At the recent European men’s AW20 fashion weeks and trade shows and there was the perennial talk of what’s next. Branded booths full of fur-trimmed arctic parkas and look-at-me colourful chunky trainers didn’t really give an indication of the next big direction in menswear or fashion in general. Talk of tailoring’s recent return and the variations on the duck boot didn’t really satisfy the over aching question of “What’s the next big trend/idea?”.
Left - GH Bass putting a comfort spin on the classic penny loafer for AW20
When you think about the regular, engaged and fashion buying consumer, what’s the overriding trend of the past decade? It’s comfort. While it started with the dreaded term ‘athleisure’ creeping out of the gym and into people’s wardrobes and then exploded into sportswear, in general, people really connected with the laziness of it all and they’ve got used to it. There’s no going back. Items that are easy to put on, easy to wear, easy to take off, morning to evening, are really the driving force of people’s purchasing decisions. Asking people to be uncomfortable again for fashion’s sake is never going to return. Never.
You don’t realise how used to uncomfortable we were until you give yourself a rare reminder of what we used to wear. And compared to our historical forefathers it was certainly nothing in comparison to those days of being trussed up like a turkey. Even a regular pair of cotton denim jeans feels uncomfortable and such-an-effort to put on without any stretch and an unelasticated waist. The genderless meeting in the middle of sloppy oversized clothes and sports shoes is the perfect example of all this. When was the last time you saw a women hobbling along in uncomfortable high-heels? And good riddance to that too.
Sportswear is currently fulfilling this need, and brands with product outside this genre can no longer wait for the pendulum to swing back to them. They have to get involved. For example, GH Bass, long the custodians of the classic, leather men’s penny loafer has incorporated an Air Max type air bubble sole to their shoes for AW20. Okay, so I know we’ve had shoe/trainer hybrids since the early days of Prada Sport in the 1990s, but this is less about trend and more about getting people to make the leap from trainers back to something resembling a traditional shoe, rather than previously the other way aroun
Right - Fitness Influencer Joe Wicks wearing trainers on his wedding day
Every major shoe trend of the last few years has been related to a slipper. Every Croc to Ugg to Vans to slider is basically an outdoor slipper. It’s all about comfort. The JOMO/Netflix Generation are having to be enticed with a outdoor sole just to leave the house and even then it has to feel the same as if they were indoors.
There’s also a psychological thing going on here. If something feels or looks like an effort, then it is instantly rejected by the consumer. Certain items, fabrics and styles are associated with discomfort. People want clothes and accessorises then can forget about, aren’t conscious wearing and are instantly comfortable. Long gone are the days of expecting customers to wear or break something in. For example, there were many hiking boots styles on offer for the Autumn/Winter 20 season, but looking all the many laced eyelets and thought of having to wrench your foot in and out, has you reaching for the nearest tent mule no matter how beautifully patinated or light they are.
While this all relates nicely to the current sportswear domination, and the two go hand-in-hand, this idea will resonate and underpin any future fashion styles or trends. Whether it’s preppy or more formal clothes, the underlying trend will be comfort. There are generations of young people who don’t know anything different. Fashion has to be realistic and the future is comfortable. The visuals can change, the looks will morph, but this macro trend should be the starting point for any brand or designer hoping to appeal to the mass market. You only had to look at fitness guru Joe Wicks getting married in his trainers this past summer to see how far this has all infiltrated formal scenarios. The shoe makers of Northamptonshire must have been crying into their Cherry Blossom when they saw that. But, he obviously wanted to be comfortable on his big day and it also reflected his brand and personality.
This idea is an overarching trend in fashion. What started with sports could end anywhere. What’s next in fashion nobody's really sure, but one thing’s for sure, it ain’t discomfort.
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Sometimes it's good to go for a run in the woods. Clear the mind, wind in your hair and the latest sneakers on your feet, life is good. and breathe. Nothing feels as good as a fresh tracksuit to put that spring in your step. Sorry, gotta run!
Credits - #Gifted Tracksuit - Nicce, Trainers - Diadora, Watch - Kronaby,
When New Look announced, at the beginning of this month, its menswear was going online only, it solidified what we already knew; high-street fashion is struggling, badly. It was only a few years ago, when the ‘dapper’ three-piece skinny suit was at its zenith and pocket squares were furnishing top pockets, that the good times were rolling and Britain’s high-street menswear retailers were expanding.
Left - Momager Kris Jenner loving an adidas tracksuit but with a Gucci bag or Fendi keyring
Back in 2016, New Look was busy rolling out menswear stores in university towns, appealing to those on a budget wanting fast fashion. New Look was fairly late to the menswear party, following in the footsteps of brands like Topman, River Island and Moss Bros, but it had lofty ambitions. They opened 22 menswear stores in places such as Shrewsbury, Exeter, Maidstone, Derby and Nottingham. They are all now closed, wth New Look saying in a recent statement, “New Look is removing menswear from its UK and Ireland stores but will continue to sell the range online and on third party platforms,” such as ASOS and Zalando.
So, what happened? Sportswear happened. Branded sportswear has been the main fashion story for the past few years. From trainers to tracksuits, sportswear is everywhere and on everybody.
Recent results from sportswear behemoth, JD Sports, illustrates its growth and dominance. JD Sports, which is now more than three times bigger than arch rival Sports Direct, almost-doubled revenue in its latest results for the 52 weeks to February 2, 2019. Revenue was up an incredible 49.2 percent to £4.7 billion for the period compared to the year before, with profit before tax increasing by 15.4 percent to £339.9 million pounds.
JD Sports’ results includes its acquisition of the Finish Line business in America. The brand was bought for around £400 million in June 2018, and saw JD Sports take ownership of Finish Line’s 600 stores in the US.
JD Sports executive chairman, Peter Cowgill, said in a statement: "We believe that our acquisition of the Finish Line business in the United States, the largest market for sport lifestyle footwear and apparel and the home to many of the global sportswear brands, will have positive consequences for our long-term brand engagement whilst significantly extending the group's global reach. We maintain our belief that Finish Line is capable of delivering improved levels of profitability.” JD Sports said it stayed clear of reactive discounting while offering a point of difference in the goods it sold.
This American dominance, particularly of the internet and social media channels, has helped grow this market. When American football is coming to Wembley and there’s even talk of baseball making inroads into this country, then you know the power of the American online world we now live in. When you see Kris Jenner wearing a full adidas tracksuit on multiple episodes of the Kardashians, instead of the luxury labels she used to be wearing, it really illustrates how far this trend has come and it’s global.
JD Sports is now in 10 countries in mainland Europe with its first store in Austria at Mariahilfer Strasse in Vienna opening in the next few months. The JD fascia saw a net increase of 39 stores in the period with new stores in all of the retailer’s existing territories as well as its first two stores in Finland. In Asia, JD Sports has opened its first stores in Singapore, Thailand and South Korea with its local partner Shoemarker Inc, and now has 16 JD stores, including 14 conversions of the multibrand Hot-T fascia which was acquired in the previous year.
New Look recently closed all of their stores in China, Belgium and Poland, 85 stores in the UK and, potentially, those in France and Portugal too. It has returned to profit after its underlying operating profit came in at £38.5 million to Dec 2018, compared to an underlying operating loss of £5.1 million for the same year-to-date period the year prior, but like-for-like sales are still falling, they’ve just slowed.
These woes aren't just restricted to New Look. The fall in the value of these high-street companies is illustrated by Arcadia recently buying a 25 per cent stake in retailers Topshop and Topman back from US investor Leonard Green for $1 or 76p. It was rumoured the US private equity firm bought the 25 per cent stake from Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia in 2012 for £350 million. That’s some devaluation.
Another British high-street brand suffering from the dominance of sportswear is Moss Bros. The menswear retailer recorded a £4.2 million loss for the 52-week period ending January 26, 2019, compared to a profit of £6.7 million the year prior. Revenues were down 2.1 per cent to £129 million and like-for-like sales dropped 4.3 per cent. Interestingly, full-year figures showed that like-for-like hire sales plummeted by 9.3 per cent. People aren’t even renting formalwear now?! Moss Bros chief executive, Brian Brick, said it was an “extremely challenging” year. “We suffered from a combination of a significant stock shortage and extremes of weather, alongside sporting distraction in the first half, which impacted footfall into our stores,” he said. That “sporting distraction” was the World Cup with people no doubt wearing yet more sportswear.
“Looking forward, in common with many UK retailers, we continue to anticipate an extremely challenging retail landscape, particularly within our physical stores, as a result of reduced footfall and rising costs.” he said.
This sportswear as a fashion trend is slowing, but sportswear is beyond a trend, now, and it’s a lifestyle and ease of dressing that is resonating around the world and to every age group. These once dominant British high-street stars are contracting and they are cutting off limbs (menswear) to save the vital organs. Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” He couldn't be more wrong.
The two main Berlin men’s trade shows, relevant to the UK market, SEEK and Premium, had a switch up for the AW19 season. SEEK, the younger, more streetwear and sportswear focused show pushed its separate area for skate fashion, Bright, into the main show space. What this did was make the show feel more outerwear heavy and technical and showed a definite turning away from branded sportswear for AW19.
Premium on the other hand made the correct decision to reorder their show spaces: mixing the brands and giving the feeling of discovery rather than uniform looking halls. Premium is, just that, more premium, targeting an older demographic with the deeper pockets to buy more expensive clothes and finishes.
Left - Inside the main hall at Premium, Berlin
Here are the big AW19 trends coming out from Berlin and the labels worth making a note of:
Post Sportswear Preppy
The sportswear juggernaut was bound to slow at some point and we’re seeing the beginnings of it for AW19. The overall feeling was of less branding and colour and the idea that sportswear to segue-waying itself into new areas. Retro sportswear is going out the door and morphing into either more technical or preppy product. A perfect example of this is Champion doing branded rugby shirts. It’s still sportswear, but it’s moving back into the preppy area of menswear. This will be how preppy returns to fashion.
Left - Lacoste 80s college jacket
Right - Champion showing the segue way from sports into preppy with rugby shirts
The Recycled Renaissance of Denim
Always eco-conscious and sustainably minded, the German shows have always been home to brands trying to change the system and limit fashion’s impact. Denim, one of the world’s most destructive fabrics in terms of pesticides, water and dyeing, needs a way back into fashion.
Two Dutch brands, Butcher of Blue and Mud Jeans are pioneering reusing and recycling denim. Butcher of Blue reworks vintage and Mud Jeans asks for its old jeans to be returned to be completely taken back to the raw fibre and remade. They also offer a leasing service - €7.50 a month, €29 sign up - for those who don’t want to own. Around 40% of the new jeans are from old jean fibres.
HNST, a new German jeans brand, claims to include 56% of reused denim fibres in its new jeans with the rest being Tencel. People donate their old jeans and electrolytes are used to fix the indigo to the fabric and make the dye soluble. Expect more of this from the bigger denim brands.
Left - HNST denim recycling old jeans into new
Corduroy has been making inroads back into menswear over the last few winters. Biscuit and forest green are the main colours, here, as it spreads from coats and trousers into accessories and footwear. Related to the remerging preppy trend, corduroy offers a fresh collegiate take in warm team colours.
Clockwise from left - Superga, Kangol, Far Afield, Averse
For those men wanting colour and pattern, tartan is the fabric of the AW19 season. First seen on the catwalks of London, tartan is a masculine way of putting interest safely into a any man’s wardrobe. Portuguese brand, Averse, had classic Black Watch, and Schneiders offered something more appropriate for those Rupert The Bear wannabes.
From Left - Schneiders, Averse
Long-Line Arctic Parkas
This is a trend that needs another winter to build, but get in early. Expect many more of these for AW20. In a saturated coat market and the oversized trend blowing up - pardon the pun - the arctic parka is getting longer and more cocoon like.
The American, but Italian run and owned, Refridgwear, has done a collection with a German designer, (they wouldn’t name just yet), where the bottom foot of the jacket can be simply added and taken away. All for around €500. There were a few more brands, such as Woolrich, doing similar long-line styles at Pitti Uomo.
Left - Refridgwear collab with a yet unnamed German designer, the bottom section is detachable
A father a son team, Tom & Adam, from Riga in Latvia, feature wearing their own product on the website and in imagery. Made in Latvia, designed in Paris, this new underwear and swimwear brand is trying to get us off our cheap addiction and slipping into something with more quality.
Trunks - €35, Swimshorts - €150
A Design Collective
A new British casual shoe brand offering value in the luxury, minimal cup-sole market. Made from Italian leather in Portugal, the people behind A Design Collective currently do private label and are now launching with the Common Projects customer in mind with this £130 sports shoe. Launches July.
Barcelona based, Brava Fabrics, manages to tread that fine line between fun and immature. Their Spanish made fabrics feature yellow submarines, llamas - the new unicorn? - and the ever nostalgic cassette tapes. The fun side of hipster.
This type of padded outdoor slipper could be the new slider. New British brand, Coma Toes, certainly hopes that’s true with their collection of padded sports slip-ons. I’ve seen something similar from The North Face before, but there’s always room for a new, well-priced and casual footwear trend. Watch this space...
Offering great value and made in London outerwear, Wax London is a husband and wife design team. They aim to bring the manufacturing of traditional British outerwear back to the UK. These are complimented with staple essentials of jerseys, knits and shirts crafted in Portugal and Italy.
Salzburg based, Schneiders, is a quality outerwear producer with traditional alpine shaped and loden type fabrics. In the upper price points, the product is made in Romania, but from premium fabric and fur finishes. For the modern Cecil Beatons.
Thei-Sprint began in 1935 with Heinz Theisen, a man who dedicated his life to professional cycling. Born in the textile district of Moenchengladbach, after World War II he began making his own equipment, jerseys and gear.
In 1965 he returned to his roots and began designing cycling equipment again. With his own knitting machines, he made jerseys and beanies for local teams together with his wife in their basement. The “Thei-Sprint“ brand was born.
By 1985 Theisen had joined the renowned Telekom and Coast cycling teams as a mechanic. His final triumph came in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Theisen won gold as a chief mechanic with the West German track cycling team. He is famous for his red beanie which they continue to make proudly in Germany.
Have you met Gym?! No, me neither! As we slide into summer look gym ready in classic sportswear items. Whether lounging around or actually doing something, heaven forbid, team with coloured lenses and a fun baseball cap for a cool geeky look.
Credits - Hat, T-Shirt, Jacket, Shorts - All Gymphlex, Chicken Legs - Model's Own, Shoes - Base London
Our love of the 80s continues. From the music to the films to the fashion, it’s the decade that keeps on giving.
The big trend, fashion wise, is 80s sportswear and this is the look you should be following.
Go for larger fits, especially in coats and jackets - I’m wearing a large here - with strong, contrasting primary colours.
This jacket by Tommy Hilfiger is from House of Fraser and perfectly illustrates the new look while heavily referencing its vintage archive.
Team with dad jeans, branded socks and retro trainers. Don’t forget the gold chain or necklace for that final, confident flourish. Read more why here
Are you ready, Player One?!
Credits - Jacket - Tommy Hilfiger from House of Fraser, Jeans - Topman, T-Shirt - Umbro, Necklace - Topshop, Socks - Fila, Trainers - Diadora, Cap - J Crew
With the Russian World Cup coming, or should that be looming?! We're going to get all nostalgic for Panini stickers and short-short football kits. Retro sportswear shows no sign of slowing down in fashion circles and anything branded, or with brand's old logos, is as popular as ever.
Credits - Loafers - Base London, Jeans - Raey, Top - Vintage
There’s always a moment in popular culture when you can pinpoint something peaking. It’s usually in hindsight and when something goes from being cool and new to something ridiculed and stereotypical. Remember the hipster beard? This could be the moment for sportswear.
Left - The Meet Me At McDonald's Haircut
A Great Yarmouth school has banned a haircut called ‘Meet Me at McDonald’s’. The offending style features short sides with a floppy, curly mop of hair on top pushed forwards.
According to The Sun, it was inspired by a 13 years old grime artist called ‘Little T’ from Blackpool. It looks like a relative of the 80s Scouse perm and, obviously, complements the current fashion of retro looking sportswear. Add a scowl and a few sovereign rings and you’ve got a Vetements lookbook. I can already see Amazon producing these wigs for Halloween or fancy dress costumes. Just as 80s tracksuit wearing Scousers became comedy fodder in the 90s, this could be history repeating itself and what will turn the tide of this current trend.
After the recent fashion weeks, I’ve thought about how much momentum this sportswear trend, in fashion terms anyway, has left to run. Sometimes you need a replacement to push it off and other times people just get bored. I think it has until the end of the year, but we’re definitely at the beginning of the end. Denim will be back soon, no doubt, and as we see more and more examples of sportswear looking Sports Direct bad, see above, the cool will drain from sportswear faster than you can say “trackie bottoms”!
It’s fortunate they chose McDonald’s, and not KFC, as there probably wouldn’t be anybody there.
Walking into Topman’s Oxford Circus flagship, a couple of weeks ago, there was a collection of bought-in brands such as Nicce, Le Coq Sportif and Champion, in an area on the first floor. All familiar, all offering the current taste for branded clothing.
Left - Vision Streetwear - Scarf £30
There was a large section for a brand I hadn’t heard of called “Vision”. All Balenciaga-type logo tops and branded football scarves, the product was good and definitely where we are right now and what guys want to buy.
I always like retailers to surprise me and give me things I hadn’t heard of before. I just thought it was a street/sportswear brand that was yet to jump onto my radar.
I went to the Topman SS18 press day, the following week, and there was a special area for “Vision” and, then, the penny dropped: this must be an in-house brand.
It’s clever. It allows brands to do something different, have a clean creative sheet and for it to be detached from the parent brand. It can also, unlike the main brand, be disposed of the minute it starts to wobble. Easy come, easy go.
People are much more open to fresh brands and this is the future for high-street retail. Secretive in-house brands, that look like they’ve been created by a young, dynamic group of creatives rather than be tainted by the connotations of the parent brand. TK Maxx have been doing it for years.
And this takes me to HIIT. A new sportswear focussed brand under Burton’s umbrella. I’m much more likely to get excited about HIIT - it looks really good BTW - than “Burton Sportswear” for example. It also allows the people who work there to push it and be very current without a buyer in the background wailing “It’s not very Burton, is it?”.
Right - HIIT Available at Burton in January 2018
It also allows it to be stocked by third parties such as Zalando and ASOS. It stands on its own right and when its life cycle is over it can be shelved and a replacement or alternative waiting in the wings.
I’m calling these “Russian Doll Brands”: brands within brands offering a new niche and more fashion forward or specialised clothing.
What these do is represent the shortening lives of brand and how they can easily come and go and also, it’s a step away from “collaborations” which many consumers and brands have grown tired of.
Correction - Vision is owned by Authentic Brands Group, a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, which owns a global portfolio of lifestyle, sports, and celebrity and entertainment brands. It is exclusive to Topman in the UK and US, but not in Japan.
Guys, listen up. As you’re probably wearing trainers or sneakers, right now, you’ll probably want to know the direction your next pair is coming from. Think of the worst pair you can imagine, double it and then sprinkle on another cup of ugly and you’re there.
Left - Vetements X Reebok Instapump Fury Canvas Trainers - £610 from matchesfashion.com
Gone are those minimal, sleek cup-soles, that have, let’s be honest, had a good run for their money, to be replaced by the fugliest fuckers to hit the pavement.
Right - Raf Simons X Adidas Ozweego III Low-Top Trainers - £285
This is all part of our addiction to bad 90s style and everything of dubious taste. You better start planning the rest of the outfit!
Below Right - Eytys - Angel Low-Top Chunky-Sole Leather Trainers - £265
Below - Nike Air More Uptempo Triple Black - £140