Thursday, 16 January 2020 22:28

ChicGeek Comment Pitti The K-Way Way

Pitti Uomo K Way showOn a chilly January Florentine night besides the swollen river Arno, the modernist Palazzo della Borsa played host to the first ever K-Way catwalk show. Known for it colourful and affordable rainwear and its signature yellow-orange-blue striped taping, this was K-Way’s way of celebrating the revamp of the brand and a sort of anniversary for them. (The brand was founded in 1965)

Left - The Classic pac-a-mac - K-Way's first catwalk show - Pitti Uomo 97 Jan. 2020

While many think of Pitti Uomo as a place for peacocks to pose by the curved pebbled concrete and classic made-in-Italy tailoring, the real money is being made by brands that offer mass appeal and big margins. This is aspirational, usually, made-in-China fashion, that has multiple variations on the same product. The consumer feels like and is happy that they have a lot of choice, while the brand’s core is simplified and strengthens the idea of ‘owning’ a category. Customers are clear on what they do, yet want to know what the new variations or collaborations are for each season. They are happy to have multiples of the same styles and shapes and have the same things as everybody else. It’s like joining a club.

It was founder Leon Claude Duhamel’s decision to brand the lightweight, nylon pac-a-mac that gave birth to K-Way after seeing people struggling in the rain through the streets of 1960s Paris.

Pitti Uomo K Way show

At the Florence show, both Duhamel, and the Italian Boglione family, which now owns it, were present after a collection featuring youthful and fashion-lead rainwear. Italian influencers in Coyote-lined K-Ways watched as every variable of a K-Way was sent down the catwalk. These weren’t the pac-a-mac types of old, though it will sell plenty of those, but more the limited runs of fashion product with the K-Way DNA centre stage, even if it was taped prominently to the models’ flies.

The Bogliones - who also own Petersham Nurseries in Richmond - own K-Way as part of their BasicNet business. This Italian sportswear group owns Kappa, Robe di Kappa, Superga, and, recently bought Sebago from Wolverine. The group produced consolidated revenue growth of 14.7% in the 2018 financial year. In the first three months, Q1 2019, revenue was €74.6 million, a 38.9% increase driven by the recent acquisition of Sport Finance, the group’s distributor in France, UK and Spain. 

Right - More directional K-Way for AW20

BasicNet saw strong 2018 growth globally; USA revenue increased by 36%, Europe 13.4%, Asia-Oceania 17.1% and Middle East and Africa 56.3%.

The founder of BasicNet, Marco Boglione, was only 20 when he was invited to join the company Maglificio Calzificio Torinese (MCT). MCT specialised in hosiery and underwear until seeing the potential of designer jeans during the 1970s boom and came up with ‘Jesus Jeans’. 

Marco applied himself to the sportswear side of the company and was part of the nascent industry of sponsoring athletes with branded product. Under the Kappa brand they sponsored American Carl Lewis as well as football teams such as Juventus, AC Milan and Barcelona.

Marco left MCT to start a company making football merchandise, but when MCT started to struggle he, along with his brothers, bought it out of receivership and created BasicNet in 1995. Since then it has been acquiring brands with K-Way having been acquired in 2004.

K-Way’s signature ‘Le Vrai Claude 3.0’ jacket is £75. Made in China of a simple, lightweight pac-a-mac material, the margins must be huge. Success breeds success and dominance in this sector of mid-priced branded sportswear. You can sell huge volumes and retailers like the ease of brands being clear on what they do. It’s also a fun and colourful product. The same could be said for brands such Crocs, Eastpak, Herschel and Sebago. Lots of colours and finishes in the same consistent, known and liked styles.

While many new fashion brands aim for ‘luxury’, it is too dominated by the three main groups - LVMH, Kering, Richemont - who will only increase their muscle and monopolies. The volumes are too small to grow quickly and too much money is tied up in less product. The ideal is to scale quickly and this is what BasicNet has cleverly done with its brands. It’s tapped into the desire for brands at a price people are happy to pay while making good profits.

Pitti Uomo K Way show Colorful Standard

While without the overt branding, a newish brand trying this idea of lots of colours with simplicity in styles is Colorful Standard. Made in Portugal, it recently opened a store with Oi Polloi in London. Founded by Danish entrepreneur, Tue Deleuran, in 2017, it is now sold by 500 retailers across Europe with stores in Paris and Zurich.

Colorful Standard organic T-shirts retail at €30 and the sweatshirts are between €60 and €80 in a rainbow of colours. Made in Portugal in a factory Deleuran bought in 2008, he also produces private label for many luxury brands.

Left - Colorful Standard for quality organic basics in lots of colours 

Expanding, new Colourful Standard categories for AW20 include boxer briefs, socks and Oxford shirts. By having the illusion of lots of choice it entices the consumer to be happy to add to their 'collection'. It also becomes a go-to when the product is good and people are satisfied. Asking people to pay 4 times the prices of Uniqlo with feel good extras of organic cotton and charitable associations seems to be working. It looks Helvetica familiar and fills the American Apparel gap or that once held by the likes of GAP.

What these two examples illustrate is the opportunities in this mid-priced market. Healthy margins in large volumes is the dream for any fashion business. Despite the naysayers, people will still pay for product they like, it just needs to be good. Oh, and colourful!

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LFWM London Men's Fashion Week of the week Edward Crutchley

One of the last designers standing at LFWM doing anything remotely luxurious and expensive looking is Edward Crutchley. He’s stealthily built up a fan base and business selling beautiful and theatrical clothes stocked by the likes of Harrods, matchesfashion.com and Browns. Patterned chintzs and medieval looking prints are an extravagant, yet wearable, display of his fashion craft.

LFWM London Men's Fashion Week of the week Edward CrutchleyThe Charles I hair - or was it Brian May?! - and exaggerated Freemasons’ Fezs - Shriners - made you yearn for beautiful things again. (There’s still a customer).

The furs were real - this could explain the refined walnut lined location of the Skinners' Hall - and provided by Kopenhagen Fur. Black and white checks and lewd artly printed silks are a signature of Crutchley's.

Silly, and as basic as it sounds, but, considering the state of the quality and output from many ‘luxury’ brands, this all looks good enough to buy. Finally!

Pass me the American Express.

Tuesday, 07 January 2020 18:27

ChicGeek Comment LFWM ‘Positive Fashion’

LFWM London Men's Fashion Week Positive Fashion British Fashion CouncilWith a schedule now slimmer than one of the teenage models, London Fashion Week Men’s, or LFWM, needs to find a new reason for being. We’ve done diversity, inclusiveness and sustainability, but now, thanks to the BFC, there’s an over-riding umbrella term called ‘Positive Fashion’. Designers such as Nicholas Daley, Bethany Williams, Bianca Saunders and Ahluwalia all had PW (Positive Fashion) after their names on the schedule.

Launched in 2013, the BFC’s Positive Fashion initiative is “a platform designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change”.

Left - The BFC's new LFWM graphics

Positive Fashion is led by 3 strategic pillars - sustainability, equality and diversity and craftsmanship and community - it says, In a statement from the BFC, “The BFC takes the lead in setting the standards for an industry that strives to represent equality and diversity on the global stage. Championing the importance of every person in the sector as a vital and valuable part of our industry entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

“Supports the community of talent, skills and craftsmanship that make up our unique industry. Our initiatives are designed to develop connections and understanding between designers and manufacturers taking a holistic approach to the long term viability of the sector. We celebrate the wealth of talent and capability that is unique to British designer businesses.”

While this manifesto all sounds totally earnest and worthwhile it does reek of wishful thinking and what does it actually mean?The green movement is only going to get bigger and the fashion sector, said to contribute £32.3 Billion to the UK economy in GDP and supporting 890,000 jobs, is firmly on its naughty step. We’ve had a lot of lip service, but sadly, without government legislation, the industry will put off the difficult, and more costly, things until tomorrow. 

To further ram home the point, the British Fashion Council has announced its intention to launch the Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF). “The BFC recognises that the fashion industry engages consumers daily, and whilst it is often seen as forward thinking, it also appreciates that through global supply chains the industry can have a negative impact on the planet.”

“Through the IPF, the BFC aims to create an industry blueprint by bringing together expertise from different areas to help brands in the industry navigate an often confusing to understand topic and kick-start a much-need comprehensive step-change. Informed by research, expert opinion, industry insights and the significant industry experience of individual businesses and organisations, the power of collective effort will amplify independent activity.”

It’s a lot of marketing speak, but it does have an influence if the costs aren’t too prohibitive. ‘Sustainability' has been a part of the BFC’s strategy since 2006. Their ‘Esthethica’ showcase put sustainable fashion at the heart of London Fashion Week before evolving into Positive Fashion in 2013. This is the first time I have seen it mentioned anywhere.

But, what has exactly happened over those past 7 years and how much carbon emissions, or however you want to measure it, has been saved?

Back to fashion week and many designers are thinking about how to minimise their footprint, but they’re also trying to survive very tough times. LFWM is currently very sustainable because nobody buys any of it. But jokes aside, the ambition is there and it feels like we’re in something of a technological and supply chain cul-de-sac. Patrick Grant’s premium E Tautz label was called ‘Brand New Second Hand’. In the show release he said, “As a designer I feel acute pressure to act. We need to change the message. No more fiddling while Rome burns. Big fashion can do ‘sustainable’, it can do ‘ethical’, it can do ‘conscious’. It all helps make consumers buy MORE. 

“But what big fashion cannot do is small. It can’t slow down. What they will never do is tell you to ‘buy less, keep for longer, cherish, repair, pass on’. That however is exactly what we must do and what we’re asking you to do. E Tautz clothes will not change so much from season to season that you feel you need to buy something new. In fact we’re suggesting the opposite.”

Grant has worked with Astco, one of the UK’s largest clothing recyclers, to make new pieces from unwanted textiles. He’s also enlisted the Rolls-Royce of darning, the Royal School of Needlework, to give them that patched/repaired feel. What he should have done is shown last season’s samples with the repairs from actual wear and tear from being lent out to the industry. It’s fine to talk about buying less when a coat costs £1500, but when the collections are often funded by more affordable, high-street collaborations it can often sound hypocritical.

But, everything fashion does is hypocritical. The idea of replacing something while it is still perfectly useful will always put fashion into the negative fashion bracket. ‘Positive Fashion’ could easily go the way of ‘sustainability’ and become as meaningless as it sounds. Nobody is going to disagree with making fashion positive, it just needs to be explained. We want detail.

“The world is burning. Fashion plays a BIG part in this.” said Grant in his show's press release, “But as Ranieri sings in ‘Oh My Love’ ‘from nature we should learn, that all can start again’. Even Fashion.” 

Thursday, 02 January 2020 17:56

The Chic Geek Style Awards 2019

The Chic Geek Awards 2015As we end the decade, it’s time to look back at the highs (& low) of its final year and acknowledge those doing great things in men’s grooming and fashion. Hype is still just as important and the mega brands just keep getting bigger, but the great thing about fashion, and the reason I love it, is good ideas can come from anywhere. 

Here’s to 2020 being the year of the Fashion Wanker - BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE and owning it. Remember, it takes one to know one!

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 Bottega Veneta best menswear brand

Best Label of 2019 Bottega Veneta 

Just as Gucci starts to slow, Kering has Bottega Veneta creating all the hype thanks to it’s new British designer Daniel Lee. A graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art, he has worked at Maison Margiela, Balenciaga and Donna Karan. Prior to joining Bottega Veneta, Lee was Director of Ready-to-Wear Design at Céline and he’s created a strict yet sexy reinterpretation of the Bottega Veneta signatures such as their basket weave leather. 

It cools yet strict, minimal yet interesting and its influence is now everywhere.

Left - Bottega Veneta SS20

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 Carne Bollente best menswear brand

Best New Label of 2019 Carne Bollente

Carne Bollente is an independent Paris-based brand established in 2014 by Hijiri Endo,

Théodore Famery and Agoston Palinko. They focus on the relationship between sex and positivity, to allow people to embrace their own sexuality and kinks through their clothes. By pairing straightforward streetwear staples with scenic sex illustrations, which manage to cover a wide scope of sexual taboos without verging on the problematic, Carne Bollente inject irreverence and provocation into no-frills basics.

Left - Carne Bollente - Bimbo Unchained 2 Blue Denim Jacket - €230

 

 

 

 

 

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 Jaded London best menswear brand

Best High Street of 2019 Jaded London

The High-Street became something of a dirty word this year. It’s tough out there and menswear has been hit harder than most. While some brands ditched menswear entirely, others have taken the plunge and really gone for it. 

Fun and affordable, Jaded London gets on all the big trends without the price tags. The made for Insta clothes are by brother and sister team, Grant and Jade Goulden, who launched in 2013. Dior Saddle bag for £40, anyone?

Review 
Gillette Heated Razor Labs tried testedBest Grooming Product 2019 GilletteLabs

This year we were introduced to the first heated razor and its good. Part of the new ‘GilletteLabs’ stable, the stainless steel warming bar has adjustable temperature levels and a wireless magnetic charging dock to make this a revolutionary shaving sensation. Much higher than the usual Gillette price tag, it will be interesting to see how popular this has been.

 

Left - GilletteLabs - Heated Razor - £199

Best Grooming Brand 2019 Baxter of California 

It’s getting increasing difficult to stand out in the crowded men’s grooming market and with everybody jumping on the unisex band wagon anyway, where does it leave it? Baxter of California now has the expertise of L’Oréal behind it and is a reliable mid-priced grooming brand. Based on its Californian surf heritage since 1965, it was one of the first in men’s grooming. For an everyday easy product I swear by the Oil Free Moisturiser. 

Below - Baxter of California - Oil Free Moisturiser - £24

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 Baxter of California best grooming brand

Review 
Ostens Patchouli No.1 perfume tried testedFragrance of the Year 2019 - Ostens Impression Patchouli Heart No.1

Ostens was a new fragrance brand this year and completely won me over to patchouli.

This scent by Domitille Michalon-Bertier includes rosemary, lavandin, lavender absolute, immortelle absolute LMR, ciste labdanum absolute and is gorgeous. Easily my favourite of the year.

Left - Ostens Impression Patchouli Heart IFF-LMR No. 1 - 50ml - £85

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 Chernobyl best programme

Most Stylish Programme 2019 - Chernobyl

Possibly not the most stylish, but definitely the most memorable and impactful. Chernobyl took us on a jaw-dropping adventure in 1980s Ukraine charting the meltdown of the nuclear reactor. The wardrobe of drab Soviet suiting and military garments seemed to bookend the current trend of vintage dress down.

 

 

 

 

Chic Geek Style Awards 2019 best collaboration moncler genius

Best Menswear Collaboration 2019 - Moncler Genius 

Moncler did the clever thing for our short attention span times and commissioned a new designer to do a new collection every few weeks and keep dropping throughout the season. Designers have included Craig Green, Simone Rocha, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, Richard Quinn, 1017 Alyx 9SM and Palm Angels, along with two of the brand’s own labels, 1952 and Grenoble.

It has kept it fresh, reliable and is producing some of the best outerwear to suit every fashion wanker’s taste.

Left - Craig Green Moncler Genius

Drakes Savile Row cozy retail designSpecial ChicGeek Award 2019 - Drake’s

Charting its own preppy course, Drake’s has stealthy positioned itself as the bastion of contemporary classic British menswear. The new store on Savile Row shows they’re continued success and with Michael Hill’s tasteful eye over everything, it’s the most colourful quality menswear you’re going to find anywhere. Expanded far beyond its original silk ties and accessorises, it’s now a full men’s outfitters and the type of British label the Japanese and Koreans go crazy for.  

Right - Drake's new Savile Row store

best dressed timothee chalamet 2019Most Stylish Man of 2019 Timothée Chalamet

A best dressed person is somebody you can’t wait to see what they put on next. Anybody who leaves you guessing and then smashing it out of the park is always the most interesting and therefore crowned best dressed. 

This year I recognise Timothée Chalamet who famously said he doesn’t have a stylist. “I don’t want to work with a stylist or anything. I’ve been following designers like Raf, Haider Ackermann, Hedi Slimane—these guys are like rock stars. They’re artists.” he told Frank Ocean in a Q&A for VMan magazine in 2018.

Hi skinny frame and romantic locks have made him a youthful menswear pin-up who isn’t afraid to try something new.

Burberry turkey 2019

Turkey of 2019 - Burberry 

I just don’t get it. Riccardo Tisci has stripped all the personality out of Burberry. Rather than building on Christopher Bailey’s legacy and momentum, he seems intent on doing the opposite. Prices have gone up and the original ideas have gone down. It all just looks like it’s trying too hard and doesn’t have any identity. 

It’s seems intent on ignoring the hero product of the trench and opting for gimmicks. If the Chinese stop buying, they’re going to need to change things quickly. It will be interesting to see whether sales are sustained at a label that has lost its kudos amongst the fashion crowd.

Burberry - Large Logo and Kingdom Detail Nevis Backpack - £1090

 

 

Thursday, 02 January 2020 13:54

ChicGeek Comment High Street Rescue

future of retail high street huyton government investmentNot all high streets are created equal. The government has just announced the first 14 high streets to receive financial support as part of a pilot called the ‘High Streets Task Force’, which will be rolled out across the country over 2020. Each will receive up to £25million worth of “training, face-to-face support and access to research” from industry experts who will team up with local leaders.

Left - Huyton Town Centre in Knowsley set to get £25 million of investment

In July the £3.6 billion ‘Towns Fund’ was announced by the government, including this £1 billion High Streets Fund to “help high streets adapt and evolve while remaining vibrant places for their community”. 

“This government is investing £3.6billion in our great towns, including £1billion to help our high streets to adapt and evolve while remaining vibrant and safe places at the heart of our communities." said Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick said last week. 

“Having announced the first 101 high streets that can benefit from £25 million each back in the summer, I am announcing support from our new High Streets Task Force for a further 20 places and naming 14 of these today.” he said.

So, the government has a ‘Future High Streets Fund’ and a ‘High Streets Task Force’ each giving high-streets £25 million to boost their local economies. This is fantastic, but, is this spreading the money too thin? While any money is welcome, wouldn’t the government be better targeting fewer towns with more money to really have a lasting and deeper effect to stem the bleed from our high-streets?

Many of these high-streets are lost and are never going to thrive while there are many that are simply declining, can be saved and just need an injection of cash and energy.

On the recently announced list of 14 high streets is Thornton Heath in Croydon in South London. Apart from being the home of Stormzy, the majority of people would have never have heard of it. Thornton Heath hasn’t had a thriving high-street since the 1950s. Apart from a 1970s Tesco there really is nothing there and never will be. Being a realist, the area doesn’t have much money and is far down on the list of being gentrified. The local council recently spent money on paving and planting so it has had some grass roots investment to boost its apperance. Supporting businesses which don’t have the customers to pass the baton onto is pointless. Thornton Heath is more a local parade of shops than a ‘high-street’. The government would be better off targeting the larger and more connected Croydon high-street nearby which is in desperate need of investment especially with the wobbling of the proposed Westfield shopping centre project

Looking at the announced list some look like tertiary high-streets such as Swinton Town centre in Salford, Stirchley in Birmingham and Huyton Town Centre in Knowsley. And while it’s great to give these areas a refresh, the future of high-streets is fewer but better. The places announced will benefit from bespoke support and guidance from the new ‘High Streets Task Force’, announced by the government in response to recommendations of an expert panel on the high street chaired by Sir John Timpson. The High Streets Task Force will give “face-to-face support, access to cutting-edge research, new online training, and local footfall data to give businesses that vital edge and transform local town centres”. The government says it wants to "level" up towns and regions, “ensuring prosperity and opportunity are available to everyone”.

But, can "up to £25 million" be anything more than cosmetic? 

future of retail high street huyton government investmentMinister for the Northern Powerhouse, Rt Hon Jake Berry, said, “Every place has its own unique strengths and challenges but all our town centres and high streets have one thing in common – they are the lifeblood of communities.

“The tailored support from our new High Streets Task Force and up to £25 million each from the Towns Fund for 100 places gives communities the money and support they need to unleash the potential of their towns.

“This people’s government is backing people across the Northern Powerhouse and every part of the UK to succeed no matter where they live.” he said.

Right - Thornton Heath in the London Borough of Croydon has already had recent investment to its high street with new pavements and planting

The high-street ‘Task Force’ is run by the ‘Institute for Place Management’ on behalf of the government, and is holding an open recruitment for a Board Chair to provide expert leadership to this programme. The Task Force brings together a range of expert groups on reinventing and restructuring places, including the Royal Town Planning Institute and The Design Council.

The government is also seeking views on whether an online register of commercial properties would make it easier to bring empty shops back into use. It wants to understand people’s experiences of leasing commercial property – with a view to making ownership of high street properties more transparent, making it easier for businesses and community groups to find space and supporting investment in local areas.

This recent announcement builds on ongoing government action to support high streets, including cutting small retailers’ business rates bills by 50% from April, following more than £13 billion of business rates support since 2016.

The recent 2019 Conservative manifesto promised, “we will cut the burden of tax on business by reducing business rates. This will be done via a fundamental review of the system”. They pledged to increase the business rates discount available to businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 from 33 per cent to 50 per cent in 2020-21. They also plan to extend the discount to “grassroots music venues, small cinemas and pubs.” The changes to business rates would only apply to England as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own business rate regimes. The discount is set to last for just one financial year.

Public money should always be a catalyst for private investment. The government investing money into local high-streets is a welcome initiative, but spreading it too thin and wasting money on high streets which look like they will never grow or thrive is a wasted opportunity. While new pavements and a cosmetic tart up does change perceptions, it will be small businesses and start-ups that will really change these areas together with private landlords. This is where a reassessment of business rates will be needed. The new money will be a boost, but will it be enough in the right places? Ideally it needs to ripple out into the local economy and help high-streets to survive the threat of online and reduced footfalls long after it has gone.

So, where should the government be putting its money? AskTraders, a company providing detailed information about share trading and brokers, conducted an analysis of the UK’s high streets, looking at ATM, bank branches, retail store closures and ONS % growth of the retail sector over the course of 2019. It found the “most declining” high streets were to be Poole, Blackpool - Blackpool is on the government list of 101 high streets announced in the summer - Warrington, Manchester and Swindon. Poole High Street has seen overall retail growth fall by four percent in 2019. Stopping the decline is just as important as providing a boost and maybe these larger centres would be a better investment to stop the rot. 

Local councils can change parking restrictions and charges, or work with transport providers to make it easier for people to visit the shops. Local people will be glad to see investment on their high streets, but it will be profitable and sustainable businesses with customers spending money which will leave the lasting legacy.

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