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
News just in - Burberry president and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, who has been with the Burberry brand for 17 years, will stand down from its board in March 2018 and work with CEO Marco Gobbetti and team on a transition period until December 2018.
When Burberry’s renaissance began in the late 1990s, it was the perfect time to turn around a recognisable British name, dust it off and grow it into the new desire for luxury and branded products. We’d witnessed it at Gucci, under Tom Ford, and other languishing brands were thirsty for the same.
Burberry initially started with the Italian designer, Robert Menchetti. That didn’t last long and was soon replaced by an unknown designer, Christopher Bailey.
Left - Christopher Bailey who turned Burberry into the billion dollar business it is today
Initially, and this was pre-Google, so you can forgive me, I thought it was the same Chris Bailey who had started Jigsaw Menswear and the soon-to-be defunct Uth. A great designer and businessman, I thought it was a perfect fit.
I quickly realised they were different people and I bought a shirt from that first 2001/02 collection. Admittedly, it was in the Harrods sale and it was very expensive, if I remember, and I still have it. It was in a stretch, striped fabric, one I hadn’t seen before, with metal Burberry branded buttons and epaulettes. There was something beautiful yet innovative which became the signature of the new Burberry.
I quickly became fan. Every collection had a strong theme and the pieces were well designed and had that all important desire factor. The brand got bigger, the shows became fancier and major events with Christopher Bailey overseeing every detail, from store fits to the music to the Testino campaigns.
Those Bill & Ben hats, the paisley collection and then there was the coats with the leather arms which are still yet to disappear off the British high-street.
Bailey is one of the greatest Creative Directors of our time. He’s up there with Tom Ford for a progressive and consistent luxury handwriting. Burberry’s growth and success is down to his balance of updating Britishness while respecting the past and knowing exactly what consumers want now.
While the average Burberry customer probably doesn’t know or care who Christopher Bailey is, for us fashion folk, we like to see the whites of the eyes of those designing and leading the brands we look at.
Seventeen years in fashion is a lifetime, especially today, and while “See Now, Buy Now” pushed him into a creative cul-de-sac, Bailey produced some great clothes and images.
I think he’ll probably take a break. Burberry has made him a very rich man. But, it is exciting what this talented man decides to do next. Perhaps he’ll join Angela Ahrendts at Apple, maybe a bigger fashion job such as Louis Vuitton, his own label or maybe something really radical like Amazon. Who knows?
See more Burberry related comment pieces:
Time to Ditch “See Now, Buy Now” here
Choose Your Rip-Off here
If somebody said they could make you any suit you wanted, that fitted perfectly, simply by sending a few photographs of yourself, you’d be sceptical, right?
That’s how I felt when “The Drop” got in touch. The Drop is a startup that allows men to create their clothes, in their sizes at a price which suits their budget.
I’ve seen many apps, come and go, that allow you to take a picture of an item you see in the street. Like Shazam for clothes, they let you know where you can buy it from. Unfortunately, this only works for clothes in season and available in your size, so can be a disappointing search. It also doesn’t allow for you imagination or dream item.
Left - TheChicGeek smiling in his finished suit
The Drop business was founded on the premise that lots of men know what they want when they see it (whether on Instagram, Pinterest or on the street) but often find it hard to locate it in stores, in their size - a fundamental disconnect between supply and demand.
Right - Inspiration - Burberry - But I wanted it cut like a Tom Ford
The Drop enables customers to submit an image of their ideal suit (from styles they've seen online, in store or on the street) along with images of themselves so that correct measurements can be assessed. Their suit is then made & delivered in their size in under three weeks. Prices start from around the £300 mark.
They can make a single item in Asia, and then they allow a small budget for you to take the finished item to be altered, if it needs any additional work, at a place of your choosing.
I wanted something different yet also something that I knew they could make. It would be pointless going all out Gucci if they didn’t offer those kinds of fabrics.
I wanted a brown flannel suit as it’s really hard to find a good chocolate brown suit. I found an old picture from a previous Burberry campaign, but I wanted a longer jacket and wider lapels.
I also wanted the fit based on a Tom Ford suit that I already own. After a couple of e-mails, swatches were sent through, which is difficult to choose online admittedly and they said they didn’t have brown flannel, so I just asked for a plain chocolate coloured suit.
I sent three pictures - front, side, back - of me in fitted clothing and then chose the lining and other details on the suit. I went for a peaked lapel two button wool suit with a pink lining.
They may get in touch to ask a few further questions and just to clarify the order.
Far Left - Tailored Made - Chic Geek - Pink lining with green lettering
Left - The Edward Sexton/Tommy Nutter/Tom Ford lapels that I wanted
A few weeks later the suit was ready. It was shinier than I envisioned, but not detrimental. The lapels were good, very Tom Ford/Edward Sexton like - move over Harry Styles! As for fit, the waist on the trousers and the jacket was too tight. They kindly had this altered for me, when in reality you would do this yourself and then bill The Drop.
Overall, the suit is good, I know I couldn’t buy another brown wool suit with a pink lining for the price they are asking.
Verdict - For the price of a high-street suit you get something individual and one-off. You could get something for a special occasion or if you find it hard to get standard suits to fit, but at these prices you could use this service everytime you want a new suit. This concept has the potential to play around and copy designer items quickly if the choice of fabrics allows.
I think The Drop needs to brand their name more on the items, as I couldn’t remember the name throughout the process, and they should also offer more inspiration and fabric choices to capture the more experimental and directional customers or for those guys who know what they want, but want a few images to base it upon. It would also be good to photograph the suits they make to give you more of a feel of what they do and create a community of passionate guys wanting something individual.
Left - Brown & pink suit from The Drop from around £300
See the full The Drop OOTD here
Burberry has to be admired for trying “See Now, Buy Now” - the new way of showing clothes in-season and making them available straight away to buy after the catwalk show. While many brands have used the term or jumped on the bandwagon, they were truly the only global brand to do it on scale and fully commit.
Left - The recent AW17 Burberry Show in Clerkenwell
Other brands have done capsules, collaborations and the like, but on a much smaller scale. Some are still doing it, while others have dropped it already, but, it’s Burberry who we’ve been watching to see whether it works or not.
Burberry has done a great job at the logistics. The job of getting things in place: to drop the minute the catwalk has finished, unveiling online and in their network of retail stores and wholesale partners.
They’ve experimented with it and while they’ve proved they can get things in the right places at the right time, unfortunately, it doesn't make for great clothes.
We are on the third collection now and they are no way as accomplished as the previous out of season shows. They still have the same Creative Director - Christopher Bailey - who I rate very highly, but it just shows that this way of working, restricted by manufacturing timetables, limits the ideas and collections.
With “See Now, Buy Now” you’re alway working backwards. What can we make in time? Can our manufacturers make that, in the quantities we need, in time? No? Then, next idea.
What can we do? doesn't make for the most positive start to any collection. It’s too restrictive. It just makes for clothes that are basics with little details tacked on. The latest collection, shown a couple of days ago, illustrated this, literally. Chinos with doodles on or a let’s stick a silver/crystal thing on a quilted sweat shirt to jazz it up a bit. It’s not starting from a strong design base. You’re always working backwards.
Fashion collections often come together a few days before a show. Stylists or designers often ask for little pieces or accessorises to help form looks which have a clear voice and message and is what many trends rely upon. They worry about making them afterwards. This isn’t possible with see now, buy now, as it has be all signed off and produced months in advance. Burberry has over 500 shops in 50 countries. That’s a lot of product. Admittedly, the catwalk makes up a small percentage of the business, but it still has to be in the windows etc.
These clothes are also being made upfront. Many brands use a show to gage demand and then order accordingly. You either have a lot of wastage or you’re very conservative in your ordering of the more difficult and interesting pieces. This leads to boring stores and products.
Right - Burberry - White T-Shirt With Crystal Brooch - £495 - See Now, Buy Now isn't making for the best clothes says TheChicGeek, do you agree?
It’s time to ditch see now buy now. Burberry are good at deciding to drop things when they don't work. They tried to go it alone with their beauty offering, but realised things are too tough out there on your own and have now gone in with beauty giant, Coty.
If it’s any consolation, they can be confident to know that if they couldn’t make it work, then nobody could make it work and can be very proud of themselves for trying something that many thought too difficult and didn't even entertain.
Like all new ideas, some are more successful than others. This is one to put down to experience and it's time to let Christopher Bailey do what he does best.
As Christopher Bailey says goodbye to Burberry, read TheChicGeek's Ode To Christopher Bailey - here
A "rip-off" is defined as a fraud or swindle, especially something that is grossly overpriced or an inferior imitation of something. Sound familiar? The two meanings have become somewhat intertwined in the crazy world of modern luxury fashion.
Okay, let’s talk about that cap. Vilified, objectified and chastised, the Burberry check cap has been waiting for its reintroduction since we saw the preview of the Gosha Rubchinskiy SS18 Burberry capsule in St. Petersburg where he’s produced a capsule collection based around the famous beige “Horseferry” check.
Burberry once wanted to distance itself from its famous check, using it instead for discrete linings and the like. But, now it’s back and they’re are trying to champion or own the new chav-chic look dominating fashion. Worryingly, the vast majority of people have missed the Burberry in between - which was rather good.
Left - Burberry - Vintage Check Baseball Cap - £195
Burberry are playing catch up and I put that down to “See Now, Buy Now”, but that’s a whole other #ChicGeekComment.
Anyway, the cap got me thinking. The cap is kinda cool, but not the real one. It’s cool to have the copy, the naff pastiche, the nod to, the rip-off, because ultimately you’re getting ripped off with both.
With the rip-off you’re in on the joke, proud of the made in China label and almost taking the chav-factor to the max. Buying it from a stall on Oxford Street and not a store on Bond Street is truly in the spirit in which the item was intended. You’re playing with it, subverting it and not blinding paying nearly £200 for a cap. #ripoff
The same could be said for the new Dune London “Gucci” loafers. The Gucci loafer really is a classic in the pantheon of fashion, but obviously has been everywhere recently due to Gucci’s huge success. Getting a real pair just feels a bit lacking in imagination.
It’s not even about the money. The Dune rip-off makes you part of the current fashion, but it’s more laissez-faire and carefree and makes you a member of fashion’s great unwashed rather than inspiring to own a piece of footwear inspired by the British aristocracy’s love of horses.
Are those Gucci? No, they’re Dune. There’s something confident about being okay about wearing a rip-off. Just think about all the money you're saving too.
Right - Dune London - Pinocchio - Classic Snaffle Loafer Shoe - £100
As Christopher Bailey says goodbye to Burberry, read TheChicGeek's Ode To Christopher Bailey - here
Last week, Harrods unveiled the expansion of its Salon de Parfums area on the top floor of the store. Seven new fragrance boutiques have been added including Penhaligon’s, Armani Privé, Burberry, Sospiro, Frédéric Malle, Bond No.9 and, brand new and world exclusive, Floraïku.
Left - The new Floraïku boutique at the extended Salon de Perfumes in Harrods
The Japanese-inspired, Floraïku, has been created by John and Clara Molloy, the couple behind ‘Memo Paris’, available at Harvey Nichols.
Directly inspired by Japan, the collection of eleven fragrances are based on Japanese poems - haiku - engraved on each bottle. Three ‘ceremonies’ make up Floraiku: Secret Teas and Spices, Enigmatic Flowers and Forbidden Incense, each
of them composed with three different perfumes.
The colour of the bottles, navy blue, white and black ensures recognition. A final ceremony is added to the previous three: Shadowing. Composed of two perfumes, with a red bottle, it allows, if they are affixed near a fragrance of one of the other three collections, to make it deeper or lighter.
Right - My favourite - Between Two Trees
Unveiled in a box inspired by a Japanese bento box, each fragrance of 50ml is presented with its travel spray, which also serves as a stopper. A refill of 10ml for the vaporiser completes this box. All perfumes and travel refills are refillable.
Left - Sit down for tea & a biscuit & sample the fragrances
TheChicGeek says, “This is a new take on fragrance and at first I thought it was Japanese. Japanese fragrances are usually very light. Because this is French, they are of a more European strength.
They are beautiful, so too is the packaging and the boutique. Looking like a tea house, you sit at the counter and are served tea and a biscuit - always a winner - while a wooden stand allows you to work through the collection. My favourite was one of the ‘shadows’ - ‘Between Two Trees’.
This is expensive, around £250, but without the usual bling you find at this level and smells very natural. I find it interesting how confident John and Clara Molloy must be to appropriate Japanese culture like this. It’s a difficult thing to get right when its not your own culture. I really like it, but I would love to know what the Japanese think”.
Below - The testers are arranged on this board to experience the different categories & 'shadows'
Left - The fragrances come in a bento style box with the travel spray stopper & cartridge
The Met Gala - you may have seen the film, The First Monday in May - is the opening night of the annual fashion exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This year’s exhibition is a retrospective of Japanese designer Res Kawakubo, the brains behind Comme des Garcons. As per, the opening party is the most fashion night of the year with celebrities and designers making a statement, both good and bad.
Here are the 12 menswear things TheChicGeek learnt from last night:
Left - Bow ties - the floppier the better. Future in custom H&M & Matt Smith in Burberry
If the Met Gala can make Mr Safe, Roger Federer, try something different then that’s inspiration enough. A Gucci cobra on your back, anyone? Asp-leisure?!
Go conceptual. If your hair looks like wheat-sheafs then take them with you. Jaden Smith in Louis Vuitton
The Met Gala red carpet is not an audition for Star Wars. Puff Daddy in Rick Owens
When your parents don’t want to buy you a suit you’ll grow out of. Frank Ocean in Balmain
Below - Dress for the city, not the designer. Nick Jonas in Ralph Lauren
Bad taste Claire’s Accessories. Let the whole jewellery shop fall out. Migos
Below - Red was the colour of the night. When a suit fits this well it works. Rami Malek in Dior Homme.
Leave the Thom Browne to Thom Browne. Wiz Khalifa & Diplo in Thom Browne.
When you’re tall and thin, a la Alexander Skarsgard, in Ermengildo Zegna, you can wear anything.
When you try and do that cute-couple-colour thing and it doesn’t work. Ryan Reynolds
At Comme, anything goes, so dress down is the new dress-up. Teletubbie optional! Pharrell Williams in Comme des Garcons
I’ve decided to give up processed or refined sugar for Lent. Not because I’m particularly religious, but I feel it is a nice length of time, around 40 days, and other people are giving up things at the same time - so, hopefully, some moral support.
Left - TheChicGeek is smiling at the moment, but will he be smiling in 40 days time?
Henry Tate will be spinning in his grave, but traditional white cane sugar has become enemy number one, lately. But, even without too much nutritional knowledge, it’s easy to understand that sugar is usually a cheap ingredient or substitute in unhealthy foods, drinks and snacks.
As for the health penalties of free sugar, meaning sugar that isn’t bound to fiber in fruit, it can lead to inflammation, blood sugar instability, and, over a period of time, type 2 diabetes. Sugar causes altered internal pH levels resulting in a more acidic body. It is believed that an acidic environment is a breeding ground for disease, whereas an alkaline body promotes good health.
French scientists in Bordeaux reported that in animal trials, rats chose sugar over cocaine (even when they were addicted to cocaine), and speculated that no mammals’ sweet receptors are naturally adapted to the high concentrations of sweet tastes on offer in modern times.
At a dinner, a few months ago, a lady was waxing lyrical about giving up sugar. She said how much better she felt and how much better her skin looked. Ironically, we were probably talking about this over dessert. But, I knew I wanted to try it when I was ready to.
I don't really drink sugary drinks, but my Achilles Heel is chocolate. I understand you can eat sugar free chocolate, but I’m going to try the first week without anything. I’m not going to be militant, like sugar in ketchup and bread, but I’m taking out fizzy drinks, ice cream, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets and any other obvious sugar heavy products.
I want to see whether I’m addicted, whether I can go without and how will I look and feel at the end of the experiment. As we all these things, you learn as you go and more often then not you take some good habits into your everyday life.
The first few days were a breeze, but the mid-to-end of the first week, I feel like I’d run out of things to eat, plus I don’t really feel like I know how much I’m eating, lots of crisps, probably, and there is no full stop on a meal, so the satisfaction is gone. It feels open waiting for that satisfying sweetness a chocolate bar or handful of Haribo may bring. I’m getting bored with fresh and dried fruit and I’ve been googling ‘sugar free brownie recipes’, which I may make this week.
I don't feel tired, but, I feel less energetic and I feel like I’m going to run out of energy quickly. I’m not sure if I’ve lost weight, but I don’t think I’ve gained any and if a six-pack appears at Easter, I’d be more than happy. I’m going to the gym as normal and eating everything else as normal.
On the positive, my gums feel much better and less ‘active’. I feel calmer and less prone to ups and downs.
That first half an hour after each meal is the difficult part, I need to distract myself and push through and ignore old habits. The word ‘Lent’ may derive from the old German word translating as ‘long’. Let’s see.
Move over the Little Mermaid as TheChicGeek gets sculptural in the latest menswear collection from Burberry. Inspired by the British sculptor, Henry Moore, Burberry's new collection was a play with form, function and distortion. Oversized dress shirts, sweatshirts with rope detailing and twisted brogues were all part of their 'See Now, Buy Now' collection.
Spot the spring carrot throughout TheChicGeek's SS17 collections as he picks his favourite menswear collections of the season and models his favourite pieces, making him one happy geek!
Credits - Clothes - Burberry SS17, Shoes - Burberry SS17, Spectacles - Salvatore Ferragamo, Fragrance - Givenchy Gentlemen Only Eau De Toilette Fraiche, Bumble & Bumble - Sumoclay
Shot on OlympusPEN by Robin Forster
See more pictures & video below
The fashion business likes a ‘category’. The more categories the more product and the more money, hopefully. If only it was that easy.
Designers and brands like to enter a category, be it jeans, underwear or sunglasses, usually partnering with a manufacturing expert in that field, and expand their businesses one category at a time. Take Tom Ford for example, he is just about to go into underwear after mastering jeans, sunglasses, beauty and trainers, in no particular order.
Left - N/A Necessary Anywhere socks available at Oki-Ni & Harvey Nichols
Underwear is one of the biggest money spinners for brands. People will pay a premium for somebody else’s name on their waistband - not really sure why - and entire brands like Calvin Klein and Versace are built on their underwear categories. They can charge a premium for something that is cheap to make.
And while the underwear category has matured into a reliable cash cow for many, the sock business seems so much trickier. There aren’t many designers or brands who have owned the category. With the exception of Paul Smith, designers produce the odd sock for collections, but don’t fully enter or develop the category. It wasn't that long ago that Burberry pulled out of the category and they make everything.
It’s interesting how people are willing to spend on underwear, but not on socks. We do have quality sock brands such as the German Falke and the British Panterella and Corgi, but there seems to be a ceiling on the pricing. People think socks should be cheap and when brands like Vetements and Gucci do socks at high prices - think nearing three figures - they seem like one of the most frivolouss purchases you can make and are usually a one-off show piece rather than entering the category.
The branded sock market seems to fall into two categories: sports and colourful office-type socks. There’s definitely a gap for something in between. So, it was at the recent CIFF fashion trade show in Copenhagen that I found N/A from New York.
When I searched ’N/A New York’ I got plenty of Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but it actually stands for ‘Necessary Anywhere’ and is influenced by the ‘everyday grind’. To the British that's walking (thought Americans didn't do that anyway!). They believe it’s vital to get up every day with the aspiration to move ourselves forward.
Founded in 2015 by Nick Lewis with six socks, these premium knit socks marry innovative textures with classic colours and patterns. When people pay for socks they usually go for something colourful and playful, N/A seems to have produced a cool sock which marries sports and fashion. They’re about £15, which, while more than your average three pack, aren’t extortionate. They fit somewhere between your smart socks and your sports socks and could, potentially, signal a new category within this difficult category.