Nobody does ginger like TheChicGeek, so, with 2017 officially the year of the #Gingervidual, it would be rude for him not to show you how it’s done!
Stone’s Ginger Wine is encouraging the nation to declare their love for everything ginger - thought we already knew that?! Embracing the ‘spirit of ginger’, a Gingervidual is someone who stands up for what they believe in and isn’t afraid to be different. Gingerviduals don't conform to the norm, and they don't follow trends, they create them.
Picture the scene: on a beach, somewhere in the Caribbean, things getting tropical with a jug of cocktail on the go. And relax! (Even if you are just sitting in your back garden in Croydon. FML!).
So, enjoy the last rays of Summer and try one of Stone's Ginger Wine's cocktails created by one of London’s leading expert mixologists.
Here’s the recipe for The #Gingervidual
- 50ml Stones G.W
- 10ml Elderflower cordial
Pour the ingredients into a highball, add some ice cubed, stir and top with soda
water. Garnish with cucumber strips and raspberries.
Can be served in a carafe or jug for sharing. Same method: 250ml Stones GW, 50ml of elderflower cordial, top with soda water.
Are the wheels coming off at Topman? From zero to hero, Topman is the poster boy of how brands, thanks to fashion and the sponsorship of fashion weeks, can go from uncool to cool in little over a decade, but, has their run of dominance on the men’s high-street come to an end?
Topman recently had a clear out of the top brass and creative. Gordon Richardson, who served as Topman's head designer for the past 17 years, has been pushed out along with many others within the Arcadia group. This is usually a sign of trying to stop the rot and starting something new.
Left - Will you be buying your tracksuit from Topman this season?
Taveta Investments, Arcadia’s parent company, doesn't break out individual figures for their brands, but financial figures released in June 2017 showed a 16 per cent drop in profits for the year to August 2016. Taveta Investments, indicated that annual profits plummeted to £211 million, while sales dropped 2.5 per cent to just over £2 billion. Taveta Investments, derived £1.7bn of revenue from the UK in 2016. That marked a fall from £2.2bn a year earlier, although up to £370m of that related to discontinued operations such as BHS, which was sold in 2015.
That’s a huge drop of £500 million or £130 million, if you take out BHS. That’s still a lot of clothes not sold.
So, what do we think has happened at Topman? Is it a case of these runs can’t go on forever and or is it something more serious?
One things for certain, it’s much more competitive than when Topman started out on its journey. Whether selling fashion or basics, there is much more choice, both offline and online.
Did they over expand? We know that Australia has struggled, with their franchise partner going into receivership recently, and the big push into America hasn’t really stuck as they don't seem to understand how fashionable us Brits are. American teens, in many cities, have nowhere to wear this kind of stuff.
Right - Has Topman peaked and how can they get their spark back?
Did it get too expensive? With labels like ‘Topman Design’ pushing the upper price points there is a perception that Topman was expensive, especially when compared to other high-street retailers. I’ve spoken to mums of teenage boys who say they leave Topman until last on a shopping trip as it’s usually the more expensive.
Topman’s buyers never committed to ‘Topman Design’. We had the shows, we had the collections, but when it hit the stores or online it was very bitty. They’d only make the trousers of a suit, for example, or items that didn’t really go with each other and the pricing was into three figures.
I think Topman has fallen into that gap of not being fashionable enough and not being cheap enough on basics and is falling into the void in the middle. They’ve lost the energy to ASOS, Boohoo and New Look.
I think there was a case of Topman believing their own hype too. You can’t afford to be arrogant in fashion and thinking you’re the coolest kid on the block, because things move fast and this will quickly bite you on the arse. The campaigns were a little too editorial and not relatable enough.
Fashions have changed too. Topman practically owned the skinny, three-piece suit and was selling volumes of a more expensive product. Now, the kids want sportswear and retro looking basics. It’s not the go-to place anymore. It’s lost its USP.
What are they doing? They’ve hired David Hagglund, known within fashion circles for founding a Stockholm-based creative agency which includes H&M and Hugo Boss as clients. He was also art director at Vogue Paris. David Hagglund is replacing Ms Phelan - Topshop head creative - and Mr Richardson in a 'newly created position' of creative director across both Topman and Topshop. Is combining Topman and Topshop a good idea? Or is this further cost cutting? It’s interesting they’ve given this important job to an Art Director type and it’ll be interesting to see whether Topman will get as much focus as Topshop. I doubt it.
The danger is, as they wobble they go safer, which is the wrong direction. Admittedly, Australia is having problems and America isn’t as fashionable as Europe, but young men want fashion and know it. Brands like ASOS and Boohoo are really pushing it, New Look has got a hell of a lot better and newness is the drug on the high-street.
Topman Design became a bit formulaic and they need to commit to it or scrap it. I think they’re going to find it hard to get that spark back. It’s very hard to do when you’ve lost it, but they’ve done it once before, so why not again.
There’s the juxtaposition between men’s basic and fashion led clothing. Basics are so competitive and difficult to make money from unless you’re doing huge volumes and buying basics from Topman is, well, a bit basic. Maybe they should leave that to Primark and Uniqlo and stick to making fashion.
I think they need to think more inclusive and not try to be too cool without losing the trends. Look what happened to American Apparel when they tried that achingly cool model. You need to be the coolest of the mainstream and, especially in Britain, have fun with it.
I think what we’ll see is, as leases run out, stores will close and they’ll be a renewed focus and growth of online. Topman needs to tighten up its collection and re-educate guys about what they do. As fashion cycles move, they need to aim for a new USP and focus on that. You can't be all things to all people today.
Note - A friend just mentioned on Facebook about the 'Philip Green Effect' and people boycotting his brands due to his handling of the sale of BHS and the hole in the pension fund. This could definitely be having an effect on Topman as many people are aware that he is the owner.
When Banana Republic decided to chuck in the towel, leave the UK and move out of the H&M-owned, old Dickins & Jones flagship building on Regent Street, it made sense, to H&M anyway, to fill it with their own house brands, especially at a time when you could struggle to fill such a large, flagship space.
Left - Upstairs at Arket, Womenswear
The space has been split between Weekday, which already has stores across Europe, and Arket, which is brand new and this is the first one in the world.
The big question is: does the world need anymore H&M brands? It makes sense for the companies. Put your eggs in lots of baskets, aimed at lots of different sectors and consumers, and not only do you have all bases covered, you can weather the ups and downs of fickle consumers better: as one brand is going down, another one can be coming up.
What with COS, & Other Stories, Cheap Monday, Monki, as well at the main H&M brand, they are pushing out, much like the Spanish Zara owner Inditex, with many consumers unaware or past caring about who owns what. It’s the fashion equivalent of a one operator food court.
Anyway, let’s talk about Arket. They’ve gone London grey - Scandinavian pink perhaps?! - with the shop fit. It looks a bit like a stage fit of a shop in “1984”. The top half is empty and looks like a cheap wardrobe carcass waiting for the doors. The floor is Valentino-type grey terrazzo and it is lacking, somewhat, in personality. This looked like the template for every future store and you wouldn't know where you were. Are brands still in that mind set of rolling out the same shopfit the world over? I thought we were done with all that.
Right - Café with a shop attached
The product is good. The knitwear feels substantial and of good quality. So good, in fact, I think you’ll have to buy it two sizes bigger just to get into it. The ground floor is split between men’s at the front and back, homeware in the middle and a café to the side at the back. Upstairs is womenswear and childrenswear.
Branding is minimal and it’s all very plain and Scandi - can we ever get enough?! - The women’s has more colour and it does flow.
Arket likes a serial number on things. I think the target customer is the trendy mum, she wants clothes for her, her children, a café to sit down in and some little treats in homeware, plus she’ll be buying the menswear too, which is why there are Breton stripes - every woman loves a man in Breton stripes, don't they?
Left - Using brands such as R.M. Williams & Tricker's to elevate the branding & clothes
When this rolls out to the big shopping centres all over the country, depending on how successful it is in London I guess, then she’ll in there with her stroller, smugly mocking the Cath Kidston nappy bags. (If she’s buying the clothes, she’s probably washing them too. I’d like to see how those knits fare).
As for the hubby, there’s nothing he won’t be happy with, there’s nothing not to like.
Like Weekday, there is a sprinkling of other brands: they are using quality shoes like Tricker’s and R.M. Williams to elevate the clothes. The price points are £80 for a jumper and £45 for a pair of good quality long-johns, which to me feels more like a Swedish customer used to paying for quality and not a London or U.K. customer hooked and satisfied on cheap clothing.
There was a very nice Black Watch tartan mac, which won’t hang about for long, and, like all stores, you cherry pick the best pieces and ignore those that are over-priced or not special enough.
What Arket lacks in personality it makes up for in quality. This feels like a store for Millennial milfs and dilfs, which was perfectly illustrated by two dads proudly feeding their babies on the opening night, probably while their wives were busy shopping.
Maybe somewhat lost in translation, ‘Relax Baby Be Cool’ is a fashion label from and made in Estonia.
This shirt, from them, is covered in Sidomukti batik motifs, characteristically bamboo, usually in a combination of black and blue. The design symbolises the inner and outer tranquility of the wearer and was mostly used in traditional ceremonies or official events in the area of Magetan in Indonesia.
The orange piping to highlight the placket is a nice touch, while the black adds a dressy formality which would look good with a pair of black trousers. Roll the sleeves to make it feel more relaxed as this is more than a holiday shirt.
Left & Below - Relax Baby Be Cool - Men’s Long Sleeve Button Up - £110
We never think of the shirt on holiday until the evening. A T-shirt or vest is normally the first thing you think about when pairing with swim shorts or shorts and long sleeves just seem too much. But, taking our cue from the Beatles on holiday in Tenerife, it’s time to think about a slouchy shirt on the sand.
Left - Follow Paul & George's lead
Long and oversized, this shirt is worn loose and relaxed and especially suits the mood of being on the beach and stylishly covering up. I guess those pale boys from Liverpool weren’t used to the sun, had a limited beach wardrobe, and needed something to cover themselves up, yet it works.
Left - Marni SS18
Sun-bleached, it looks good over short-shorts and worn unbuttoned with the sleeves open. In fashion terms, this long cotton shirt is appearing everywhere and it’s only a matter of time before you get one.
Left - Appletrees - All Over The World Superfine Poplin White - €425 An independent Swedish brand with various lengths and styles of shirts
Left - ASOS Slim Shirt With Stretch In Super Longline - £22
Below - Raf Simons wearing one of his own designs
Left - More of the Beatles in Tenerife
I’ve just got back from Copenhagen, the final stop on the men’s fashion week and trade show circuit. CIFF is the main show with a mix of high-fashion, young designers and what can only be described as clothing, at best, in the halls at the back.
Left - What's not to love? Chris Evans' son, Eli, looking adorable
Ignoring that, the front lobby section had been curated with new brands, some from America, some from Sweden, the UK, and Beams from Japan, who as well as having their own eponymous brand, supports many others.
Because CIFF is so late in the men’s calendar it starts to merge with women’s, which is only just starting: so, it’s late for one and early for the other.
One of the rails of clothes in the Beams section was a patterned dress with frills, and while, before, my instinct is a mental brake. A “this is women’s” thought springs into my head and then you about turn to find the closest rail of men’s for safety. This time it felt different. While not quite there yet myself, this dress could have been for men. It could have been unisex, it could be anything. And, that’s how I feel things are going, in fashion terms anyway.
Anything really does go. Men have got so experimental that if they want to wear a dress, they can wear a dress, and it’s just a person in a dress. Gender not defined. They’re not trying to be a woman. I don’t want to get into the minefield of gender politics, this is purely a fashion instinct, but it feels like we’re on the cusp of that change.
This reminds me of Chris Evans’ son pictured in his green lamé dress. Obviously a fan of David Walliams’ book, The Boy In The Dress, he went out dressed as only a fan would do.
What’s changed is people don't care. Well, the parents don’t. The kids never did.
This little boy looking adorable in his dress is saying nothing more than he’s making an effort and fan-boy(girl)ing - whatever - to his favourite book. It’s just a great thing that he’s reading.
This is not about him wanting to be a girl, this is him wearing what he wanted to wear on this occasion.
Okay, so some will take some convincing, but it feels like the door is open if you want to push through it. Are we brave enough?
News in that the most famous pure fashion men’s publication is to close. The Italian publication, L’Uomo Vogue’s last issue will appear in December. With a readership said to be 300,000, which is large within the men’s market, it seems a strange move by publisher Condé Nast, if this is the true figure.
Left - David Beckham shot by David Bailey. The Italian men's fashion magazine, L'Uomo Vogue is to close
I think what it signifies is not the change in consumers, but advertisers. This is all about advertisers changing their spend and while consumers have been disappearing in numbers since the beginning of the 21st century, the brands still felt confident about advertising in magazines and keeping them profitable. Until now.
L’Uomo Vogue’s closure is a reflection of the downsizing of Milan Men’s Fashion Week. What used to be busy with big name ‘superbrands' has seen many downsize to presentations or merge their men’s shows with their women’s, and thus showing later in the calendar. You’re not going to spend lots of money promoting something that is not a priority or is contracting.
These were the brands big enough to buy the back covers or a couple of pages just inside the front, and this was where the profit is or was for publishers.
Many luxury fashion companies, especially the Italian family run ones, have been slow to get with digital due to the fact many of those in charge didn’t understand it or want to understand it. They’re idea of luxury wasn’t the internet and they like too much control.
As budgets have been cut and also the delayed investment in digital sapping funds, L’Uomo Vogue is an example of the swingeing cuts the men’s industry has been facing. Italy is a powerhouse of Italian brands and even they are ‘adjusting’ to the future. Armani has reduced the number of labels, Dolce & Gabbana shelved D&G, even the recent big money maker, Gucci, now show their men’s in with their women’s show.
Also said to be closing is the independently published, Jocks & Nerds. The UK quarterly title, established in 2010, known for it’s workwear and vintage aesthetic, is sending its final issue to bed. There’s never been a good time to be an independent publisher, but now is particularly tough. I think fashion moving towards something more sporty and less ‘heritage’ may have also been a factor.
In other news, Time Inc., publisher of Wallpaper*, is moving to E14. Yes, me neither! I had to Google it, even though I’ve lived in London my whole life. It’s Mudchute, yes, Mudchute. There’s nothing wrong with Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs, but talking to a PR the other day, they said their courier doesn't even go that far. Times are tough, but are they really that tough?
It feels like the change in media is speeding up and the majority of magazines and publishers seem to be down to the bare bones. There isn’t much left to cut back on, but it’s a surprise a title like L’Uomo Vogue has folded before others. Watch this space.