After writing my latest Comment piece - Handbags at Brawn? about men, now, carrying styles of bags traditionally associated with women, it has cemented my desire for one of Loewe’s Puzzle bags. I’ve looked at this style for ages and it just gets better. This is a modern classic and I want one.
We're going into a new age of grown-up dressing and quality, and Loewe, the Spanish luxury goods house owned by LVMH, still make some of the best quality bags. If only I could pronounce it!
Left & Below - Loewe - Puzzle Grained-Leather Cross-Body Bag - £1795 from Matchesfashion.com
It could be part of the new push for a genderless society or simply the boundaries being widened for what is, or feels, acceptable for men to wear or carry, but it feels right and looks right for men to carry handbags, right now. This isn’t about making a statement or being provocative, it’s about design, rather than gender and size, that is dictating what a stylish man carries.
Left - The Dior Saddle bag reborn on Kim Jones' first catwalk for Dior Homme
There are certain styles that are simply great pieces of design or are fashion classics and look just as good on a man’s shoulder as on a woman’s. This isn’t about ‘feminising’ men, it’s just something of beauty that is practical in carrying what needs to be carried. Enough said.
What started with Loewe’s ultra-chic ‘Puzzle’ bag has ballooned to include many other classic women’s styles. It was the reintroduction of the Dior ‘Saddle’ bag on Kim Jones’ SS19 catwalk, at his new gig at Dior Homme, in Paris in June, that cemented this new feeling. The #DiorSaddle hashtag featured male influencers reintroducing this style designed by the former Dior Creative Director, John Galliano.
Luke Ross, blogger at Fashion Samaritan, says, “I noticed a real change around 2012 when Hedi Slimanne debuted his first Saint Laurent collection that featured his signature slim cuts that really made pockets obsolete.
“Guys wanted to wear these skinny silhouettes, but the garments just didn’t have sufficient pockets” he says. “You couldn’t carry a wallet, keys, phone etc in them as it ruined the lines and for the first time we started to see men carrying bags with them that weren’t just backpacks.”
Right - Spanish influencer, Prince Pelayo
We have so much more to carry today: wallet, phone, keys, charger, water bottle, notebook, that unless you have a coat with huge pockets, a bag is an indispensable accessory for men. Men want the elegance a bag can give their total look, rather than numerous bulging pockets which can make you look dishevelled and untidy.
Alvin Cher of Bagaholicboy, the dedicated blog for bags, fashion and luxury based in Singapore, says, “I think it was just a matter of time before men got more and more confident and realised they were not restricted to just bags made for them. And if the ladies can dip into what was offered for the guys, the guys can do the same too.
“Boys actually loved the Boy Chanel when it first came out. And started buying. Then slowly, but surely, more and more brands came in.” he says. “Remember Tisci's Givenchy when they had the Pandora? That was a hit too. Even Mulberry's Alexa was deemed 'boyish' enough by some guys to use. After that the gates opened, Dior did it, so did Gucci, Loewe. Even Celine has fans amongst the men, remember the Cabas that everyone wanted?” says Cher.
“I think everyone played a part by releasing a piece that helped the evolution - Ghesquiére released those 'Arena' leather document cases at Balenciaga that every guy in fashion had and they kind of trickled down as more and more people were carrying ipads and laptops so they could be justified as practical even if they weren’t for the everyday man.” says Ross. “For me, Loewe really moved things along by making it cool to have a bag that was a replica of a female bag with the Puzzle. It’s large enough to look like a duffle bag, but then also can be small enough to look like a camera bag.”
This new trend has been pioneered by men’s celebrities, bloggers, influencers and street style images, all making the look believable and cool: men seeing other men carrying these types of bags, making it feel contemporary and fresh.
Navaz Batliwalla, founder of disneyrollergirl.net and author of The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman, and champion of androgyny in womenswear says, “With the influence of streetwear on men’s luxury, men's style icons like A$AP Rocky and any Korean boy band member you care to mention, have long embraced their fashion-forward side, so increasingly, the idea of carrying a bag that’s more exciting than a briefcase or a Uniqlo backpack is no biggie.” she says. “Plus, the fact is that everyone is simply carrying more stuff. Why let your outfit down with a sad generic gym bag, when you can have something that’s as considered and design conscious as the rest of your outfit?”
Left - Luke Ross, Blogger, Fashion Samaritan
The term ‘manbag’ was from the age of the ‘Metrosexual’ and feels just as dated. Who can forget that episode of Friends when Joey becomes too attached to his new shoulder bag, and the ribbing he took from his friends. Looking back, it was huge.
“I think the rise of the reusable tote also fuelled this fire as it became normal for a guy to carry a tote without it looking like a ‘manbag’.” says Ross.
Men don’t need the labels anymore: manbag, mutch - male clutch - or whatever else adds a masculine moniker to a name. I think brands will start to offer more gender neutral shopping areas and put more styles into the men’s shopping areas and advertsiing. This is a market growing into another and actually the true meaning of ‘unisex’.
So, what should us guys be looking for?
“I'm all for a guy carrying a bag made for ladies, but it still boils down to my proportion ratio. You have to try it on and see if it looks correct visually.” says Cher. “I think the time has gone when it comes to specifying which bag suits which gender. More and more brands are coming out with versions that look exactly the same for both guys and girls, so it is all about trying them on, seeing what works and having fun. It is a bag after all at the end of the day, we don't have to be so so serious about it.” says Cher.
Right - Blogger - The Modman with the Loewe Puzzle bag
“I think it’s about being authentic and genuine to your attire and aesthetic.” says Ross “Don’t do a tailored suit and then wear some flimsy nylon, touristy looking money bag.” he says. “Lastly, buy the bag for what you want it to do not the label. I’ve bought bags in the past that I wanted because they were cool, but they actually couldn’t take that much weight in them before the leather started to warp leaving them at the back of my closet and mind.”
The opinion formers in menswear have been carry women’s styles of bags for a while now, but with the new Dior grey Saddle bag set to hit stores in February, I think we’ll see a huge expansion of men carrying styles that were traditionally seen as women’s.
“Men have evolved, which is what fashion is all about anyway.” says Cher.
Male handbags were a major trend on the Milan AW18 catwalks - See more here
Burberry has opted to put all its checked eggs into Riccardo Tisci’s basket. Before a single collection, except for a couple of teaser T-shirts, they’ve changed the logo - 2018 is the year of the bland, officially - found an old monogram in the archive - plastered London (& the world) with it - and really committed to this creative director before a single industry or customer reaction.
Unlike Gucci, who rushed out a quick collection with Michele, and tested the water, this has had a six month build up. Need I remind you what happened at Roberto Cavalli or Brioni when they changed everything for a new creative director.
Left - Burberry's new monogram from the archive
Following the departure of Christopher Bailey - more here - whose rainbow swan song ended an era when Burberry was a fashion leader. The winds of fashion changed, Burberry was no longer as relevant and it’s been playing catch up recently.
Control, alt, trenchcoat?! The new Chief Executive, Marco Gobbetti, previously at an accented Céline, inserted Tisci, whom he worked with at Givenchy. and proclaims to want to ‘elevate’ the brand and take it away from ‘accessible’ luxury. I’m not sure how accessible the current £1500 trench coats are, btw?
The stock market likes the idea - the share price is up 20% so far this year - and is salivating at the higher prices and bigger profits these more expensive items should generate. If only fashion was that simple.
Cut to Vauxhall, and the first show from Tisci’s new ‘B Series’ Burberry. You can shop his first pieces now – available for 24 hours, only on Instagram.
Right - New Burberry projected onto Global Harbor, Shanghai
First impressions is, it’s big - 133 looks (crazy) - but doesn’t have a clear viewpoint. I would have done a smaller collection - say 40 looks - and kept its message very focussed, strong and styled.
It looked like a Parisian’s take on Burberry, and maybe something Phoebe Philo would have done, if she’d got/wanted the job. It’s probably too tasteful for the current Burberry customer; they want more check and logos. People go to Zara for these types of clothes, these days. When people buy ‘designer’ they want a statement, they want a recognisable piece and there didn’t seem to be much of that here.
If Burberry wants to do clothes like this, at these prices, then the quality and cut needs to be flawless. There was a couple of nice takes on the trench. I liked the silk scarf details on one.
Brands need to highlight something they’re getting behind for that season, be it a bag or a type of coat, and really ram it home. I couldn’t see any key bag styles, and, if they’re going to elevate the brand, like they hope, then it will all be from accessorises to drive the revenue growth.
The male models, with their 80s gelled back hair, had touches of Tisci’s Givenchy in the baggy sweat shorts and luxury sportswear, but there was nothing here you couldn’t get at Boss or Louis Vuitton.
Left - Armed with an umbrella, but where was the Britishness? Burberry SS19 Menswear
I was expecting the new monogram to be on everything, it wasn’t. I feel like that’s a mistake, no matter how tacky it could be. It would be a major sales driver in the all important Asian market and I’m sure we’ll see more in these ‘drops’ of collections we keep hearing about. There could have easily have been a logo segment in this huge collection.
It was chic, at the beginning, with some nice detailing, then the men’s section arrived, and then it got all confused towards the end. Sadly, these aren’t the type of clothes you’ll be thinking about until they come out, there’s just too much good competition.
The Venice-based Barena is one of those brands that wasn’t made for the internet. It doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ and it’s hard to get across, online, the quality and tactile nature of the garments. This is true made-in-Italy quality and design without paying extortionate prices for the name.
Faux fur, fun fur, sheepskins and and generally anything furry or shaggy is very fashionable in both men’s and womenswear at the moment. I noticed this jacket the other day in Liberty, but couldn’t find it on their website. It’s really cute and the perfect length of shagpile. This, being in a cropped jacket shape, feels different and is perfect for this transition period of cool mornings and evenings. Add a rollneck and it’ll take you all the way into winter.
Left & Below - Barena - Lightweight Teddy Jacket - £338 from Farfetch
Fendi taste, River Island budget?! Worry no more, as the logo trend needn’t pass you buy just because your pockets aren’t deep enough. Fendi is probably the strongest of the logo brands, right now, and River Island has a clever rift on their own RI initials that look strikingly like those of the famous Rome fur house. Get involved.
Far Left & Left - River Island - Brown Slim Fit RI Monogram T-Shirt - £20
Below - Fendi - Logo-Print Raincoat - £1550 from matchesfashion.com
What do you get when you cross one of the nicest guys in fashion and a cult British cold water surf brand? The new designer collab. from Finisterre.
Left - CR X Finisterre Scarf - £45
Debuted at London Fashion Week in January 2018, the collection is based upon a shared ethos and rooted in sustainability. Finisterre and Christopher Raeburn have used performance fabrics, sealed seams and recycled insulation throughout the collection, from the Insulated Waterproof Coat to the Albatross Crew Sweater.
Right - CR X Finisterre Intarsia Albatross Jumper - £160
The 20-piece collection features outerwear, knitwear and accessories.
“The inspiration for the collection was the sea and, specifically, immersion in the harshest of conditions. On a more personal level, it’s also about my trip down to Cornwall and to Finisterre HQ where I got to meet Tom Kay and embrace cold water surfing with the team. It really allowed me to ‘immerse’ myself in the world of Finisterre, and the unity was born.” says Christopher.
I particularly like the made in Portugal knits with the albatross silhouettes. I think these are going to soar away very quickly! Soz.
Left - CR X Finisterre Insulated Cocoon Coat - £325
Opposite the Duke of Westminster’s magically misty plane trees, and, in, what is, the epicentre of moneyed fashion in London, 5 Carlos Place already feels established. The handsome red brick, late Victorian townhouse curves as it welcome you into its exclusive enclave and sits at the entrance of Mayfair’s most exclusive shopping area.
Left - The entrance to 5 Carlos Place
This is matchesfashion.com's all singing, all dancing townhouse. It’s part retail, part cafe, part personal shopping, part experiential, part showcase, part exhibition space, but totally the buzzy physical heart of the online phenomenon matchesfashion.com has become.
matchesfashion.com previously had a townhouse in Marylebone, but it was more an exclusive personal shopping concept with no retail. That has now closed. The majority of its stores were always in the periphery of London in wealthy neighbourhoods, while 5 Carlos Place is slap, bang in the middle of the middle and illustrates how far matchesfashion.com has come.
While the signage outside is discreet, it’s the amount of people coming and going that will draw your attention. Not exactly something this area is used to - high footfall - it will definitely ripple out to the adjacent retailers and give that energy these types of areas often lack.
Right - The third & fourth floor houses these bookable shopping suites
The five-story townhouse has been redesigned by architect Philip Joseph, partner of fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu, while retaining many original features like the plaster ceilings and fire places. The first two floors are retail. More a showroom than a traditional store, it is currently showcasing an exclusive partnership with Prada - bananas and all! But, it’s not all big budget names, the next designer to have the space is Marine Serre.
Left - The Regency like plaster ceilings
The items are displayed with QR codes next to them so you can simply link to the appropriate page and then order. Everything can be sent to the townhouse within 90 minutes or get sent to your home address. If matchesfashion.com prices are a little out of your league, they currently have a Prada X matchesfashion.com vending machine dispensing matches, coloured markers and the like. This space will change every two weeks, which is really the speed of online being reflected in physical retail.
The ground floor leads out to a garden at the back with a spacious patio surrounded with Australian tree ferns, lush planting and the higgledy-piggledy backs of this row of London townhouses and all the architectural quirks many years of alterations have produced.
Behind glossy, lipstick red doors and woodwork, two further floors house private shopping suites. These can be booked online and you can have items sent to be there waiting for you to try on when you arrive. The changing rooms - more like mini-suites - can be customised to the customers' Spotify accounts and look even more comfortable than the luxurious Connaught hotel opposite.
Upstairs in the attic is the café area and with its roof window feels like a nursery space Mary Poppins would be caring for the children. This is the most flexible floor and will host talks and different catering concepts plus the home of matchesfashion.com's new broadcasting suite and podcast centre.
The current café is Marchesi, the Prada-owned patisserie brand, to tie in with the retail downstairs. The next takeover is the Holiday Café followed by the vegan Maisie Café both from Paris.
Right - The first two floors are retail, currently showcasing an exclusive 120 piece collection from Prada
Highlights from the ‘What’s On’ event schedule for September and October - you can apply for the tickets online - include Theresa Wayman in an acoustic set, Mario Sorrenti book launch, Sarah Mower in conversation with Richard Quinn, a supper club with Australian chef Skye Gyngell and a Phillips preview of their ‘London Design’ auction.
The first impression of 5 Carlos Place is that it’s busy. Not just with people, but events and the energy of hosting so many talks, dining concepts and introducing new designers.
Left - The ground floor patio with garden
This is retail as inclusive members club and feels much livelier than their previous space. I’d be surprised if they can sustain this speed of turnover of retail spaces and events, but it’s exciting to see so much on the agenda.
This feels like online really spilling out into physical retail and understanding the reasons stylish people leave the house. They want to learn and experience as well as shop. London is the home of matchesfashion.com and it will be interesting to see whether this idea could be rolled out to other major centres like New York or Hong Kong.
This has been really well done, is in a great location and encapsulates the energy of a retailer really enjoying its standing in the luxury e-commerce sphere. I can’t wait to return and that’s exactly the point.