Happy New Year, Chic Geeks. What a crazy year. Things all went a bit Back To The Future II with our Trumpian dystopia, jaffa cakes got reduced from 12 to 10 in a box - the tragedy! - and online started to really eat into, and effect, traditional retail models.
It feels like we’re in an in-between period, right now, looking to the past, while waiting for the future. Prepare yourself, it’s definitely coming. Here’s a bit of TheChicGeek looking back, rewarding and remembering the past year.
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Best Label of 2017 Balenciaga
You had me at ‘rubber car mat skirt’. Anybody who can make a blue leather Ikea bag, at £1800, desirable, is on to something. Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian fashion designer, has made looking drab and unglamorous an art form. While not a massive fan of Vetements - his own label - Balenciaga still has some of the luxury polish left which makes something desirable. ‘Interesting’ could be the word, but what he does with this label is make you think about what you are looking at. It makes you question what you like and what you don’t, and that has to be interesting, no?
Left - Balenciaga Lookbook SS18 Glamour!
Best New Label of 2017 Martine Rose
Before you scream 'it’s not new' at me, I know, but this year Martine Rose broke through. After 10 years on the margins, and, I’ll be honest, I never really quite got it, everything changed and fashion turned towards her style.
She also started working at Balenciaga, above, and, used their manufacturing, giving her collections the polish it needed. She's making some of the best items of the season and if you’re into fleeces and cycle shorts, you’ll be in 90s heaven.
Left - Martine Rose SS18 - One of the must-have menswear pieces of the season - more about that later
Below - Boohoo has just launched activewear for men
Best High Street of 2017 Boohoo Man
Manchester based Boohoo has expanded hugely over the last few years. It was founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane who previously supplied high street chains such as Primark and New Look.
Boohoo recently announced plans in June 2017 to build a 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2) warehouse, costing £150m over the next three years, and would offer the capacity to deliver annual sales of £3 billion, alongside their existing Burnley warehouse.
One of the most successful British online retailers, Boohoo has massive potential and is doing really well in the US. In fashion terms, it’s fast and cheap, and this is the only way to survive and thrive in this market, aimed at 16-24 year olds.
While they nod to the trends, Boohoo makes clothes these people want to wear and while they aren’t all hits, there’s enough choice to be able to make a selection to reflect your personality or the character you want to be that day. Affordable, yes, disposable, yes, but this market is fickle and you’re only as strong as your last product, but there’s plenty here to get excited about and it’s only going to get bigger.
Best Grooming Product 2017 La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-shine Invisible Fresh Mist SPF50
Anything that protects, is easy to use and you’re not conscious of wearing, is the Holy Grail of grooming products. This spray goes on like a light mist and offers a high SPF protection. Sun damage is the biggest factor in visible ageing and anything that makes it simple and quick to add a layer of protection has to a good thing. You’ll actually enjoy using this and it shouldn’t just be restricted to the summer months.
Left - Get one of these for your holiday and then carry on using it - more here
Best Grooming Brand 2017 Perricone MD
The best grooming brands are those which make you feel like you’re in a knowledgable and safe pair of hands. Dr Perricone’s MD brand launched this 3-part men's CBx range, this year, containing a face wash, post-shave product and a moisturiser.
The 'CBx' part is a reference to Phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis sativa plant - hemp.
Expensive, but it feels like you’re getting more than fancy packaging here and with a new supplements range out this year - 2018 - and twists on his cult products, I think I’m going to carry on being a big fan.
Above - Dr Perricone's first men's range - read more here
Fragrance of the Year 2017 Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous
Picture the scene: Tom Ford walks into Esteé Lauder’s New York headquarters. He’s here to talk about the future of his cosmetics and fragrance business. It gets to new fragrance names. We have a new ‘oud this’, ‘something leather’ that, it’s all very predictable, and then, suddenly, somebody suggests, how about ‘Fucking Fabulous’? The room laughs. We all say it, don't we?!
The execs at Esteé Lauder look at each other, want to carry on laughing and then move over the joke. But, Tom’s feeling cheeky and he wants the name to stick.
No other brand would do it and that’s the power of having your name, and the power that goes with it, on the product. Nobody is going to question Mr Ford. What he says goes and this is why many fashion companies struggle. It’s all bit beige, a bit done by committee, nobody is willing to stick their neck out. Especially in conservative America.
Okay, so I’ve made this story up. But, this will be the fragrance people will remember from 2017. It’s just a shame the actually scent doesn’t live up to the name and is a cult for more than its name. If this had a memorable and individual scent it would be unstoppable. I just love how they have to blank out the f-word on the adverts.
Above - More than a name? Fucking Fabulous by Tom Ford
Most Stylish Programme 2017 The Deuce
If you know me, you’ll know I love a bit of 70s style. Think the pimps from ‘Live & Let Die’, and you’ll get an idea about the wardrobe for The Deuce. James Franco, annoyingly, and unnecessarily, plays twins in this, but Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the show. It’s a mix of mafia, prostitutes, pimps and punters in this grimy yet quite glamourous take on bankrupt 70s New York.
Left - The Deuce's pimps getting pimped
Best Menswear Collaboration 2017 Topman X Stranger Things
The right product, at the right time, driven by a massively popular Netflix series made this a big success for Topman and Topshop. It’s been a tough year for Topman and they need to think clever in order to take on the ASOSs and Boohoos of this digital world. Think ringer tees and washed denim in a collection of early 80s teen-wear.
Left - Taking a trip to Hawkin
Special ChicGeek Award 2017 - Christopher Bailey
Bailey is Burberry and Burberry is Bailey. The giant luxury goods company we see today has been created thanks to his creative design, direction and his attention to detail. This doesn’t mean it can’t change, it just means, in my opinion, it will never be as good.
For many years, Burberry was flying high. It tightened up its licensing and became a must-have for the newly rich Chinese.
It’s hit the buffers recently, so it’s probably time for something new, but some of those Bailey/Burberry collections were some of the best of their time. Leather sleeves on jackets? Yes, Mr Bailey. He made heritage Britishness modern and exportable and gave it a gloss that made you proud that Burberry was British. Read more here
Left - 2018 is the year Burberry waves goodbye to Christopher Bailey, what will he do next?
Turkey of 2017
Jeff Koons for Louis Vuitton was a double take when it first appeared on Twitter. What looked like a collection of bags straight from the back of a Chinese counterfeit operation, was, in fact, a collaboration with one of the world’s most successful artists. This tacky collection hijacked some of the world’s greatest artists and their most famous paintings and then emblazoned their name all over it: as if you were too dumb to recognise them. If you need a gold “DA VINCI” on your Mona Lisa then this collection was for you.
Left - Never actually seen one on the street, maybe rarer than the real thing?!
What are your thoughts? #TheChicGeekAwards
Santa, baby, slip a….
Tom Ford Velvet Jacket
Okay, I know I’ll hardly get an opportunity to wear this, but, just look at it. I got a Tom Ford suit last year and the quality is so good. Admittedly, you’re paying serious dollar for it, but my, oh, my, look at this beauty.
Left - Tom Ford - Velvet Shelton Shawl Collar Cocktail Jacket - $3980
Longchamp Leather Suitcase
This is a beautifully proportioned, soft leather suitcase that you’ll be itching to use. It'll make you even more excited about going away. Made in France for a decidedly undesigner price, this is a timeless shape and comes in lots of colour options. I also like the minimal branding.
Right - Longchamp - Le Foulonné Small Suitcase - £500
While I’m over the clothes, the Gucci home stuff, while ridiculously expensive, is where my energy has gone. This is made by Richard Ginori - Kering is the parent company as well as of Gucci - and it has something mystical and masonic about it.
Left - Gucci - Esotericum, Chevron Candle - £220
Balenciaga Dry Cleaning
Nothing says ‘fashion’ like a classic denim jacket bonded in plastic film so it looks like you’ve just left the dry-cleaners with the wrapping still on. We get to the end of the year and I’m still loving what Balenciaga are doing. They know how to twist, make you screw your face up and then jump on board. See more It's A Wrap!
Left - Balenciaga - Dry Clean Big Denim Jacket - £935
Silver Cutlass Necklace
There’s something really fun and original about this necklace. I’m all about chest decoration ATM - see here - and this is a nice mix of design, precious metal and individuality.
Left - Jacey Withers - Cutlass Necklace - £240
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
Daniel Todd, Buyer at MRPORTER.COM
“I am a huge fan of Prada’s knitwear for this fall with my favourite being this Shetland Wool Sweater; it's bang on trend as graphic knitwear is key for the season. Made entirely by hand in Italy, this loud and chunky piece is as much an art form as it is knitwear. An eye-catching jumper not for the faint hearted, I’ll be wearing mine with jeans or corduroy trousers.”
Left - Prada - Shetland Wool Sweater - £1375
“Wanting to purchase a plush pair of feel-good corduroy trousers immediately indicates that autumn is here, time for the shorts to be packed away! My choice is this black number from Our Legacy, made from exceptional fabrication of soft and durable cotton-corduroy, its minimal design is versatile enabling it to be worn with simple knitwear and shirting.”
Left - Our Legacy - Wide-Leg Cotton-Corduory Trousers - £225
“Slogan t-shirts and jerseys have been huge for a few seasons now and continuing into this winter. Featuring a quote from Mr Benjamin Franklin, “Lost time is never found again”, I’ll be sporting this jersey on cold winter days when needing that little extra motivation to get things done.”
Left - Takahiromiyashita Thesoloist. - Printed Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt - £270
“A padded overshirt is a genius alternative to a jacket this autumn from Balenciaga's Creative Director Mr Demna Gvasalia. Quilted and padded for insulation and volume, this piece has to be my favourite must have. Ticking the 90s sportswear trend box, I’ll be wearing mine layered over knitwear with retro sneakers.”
Left - Balenciaga - Oversized Padded Checked Cotton-Flannel Overshirt - £815
“A great coat is essential for winter, after all it’s the item of clothing that you will be seen most in the coming months. My pick of statement outerwear is this double breasted overcoat from Gucci. Crafted from pure cashmere in a timeless shade of tan, this really is one exceptional coat.”
Left - Gucci - Slim-Fit Double-Breasted Cashmere Overcoat - £2840
Not all logos are created equal and one that is hot one minute, can quickly, for various reasons, become fashion deadly nightshade. Fashion goes through waves of logomania and then decides it's over, done that and goes subtle and that usually lasts about two minutes with most brands when they see sales falling.
Anyway, the hot logo for AW17 and SS18 is the full name running diagonally across. Think of a branded piece of tissue paper and you get the idea.
When Balenciaga relaunched under new designer Demna Gvasalia the website was given a tasteful tasteless makeover with the name 'Balenciaga Paris' running diagonally across. It then made its way onto clothes and accessories.
I'm not sure how long this is going to last, but, right now, it's cool.
Far Left - Bally SS18
Left - Palm Angels SS18
Below - Balenciaga SS18
Left - MSGM SS18
Below - Balenciaga - Intarsia Wool-Blend Scarf - £365 from MRPORTER.COM
The Crystal Maze Jumpsuit
The all-in-one becomes a style adventure as the jumpsuit, finally, makes into men's wardrobes. Think of it as a cost saver, as you get a top and bottom in one.
From Left - Rochas, Prada, Prada, Lanvin,
Below - From Left - Ralph Lauren, Facetasm, Ami, Cerruti1881
The shirt is back! -you heard it here first - so that also means the collar is too. Wear it messy and open.
From Left - Prada, Marni, Wooyoungmi, Valentino
This trend followed on from London - here
Left - Prada
The Soviet Shoulder
Forget the Cold War, it's all about the cold shoulder for SS18. Think big and high. More hunched than hench!
From Left - Prada, Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Paul Smith
Below Left - Balenciaga, Wooyoungmi, Dries van Noten
Return of the Tie
We've seen the shirt - above - is back, so it only seems fitting that the neck tie makes a reappearance.
From Left - Marni, Marni, Kenzo, SSS World Corp
From Below - Paul Smith, Wooyoungmi, Fendi, Antonio Marras
The less it matches the better.
Left - Marni, Sacai
They make you taller & thinner? Where do I sign?!
Left - Marni, Balmain, Etudes, Haider Ackermann
Below Left - Paul Smith, Cerruti 1881, Ami
Long & loose. Just don't call it 'long-line'!
From Left - Thom Browne, Alexander McQueen, Dries van Noten, Officine Generale
Florals on Mephedrone!
Below - Kenzo, Ami, DSquared2
Long Short Sleeves
It's all part of the larger-than-life, oversized trend of trying to make your polo shirt sleeves touch your wrists.
From Left - Balenciaga, Balenciaga, DSquared2, MSGM, Neil Barrett
Straight from the dry cleaners, the trend for boxfresh, cellophane wrapped and pristine fashion hit its zenith at the recent Paris shows.
Make like your granny's sofa and add a clear coat for SS18. Perfect for public transport!
From Left - Balenciaga SS18, Ports 1961 Resort 2018, Balenciaga SS18
The first ever UK exhibition on the Spanish fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and his continuing influence on modern fashion opens at the V&A. The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian, Spain and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris.
Left - The man himself, Cristóbal Balenciaga
TheChicGeek says, “While I love the V&A’s Fashion Gallery, the big exhibition space, where Pink Floyd currently is, is usually larger and something to get more excited about. But, this exhibition feels less cramped than previous exhibitions in the space - see Underwear here - and upstairs has a nice, spacious flow.
Balenciaga, as a designer, was serious. Those black voluminous gowns seem to sum up his lack of fun. He feels strict in that Spanish Catholic way, manifesting itself in his designs using lace and the Spanish Mantilla. You don’t get much feel for the man or his personality, but I think that’s how he liked it. He only gave one interview in his life, and that was just before he died.
Left - Known for his elegant volumes, Balenciaga was one of the great couturiers of the 20th century
The name disappeared into the history books when he closed his house and only came back into common culture with its revival around 20 year's ago when Gucci’s parent company, Kering, bought it alongside Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.
Downstairs is a collection of pieces, mostly coats and dresses, from his most prolific period the 1960s. These are sculptural clothes for pictures and striking as they are, when they become practical, to enter the real world, particularly the commissions by the rich Americans, they look dated and frumpy. His volumes work on their own, but on people they add bulk and often swallow the wearer. These aren't easy wearing pieces.
Some of his pieces aren’t practical either. The wearer couldn’t sit down or go to the toilet in 'Envelope' dress, for example, but this doesn't detract from its beauty.
This was the golden age of 20th century of couture and while he produced ready-to-wear with his 'Eisa' range, his heart was in his exacting standards and the fine fabrics he used.
Left - The 'Envelope' dress, 1967, a design you couldn't sit down or go to the toilet in
Balenciaga is more a collection of one-off greatest hits than themed seasons in the vain of Saint Laurent. These weren’t particularly well documented, even though they were huge, between 150 to 200 looks, as the press weren’t allowed into his shows, so the main imagery is striking black and white shoots in the magazines at the time which have entered in the common psyche of 20th century fashion images.
Upstairs is a large display with a varied selection of designers, both old and new, paying homage to the volumes that Balenciaga pioneered. There are a couple of men’s pieces by JW Anderson and Rory Parnell-Mooney to illustrate that his influence isn’t restricted solely to womenswear.
Left - JW Anderson paying homage to Balenciaga with his tulip trousers
There are a couple of pieces from the new Balenciaga, under Demna Gvasalia, who is producing great things and referencing the house while making it feel contemporary. Unfortunately, there isn't a blue Ikea bag in sight!
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion until 18th February 2018. Admission £12
To call it a recession is maybe a little extreme, but let’s call it a contraction. Menswear is struggling. Some are mouthing the word #brexit but this was coming way before that and affecting international markets too, most notably America.
Like everything that goes in cycles, you have your ups and you have your downs. We’re definitely in a down cycle as brands merge their men’s and women’s and reduce the amount of labels within their brands.
Left - Inside menswear is screaming
Many are private companies so they don’t disclose profits, but when you have menswear giants like Armani and Ralph Lauren losing labels - Collezioni and Armani Jeans in the case of Armani and store closures - in the case of Ralph Lauren - then things are clearly unsustainable.
Why is this happening? The first big answer is a saturated market. Do we need much more ‘stuff’? When Ikea’s head of sustainability, Steve Howard, said we’d reached “peak stuff”, he hit the nail on the head. We’ve seen expansion online and offline and our wardrobes are bursting with clothes at every price point.
Designer fashion isn’t coming up with many new ideas and this has lead to the high-street bringing the new ideas and offering improved quality that many men are happy with. I think companies like ASOS are doing well because people are trading down to cheaper and more fun fashion and don't really wear it long enough to care about the quality.
Brands like Topman have got more and more expensive and are not reactive enough to trends and the latest gimmicks and fashions. They’ve believed in their own ‘cool’ which is dangerous for any brand. Arcadia, Topman’s parent company, has seen many high profile departures lately. Craig McGregor left his role as retail director at Topshop/Topman, after eight years, and Topshop/Topman global commercial director Matt Brewster is leaving the company. Wesley Taylor left his role as managing director of Burton and Yasmin Yusuf left as creative director of Miss Selfridge, both after more than 10 years at the business. Which all suggests the epic growth Arcadia has experienced over the last few decades has now ground to a halt. They are no longer the darling of the British high-street.
Another reason for the men’s downturn is competition is fierce and this had lead to a discount environment. People know they can wait for the sale or search the internet for a discount code. This makes margins smaller for companies which then need to sell even larger volumes. We’ve also seen growth in companies like TK Maxx that offer people the brands they want, but with heavy discounts.
Fashion has changed too. It’s very sportswear/dress down driven. These are cheap or old clothes. Looking ‘expensive’ has gone out of fashion. Brands like Balenciaga and Gosha Rubchinskiy have pioneered this style of fugly fashion and while not cheap they have prices that are more realistic and attainable.
Millennials are all about ‘experiences’ and are less materialistic, or so we’re are told. All those selfies tell a different story, but I think they want to eat out and wear something new, which ultimately means spending less. This big group of young consumers is squeezed by rents, student loans and low wages and this isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future.
In the Evening Standard on Monday, Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter boss, Alison Loehnis, said when they measured “zeitgeist buying” in the Mr Porter team they discovered the number one item was socks. “Followed by Ray-Bans and trainers.” Socks?!! Now, that is worrying. Unless Mr Porter is selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of socks, which I doubt, then it’s a signifier of the market. It’s too expensive and they are the cheapest things they sell. It’s also one of the main gifting items and something you don’t need to try on.
Online is still only 10% of the retail market so has huge potential, but that still means 9 in every 10 pounds is spent on the high street.
Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter call their top customers ‘EIPs’, (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT PERSON) and these EIPs are the two per cent of customers who account for 40 per cent of NAP revenue. It’s dangerous to have all your eggs in a few baskets, particularly a fickle customer which many others are chasing. They’re now offering a service where the driver waits while these EIPs try things on. It’s a gimmick, but at least it shows they’re trying. These EIPS are the people shopping in Selfridges and Harrods too, while the rest of us have seen our wage packets shrink or not go as far and designer prices continue to rise. #Brexit will make imports to the UK more expensive, temporarily, but fashion will just find somewhere cheaper to make it, but it’s true the weakest wont survive this price hike or margin cut.
Brands have been trimming the fat over the last few years and many are down to the bare bones. The recent christmas was good for retailers and I think that kept many afloat, for now.
Jaeger just announced its bankruptcy. I don’t think there’s much hope for it to survive as it is, but it’ll become a brand within Edinburgh Woollen Mill or the like. It’s the sign of the times and also the cycle of brands. There are times when a brand runs its course and no matter how much investment or time, it’s just time to let it go.
Okay, enough doom and gloom. On a positive note from a down you have an up and when a gap appears something new will come into fill it. But, our addiction to cheap clothes isn’t going anywhere which will make it very difficult for new, smaller brands or labels to compete. I think short term we’ll see more closures and less choice or a choice masked by the fact it’s a sub brand from a big retailer. H&M is just about to launch Arket.
One thing is for sure, fashion is unpredictable and that’s why I love it.
Fashion always surprises and reinterprets. We all have our preconceptions about things and it’s that willingness to change that separates the leaders from the followers. I love it when something you think couldn’t be less cool is presented in a new way that makes it desirable. This is what good designers do.
Far Left - Balenciaga SS17, Left - Striped Cotton-Poplin Cropped Shirt - £285 from Matchesfashion.com
When Georgian designer, Demna Gvasalia, of Vetements fame, started working as Creative Director of Balenciaga, I was a bit sceptical. I thought they - the parent company Kering - were chasing the latest cool wave and it was more about column inches and gimmicks than making great clothes. I’ll put my hands up and say I was wrong and they are making interesting clothes at more realistic prices. It’s also the first time that new designers have brought in some of the DNA of the house into the present.
What he has done is play with proportions and shapes, that at first sight seem comedic, but when they start to sink in become desirable and cool. It feels fresh, which brings me to the easiest way to buy into this collection.
Fashion has got basic, and that’s basic as in #basicbitch. Items you wouldn’t have given a second thought are now at the forefront of menswear thanks to Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga.
Long the wardrobe of the postman or the office dad, the short sleeve shirt, slightly oversized, is the style you should be going for. You want those nerdy triangular sleeves, this isn’t a gun show, and I would team with a pair of tailored sweat pants to stop it looking too dress-down office.
You can opt for the original or find a standard short sleeved shirt in most men’s shops like this like blue version from Esprit.
Left - Esprit - Poplin Shirt With Short Sleeves - £29