It doesn’t take a genius to note that now is not the ideal time to launch a new fashion business. If you are launching your new business, this season, you probably started way before this disaster of a virus appeared and it was too late not to see it through. Too much time and money has been invested to pull out. You’re not a quitter.
Left - In September, MATCHESFASHION launched its The Innovators Programme to help support young designers
It’s a bit like all those cranes on the skyline and builders finishing off their dense blocks of luxury flats. It’s too late to down tools, not finish them and get them on the market. But, fast forward six months and how many spades will still be in or breaking new ground?
There will a gaping hole of projects starting and the fashion business will have one of the largest.
The V shaped, bounce-back recession is ideal because it conserves this economic momentum and it just becomes a blip. Sadly, it’s not looking that way. There is still momentum in the market, but the longer Covid disrupts everything, momentum lessens, and the more time and energy it will take to get it all moving again. This will also make this gap even larger.
Fashion has a time lag. The time between starting and producing samples, to then show, get orders, make and then sell, and then get the revenues, is usually a long timeline. It’s a risk and nobody knows what the state of the market will be when you launch, even at the best of times. Today, many of those thinking about striking out alone and setting up their own thing will choose to put off starting well into next year when they can feel more confident about the economic landscape.
Without trade shows and fashion weeks - a vehicle to showcase to buyers - many stores and websites will reorder previous years’ product, with tweaks, from existing brands. This will only really start to show when SS21 hits the stores after Christmas and consumers will start to notice.
Fashion’s reason to be is newness, or the perception of newness, and a never ending supply of new brands and designers kept the whole industry feeling fresh and new, while established brands and giant luxury groups took most of the sales and profits.
Luxury multi-brand websites and department stores need newness to give vitality to its entire offer. It’s news, it’s buzz, it’s hype and they had it all without the financial risk. This veneer or gap needs to be filled and retailers and luxury groups are now realising that they will have to start supporting it or it won’t be there.
MATCHESFASHION has launched its year-long ‘The Innovators Programme’ designed to champion young design talent. It was built upon an existing womenswear project to include menswear and is a robust package of practical support including mentorship, preferential business terms and £1.8 million in marketing.
The programme was developed as the MATCHESFASHION team collaborated closely with designers during the Covid-19 pandemic. It became clear that many of the designers were unsure how their brands could thrive through 2020 and that practical support and ongoing commitment was required. The 12 designers are: Art School, Ahluwalia, Chopova Lowena, Stefan Cooke, Germanier, Halpern, Harris Reed, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Thebe Magugu, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Bianca Saunders and Wales Bonner. Eleven of these designers were already partner brands and each designer was chosen "for having a unique and powerful DNA which is intrinsic".
“I am delighted that we have formalised our support for emerging talent, developing The Innovators into a programme that actually helps futureproof their businesses in what has been a tough year for the creative industry. I have worked with many of these designers for a long time and I am so happy that we are committing to their visionary collections in a practical, material way.” said Natalie Kingham, Buying Director at MATCHESFASHION. This group of designers will only contribute marginally to MATCHESFASHION’s group revenues, £372 million ended 31st January 2019, but they add far more to its brand as a destination for people who love fashion and a place to discover newness and the hottest design talent. This desire is insatiable and companies need this veneer of young designers and brands. A small financial outlay is worth the newness halo effect
In 2019, Liberty launched its ‘Liberty Discovers’ platform for up-and-coming talent. It supported designers by offering mentorship from the Liberty buying team and exposure opportunities via the brand’s communication platforms and access to Liberty’s two in-house product and fabric design studios, located within its Central London store.
Right - The LVMH Prize fund of €300,000 was split amongst the 8 2020 nominees
As for all the designer prizes, many decided to split the prize monies amongst the nominees due to the pandemic. The LVMH Prize finalists, Ahluwalia, Casablanca, Chopova Lowena, Nicholas Daley, Peter Do, Sindiso Khumalo, Supriya Lele and Tomo Koizumi all shared the €300,000 prize money equally. LVMH also pledged to support previous winners of the prize with a new fund, an undisclosed amount, and the six previous winners of the LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
In America, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was renamed ‘A Common Thread’. A Common Thread has raised over $5 million of which over $2.13 million was granted to 44 businesses in the first round of funding, $2.015 million granted to 37 businesses in the second round of funding and $500,000 granted to 47 NYC-based manufacturing businesses in the third round of funding for a total of 128 recipients across the three rounds.
Fashion’s tight production timetable and traditional cashflow model makes it very difficult for small designers and brands to survive. While the giant brands and retailers want to dominate, they also want a veneer of choice and newness. Expect to see many more funds, support and ‘prizes’ to appear from the large luxury groups and retailers.
Buy TheChicGeek's new book FashionWankers - HERE
With a schedule now slimmer than one of the teenage models, London Fashion Week Men’s, or LFWM, needs to find a new reason for being. We’ve done diversity, inclusiveness and sustainability, but now, thanks to the BFC, there’s an over-riding umbrella term called ‘Positive Fashion’. Designers such as Nicholas Daley, Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders and Ahluwalia all had PW (Positive Fashion) after their names on the schedule.
Launched in 2013, the BFC’s Positive Fashion initiative is “a platform designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change”.
Left - The BFC's new LFWM graphics
Positive Fashion is led by 3 strategic pillars - sustainability, equality and diversity and craftsmanship and community - it says, In a statement from the BFC, “The BFC takes the lead in setting the standards for an industry that strives to represent equality and diversity on the global stage. Championing the importance of every person in the sector as a vital and valuable part of our industry entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.
“Supports the community of talent, skills and craftsmanship that make up our unique industry. Our initiatives are designed to develop connections and understanding between designers and manufacturers taking a holistic approach to the long term viability of the sector. We celebrate the wealth of talent and capability that is unique to British designer businesses.”
While this manifesto all sounds totally earnest and worthwhile it does reek of wishful thinking and what does it actually mean?The green movement is only going to get bigger and the fashion sector, said to contribute £32.3 Billion to the UK economy in GDP and supporting 890,000 jobs, is firmly on its naughty step. We’ve had a lot of lip service, but sadly, without government legislation, the industry will put off the difficult, and more costly, things until tomorrow.
To further ram home the point, the British Fashion Council has announced its intention to launch the Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF). “The BFC recognises that the fashion industry engages consumers daily, and whilst it is often seen as forward thinking, it also appreciates that through global supply chains the industry can have a negative impact on the planet.”
“Through the IPF, the BFC aims to create an industry blueprint by bringing together expertise from different areas to help brands in the industry navigate an often confusing to understand topic and kick-start a much-need comprehensive step-change. Informed by research, expert opinion, industry insights and the significant industry experience of individual businesses and organisations, the power of collective effort will amplify independent activity.”
It’s a lot of marketing speak, but it does have an influence if the costs aren’t too prohibitive. ‘Sustainability' has been a part of the BFC’s strategy since 2006. Their ‘Esthethica’ showcase put sustainable fashion at the heart of London Fashion Week before evolving into Positive Fashion in 2013. This is the first time I have seen it mentioned anywhere.
But, what has exactly happened over those past 7 years and how much carbon emissions, or however you want to measure it, has been saved?
Back to fashion week and many designers are thinking about how to minimise their footprint, but they’re also trying to survive very tough times. LFWM is currently very sustainable because nobody buys any of it. But jokes aside, the ambition is there and it feels like we’re in something of a technological and supply chain cul-de-sac. Patrick Grant’s premium E Tautz label was called ‘Brand New Second Hand’. In the show release he said, “As a designer I feel acute pressure to act. We need to change the message. No more fiddling while Rome burns. Big fashion can do ‘sustainable’, it can do ‘ethical’, it can do ‘conscious’. It all helps make consumers buy MORE.
“But what big fashion cannot do is small. It can’t slow down. What they will never do is tell you to ‘buy less, keep for longer, cherish, repair, pass on’. That however is exactly what we must do and what we’re asking you to do. E Tautz clothes will not change so much from season to season that you feel you need to buy something new. In fact we’re suggesting the opposite.”
Grant has worked with Astco, one of the UK’s largest clothing recyclers, to make new pieces from unwanted textiles. He’s also enlisted the Rolls-Royce of darning, the Royal School of Needlework, to give them that patched/repaired feel. What he should have done is shown last season’s samples with the repairs from actual wear and tear from being lent out to the industry. It’s fine to talk about buying less when a coat costs £1500, but when the collections are often funded by more affordable, high-street collaborations it can often sound hypocritical.
But, everything fashion does is hypocritical. The idea of replacing something while it is still perfectly useful will always put fashion into the negative fashion bracket. ‘Positive Fashion’ could easily go the way of ‘sustainability’ and become as meaningless as it sounds. Nobody is going to disagree with making fashion positive, it just needs to be explained. We want detail.
“The world is burning. Fashion plays a BIG part in this.” said Grant in his show's press release, “But as Ranieri sings in ‘Oh My Love’ ‘from nature we should learn, that all can start again’. Even Fashion.”
Fred Daley has a ring to it! Fred Perry has teamed up with British designer, Nicholas Daley, in their first collaboration. Taking inspiration from his parents’ club nights and their role in igniting reggae sound system culture in the UK, Daley has exaggerated Perry’s signature polo shirt with his 70s styling.
Daley’s mix of Caribbean and Scottish heritage is blended here in a boxy fit shirt with thick intarsia hem and sleeve details.
Left & Below - Nicholas Daley X Fred Perry - Striped Knitted Shirt - £175
As London’s men’s fashion week gets ever smaller it becomes even harder for designers to make an impact. The four day event is really only two days with a mix of established brands and young designers trying to pad out the schedule. Like a Summer pond retreating, due to lack of rain (funding), with LFWM's decreasing pull the audiences are smaller and less important. Under this handicap, designers have a few short minutes to grab people's attention and resonate further outside of the room. When you look at the expense, you do wonder why anybody is crazy enough to do it, but that’s what makes you love the ‘art’ of fashion even more. LFWM is as much about getting together and looking at each other as it is about trends and looking forward. It’s not really even about selling clothes anymore, it’s like a social event or festival.
Left - RCA Graduates Gráinne Walley, Right - Clara Chu
On London Fashion Week Men’s opening night, the Royal College of Art graduates held a show called ‘All at Once’. The 50 MA graduates each had one look each which gradually rotated around the room. Held at a new retail development on Cork Street in Mayfair, this new way of showing ever increasing volumes of students makes it increasingly hard to see a story in people’s ideas or only gives them one chance to grab your attention. They were saying it was a reflection of the cost it takes for students to produce these collections and, possibly, a reflection of the times of not making huge amounts of stuff with one student offering ‘Extinction Rebellion’ as a reason for not producing anything physical at all.
It’s a tough task to show this amount of students in a realistic amount of time, but it might be better to possibly break them up and give them 5 looks to show in differing categories. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the more stuff you produce, the more opportunity you have to mentally sell something to somebody. Desire triggers people sharing and buying things. Noted highlights were Irish graduate Gráinne Walley’s Game of Thrones type armour and Clara Chu’s food inspired accessories.
For the remainder of the fashion week, the front rows were still sprinkled with Burberry check and Balenciaga Triple S trainers, all seen this time last year, and a sign of the lack of hit replacements even though fashion giants continue to churn out incredible amounts of product and ideas.
Here are some brief highlights of LFWM SS20:
This South Korean label, established in 2013, and with creative direction by Hyun-Min Han, made its London catwalk debut. An alumni of Wooyoungmi, Han showed a sophisticated collection mixing pinstripe tailoring and sportswear with flourishes of ruching and ruffles with a finale of models all wearing branded Münn suit bags.
Following her first collection as part of Fashion East, last season, the Dublin-born returned with more of her stylish normcore. This time it was summer towelling mixed with traditional Irish knits and sports fabrics in her mono-coloured looks which are fast becoming her signature.
Nicholas Daley gave LFWM a tribal jazz happening in a 18th century church in the City of London. The ‘Sons Of Kemet’ band dressed in a warm, bold checks made from British fabrics created a crescendo of music and that quickly fell into a party atmosphere with looks referencing his Jamaican heritage.
McQueen came back to London town with its usual exquisite tailoring and its fashion as art raison d’être. As well as the all ultra smart evening wear, there was watercolour symmetry prints and bold fuchsia pink florals in the charming surroundings of the C1348 Charterhouse in Farringdon. I just wish McQueen’s accessorises were as elegant as the clothes. Those chunky trainers and boots just don’t sit right and aren’t the best of their type.
Hussein Chalayan celebrated 25 years with a walk on the street near his store in Mayfair. Lucky with the weather, and with the backdrop of a textured stone wall clean striped shirting - something that continues to look fresh - in simple shapes and a minimal palette was a reminder of this experienced technician of a designer.
For the past few seasons Lou Dalton’s collections have been dominated by her collaborations with British fine knit manufacturer, John Smedley. This season, she returned to a fuller offer with outerwear, shirting, tailoring and, of course, knitwear, but this time in fine rugby shapes, in a collection of easy and stylish clothes which don’t scream ‘designer’. A return to beautiful things?
Depending on how you look at it, Copenhagen's shows are either late or early. It’s the end of the men’s calendar and the beginning of the women’s. Copenhagen has two main trade shows: Revolver and CIFF. Revolver is more condensed and in the upper mid-market of men’s and women’s brands, while CIFF runs the full spectrum from East London’s finest to affordable and wearable mainstream brands and designers.
Here are the trends and brands to know for AW19:
Left - A display at CIFF AW19
Seen on the red-carpet thanks to Abloh’s Louis Vuitton, the harness, with attached pockets, is the natural successor to the bum bag. The cross-body straps and practicality, makes it look fresh and incorporates better into an outfit. This is about sports and travel while being hands-free. New brands offering these styles are “BumBumBag” from France and “Taikan” from Canada.
Right - New affordble accessories brand from France, BumBumBag
This was a trend that I noticed at Pitti Uomo. The economics of recycling relies on the material having a higher monetary value and cashmere is one such raw fibre. Danish brand Pullover, www.pullover.dk is collecting old cashmere knitwear, taking it to Italy, removing all buttons, care labels and necklabels and separating into colours.
They then shred the fibres, mix with virgin cashmere to spin new yarn. The final garment contains 70% recycled cashmere and 30% new.
Left - Danish brand, Pullover's display of the different cashmere makers going into its recycled cashmere jumpers
The Cool Quilted Slipper
The Millennials and Generation Z aren’t leaving the house, so the cool slipper is where the money is in young footwear ATM. Something fun and affordable, these quilted versions look young and comfortable. Brands such as Woolrich, The North Face and Crocs each showed their versions.
See new brand “Coma Toes” in Berlin
From Left - Woolrich, The North Face
Return of the Brogue
If minimal Scandi footwear brands like Vagabond are reintroducing the brogue then you know it’s the direction footwear is going in. As we see a contraction in sports shoes, we’ll see a swing back to leather shoes and in particular brogue styles.
Left - Vagabond brogues
Christian Sneum worked at Valentino for 12 years before launching his own, eponymous label. New for AW19, it’s a dark take on western/army wear including accessories and footwear offering exaggerated details in classic menswear styles.
Left - Sneum, new brand by a former Valentino designer
This Dutch label is inspired by the name Vanessa. Interestingly, the name was invented by the author Jonathan Swift for Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708 and tutored. The name was created by taking “Van” from Vanhomrigh's last name and adding "Essa", a pet name for Esther. A soft palette of pastels comes in waisted coats, knitwear and trainers in this feminised feeling men's collection.
Left - New Dutch brand inspired by Jonathan Swift's invention of the name Vanessa
The vast majority of wine bottles no longer contain a cork, so what has happened to that centuries old Portguese commodity? Asportuguesas is a new footwear concept using the harvest from these oak trees. The world’s first cork flip-flops brand, it uses a 100% natural raw material that is born in a tree and is retrieved every nine years, without the tree ever being cut.
Left - Cork soles giving Asportuguesas a sustainable base
Meaning “Vandalism” in Danish, Haervaerk is a Gorillaz-type, gaming looking label of brightly coloured unisex clothing. Their uniform is metamorphorsed by the oil sea, wet asphalt and the rusty containers that litter the Danish seafront.
Niels Gundtoft Hansen, the lead designer, grew up in Denmark and is imbuing the collections with a Nordic identity. Originally hailing from Copenhagen, Hansen studied at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art. His 2016 graduate collection won the Only the Brave award at ITS – the International Talent Support contest in Trieste Italy. Marie Munk, as well a Danish graduate from the Royal College of Art, became partner in Hærværk in spring 2017.
Collaborations for AW19
Nicholas Daley for Fred Perry
Rising British menswear star, Nicholas Daley, has been tapped up by Fred Perry for this first collaborative collection. As well as working with adidas Originals for AW19, Daley offers his mixing of styles influenced by his Caribbean and Scottish backgrounds. Think madras camp collar shirts and bold tracksuits inspired by his father’s nightclub.
Cottweiler for Reebok and Allegri
Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell of British brand Cottweiler have worked with the Italian outerwear maker, Allegri, and Reebok for two further collaborations, this season. This is a continued relationship with Reebok featuring a new slip-on loafer and the 10 raincoats with Allegri are inspired by the deep sea and its underwater world using their respected fabrication.
From far left - Cottweiler X Allegri, Cottweiler's loafer for Reebook
Big Coloured Bags
If you're a man carry man-sized stuff around, you need a man-sized bag, obvs. Matching it with your hair is up to you.
From Far Left - Tourne de Transmission, Berthold
LOVE & PEACE
Who was it that once sang, ‘All you need is love’? Well, whomever it was, London needs a bit of a cuddle right now.
Below - Oliver Spencer, Bodybound
Just as orange has become a menswear staple colour, it's now time for primary yellow.
From Far Left - Kiko Kostadinov, Berthold
Androgynous ‘Non Binary’ Club Kids
Men’s and women’s fashion collections are merging so they may as well make it all androgynous, unisex and non-binary. They’ll save a fortune!
Anything goes? Yep! Read more here
From Far Left - Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Art School
Alf Garnett becomes the style icon for SS18.
From Below Left - Per Götesson, Nicholas Daley, Bodybound, Katie Eary
Networking, fashionably so.
Far Left - Miharayasuhiro, Blood Brother
Selvedge tape continues to proclaim you allegiance.
Below - Bobby Abley, Christopher Raeburn
Striped Rowing Jackets
From Below Left - Topman Design, Songzio, Hackett, Kent & Curwen, Kent & Curwen
Border control. Who needs the eye scanner when you can wear this?
Left - Bobby Abley
The first rule of fashion week - always end your show on a high.
Below - Bobby Abley, Liam Hodges
Fashion gets streamlined. Bike optional.
From Far Left - Martine Rose, Daniel W Fletcher, Wan Hung
Fashion loves a few pointless dangly bits.
From Below - Tourne de Transmission, D.GNAK
Who knew big zips could be so slimming?
Both - Miharayasuhiro