I recently went to Berlin, for their fashion week, which is dominated by two trade shows, Seek and Premium. I know Berlin is the city of the young hipster wanker and far from the bourgeois idea of fashion. Always has been. But, watching a young guy in adidas trackie bottoms, an old tour T-shirt tucked in and a fake looking GG monogrammed Gucci hat, it’s pretty clear that fashion, ATM, is looking like ‘cool crap’.
Pioneered here, but spreading: it’s about found, second-hand, vintage, charity and everything that is the opposite about looking expensive and ‘designery’.
Left 'Pensive Crap' at Seek in Berlin - Cap - J Crew, Sunglasses - Vintage Gucci, Top - Umbro
It’s been coming a while, and it’s something the fashion industry struggles with, because making something shiny and new is what they are used to. Plus, why buy something brand new when you want it to look old?
It’s about mass produced old items looking old. This isn’t the Gucci idea of decadent vintage. That’s over.
I know Italian brands have been doing ‘pre-distressed’ for donkey’s, and it’s always looked a bit crap. Ripped jeans, anybody? But, it was interesting to see brands, such as Pony and Valsport, doing options of trainers looking like you’ve been wearing them for months.
Right - Pony distressed for SS18
Even if you buy something new, you style it in a way which looks old and not cared about. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing collaborations such as Louis Vuitton and Supreme in order for these brands to look less expensive, even though the prices say something else.
Some brands only know how to do new and this is leading to people raiding wardrobes and rediscovering things they used to wear or asking parents for their old sportswear. Hoping they've hoarded it.
Menswear is really experimenting in this area and the worry of looking bad is over, as that’s really the point. It’s about looking like an America tourist from 1985 or a post-Soviet Russian, aping western brands, circa 1994.
Could be a hard sell, or no sell at all, and this certainly won’t help the struggling fashion industry.
Below - Valsport SS18 worn look, Never too old for Vetements SS18
TheChicGeek teams up with Thomas Sabo in this special OOTD to highlight their new mesh watch collection. Strong and stylish, this collection of watches feature stainless steel-coloured mesh bracelets and sunray finish dials with coordinated silver-coloured indices and hands.
The monotone colour palette and striped detailing inspired the rest of TheChicGeek's outfit while on his way to catch TheChicGeek Express. The clean lines and striking two-tone colourway are as timeless as black and white itself. It made TheChicGeek think if only everything in life was this clean cut?!
Left - TheChicGeek is wearing Thomas Sabo ‘Rebel Spirit’ Watch - £180
Find out more about the new Thomas Sabo collection here
Credits - Watch - Thomas Sabo, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Sunspel, Trousers - Raf Simons X Fred Perry, Shoes - Sperry, Socks - adidas, Spectacles - Neubau, Fragrance - Azzaro Pure Chrome - Read TheChicGeek Fragrance Review here, After Shave Balm & Shaving Cream - Frederic Malle, Face Cream - Buly
If you’re not overly familiar with the name ‘Miansai’, you’ve probably seen one of their most famous designs without knowing it. A coloured nautical cord bracelet with a metallic fish hook or anchor detailing was, a few years ago, as ubiquitous as Stan Smiths and skinny jeans.
It was one of the few jewellery designs and brands that managed to cut through to the mainstream while still being desirable for guys to wear on their wrists. It was a sweet spot of pricing and branding that made it something that wasn’t throwaway, yet was affordable enough to be worn carefree.
Left - Michael Saiger Founder & Creative Director of Miansai, TheChicGeek wears Harrington Jacket - Grenfell, Cardigan - Pretty Green X John Smedley, T-Shirt - Vintage Helmut Lang, Tracksuit Trousers - adidas from ASOS, Trainers - Diadora Made in Italy
I caught up with the founder, Michael Saiger, in London, to find out how he achieved something that is so difficult, today, and see what’s next for Miansai:
Originally from New York, Michael Andrew Saiger - it’s the MI-AN-SAI of his name that gives the brand its name, “All the domains were taken until I circled these parts of my name. Everybody thought it was asian, but it’s not”, he says, is dressed in a simple sweater and chinos and surrounded by the salon style hanging of the Berners Tavern restaurant.
Michael’s attention to detail can be seen by his perfectly manicured beard and not a hair out of place on his head. “I put my handprint on everything I do. I’m OCD, I’m obsessive”, he says.
How did he get started and where did his eye come from? “My mum has an antique store, she’s an interior decorator and I grew up around estate sales my whole life. So, then when I went to the University of Miami and I started making some bracelets. This was 2007,” says Michael.
“I was looking for a bracelet and there was nothing out there. So, I started making bracelets for myself and then I would take these World War II pendants and medallions that I would find at estate sales and make them into necklaces. All my friends really loved it and wanted them.
“I took them to the concept store, Base, in Miami. They were like, ‘oh yeah, we love this stuff’. This was right before I went on holiday for the summer, and when I went back after, they said they’d sold out in like a week or two,”
Right - This bracelet design has done the difficult thing of being common while still looking fresh and has become something of a men's classic - Miansai - Anchor Cord Silver-Plated Wrap Bracelet - £55 from MRPORTER
The company started officially in 2008 and, then, the product that catapulted Miansai onto the wrists of men worldwide was born. “I took all that money and bought various machines, equipment, everything, so, then me and one of my best friends had a 300 sq ft work studio and we started making everything and selling to some of the best boutiques around the US.
“After that and I graduated - the degree was in marketing - we were bursting out, so we found a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, and built it out and set up our whole manufacturing operation. Then, I started taking our nautical rope and, at the time, nobody used nautical rope for anything unless you went to a summer camp and had a little tie-on bracelet.
“We launched in 2009, in Barney’s & Bergdorf’s ,and then GQ featured one of our rope bracelets. I started using the rope in 2008, but the hook and anchor came in 2009. I didn't want to launch it until I knew I had manufacturing, as I knew it would be very popular. I didn't want to come out with a product and not be able to deliver it.
“We were the first to do anything like this with price points between $55 to $500. It had to be for a 15 year old, it had to be for a 70 year old, it had to be for a 20 year old: anyone and everyone.
Asked how many he thinks he’s sold of his signature product, we quickly discredit the hundreds of thousands and move into the millions. Next came his own retail outlets. “In 2012, we started a mobile retail unit, an old vintage airstream. In 2013, we opened a store in New York, Soho, and we've just opened another store in Venice Beach in LA".
Michael understands the future of retail and that traditional bricks and mortar US retail is suffering. “Retailers are hurting, especially in the US, with everybody shopping online. We have our food delivered, we, literally, don't got to the store, at all. The industry is changing”.
How do you see your stores then? “It’s more about experiential retail. I built our two stores to be galleries. I didn’t want jewellery fixtures, I designed furniture to house jewellery. It feels like a furniture store inside. That’s the future of retail,”.
Left - Miansai - Harbour Rucksack Tobacco Leather - £506.35 This was the bag Michael was carrying in London. He says the bags are made in the same factories as Prada, using the same leather as Louis Vuitton
He cites Aesop as a brand he admires. He’s coy about naming anybody that touches on his accessorises world, but he’s clearly an admire of good design.
He knows that he needs to go to where the consumers are, so he’s launching 5 more mobile units of classically restored Airstreams, Piaggio's and a Fiat at various locations such as JFK, LAX, Soho House Malibu and Newport, Rhode Island. He says it’s all about, “High traffic in an authentic way without selling out,”.
The brand has just expanded into leather bags and fine jewellery. “We launched leather bags: Italian leather, all cut and sewn in Turkey. We use some of the same factories as Prada and the some of the same leather as Louis Vuitton. I always collected bags from my estate sale days and knew what I wanted in a bag”.
As for the fine jewellery. It’s not currently available in the UK, but how does that fit in? “It’s marketed to women, but anyone can wear it,” he says, “For first 5 year’s of the brand, I never said whether it was men’s or women’s,". Is it made by your? "We do make some of the solid gold jewellery ourselves and some of the fine jewellery with the Pavé diamonds, we also work with a very high end factory in Thailand”.
Right - Arduin Cuff Bracelet, 14K Gold/Pave - £2978.54
What advice can he give to men with regards to wearing jewellery? “Keep it simple. Keep it to two pieces, unless you have a thin bracelet. For me, personally, I never wear more that two bracelets and a watch”.
So, what’s next for Miansai? “I definitely want to stay in the accessories realm, I don't want to go into ready-to-wear. We have a very good niche and I’d like to stay there”.
Michael currently has 55 employees, he doesn’t disclose his turnover, but if he’s shifting £60 bracelets by the million, then it’s going to be pretty high. He obviously knows his market and exactly how to expose his brand without it feeling like it is everywear, devaluing it and worst of all, millennials I'm looking at you here, boredom kicks in.
To sell millions of the same bracelet yet retain its desirability is a skill many retailers or brands would love to know. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see a converted vintage van - how about a Morris Traveller? That’s very British - at Wilderness or one of those more monied festivals emblazoned with ‘Miansai’ on the side.
Damien Paul, Head of Menswear, MATCHESFASHION.COM
"This unique and ground-breaking collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and adidas has now been running for over a decade, and the product continues to resonate well for our customers. My favourite style for this autumn is the 'Qasa' high top trainer – the detail is minimal and subtle and these will work well with a cropped trouser and sweatshirt".
Y3 - Qasa High-Top Trainers - £260 Buy Now
"OAMC stands for Over All Master Cloth and is new to MATCHESFASHION.COM this season. The collection encompasses the sweet spot between contemporary and sportswear influence and is lifted by a refined finish and attention to detail. I like this navy sweatshirt as it is has a slim silhouette which can work well when worn with smarter trousers, and it is elevated with a detachable feather charm".
OAMC - Feather Charm Crew Neck Sweatshirt - £225 Buy Now
"Another new label for us, Malle is London based and began with the intention of creating superior, British made motorcycle luggage. The collection has now evolved and this pannier shoulder bag is absolutely functional, and is very masculine. In oiled canvas with black bridle leather trim I like that the roll-top closure allows you to expand the size of the bag as you require".
"Italian design house Marni often deals in unexpected proportions and off-kilter silhouettes, which I personally love. These trousers are more refined, and whilst they are cropped, they have a classic, straight cut, with a single pleat at the front. In navy wool-twill they are what I call and investment purchase as they will work both on and off-duty, and will add elegance even to low key weekend dressing".
Marni - Single Pleat Wool-Twill Trousers - £505 Buy Now
"Exclusive to MATCHESFASHION.COM Raey has very subtle, cool handwriting – the sort of pieces that slot into any man’s wardrobe and become firm favourites… I like this oversized bomber for autumn as it nods to sportswear but is in Prince of Wales check, one of the most traditional fabrications in English heritage".
Raey - 1970s Zip Through Houndstooth Checked Jacket £495 Buy Now
It's over :( The Rio 2016 Olympic Games is finished and it's time to hit the showers. Post-gymwear requires a simple yet stylish approach to sportswear. Comfort is key and rehydration a priority as you venture home and flop into bed.
Put those aching muscles into loose tracksuit bottoms with sandals and sports socks and go home to eat your own body weight of food. You deserve it!
Credits - Tracksuit Bottoms - Duck & Cover, Rucksack - Herschel, Watch - Storm, Sandals - Birkenstock from ASOS, Blue Rain Jacket - Huez, White Olympic Team GB Top - adidas from JD Sports, Socks - adidas from ASOS, Fragrance - ‘Uomo’ by Salvatore Ferragamo, Moisturising Shave Gel - The Real Shaving Co., Superdefense Night - Clinique, Water - SmartWater
More images & video below
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
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TheChicGeek's fourth Olympic ring sees him take to the machines. Going hard before he goes home, TheChicGeek is showing off those geeky guns in a sleeveless running top and running shorts with gradient details. Add a bright sports shoe and a covering of sweat and you'll be fitter before you can say Tokyo 2020!
Credits - Trainers - Nike from JD Sports, Watch - AVI-8, Socks - adidas from ASOS, Sleeveless Top - Admiral Performance from Sainsbury’s, Shorts - Iffley Road, Tracksuit Top - adidas from JD Sports, Backpack - Herschel, Even Better Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer - Clinique, All-In-One Progressive SPF - That’s So
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
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As Team GB continues to bring home the gold medals, TheChicGeek's third Olympic Ring OOTD goes bright in bold yellow and orange. In a loose fitting running top, retro-length sports shorts and leggings, TheChicGeek just needs the arms and legs to go with it. Maybe lifting all those winning medals will help!
Go bright, or go home. Come on #TeamGB
Credits - Yellow Trainers - Nike from JD Sports, Skin Cream - Egyptian Magic, Sunglasses - Oakley, Watch - AVI-8, Mr Mint Daily Face Wash - Soveral, Black Leggings - Bjorn Borg, Yellow Shorts - adidas, Orange Top - Soar, Tracksuit Top - Umbro
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
Get involved on social media #Olympichicgeek
See TheChicGeek hula-hooping below!
See OLYMPIC GEEK 1
Behind every great athlete there is a great trainer; passing on his experience and knowledge to the next generation of Olympians. To celebrate the Rio Olympics, TheChicGeek took to the playing field to train for that gold medal.
Always striving to be his best, TheChicGeek is, here, channeling 'retro sports teacher' in a fresh white tracksuit and 'Chariots of Fire' type vest top. An Olympic gold, like true style, takes commitment, dedication and training!
Credits - Trainers - Puma, White Tracksuit Top - Bjorn Borg, White Tracksuit Bottoms - Bjorn Borg, Socks - adidas, Watch - Maurice Lacroix, Vest Top - Iffley Road, Whistle - Le Coq Sportif, 'Omoressence' - Omorovicza, 'Urban Blue Detox Clay Mask' - Lab Series, 'City Block Purifying Cleansing Gel' - Clinique.
Shot by Robin Forster
Get involved #Olympichicgeek
View the video below
See OLYMPIC GEEK 2
Joining the Peacock Revolution, the explosion in colourful menswear during the late 1960s, TheChicGeek brings the look up-to-date with a mixture of things you may already have in your wardrobe and a few accessories.
TheChicGeek says, "Don't be afraid of colour. Put strong colour with more strong colour. It's all about balance. Add a few accessories and you're ready for Woodstock 2016!"
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
Get involved #PeacockGeek
Credits - Jacket - Moss Bros, Necklace - River Island, Shirt - Moss Bros, Collarless Shirt - Scotch & Soda, Parka - Scotch & Soda, Watch - Storm London, Socks - Item m6, Sliders - adidas at ASOS, Spectacles - Salvatore Ferragamo, Bracelet - Tateossian, Pyjama Trousers - Derek Rose, Blue Fragrance - Cedro di Taormina Acqua Di Parma, Dark Fragrance - Stone Replay, Daily Defence - Zelens, Beard Wash - The Great British Grooming Co.
More images & video below
Want to join the Peacock Revolution, but on a budget? TheChicGeek shows you how here
Youth, beautiful youth, seems to sum up the scene at Zalando HQ. Everywhere you look, young people: sitting outside in the sun on bench tables chatting, inside large, open-plan offices developing new product and organising deliveries and logistics and vast teams styling and producing the content for the website in cavernous studio spaces.
Left - One of Zalando's many buildings based around East Berlin
Zalando feels like a microcosm of hipster Berlin: the youth of Europe drawn together over the passion of creativity, fashion and design in a mix of tattoos, coloured hair and piercings. But, these young people aren’t restricted to simply the creation side of the business, they run all the way through to senior management and is a reflection of the company’s age having only started in 2008.
In the space of 7 years Zalando has gone from speculative start-up to a billion dollar business. The biggest fashion e-tailer that nobody, well, those of us in the UK anyway, has heard of, it has grown to be the biggest fashion platform in Europe with sales of over €2.2 billion, last year. Just to give it some context, ASOS turned over £975 million in 2014.
While British brands such as ASOS and Topshop looked towards America, Australia and China for growth, Zalando was quietly focusing itself and expanding into 15 European countries and tailoring its offering accordingly.
Right - For the recent Berlin Fashion Week, Zalando opened a 'Fashion House' to showcase product, hold talks and celebrate Berlin as a fashion centre
Based in Berlin, business is conducted in English, so as to unify all 15 markets, making Zalando feel more like a international business based in Berlin rather than a German fashion company. It now sells over 1500 brands with a staggering 150,000 products in markets ranging from Austria to the UK.
Selling luxury diffusion lines, high-street brands and now, a whole collection of own labels, developed for specific customer categories, Zalando is aiming to have everything covered.
I’m here, during Berlin Fashion Week, to see inside the company and how it has developed. I first experienced Zalando’s website a few years ago, and it felt, at the time, like just another European website selling third party brands in not a particularly inspiring way. Fast forward a few years and, now, Zalando is the one of the most important European customers to some of Britain's best and biggest brands and the entry to markets many don’t have retail outlets in or websites directed to.
Dressed, today, in American Apparel T-shirt, Element cuffed trousers and Nike trainers, Florian Jodl, VP Menswear, is in charge of the menswear side of Zalando.
“When I joined - 3 years ago - Zalando was making the transition from start-up to large company. We’re, now, the largest fashion platform in Europe and we cover pretty much the whole of Europe”.
Left - Florian Jodl, VP Menswear, Zalando
What’s made Zalando so successful in what is a tough market to crack?
“Our founding team believed in the e-commerce trend at the right point in time. The drivers of the company that made it successful was the marketing, the logistics proposition - free and easy returns, we have more than 20 different payment methods, large assortment and strong relationships with some of the best brands in the world”. he says.
“How those things came together allowed the company to grow so fast. We focused on the fashion market and invested in our fashion proposition from a content perspective. The main part of the business is being a fashion retailer, but we are adding more and more additional services to the consumer and to the brands we work with. For example, we recently launched, ‘Zalon’, which is a curated shopping service: a stylist picks a selection, then you get a package and keep what you like. We don’t run it in-house, we’ve created a platform where stylists can log on to and work independently on a commission basis.”
Where many international retailers have found appealing to so many different markets difficult, and have often come unstuck, Zalando seems to have flourished.
“We have a very strong localisation mindset. For example, in Italy you have to have cash on delivery payments, in Germany, you have to allow for invoice payments. We have been successful in all these different markets by tweaking our brand marketing and efficient end structures, but, if you over emphasise it you have an extremely complex system”, says Jodl.
The most popular men’s brands are currently Nike, adidas, Converse, Reebok and Levi’s.
“Some men are still very focussed on brands, and there is a group of consumers that just want to be inspired. So, outfits work quite well, for us, particularly for men. We have a function, now, where you can buy everything the model is wearing.
“We see the men’s business accelerating even faster than the rest. When you think of buying fashion, online, it is an attractive proposition for the stereotypical, average guy. You don’t have to go downtown, be in a crowded store, you can order a nice selection of stuff and what you like, you keep. It just took men longer to take the step and try and, now, they’ve tried it, you can see it really picking up,” says Jodl.
Right - Each individual item is shot and physically moved along the creative line to be retouched, described and uploaded onto the Zalando site
I’m taken inside an old factory building in East Berlin that houses the studio where Zalando shoots all the images for the website. Not allowed to take pictures, it is the modern e-tailer factory: a conveyor belt of styling, shooting, retouching, describing and uploading.
Zalando has recently developed its own range of labels seeing gaps in the market and also higher margins. Menswear features in labels such ‘Kiomi', ‘Your Turn’, ‘Pier One’, ‘Brooklyn’s Own’ and unisex shoe brand called ‘Zign'. The own brands are currently expanding as a percentage of the business with many collections, now, running into hundreds of pieces.
Zalando, while having shipped to the UK for many years, is now turning its attention to us, and particularly menswear, seeing a fashion hungry and lucrative market.
“One key thing we need to do is build a more focussed assortment as the UK is a very developed and strong fashion market, in the past we probably missed some of the key local brands”, he says.
For Berlin Fashion Week, Zalando curated a ‘Fashion House’ in the centre of Berlin to not only display their product but to inspire and put the flag in the ground for Berlin as a fashion capital and authority. (Zalando recently bought the fashion trade show Bread & Butter, which up until a few seasons ago was one of the biggest street and casual wear trade shows in the world).
Left - Inside Zalando's 'Fashion House', a pop-up in Mitte during the recent Berlin Fashion Week
They understand that they have to make Berlin relevant in order for them to be taken seriously as a fashion authority. The key to Zalando’s success is its expertise in the markets it operates in. While not only appealing to its customers, it also appeals to other retailers and brands that want the ‘in’ to these potentially lucrative European markets.
As different parts of Europe come out of recession, Zalando will only increase its dominance and it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t snapped up by somebody like Amazon, or anybody who wants a large and developed slice of the European fashion market.
Online retailers understand that its their own product which will offer a USP and also better returns. It will be interesting to see whether Zalando's own menswear brands will be picked up by the British male in what is a very competitive and price sensitive market. Watch this space.