Fashion weeks’ viability are continually being questioned. It’s the same conversation every time on the front row - the fashion industry’s twice yearly deja vecu - What is the point? And, how do fashion brands and designers justify the expense and time?
There’s no doubt the major fashion weeks - New York, London, Milan & Paris - have suffered recently as the industry has contracted, brands have merged men’s and women’s shows together and others have opted out entirely, reducing both the quality and quantity of many fashion weeks. Yet, many brands are still willing to spend millions on a few short minutes of exposure.
Ready-to-wear fashion weeks’ last hoped for raison d’être trend was ‘See Now, Buy Now’, which didn’t really work. It was too restrictive in a creative capacity for brands whose collections are often pulled together and styled a few weeks before each show.
It’s time to try something else, so could ‘public-facing shows’ be the solution and create a much needed source of income for these trade organisations?
Left - Will the BFC's idea for 'Public Facing' Shows' revive fashion weeks raison d'être?
The British Fashion Council has announced public-facing shows at the forthcoming London Fashion Week in September. Designers ‘House Of Holland’ and ‘self-portrait’, the first to be announced, will be taking part in the new London Fashion Week format which sees the internationally recognised event open its doors to the public.
Unlike the ‘London Fashion Weekend’ which is tagged onto the end of fashion week, and is more a exhibition-type event, this will take place during the main fashion week. There are public shows on the Saturday and Sunday with ticket holders choosing from three different time slots; 10am, 1pm and 4pm. The public audience is able to purchase tickets to “an immersive London Fashion Week experience” taking place at the official London Fashion Week Hub where Standard tickets are priced at £135 and Front Row tickets at £245.
The British Fashion Council says, “The experience includes catwalk shows, on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September 2019; creative installations, industry-led talk panels from experts offering unparalleled insights to the fashion industry, the DiscoveryLAB, an experiential space where fashion meets art, technology and music and a newly relaunched Designer Exhibition, which will fully embrace #PositiveFashion, the BFC’s initiative designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change.”
Fashion Writer, Dal Chodha, @dalchodha says, “Fashion shows are already ‘public facing’ so I don’t think this initiative is necessarily a bad thing. “What is increasingly obvious is that the industry has tried to maintain its aloofness whilst still courting attention from anyone and everyone for too long. There has been no clear welcome of the general public into the fashion conversation, despite all of the hot air about the ‘democratisation’ of fashion. I haven’t seen it.” he says. “There is nothing democratic about showing people clothes they cannot get, or streaming experiences they cannot feel.”
Dan Hasby-Oliver, Blogger, Last Style of Defense, says, “I do think this opens up crucial funding for both designers and the BFC, as well as making an industry more transparent, given the convo. around sustainability - it all goes hand-in-hand. However, I do fear it could become a circus of phone toting teens…”
“I think it’s a great idea. The designers need customers. If we can get #shoptherunway technology and eventually solve the fit issue using technology, we’ll have a seemless way for designers to make money from a runway show. The old model is dead. Off with its head!” says Melissa Shea, Cofounder of Fashion Mingle, the first nationwide platform designed exclusively for fashion professionals.
The full line-up of catwalk shows, talks and designers taking part in the London Fashion Week “Designer Exhibition” will be announced in the next few weeks. London isn’t the first fashion week to try to tap into this enthusiasm from the public.
"I have visited Seoul Fashion Week four times to report on it for Wallpaper and I was most struck by the energy, the excitement in the room!” says Chodha. “I believe they operate on a lottery system, but I don’t think people pay money for tickets. The first show I went to was bizarre because people were screaming and smiling and laughing each time they saw a celebrity or a look they liked. It felt like the photographs of 1980s shows coming to life. People were ENJOYING them – in contrast to the glum faces you see in Paris, Milan and London. Most of us are too busy trying to process what we are seeing to really enjoy it. No one applauds at shows anymore because each of us is wielding a phone, ‘gramming the moment. So if people are avidly watching and enjoying the stories, why not free up a few seats and invite them to the show? I don’t see the harm in it, as long as we are still allowed to do our job. Fashion is a tricky industry because it is so seductive. I just wish that more young people were encouraged to go and see scientists or surgeons at work too, rather than just designers!” he says.
With ticket prices to rival a rock concert, the BFC is clearly hoping to make serious revenue from this. They’ve previously sold tickets to the British Fashion Awards, and sponsors have always been given tickets to London Fashion Week in exchange for money.
“I agree that the pricing is an issue as it pits itself as a ‘luxury’ experience - also in terms of broadening out the kinds of people who have access to fashion, the price of the tickets will foster no new ways of thinking.” says Chodha. “The move from the BFC just confirms fashion’s new role as a type of theatre. It is a spectacle (even when it is bad). Just like traipsing around an art gallery or squeezing yourself into a concert, fashion is entertainment.
“‘Outsiders’ have been going to fashion shows for a long time under the guise of ‘sponsors friends’. Is this the future? It is the here and now. To be snobbish about it is to refuse evolution. Something has to change, that’s for sure.” he says.
“Fashion week is a working environment, and to perhaps make it a free for all could make professionals reconsider their place during the week, thus transitioning the event to a redundant, consumer facing replacement for See Now, Buy Now.” says Hasby-Oliver. “Perhaps more work-place/open days/industry support would benefit keen outsiders looking to the industry instead. I do think, the current price package is prohibitive to the less privileged. Concl: Yes for transparency and education for the few, No to making it a frenzied free for all.” he says.
Traditionally, Haute Couture fashion shows have always been about the consumer with the hope these ridiculously expensive clothes are ordered off the back of the show. But, it was a model only for the mega-monied who could buy entry by becoming a customer. These shows will be separate from the press/buyer shows, but should give attendees a feel of going to a full fledged fashion show. Many people want to attend a fashion show once in their lifetime and if the BFC get the designers, music and models right they should satisfy those with the desire to stump up this sort of cash to go. Unfortunately, the best designers will probably decline to take part.
Fashion and fashion weeks’ exclusivity is one of the attractions of the industry. The desire for tickets, the scrum at the door and the hysteria are all part of the fun. To sell out 6 catwalk shows for these prices will be a challenge, but will certainly generate some income. These shows need to be buzzy and full to give the full LFW experience. If successful, other brands could look at offering another public show after their main one and possibly give the tickets away in a ballot or to VIP customers. The industry will be watching.
There’s been much talk recently about the relevance of fashion shows and, subsequently, fashion weeks. With many brands questioning the expense, time and effort these showcases take, it is prescient for them to work harder and justify their existence.
There was a time, not that long ago, when fashion weeks were a lot like cocktail hour: there was one happening around the globe at any given point in time. Cities saw their own fashion week as a self-elevation and promotion to help their domestic fashion industry as well as tourism and the overall perception of the city. Smaller fashion weeks sprung up, hoping to emulate their big city rivals, in a calendar already squeezed for time.
“080 Barcelona Fashion”, now in its 23rd edition under the “080” - the city’s telephone code - moniker is being realistic about its ambitions and the new need to promote talent from emerging countries. For the first time, Barcelona Fashion Week threw open its catwalks to designers outside the domestic Catalan market, and looked to international designers from Colombia, China, South Africa and Turkey to provide new points of view for #AW19.
Left - Marta Coco Project Manager 080 Barcelona Fashion
Marta Coco, Project Manager for 080 Barcelona, this is her first fashion week in charge, and responsible for the fashion department for 9 years, says, ”The fashion week is paid for by both private and public funds. The majority of funds, 70% come from the public, Generalitat through the Trade, Crafts and Fashion Consortium (CCAM) and 30% from sponsors, designers and other collaborations.
“The scope mainly is to focus and promoting on three areas - trade, crafts and fashion. We hope to promote crafts and creativity in general. The main objective is promotion.”
Situated in the north-western part of Barcelona, looking down on Gaudi’s magnificent Sagrada Familia, and housed in the masterpiece of a restored art-nouveau hospital - Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau - 080 Barcelona Fashion is in the perfect environs to highlight its creative credentials. But, can cities really afford to put on these frivolous and lavish displays in a time of increasing government cuts and austerity?
“It puts Barcelona into international fashion minds”, says Coco. “We’re not Paris or Milan, but we’re going the right direction. It gives Barcelona, as a city, recognition.”
“Fashion accounts for approximately 7.5% of GDP, including retail.” says Coco. “There are 4500 manufacturing companies in the domestic fashion business, and 15,000 companies, if you include retailers, employing 60,000 people.” she says.
Catalonia has a long history of textiles and leather working industries. “Fashion is a reflection of this historic background.” says Coco.
“In 2005, (when “080 Barcelona Fashion” started, they had been previous incarnations since the 1980s) many textile companies were dying or were in crisis. People were moving to China and the largest ones couldn’t compete. Companies needed to readapt and rethink their strategies,” says Coco.
“Today, the largest companies are fast-fashion retailers, like Mango. We’re also very big in bridal with companies like Pronovias and Rosa Clará.” she says.
The recent AW19 edition, held last week, of the 080 Barcelona Fashion Week calendar had 30 designers showing, with an additional 20-30 exhibiting in the showroom and, also, 20-30 in the pop gallery. Over the week, they had over 40,000 visitors, with unique numbers around 20,000.
“The city council would like the fashion week to open to citizens, but my personal interest is to focus on buyers and fashion, lifestyle and beauty press. I am dedicated to the professionals. The other side comes by itself.” says Coco.
For the first time, 080 Barcelona Fashion Week is hosting international designers such as Polite (Colombia), Esaú Yori (China), Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha (South Africa) and Umit Benan (Turkey/France).
Umit Benan, previously head of Trussardi and a feature on the Parisian men’s calendar, mentioned his desire to step out from the main carousel of New York to Paris fashion weeks and that he feels that these satellite fashion weeks allows his message and brand to have more impact. He previously showed at Tokyo Fashion Week before being invited to Barcelona.
“If we want to be more international we need to offer global content, not just Catalonian. We said let’s not set an exact quantity, but look to designers who add something to our offer here. We’ve looked to emerging countries for a new perspective of fashion. They were chosen, together with XXL, my international PR agency, and it’s who excites me, and designers and contacts it would be good to have here.” says Coco.
080 Barcelona Fashion Week is carving a niche within the fashion calendar, hoping to offer a stepping stone for international talent on a bedrock of Catalan talent like Antonio Miro, Brain & Beast and Custo Barcelona.
“It’s impossible to compete with other fashion weeks, so we have to find our own niche. I would like Barcelona to be a good platform for talented designers coming into Europe; more about emerging talent than super-established designers.” says Coco. “I would like a more open vision of fashion, where they can present the whole universe of the brand. Not just catwalks, but maybe present a capsule in a film, a performance, a happening or work with a video maker. We have Sónar here, a filmmaker cluster, and we’re strong in audio and visuals.” she says. “There are many other creative industries in Catalonia and fashion isn’t integrated with them at the moment. We cannot grow, grow, grow, doing shows, shows, shows!” says Coco.
While the established fashion weeks may look slightly snobbishly down on these smaller fashion weeks, it is their more relaxed and supportive approach which will offer brands and designers exposure in an increasingly tough and competitive business. Barcelona is shoe-horned in between Copenhagen and New York, but it highlights that there is a big fashion world outside of the four dominant cities, and these can be where exciting new brands and ideas can bubble up. Fashion weeks can still be used as a vehicle to showcase the importance this industry has to a region’s economy and creativity, and 080 Barcelona Fashion is proving it.
My first visit to this beautiful city’s fashion week; its new remit of hosting international talent, and nearly half of the shows dedicated to menswear, makes this a place to watch for nascent menswear brands. Here are TheChicGeek’s highlights:
Mans Concept & Menswear
One of Barcelona’s emerging menswear stars, Mans Concept & Menswear - it's a mouthful - is designer, Jaime Álvarez’s brand. Born in Seville, he studied fashion at IED Madrid and graduated in 2017. This was a journey to India featuring florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. An Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Both Left - Mans Concept & Menswear took a trip to India
Invited Turkish designer, Benan, looked to religion as a leveller of people: once their shoes are taken off in the mosque everybody is equal. He launched his eponymous line in 2009 and won the 1st edition of Who’s on Next/Uomo contest the year after at Pitti Uomo. This collection featured long trench coats to the floor, even coming in reflective gold, thuggish looking bleached corduroy and knitted under-looking clothes. Tailoring was prominent with evening wear and overcoats and quilted jackets and trousers injected the AW19 protective element.
Right - Umit Benan
Javier Girón studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Barcelona and upon graduating he moved to Los Angeles to work alongside Jeremy Scott, Creative Director at Moschino. He returned to Barcelona in 2016, to establish his high-end menswear brand. This was a slick sportswear collection featuring collegiate lettering in a monochrome palette. It’s hard to get this kind of aesthetic to look high-end, but here it looked considered, stylish and well fabricated.
Left - Jnorig AW19
Pablo Erroz founded his ready-to-wear fashion brand for men and women in 2010. Entirely made in Spain, this was a collection with a touch of the Gallaghers with the 90s round coloured lensed glasses. Stripes and the Spanish leather work was there in a light, wearable collection with nautical ropes, florals and sequins.
Right - Liam or Noel?! All made in Spain, Pablo Erroz
Spain’s own youthful and unashamed take on Versace hyped fashion, the Rubén Galarreta brand launched in 2014. Featuring the perfect balance between haute couture and sportswear, the vibrant prints, transparent fabrics, hand-embroidered pieces and unique accessories aren’t for those who want to blend into the crowd. Elasticated side cut outs on trousers, the Chinese Lucky Cat waving motif and transparent underwear makes for a sexualised and provocative male for AW19. This is underwear as outerwear.
Left - Strapped in for AW19 - Rubén Galarreta
Disclosure - TheChicGeek travelled to Barcelona thanks to 080 Barcelona Fashion Week
Are the wheels coming off at Topman? From zero to hero, Topman is the poster boy of how brands, thanks to fashion and the sponsorship of fashion weeks, can go from uncool to cool in little over a decade, but, has their run of dominance on the men’s high-street come to an end?
Topman recently had a clear out of the top brass and creative. Gordon Richardson, who served as Topman's head designer for the past 17 years, has been pushed out along with many others within the Arcadia group. This is usually a sign of trying to stop the rot and starting something new.
Left - Will you be buying your tracksuit from Topman this season?
Taveta Investments, Arcadia’s parent company, doesn't break out individual figures for their brands, but financial figures released in June 2017 showed a 16 per cent drop in profits for the year to August 2016. Taveta Investments, indicated that annual profits plummeted to £211 million, while sales dropped 2.5 per cent to just over £2 billion. Taveta Investments, derived £1.7bn of revenue from the UK in 2016. That marked a fall from £2.2bn a year earlier, although up to £370m of that related to discontinued operations such as BHS, which was sold in 2015.
That’s a huge drop of £500 million or £130 million, if you take out BHS. That’s still a lot of clothes not sold.
So, what do we think has happened at Topman? Is it a case of these runs can’t go on forever and or is it something more serious?
One things for certain, it’s much more competitive than when Topman started out on its journey. Whether selling fashion or basics, there is much more choice, both offline and online.
Did they over expand? We know that Australia has struggled, with their franchise partner going into receivership recently, and the big push into America hasn’t really stuck as they don't seem to understand how fashionable us Brits are. American teens, in many cities, have nowhere to wear this kind of stuff.
Right - Has Topman peaked and how can they get their spark back?
Did it get too expensive? With labels like ‘Topman Design’ pushing the upper price points there is a perception that Topman was expensive, especially when compared to other high-street retailers. I’ve spoken to mums of teenage boys who say they leave Topman until last on a shopping trip as it’s usually the more expensive.
Topman’s buyers never committed to ‘Topman Design’. We had the shows, we had the collections, but when it hit the stores or online it was very bitty. They’d only make the trousers of a suit, for example, or items that didn’t really go with each other and the pricing was into three figures.
I think Topman has fallen into that gap of not being fashionable enough and not being cheap enough on basics and is falling into the void in the middle. They’ve lost the energy to ASOS, Boohoo and New Look.
I think there was a case of Topman believing their own hype too. You can’t afford to be arrogant in fashion and thinking you’re the coolest kid on the block, because things move fast and this will quickly bite you on the arse. The campaigns were a little too editorial and not relatable enough.
Fashions have changed too. Topman practically owned the skinny, three-piece suit and was selling volumes of a more expensive product. Now, the kids want sportswear and retro looking basics. It’s not the go-to place anymore. It’s lost its USP.
What are they doing? They’ve hired David Hagglund, known within fashion circles for founding a Stockholm-based creative agency which includes H&M and Hugo Boss as clients. He was also art director at Vogue Paris. David Hagglund is replacing Ms Phelan - Topshop head creative - and Mr Richardson in a 'newly created position' of creative director across both Topman and Topshop. Is combining Topman and Topshop a good idea? Or is this further cost cutting? It’s interesting they’ve given this important job to an Art Director type and it’ll be interesting to see whether Topman will get as much focus as Topshop. I doubt it.
The danger is, as they wobble they go safer, which is the wrong direction. Admittedly, Australia is having problems and America isn’t as fashionable as Europe, but young men want fashion and know it. Brands like ASOS and Boohoo are really pushing it, New Look has got a hell of a lot better and newness is the drug on the high-street.
Topman Design became a bit formulaic and they need to commit to it or scrap it. I think they’re going to find it hard to get that spark back. It’s very hard to do when you’ve lost it, but they’ve done it once before, so why not again.
There’s the juxtaposition between men’s basic and fashion led clothing. Basics are so competitive and difficult to make money from unless you’re doing huge volumes and buying basics from Topman is, well, a bit basic. Maybe they should leave that to Primark and Uniqlo and stick to making fashion.
I think they need to think more inclusive and not try to be too cool without losing the trends. Look what happened to American Apparel when they tried that achingly cool model. You need to be the coolest of the mainstream and, especially in Britain, have fun with it.
I think what we’ll see is, as leases run out, stores will close and they’ll be a renewed focus and growth of online. Topman needs to tighten up its collection and re-educate guys about what they do. As fashion cycles move, they need to aim for a new USP and focus on that. You can't be all things to all people today.
Note - A friend just mentioned on Facebook about the 'Philip Green Effect' and people boycotting his brands due to his handling of the sale of BHS and the hole in the pension fund. This could definitely be having an effect on Topman as many people are aware that he is the owner.
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
London’s men’s fashion week got its Ronseal title, this season, replacing the old London Collections: Men moniker. The change didn’t make any difference to the lack of content and money, unfortunately, but, hopefully, it meant more to the wider public with many still not realising there even was a men’s fashion week in London.
Left - Daniel W Fletcher Presentation
London and Britain, is good at fashion, we’re good at menswear, we should celebrate it and this is the event to do that at. Twice a year, we come together, test the temperature of the industry and move forward in the way fashion always does. There will always be ups and downs and better and worse seasons, but ultimately it’s big business, from luxury to high-street, and we’re one of the best at it. Let’s champion that.
LFWM is just more pointless than previously, yet still necessary. It needs to be done, otherwise other cities will take the focus away from London and London needs to seen as a centre of ideas and fashion.
When we leave Europe, the British Fashion Council need to lobby the government for more funding for an industry that employs so many people and encourages people to visit and shop in the UK. If we’re going to build a successful post-European future we need to focus on areas we are good at. Creativity is one of those areas. Fashion links many of these together and is the energy and catalyst for newness.
When then pedestrianise Oxford Street, fashion weeks should move there into see-through marquees and become inclusive to those interested in it and bankrolling it on the pavements either side.
What’s the opposite to ‘having a moment’? Because this is what menswear is currently facing. It’s not solely a London problem, affecting all the main fashion cities, but as fashion is a business, when it needs to change and save money, things get cut.
There was lots of talk during LFWM about whether this would be the last one, but I think if it was going to disappear it would have done so this season. The doom and gloom of the last LC:M was replaced with an optimism that things can only get better and the acceptance that those big brands, now missing, are gone. It’s okay, nobody died.
This was a medicated fashion week. A fashion week on Prozac. Things weren’t as important as before, so it felt more democratic. The must-have tickets didn’t exist so people were more equal than ever. The have and have-nots of fashion weren’t as separate and it felt more inclusive and less frantic.
One of the problems I have it predictablity. Designers showing exactly what you think they’re going to show. They don’t move their collections on. I don’t expect a 180 u-turn every season, but as nobody is really buying anything anyway what do they have to lose? They just make you wonder why you turned up. A signature style is fine, but a designer known for tasteful newness will always excel.
Another, is this idea that fashion collections look a certain way. It’s all a bit graduate Fashion Scout, and was new sometime in the Thatcher era. The bong-bong-bong music and po-faced press releases suck the life out of the spectacle and the audience and has the bullshit detector on max. Fashion always needs its wanky, taking-itself-too-seriously label, I get that, but there’s only so much eye rolling one can do.
So, let’s think positive. When things hit rock bottom things can only go up. This half glass full attitude to men’s is what will keep it going. Those big brands disappearing will create room for something new: a vacuum for the future. The future is close, we just need to entertain ourselves until it arrives.