This article isn’t a discussion on the pros and cons of real fur and offers no moral viewpoint on its use. I acknowledge that this contentious issue/material is divisive and has passion on both sides.
The real ‘fur’ industry has seen massive growth, since the beginning of this century, driven by international consumers and trims on accessories and coats. It is now a $40 billion industry. It was inevitable that it would have a backlash and there would be a reaction to it, most notably from younger consumers.
I put ‘fur’ into speech marks because it’s a very broad term and while some brands may no longer use mink they continue to use the skins of other animals and there’s no definitive reason for the choice of some animals making the used list and not the others. Read more here - ChicGeek Comment Fur Debate: You Either Use Animals Or You Don’t
Brands such as Gucci, Versace and Martin Margiela have decided to announce they will no longer use real fur. Donatella Versace recently said, “Fur? I am out of that,” she said. “I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”
“Naturally we were disappointed to hear that Versace has said it won’t use real fur in collections. However, the majority of top designers will continue to work with fur as they know it is a natural product that is produced responsibly. When Donatella Versace says ‘I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion.’ presumably her company will soon stop using silk and leather?” says Andrea Martin from the British Fur Trade Association.
“It is disingenuous to claim that leather is a by-product of the meat industry, a cow still had to die to provide the product. Silk cocoons are placed in boiling water to help unravel the thread with the silk worm inside,” says Martin.
Italian accessories brand Furla has formally declared that it will be banning fur from its collections from November of this year, which would coincide with the launch of its Cruise ’19 collections. This follows decisions by Michael Kors and Yoox Net-A-Porter, which has declared that all its stores and websites would be real fur-free zones.
“I think some of the brands have gone fur free under pressure from anti-fur trends, and some are genuinely concerned. If brands don’t want to use animals for fashion then they need to consider leather, exotic skins, silk, sheepskin, makeup and products, all of which use animals. I also think human welfare is important to consider when producing fashion, and this often gets forgotten.” says Rebecca Bradley, a London based fur designer.
So, why are luxury brands really dropping the use of real fur?
I think it is pure economics and the high margin greed of today’s luxury industry. It’s the same reason many restaurants are pushing vegetarian and vegan options: the margins are higher and therefore the profit. By charging slightly lower prices for something which is much cheaper to make, the margins increase. There are only so many €25,000 full-fur coats a brand will sell and the ceiling price is sensitive, so you can’t factor in the same margins you would on your other products. If you make it in faux-fur you'll get a higher margin and a bigger percentage of profit. You’ll also sell more and probably generate more money overall.
The irony is, the reason a real fur coat is so expensive is because of the high welfare standards of the European producers. Luxury brands wouldn’t be able to use cheaper real-fur from other sources witout criticism and scrutiny.
“Fur coats may seem expensive, however the price of a fur coat should reflect a high standard of animal welfare, and therefore with a beautiful, high quality fur, many skilled people are involved with production, including a furrier, and finisher to create a fur coat that will last for many generations, ” says Bradley.
Fur, for the majority of brands, is a very small part of their businesses and therefore it’s not difficult to heroically declare you’re no longer going to use it. It’s also easily replaced by a cheaper, synthetic alternative while not altering the price very much or at all. You can paint the use of a fake fur trim as an ethical choice rather than a cost saver to the consumer. It’s cynical I know, but it’s working.
PETA’s Director, Elisa Allen, says, “Fur is dead, dead, dead. As well as making sense for designers' conscience, ditching fur makes business sense, as today's consumers are demanding animal and eco-friendly clothing for which no animal has been electrocuted, strangled, or caught in a steel-jaw trap. From Armani to Versace, the list of fur-free designers is growing every day, and innovative vegan fashion is on the rise. The tide has turned irrevocably, and there's no going back.”
Many brands used the word ‘sustainable’ when announcing their decision to no longer use real-fur, but again, this is another term in fashion that is very broad and has little full meaning until you see the detail. I’m not sure a fake fur coat is particularly sustainable, but then again it does depend on the material.
But, you also have to acknowledge that nobody needs to wear a real fur coat. We could easily survive without real fur, but it’s interesting how, out of all the animal products we use, this is one of the most offensive to some and creates the biggest reactions and protests.
The real fur industry continues to grow in China and with other newly rich consumers and markets. It is now a US$17 billion-a-year industry in China and Haining, near Shanghai, is its hub.. Fur companies will be a bit like tobacco companies: the falling sales in established markets will be replaced by growing sales in new and even bigger markets in Asia.
Chinese animal welfare standards are very different from European standards. European producers have very strict regulations and it’s an industry which has to be transparent in order to ward off criticism.
“We respect the fashion industry’s attempts to become more responsible for the products they produce. Animal welfare is of critical importance and the fur produced is farmed to the highest welfare standards.” says Martin.
“With growing concern about the environment and plastics we believe it is more responsible to move back to the use of natural, biodegradable materials. Fur is the natural and responsible choice for designers and consumers.” says Martin.
Ditching fur is quite a lazy way for luxury brands to try to be more ‘sustainable’ and look like they care about the environment.
“I think that companies and consumers becoming educated and aware of origins of products and materials is a fantastic thing, but the focus needs to be across the board, ensuring standards of human, or animal welfare and environmental impact.” says Bradley.
Many brands are seeing real fur as something they live without and it’s more hassle than it’s worth if the profit and quantities aren’t there. You can pick holes into both sides of the fur debate. While a positive move for many, the decision to no longer use real fur is really a cleverly spun business decision and driven by their continued obsession for huge margins.
Read more expert ChicGeek Comments - here
It’s subjective, I know, but if you’ve bought something from a ‘luxury’ brand, recently, you will probably notice the quality isn’t quite what it once was. On the unstoppable growth trajectory of higher prices and sales, the quality hasn’t stayed consistent: no doubt increasing already inflated margins.
I’m not naive, I understand you pay a premium for a designer name or brand, but there was always a minimum quality to the product, leaving you, the customer, satisfied and at least without the feeling of being ripped off.
I’ll give you an example. I bought one of those new GG buckle Gucci belts online, 18 months ago. I hadn’t felt it, or seen it, I just ordered it online. It was a simple black belt after all. You think you know what will arrive.
What turned up felt like a free pleather school belt. I’m not being facetious, but there was no quality there. When you’re charging £250 and you can’t even offer a decent strip of leather to take the strain of holding your trousers up, there’s clearly something wrong.
Why didn’t I send it back? When it arrived at home, in insolation, seduced by the packaging, and Gucci was so-hot-right-now, you just shrug your shoulders and think, "okay, so it’s not the best, but it’s what I wanted and it’s cool ATM". (Damn you hype!)
It’s when I look back, and think about that belt, I feel, that if I’d handled and seen it in the shop, I probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I would have felt the quality and moved on.
And, so to my theory - the growth of online is allowing mainstream luxury brands to get away with lower quality products. Consumers are more accepting in their own homes, they have nothing to compare it to at the time and the thought and hassle of sending something back is making people keep things they wouldn’t have necessarily bought in a physical store.
“Shopping is very much a human multi-sensory experience so it follows that we want to use as many of our senses. Emotion plays the dominant role in our buying decisions so the in-store experience will always be far superior to the online experience. As Boxpark MD Roger Wade put it ‘Shopping online is like watching fireworks on TV’ says Andrew Busby, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections.
There’s no doubt online has contributed to the massive growth of these brands, whether on their own websites or third parties. Last year Gucci’s online sales posted triple-digit growth on their branded website and that’s without all the other online retailers. Gucci didn’t hit €6.2 billion turnover in 2017 on physical stores alone.
“This all depends on your definition of ‘Mainstream Luxury’. The word ‘Luxury’ is banded around all too often. True luxury is confined, generally, to bricks and mortar shopping, hence the resistance of major houses to enter the online market. When I consider ‘Luxury’ I think of brands such as LV, Chanel, Loewe etc,” says Darren Skey, Founder/Director of Nieuway Limited, and former Head of Menswear at Harvey Nichols.
“I wouldn’t class brands such as Off White, Amiri, Vetements as ‘Luxury’. What we are seeing is the luxury brands such as Loewe and LV seeing the growth potential of hype products and as such are designing products with this in mind. This leads to more quantity produced and a lower quality, compared to their main ranges, Fashion details are hard to produce on a large scale. Unfortunately, there is no correlation in price reductions, as you would expect with economies of scale,” says Skey.
It’s hard to prove this point, but it’s an interesting factor to think about. Net-a-Porter group recently introduced a new service for their “Extremely Important People”, where the delivery person waits to see whether you want the item or not, after they deliver it. It’s an instant reaction to the item(s) and it would be interesting to know whether this has increased or decreased returns. Obviously, they want the latter.
Quality is subjective and brands vary. But I think we’re seeing an overarching trend towards higher margins and lower quality from brands trying to still offer ‘luxury’ and compete with other brands’ stratospheric growth in turnovers.
There’s also a generational shift to think about. Since 2016, the global luxury market has grown by 5%, with 85% of this growth generated by Millennials according to a report by A LINE, a global branding & design studio. These younger consumers don't have as much experience and product to compare the quality to and brands are taking advantage of this.
“The expectation of the younger consumer is also changing and I think this is an interesting observation. For the younger consumers it is more important to have the latest hype piece regardless of the quality. And, as we know, the majority of the Millennials shop online,” says Skey.
Brands have made it easier to return products, but unless it’s the wrong size or nothing like pictured, I think people are more accepting in terms of quality.
“I don't think that shoppers are unwilling to send things back once purchased online. Fashion is not cheap and I don't believe we are in an economy where this can be an option. I also think retailers are making the process of sending product back easier,” says Skey.
‘I am predicting a backlash to the returns culture we are currently witnessing - both from retailers and environmentalists. The average returned purchase in the UK passes through seven pairs of hands before it is listed for resale. According to Iain Prince, supply chain director at KPMG, "It can cost double the amount for a product to be returned into the supply chain as it does to deliver it”.’ says Busby.
What brands have to remember: when you’re not cool or hot anymore, the thing that will keep consumers returning is quality. This lowering of quality is short-termism and greedy and will ultimately be a big factor is diminishing future sales and brand loyalty.
I’ve also written about brands which offer great value, like Fiorucci. here
There was an American brand - Brashy Studio - who got a lot of online flak, recently, for selling safety glasses as a fashion accessory and charging $25 for the privilege. They cost £1.42 at B&Q BTW.
But, they were definitely onto something as clear frames and light lenses are the way to go this summer. I saw this pair from Korean brand Gentle Monster, who are set to open a store in London shortly, and there’s something one part chemistry teacher and one part Gucci catwalk that I love about them.
While they have that safety glasses vibe they’re far cooler than that and the lenses have full UV protection. Experiment!
Left & Below - Gentle Monster - Afix 02 - $310
More SS18 eyewear inspo? Try The Hamburglar Sunglasses here
Snaffle loafers are one of the rare fashion items that can, legitimately, be called ‘timeless’. They bob along on the waves of shoe trends and come in and out when the time suits. They’re definitely something you should never throw away.
The most famous are Gucci, obvs, but it’s actually cooler and less basic to sniff out a cheaper alternative. Read more here
Russell & Bromley has this pair called ‘Mercury’. I really like the brown, orange and beige webbing underneath the snaffle. It gives them a vintage/70s edge. Made from calf leather in Tuscany, these aren’t the cheapest, but they’ll certainly authentically Italian.
You can wear these with anything, just don’t smother the shoe with trouser. Keep your ankles visible both socked and unsocked.
Left & Below - Russell & Bromley - Mercury - £235
Milan gave us handbags, more shiny coats and reasons to look like a tourist. Here goes AW18:
Ooooo, look at you! Bags have been getting smaller, so we may as well call a spade a spade.
From Left - Fendi, Palm Angels, Prada
The future is wipe clean and the quicker you get your head around this, the better.
From Left - Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Versace
Below - Both Moschino
Like a walking 70s airline logo.
Below - Both Fendi
This could be one of my favourite trends of the season. Not blurred lines, but distorted ones.
Above From Left - Fendi, Ermanno Scervino, Marni, Moschino
The new caping.
Left - Gucci
Nothing wrong with looking like a tourist in AW18. The worst the better. Just don't look up!
Below - Fendi, Prada, Prada
Any blanket looking design cut into a coat or simply just thrown over your shoulders.
From Left - Fendi, Gucci, No.21, Marni
Below - Marni
What did Oscar say about resisting temptation? Dress like you haven't.
Below From Left - Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana
This is part normcore, part 80s, part 90s, part...
Fear & Loathing lenses. I wore these all last Summer and they ain't going anywhere.
Below Both - Dolce & Gabbana
As another couturier passes away - Hubert de Givenchy - I wanted to write a piece I’ve been thinking about for a while. With only Lagerfeld and Valentino left, men who have touched or worked with the great couturiers of the 20th century, is it time to leave couture behind?
It feels like couture is out of touch with today. This isn’t about the vast sums of money it costs, even though that is a good point, it’s more about the creative rut that many couture houses have found themselves in.
Left - Hubert & Audrey
It used to be an area for experimentation and fantasy - remember Galliano’s Diorient Express at Dior and all the models dressed like Henry VIII or a Native American chiefs arriving by steam train? - rather than pretty clothes for people with more money than they know what to do with.
You only have to look at ‘Red Carpet’ dressing to see the state of couture. It’s dull. It’s boring. It’s safe. Of course, it’s beautifully made, but what exactly is couture adding to ‘fashion’?
The Oscars used to have a few fashion ‘moments’ worth staying up for, but it became a battlefield of money and sponsorship, but also, with a few rare exceptions, people more interested in their own vanity and safety off the worst dressed lists. Many of these people aren’t sophisticated enough to wear something challenging or directional.
Couture needs a starting point of anything goes. It should be about experimentation and wowing people with technical skills and craft. I know it needs a commercial element, but it’s never going to be a big seller. In its nature it needs to keep the numbers low, otherwise, what else are you paying for?
There are enough ‘dress-makers’ or newer brands like Ralph & Russo for the pretty dress crowd. Brands need to think what it brings to their image and whether it’s relevant going into the 21st century.
When Hedi Slimane was announced as the new Creative Director of Céline, it was also announced he would be doing couture. Really? A house that has never done couture before, does the world need anymore? This is more a case of massaging an ego than bringing anything new. It’ll just be a higher price point of the same things, like what he did at YSL.
Gucci is a brand which would be worth doing as couture because many of the ideas can’t be manufactured to the quality you’d expect of the design. Couture would take the pressure and lid off this and allow the designs to be as good as they should be.
I agree with keeping skills alive and I, wholeheartedly, believe in craft, but couture just doesn’t have the energy it once had. Couture should be a showplace of experimentation rather than a branding exercise to continually pump out the same thing.
I think couture is currently a reflection of the current lack of great designers. Sadly, without more McQueens coming along it will just be more variations of the same beautifully made things.
When the Queen unexpectedly rocked up at London Fashion Week, yesterday, it merely cemented the trend. Admittedly, she wasn’t wearing one, she needs a Barbour gilet and a horse for starters, but it’s one of her iconic looks.
Far Left - Vetements AW18, Left - HRH
The silk head scarf has now entered the realm of menswear. So, just when you were getting your head around, literally, the beret, TheChicGeek called this in 2015, now, it’s time for something new and silky.
Seen on the catwalk at Vetements - they clearly know this will be a product that will fly, I dread to think how much they'll be charging for theirs - and MSGM, a year earlier in Milan.
Look for great secondhand silks in vintage or charity shops or opt for the best at Hermès, Turnbull & Asser, Drake's or Liberty.
Left - Both MSGM AW17
Right - The Queen is partial to an Hermès scarf
Left - Vetements AW18
Left - Hermès - Centered Rhyme de Elaine Lustig Cohen - £330
Below - Drake’s - Rust Large Paisley 40oz Ancient Madder Silk Scarf - £395
Left - Gucci - Wolf-Print GG Supreme Silk-Twill Scarf - £310 from Matchesfashion.com
Below - Liberty London - Lodden 45 x 45 Silk Neckerchief - £70
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
At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.
Arguably the biggest fashion collaboration of the year, every year, H&M are masters of creating hype and buzz with whomever they choose to tie-up with. This year was the turn of British/Canadian designer, Erdem Moralioglu, just don’t ask me to say his full name, so they stuck to just “Erdem”, luckily, and they approached things differently.
Left - Short Sleeved Shirt - £69.99
Usually you don’t get to see the full collection with prices before the big reveal, and often the collection is a seen as a “greatest hits” type homage to the brand rather than bang-on-the-fashion of the season or what customers are currently buying.
H&M held a preview fashion show in L.A. a couple of weeks ago to selected press, they released images and prices of the full collection and they held a preview shopping evening for press and the public the evening before it hits stores, this week, at the glamourous and spookily beautiful Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden.
Erdem has never sold menswear before so it was a first, and his floral signature is definitely in vogue, ATM, thanks to Gucci. This collection is basically H&M’s nod to Gucci’s current aesthetic and hedges their bets with a public who may not know the Erdem name or care.
The queues for Freemasons' Hall was full of London’s fashion folk. Once inside it was a frenetic grab for items people came specifically to buy. There was no time for browsing.
Right - If you missed or couldn’t afford the Burberry Tudor ruffle neck white shirt, here’s Erdem’s version - £49.99
When you see designer, Christopher Kane, amongst the hubbub of rails and elbows, you feel it won’t take much for his name to be in the running for next year’s collab. (Which would be very good BTW).
After the initial buying panic, the coats and tailoring didn’t seem to be very popular. It was the silk and floral pieces that people wanted and they quickly disappeared. Silk pieces seem to be very much in demand right now - See my favourite from Pretty Green - here - and checking on H&M's UK website you can’t even view the Erdem, page.
This is the right collection at the right time. People are going to be bored of this Gucci look pretty soon, so they’ve timed this collaboration right. The florals aren’t particularly standout, so don’t scream "Erdem X HM". They’re not that memorable which will work in their favour and, let's be really honest, men can never have enough floral silk pyjama sets!
Read ChicGeek Comment Erdem X H&M Menswear here
Left - Pyjama Top - £79.99