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.
Guest Post - When we think of the examples set by Hollywood stars, things are fairly different for men and for women. Both men and women look up to general standards of beauty, of course, to the extent that many have suggested it’s a problem. Hollywood stars are often extraordinarily attractive, and it probably isn’t healthy for us to hold them up as realistic standards. Nevertheless, it’s going to happen. And it’s interesting to consider how it happens differently for men and women.
For women, beyond traditional beauty standards, there is a lot of consideration for fashion. Costuming for famous actresses gets a lot of attention, and throughout award season red carpet looks are devoured and analyzed by everything from small blogs to high-end lifestyle magazines. Women look to actresses for fashion inspiration, perhaps as much as for general beauty. For men, however, it often stops with physique. This is not to say that men don’t notice well-dressed actors; typically, however, it’s a given actor’s physical prowess that gets the most attention in a movie.
This begs the question: are there modern fashion icons for men in film? Or are actors simply inspiration for us to hit the floor and do some crunches until we look like members of the Spartan 300? Personally, I’m not sure that there are many actors or characters men traditionally look to for style – but there probably should be. Consider these men and characters, for instance.
If there is a current movie star who’s considered to be fashion example for men the way that, say, Frank Sinatra was several decades ago, or even George Clooney was a decade ago, it’s probably Ryan Gosling. Yes, Gosling has also made waves with his physique and general good looks, but for about 10 years now he’s made a point of taking roles that see him dressing stylishly. Much of the film Crazy, Stupid, Love even concerns his teaching Steve Carell how to dress and present himself. It’s reached the point at which Esquire even did a write-up of Gosling’s best-dressed roles. Suffice it to say Gosling is typically a fashion-forward example.
It would be easy to think of Cavill as little more than a muscle man. This is the case for any man who takes on the role of Superman, and particularly these days the image of a muscled hero in tights appears in more than just film. A likeness of Cavill (more or less) can be found in the “Injustice” video games, and a Man Of Steel-themed slot online stars Henry Cavill as well. In a way, his muscled physique is the character. But give the modern Superman films another watch and you’ll see that Cavill also puts on a clinic in how to dress – both as a casual, humble young man before her learns of his powers, and as the sharply dressed Clark Kent when he’s in disguise.
This is the rare instance in which it’s quite clear that a male actor is a fashion icon. Daniel Craig has fully embodied the persona of James Bond for several years now, and as is characteristic for actors playing 007, he’s looked extraordinarily sharp doing it. Craig rivals Gosling as the actor who most clearly advocates for stylish tailored suits – which look great on any man, famous, fit, or otherwise.
Hiddleston is still best known (in all likelihood) as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus, many of us hear his name and picture him in a sort of green cape holding a scepter, or something of the like. But in other films, Hiddleston has exemplified various states of male stylishness. In Midnight In Paris he gave a somewhat low-key performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in which he looked like a terrific example of a Gatsby era dapper gentleman; in High-Rise and The Night Manager he appears like a modern GQ model. Indeed, this may be why Hiddleston is the only actor on this list that GQ saw fit to include in the top five of the 50 best-dressed men in the world. (He also comes up frequently as a candidate to succeed Craig as Bond.)
Bradley Cooper’s style is more difficult to describe, and a single character example doesn’t really do him justice. But when you think about his career, he’s made a lot of different styles look good, which makes him a sort of model for all guys. In The Hangover he shows how fairly casual attire can look great with confidence. In Limitless he dresses sharp (at least for part of the film). In Wedding Crashers he goes fully preppy, and in Silver Linings Playbook he looks good in everything from jeans and a football jersey to a dancing uniform. Cooper’s not a study in clothing, but rather, in confidence.
The velour tracksuit has taken some serious shit in the past. The images of Guy Ritchie, during his “Madge” days, being press ganged into one still resonates strongly and not in the right way. Juicy Couture was built on this tracksuit and look what happened to that.
That’s enough of the negativity. It takes a certain confidence to pull off a velour tracksuit. It’s one part Ugg boots and fake tan with a Michael Kors bag, another part tongue-in-cheek casual. It’s gone full circle and, now, it’s kinda cool.
M&S has this handsome navy number in its David Gandy range. All you’ll be left to do is surgically detach yourself from the sofa this Christmas.
Left - Marks & Spencer - David Gandy For Autograph - Velour Hooded Top - £39.50, Velour Joggers - £29.50
Below - Essex boy, David Gandy, going back to his velour roots
While the traditional tailored suit is in the doldrums it gives us an opportunity to try something different. With corduroy being the fabric du jour and doubling denim looking a bit, well, dated, it’s time to toy with the idea of doubling your corduroy.
I saw these jackets and trousers by Spanish brand, Lois Jeans, at the beginning of the year at various trade shows and it felt like the time was right for the return of these hippie favourites.
A brand from the 1970s, they are a combination of jumbo cord jean jackets with matching trousers in lots of those 70s sludgy colours like rust and olive green.
This should be your new winter uniform: casual enough for the weekend yet put together enough for something dressier. Add a nice grey flannel shirt for a sunday lunch or a ringer T-shirt and trainers for drinks with mates.
Got an appetite for corduroy? See TheChicGeek’s picks of the AW17 season here
Left & Below - Lois Jeans Jumbo Corduroy Jacket - £76, Trousers - £52 both from Idle Man
In a post-Brexit world we’re going to have to make more than leather shoes and Scottish cashmere sweaters. UK Plc needs to turn our world class creativity into a German style industry: manufacturing in volume and of the highest quality.
From small acorns mighty English oaks grow, so, when I heard The Shackleton Company was manufacturing their parkas in the UK, I wanted to find out more and see what we are paying for. The majority of the world's down parkas are made in Italy, France, Canada or China, so a UK-made is rather special. I’ve dissected their new “Discovery Jacket” to show you all the different components and design details, so when the temperature drops we can keep the Union Flag flying high!
Entirely handmade in Cheshire. The majority of the materials are made in Britain with the odd exception, i.e. zips and zip pullers. The outer shell is Ventile, designed in the UK. The densely woven, 100% cotton uses the world's finest, long staple fibre. Ventile is not coated or laminated and the combination of the dense weave and swelling properties of the fibres, when wet, provides excellent weatherproofing. It's an entirely natural product - windproof, breathable, durable and quiet.
Filled with 100% of the finest, pure European goose down, it provides an unsurpassed warmth to weight ratio. It is a by-product of the food industry, in fact, a waste product, if not used for insulation. The highest quality of down, which The Shackleton Company uses, comes from the oldest, free-range birds. Each individual pocket of down is hand filled & stitched. No machinery is used.
The adjustable hood design enables the wearer to create a wrap-around tunnel to protect against extreme cold. The coyote fur hood trim is removable. Tested in Antarctica to minus 20 Degrees centigrade, the coyote is shot as part of a cull program to control popuations in Alaska. The Shackleton Company do not use any farmed or trapped coyote.
Large rubber zip pullers are designed with pimples on the reverse for ease of use with cold hands or whilst wearing gloves.
Four outer pockets - two chest (zipped) and two fleece-lined, hand-warmer pockets have press stud fastenings for quick access. Four large internal, zipped pockets - two close to body core for extra warmth for storing phone & batteries in extreme cold environments. Internal waist draw cord for a tighter fit - minimising cold air flow, providing extra insulation. Lower draw cord for a tighter fit and extra protection in stormy conditions.
Extendable storm wrist cuffs.
Internal patch - “I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”. Poet, Robert Browning, quote, engraved on Shackleton’s gravestone in South Georgia.
Left & Above - The Shackleton Company - Discovery Jacket - £1575
We’ve all heard about the revival in vinyl over the last few years. The hipster’s music medium of choice, vinyl records are now everywhere from Sainsbury’s to Tesco. Well, the revival continues, but into our wardrobes this time.
Think shiny, think black, think vinyl. There’s something slightly pervy and sexual about it. It is one part Berlin of the 1920s - have you seen Babylon Berlin? it’s very good - one part grungy/graffiti New York of the 80s. It adds a frisson of excitement to your wardrobe and shows your daring side. A walking oil slick, team with coloured lensed sunglasses and flared jeans.
Left - ASOS - Oversized Vinyl Trench Coat - £70
Left - Calvin Klein SS18
Below - 66 North - £670 www.66north.com
Left - Balenciaga - Wobble Leather Jacket - £1795 from matches fashion.com
Left - Topshop - Vinyl Bucket Hat - £16
Below - Moncler - Mancora - £900
At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.