Is there ever a perfect time to launch anything? Warehouse, the women’s high street brand founded in 1976 by Jeff Banks, is launching menswear this week. The traditional British men’s high-street has been in the doldrums for quite some time since the skinny suit was replaced by the branded tracksuit. So, the question is, does this ambitious new launch signal the start of a potential menswear renaissance or will it be simply too difficult in a segment that has seen other well known high-street brands crash and burn?
Jonathan Munro, Warehouse Menswear designer says, “We feel strongly that there is a gap for a well-designed sustainable brand at a great price point. We wanted to build on the success of the womenswear line, marking a new chapter in the brand’s history and fulfilling what we believe, is a gap in the market.” he says. It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time Warehouse has done menswear. They had menswear in the early days of Warehouse so they are not promoting this as a first.
Left - Warehouse Menswear SS20
The main focus is, the fashion word du jour, sustainable. The new range will be sold online via the Warehouse webstore www.warehouse.co.uk and through host e-tailers and retailers; The Idle Man, Zalando, JohnLewis.com, Next and the Australian retailer Myer. Price points range from £15 for a 100% organic T-shirt, up to £189 for a recycled polyester content suit and £229 for the chrome-free suede jacket.
“The core of the range is made up of high quality wardrobe staples that should last season-after-season, balanced with breathable cottons and linens in a wearable colour palette.” says Munro. “We have a great range of printed shirts, from monochrome geos to abstract hand painted illustrations which are all designed in-house. Key pieces include our heavy twill overshirts and slim utility trousers.” he says.
“Fashion needs to become more sustainable for the good of the planet.” says Munro. “100% of the range includes sustainable fibres such as organic cottons which use less pesticides and therefore less pollutants, recycled polyesters made up from salvaged plastic bottles and eco viscose which is derived from renewable wood sources.”
What will Warehouse Menswear add to the British men’s high-street market? “Sustainable clothing for the modern man who needs his clothes to last and work for him every day.” says Munro. “We know women buy clothes for men and we also know men buy clothes for themselves - it's aimed at whoever wants to buy it.” he says. “We are holding a pop-up store at Protein Studios in Shoreditch, running from the 2nd – 7th March. This is to allow customers to see the range first hand, interacting with the materials and learning more about the sustainability messaging which runs throughout.”
What does the future look like for Warehouse Menswear? “Our main focus will be to continue to research and develop new ways of working with sustainability in mind, supported by the knowledge of what the Warehouse Menswear customer is looking for in a sustainable clothing collection.” says Munro.
Brands such as Whistles and New Look both struggled in the menswear category. Whistles cancelled its menswear range this time last year and New Look removed menswear from its stores in April 2019, going online-only. The rest of the high-street from Topman to River Island to Jigsaw have struggled to compete with Zara and the sports brands. But, things aren’t all doom and gloom, according to a ‘GlobalData’ report ‘The UK Clothing Market 2018 – 2023’, menswear will be the driving force of the clothing sector, forecast to grow by 12.3% over the next five years as greater trend incorporation and newness drives volumes.
A British Fashion Council and Mintel report estimates that consumer spending menswear has grown 5.1% to reach £15.9 billion in 2018. Menswear now accounts for 26% of the total clothing market, whilst womenswear accounts for 51%. Consumer spending on clothing is forecast to rise 25% to £76 billion in the next five years to 2023.
Warehouse’s parent company, the Oasis and Warehouse Group, clearly sees potential in the menswear market having recently purchased online retailer The Idle Man for an undisclosed sum in Sept. 2019.
Right - Warehouse Menswear SS20
So, what do the experts think Warehouse Menswear’s prospects are?
“When this was announced, I’m not going to lie, I was very surprised, to say the least. I understand a lot of people keep on talking about the growth in men’s fashion & grooming, but when we see retailers from New Look to Whistles dropping their menswear offering, it does beg the question, is now the best time to launch a menswear brand extension?
“Additional to this, we have an awful lot of talk on sustainability and buying less but better quality, plus when well known names like TOPMAN are not performing particularly well at the moment, its hard to see a brand not known for their menswear being a success in these difficult, uncertain times. However, maybe this is what the menswear market needs, maybe Warehouse it going to target the ladies buying for their men, but this is an ever increasingly niche demographic. I do wish Warehouse all the luck in the world and hope their Menswear offering is a success, but I won’t be holding my breathe.” says Anthony McGrath, Founder of Clothes-Make-the-Man.com & leading academic.
“It’s certainly a challenging time to launch, but there’s an opportunity for Warehouse where other major high street names are stalling or retracting on menswear. There are multiple challenges for high street retailers; nimble online competition, prohibitive high business rates, persistent economic uncertainty and the fact that many of us no longer choose shopping as a preferable leisure activity. However, in my opinion the current menswear offer from the high street, with a few exceptions, is failing to offer well-made, well priced and exciting product. There’s a proliferation of dull, cheap clothes.
I’d like to see a certain amount of risk taking. Nobody needs another line of neutral, anonymous ‘wardrobe essentials’. Men shop for themselves. It’s not going to work if the strategy is to rely on existing customers.” says Jessica Punter, Stylist & Grooming Consultant, & former GQ Style & Grooming Editor.
“It'll be a tough fight, and depends on their marketing strategy I think. They have a nice campaign video and a pop up shop but is that enough? We'll see. They have an opportunity now to really nail it, to take the market share from the high street brands that don't do it particularly well, but time will tell! I think others failed because they weren't offering a mix of product for different customer groups, so hopefully Warehouse will.
“There isn't a 'good time' to launch I don't think, there's always going to be peaks and troughs in the industry, and right now we're just coming out of a terrible time for retail, so maybe it's a great time! To wait until fashion week or another event is pointless now as we know men don't really shop to seasons or events, they just shop because they need to. I guess it's a good time in the year though, because now is the time for newness, so makes sense from a business point of view.
“Initially, I think it'll be the aimed at the women for sure, because they are the ones going in store and online to buy Warehouse, but if they have a good marketing plan, and get it out to wider audiences, men will slowly show up. Also, I wonder who they are partnering with, if anyone, to wholesale? That'll be really important in pulling in a new menswear customer. It'll be slow, but maybe they might be able to do what others have failed to do!” says Simon Glazin, freelance fashion writer and blogger.
Left - Will it work? Warehouse Menswear SS20
“I think there's space for an affordable, fashion-forward offer now Topman is tussling with Boohoo over cheap sportswear, but Warehouse aren't going to be the ones to provide it. Well, judging from the images I've seen.” says Lee Clatworthy, Fashion Writer.
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Garbstore’s newest label is 'Drop Out Sports'. Spotted at the men’s trade shows in Paris, last summer, I was first taken with the name, we're all a dropout somewhere along the line, and then their collection of handsome and modern rugby shirts, all authentically English.
Billed as 'The Authentic Rugby Collection for the Unconventional Sportsman' , Drop Out Sports centres on an original turn-of-the-century rugby shirt. Made using 100% organic yarns and sustainable textiles woven in England whilst retaining the authentic weight and feel of the original. Real men play in pink.
TheChicGeek says, "Preppy sportswear is returning and nothing is as easy as a white collared rugby shirt to make you look handsome. Go up a size because you'll want to wear this fuller and looser."
Left & Below - Drop Out Sports - Stripe Rugby - £150
Launched in 2017, MARRAM Co offers a luxury, personalised natural shave with the finest of essential oiled infused foams and chrome hardware kits. Hoping to transform shaving into a pleasurable ritual, MARRAM Co believe that the preparation behind the shave is key and have created shaving creams to match your mood, all manufactured in the UK.
Left - MARRAM Co - "Power Up" - Metal tubes and quality fragrances makes this shaving to remember
Using organic essential oils sourced from 212 organic farms all over the world, the creams are therapeutic even for the man with the most sensitive of skin. Choose from “Wake Up Call”, “You’ve Got This”, “It’s Cold”, “Power Up”, “Night Out”, "The Morning After”, “Time Out” and “You Might Get Lucky”.
TheChicGeek says, “When you think about shaving products it’s interesting how, for something we literally put under our noses, quality fragrance hasn’t played a more dominant role.
Named after the grey-green tufts of Marram grass found on British coastal sand dunes, MARRAM, also a palindrome - the same forwards as backwards - is a collection of shaving creams offering distinctive and quality scents.
The brand centres on the traditional barbering routine of cream, bowl and brush. Most guys won’t be bothered with this faff on a daily basis, but it’s definitely for a time when you can enjoy the ritual.
The brushes, razor handle and bowls are really top quality and are priced to match. The razor takes a Gillette head and everything, including the shaving creams, is made in the UK.
Right - MARRAM Co - Brush & Bowl Set - £250
While the hardware is expensive, I like the way they’ve made the shaving cream realistic in pricing - in two sizes, £8 for 20ml and £20 for 100ml - it also means you can play with the fragrances and try a few.
There are 9 different scents, all with fun names, 7 are permanent and a couple are limited-editions. It’s light and foams up nicely and easy to apply with your hands.
I think people are willing to pay more for products with quality scents. I feel £20 is good for 100ml, here, and those essentials oils are the things that transport you, for a few seconds at least, to another place and makes shaving less of a chore and more of a pleasure. The heat and steam of shaving is ideal for these essential oils to really do their best work.
This reminds me of the shaving cream from Buly that smells like marzipan that I like - read more here - and my favourite is “Wake Up Call” with its earthy vetiver fragrance.
I think MARRAM & Co are onto something here. I like the branding, I like the metal tubes and I like the fragrances. I just need to shave more!”
Below - MARRAM Co - Shaving Cream - 20ml - £8 100ml - £20
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Who said toothpaste had to be boring? The two French founders of LEBON, Stephanie, an art historian and professional photographer and her husband Richard, a pharmacist MD and dermatologist - cosmetics certified, are both sea and nature lovers.
They selected ethical and natural ingredients combined with delicious and exclusive perfume notes from Grasse to produce their range of toothpaste. They all contain Certified Organic aloe vera and green tea to naturally help protect gums and prevent tooth decay. LEBON toothpastes are vegan and naturally sweetened with stevia rebaudiana. They also have a non-ending 'free of' list: cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfates, fluoride and titanium dioxide
TheChicGeek says, “I’ve never seen a more glamourous toothpaste than this. The glitzy packaging and shiny tube gives you that Caribbean holiday feel, especially the pineapple one that I tried. Toothpastes, as grooming products, are becoming quite a thing: I love Buly and their interesting flavours and Beverly Hills Formula Black Pearl Toothpaste is a firm favourite.
There are 6 LEBON flavours in total. I opted for the pineapple mixed with rooibos and mint, so it saved me rinsing my mouth out with Malibu every morning - jokes.
I didn’t realise it was organic until I looked on the website, as it doesn’t scream it on the packaging, and I’ve never really thought about organic toothpaste before. It turns out the mouth is highly porous and any chemicals in it can quickly become absorbed by the body so probably best to avoid any nasties. It is missing fluoride, though, so I would ask your dentist whether this is affecting your teeth the next time you see them.
The fragrance is quite synthetic as you bring it towards your nose, but the taste is pleasant. This is toothpaste for the Instagram age and it's easy to be seduced by the packaging. While, relatively, pricey, it’ll transport your twice-daily, 2 minutes of brushing to a totally tropical island every time.”
Left - LEBON Organic Toothpaste - £17.99
TheChicGeek says, “Based around organic soaps, SCRUBD is a new British grooming brand. Founded by entrepreneur, Mark Helvadjian, his previous company was ShippingEasy, an online fulfilment platform, after he couldn’t find premium all-natural grooming products created specifically for men. Two years ago the journey began and, now, launches with 9 products - 4 of which are soaps - exclusively at Harvey Nichols.
Left - SCRUBD grooming based around organic soap - Exclusively in Harvey Nichols - Soaps - Cedarwood & Grapefruit, Lemongrass & Lime, Oakmoss & Spearmint, Charcoal & Black Pepper - £17, Face Scrub - £24
I was sent 2 soaps and the face scrub to try:
I like the branding, it’s simple yet distinctive. The soaps are man-sized and will last a decent amount of time. I can’t see in the blurb how the ‘Hand-crafted all-natural, organic triple-milled soap block’ has been made specifically for men’s skin? I must be missing something.
I don’t usually use soap as it dries out the skin. This has an element of dryness, but it isn’t too bad. I like the all-natural, organic idea and the smell is subtle - it could actually be stronger.
There’s a novelty to using soap, when you don’t usually, especially in certain areas! These big sizes will be more cost effective than any body wash. They are fairly premium for a soap - £17 - but it is “hand-crafted” in England and organic.
The "Face Scrub" is pretty standard. It’s nice and soft and cleanses and washes off easily. I usually judge a new grooming range on its moisturiser which I didn’t try here, but I like the idea of bringing soaps back and centring the brand around these.”