men are always prepared. Now get over prepared!
From Left - Moncler Gamme Bleu, Ferragamo, Prada, Ferragamo
Nobody dresses up anymore, said no one, ever. It's time to get imaginative and experiment with new shapes including ruffles and tails.
From Left - Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci
Jazz, great! From literal at Dolce to art-deco Marcel waves at Fendi. I thought I'd throw a painting from the era by British artist Duncan Grant for additional inspiration.
From Left - Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Missoni, Fendi, Ralph Lauren
Rediscover your waist. Suck it in and stick a letter on it.
Left - Bally
Nobody does narcissism like the Italians!
Below - Giorgio Armani
I have a new found respect for Neil Barrett’s work after meeting him. While he’s never produced ‘look-at-me-internet-attention' grabbing clothes, he does enough to move his brand on, each and every season, and was a pioneer of the ‘athleisure’ trend which has filtered into the various echelons of menswear.
Left - Neil Barrett & his new 'Muse'!
I didn’t fully appreciate his designs until I saw them in the display which is currently on in Harvey Nichols new #Project109 menswear exhibition space. This are designs which could be easily dismissed as simple or minimal, but on closer inspection there's a hell of a lot more going on.
Harvey Nichols has asked Neil to look at his archive and display and reproduce favourite pieces from his collections from the past ten years. He says he saves every look from each of the four collections he produces every year, so that’s some serious storage facility.
After working for Gucci, Prada and establishing his own eponymous brand in 1999, he continued the minimal menswear aesthetic, but more recently started to introduce signature Barrett designs such as the chevron sweatshirt and lightning bolt.
‘ORIGINALS: Vol #1’ is a re-edition of 12 original designs, including the iconic buffalo jackets, leather-detailed coats and T-Shirts, jacquard suiting, colour-blocked shirts, and the double-bonded sweatshirts.
About to show his SS17 collection in Milan, Neil said he was inspired by his childhood in the 1970s in Devon, so the shapes and colours of items relate to items he used to wear then, but reimagined for now with his same attention to detail, design and modern fabrics.
Go visit - Harvey Nichols Project 109
Below - An example of the exhibit from Neil Barrett's archive
Okay, okay, for you discerning fashion gents out there this does have something of the Neil Barrett's about it, albeit with more colour. (He's moved onto lightning strikes anyway!)
Valentino are knocking it out of the park at the moment. They've lucked out on their Creative Directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who are creating both commercial and beautiful items while keep all the different layers of fashion consumers happy.
If you're a ChicGeek reader then you're obviously part of the most sophisticated layer and nothing gets more sophisticated than this. Definitely a 'fashion' piece, it still has legs to become something of a timeless classic. The design is said to draw inspiration from the work of Australian artist Esther Stewart. A detectable blue sheepskin collar allows it to venture into deeper winter territory and despite keeping you warm, nothing looks cooler.
Left & Below - Valentino - Panelled Bomber Jacket With Shearling Collar - £1715