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
With collaborations as common as the cold it’s become hard to generate the excitement that those previous big reveals had. Swedish mega-retailer, H&M, has just announced, much later than usual BTW, their collaboration with British-based, Canadian designer, Erdem.
This is a coup for Erdem, as, apart from amongst fashion circles, few know the label and hardly any men, as they don’t do menswear. Known for long Valentino like dresses in intricate florals, it ticks the box nicely for H&M to do something Gucci-like and is a switch up from the previous year’s Kenzo collection.
This will clearly be riding the Gucci maximalist wave, but I’m hoping it’s more Laura Ashley/Liberty of London/House of Hackney men’s than a straight copy of Gucci. The patterned silk pyjama set seen in the video - below - looks very Gucci, but let’s hope there’s some freshness in the other pieces.
Erdem’s full name is Erdem Moralioglu and he's never designed menswear before. Here’s what he said about designing men’s, “I found it a real joy,” says Erdem. “It’s really about looking at a wardrobe of pieces, and focusing on the exact design details. There has to be an easiness to menswear, and a sense of reality. I’m so happy with it, and I think so many women are going to love the men’s collection too.”
The ideas behind the collection sounds like an eccentric, British mixed bag of references. “The collection reinterprets some of the codes that have defined my work over the past decade”, shares the designer. “It’s also inspired by much of my youth, from the English films, 90’s TV shows and music videos I grew up watching to memories of the style that defined members of my family. Taking from these inspirations I imagined a group of characters and friends off to the English countryside for the weekend. There’s a real play in the collection between something decidedly dressed-up and equally effortless”, he says.
I think this collection will have a niche market and maybe they won’t make the volumes or have the number of stores stocking it like in previous years. But, I’m actually excited about this one as this feels to be catering for the lovers of fashion rather than labels. Hits stores November 2nd.
I recently went to Berlin, for their fashion week, which is dominated by two trade shows, Seek and Premium. I know Berlin is the city of the young hipster wanker and far from the bourgeois idea of fashion. Always has been. But, watching a young guy in adidas trackie bottoms, an old tour T-shirt tucked in and a fake looking GG monogrammed Gucci hat, it’s pretty clear that fashion, ATM, is looking like ‘cool crap’.
Pioneered here, but spreading: it’s about found, second-hand, vintage, charity and everything that is the opposite about looking expensive and ‘designery’.
Left 'Pensive Crap' at Seek in Berlin - Cap - J Crew, Sunglasses - Vintage Gucci, Top - Umbro
It’s been coming a while, and it’s something the fashion industry struggles with, because making something shiny and new is what they are used to. Plus, why buy something brand new when you want it to look old?
It’s about mass produced old items looking old. This isn’t the Gucci idea of decadent vintage. That’s over.
I know Italian brands have been doing ‘pre-distressed’ for donkey’s, and it’s always looked a bit crap. Ripped jeans, anybody? But, it was interesting to see brands, such as Pony and Valsport, doing options of trainers looking like you’ve been wearing them for months.
Right - Pony distressed for SS18
Even if you buy something new, you style it in a way which looks old and not cared about. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing collaborations such as Louis Vuitton and Supreme in order for these brands to look less expensive, even though the prices say something else.
Some brands only know how to do new and this is leading to people raiding wardrobes and rediscovering things they used to wear or asking parents for their old sportswear. Hoping they've hoarded it.
Menswear is really experimenting in this area and the worry of looking bad is over, as that’s really the point. It’s about looking like an America tourist from 1985 or a post-Soviet Russian, aping western brands, circa 1994.
Could be a hard sell, or no sell at all, and this certainly won’t help the struggling fashion industry.
Below - Valsport SS18 worn look, Never too old for Vetements SS18
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
‘Potential’ is an overly optimistic word in fashion and there are many more disappointments than successes. When you work in this business you always have your eyes and ears open, listening and watching on social media, traditional media and on the street to see who people like and what they are doing.
Left - The pink suit is by Edward Sexton, one of the most stylish tailors in London
Somebody who I think has a lot of potential, in the realms of being a male clotheshorse, is Harry Styles. Apart from the social media hysteria, I didn’t take much notice of him when he was in One Direction, but he feels like he has huge potential to trail-blaze in menswear. Even as a five he always stood out, albeit slightly.
Many of the things he wears are difficult or require believability and on most guys would look too try hard. Okay, so I may be reading too much into this, but, I remember Justin Timberlake leaving N-Sync, and he was on the cover of Arena Home Plus, the cover they had to reprint as it was too violent as Sept 11th had just happened, and I remember thinking "he was just another silly boyband member, he’s not cool enough for that magazine", but he quickly, thanks to that first album, graduated into an adult artist and so did his style. (Though his Tom Ford Suit & Tie section is still the best).
Back to Harry. Scream! He looks like a young Jagger, which is a plus. He’s sexy without it being about his body. It’s an intellectual form of sexy and the clothes correspond with this.
Below - Harry on Graham Norton. He's partial to dragons on a flared trouser
And this isn’t just because there is no competition. Ed Sheeran, anybody?! Harry Styles was recently interviewed by The Sun and he was asked a few things about his appearance.
He said “I always love being comfortable. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.
"It’s a really good opportunity to have fun - it’s clothes, it’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a good time to express yourself and have fun with it.”
“It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t take seriously. If you want to wear a pair of yellow trousers you can wear a pair of yellow trousers.”
Exactly. It feels a very relaxed approach and something that isn’t laboured over. Obviously he has a stylist, somebody has to do the leg work, but it feels like he’s choosing from the rail. It’s quite a British thing to not look at others and just do your own thing, instinctively in-sync with what’s going on.
At the moment it’s a mix of Gucci, which definitely isn't for the wallflower, and Edward Sexton, one of the greatest British tailors, who has dressed the majority of the Beatles and Mick Jagger over the years, but we’re hoping for an evolution as fashion moves on. It’ll show his eye and style/taste level if he can change without losing any of the cool factor.
Harry, TheChicGeek is watching you.
Left - Harry in those acid yellow trousers
The results are in and the great British high-street has polarised. On the one side is the tired and cumbersome old guard with its offering still stuck in the past, trying to shift their stock through promotions and discounts and then the younger, faster, cheaper and ultimately, more fun retailers who are reporting record sales and profits, both on and offline.
From Left - ASOS, Boohoo
Boohoo just reported a doubling in annual profit, driven by growth in new customers, and said revenue should rise by about 50 percent in 2017-18 as it benefits from recent acquisitions. Revenue rose 51 percent to £294.6 million as Boohoo increased its active customer base to 5.2 million, up 29 percent, while international growth, particularly in the United States, exceeded management expectations.
ASOS The online fashion retailer said pre-tax profits rose 14 percent to £27.3m in the six months to 28 February, while revenue increased 37 percent to £911.5 million. ASOS has again upgraded its sales guidance for the full year, pencilling in growth in the 30-35 per cent range, up from 25-30 per cent.
This is growth, most brands, at this particularly point in time, can only dream about.
The pioneer of ridiculously cheap clothes, Primark, said total sales jumped 11 percent in the six months to 4 March. Sales at Primark, which has 329 stores globally, jumped by 21pc to £3.2bn on the back of new shops.
The UK also delivered an improved performance with a 2 percent lift in like-for-like sales, which meant the discount chain stole market share from suffering high street rivals.
Even sales of clothing at Sainsbury’s and Argos outperformed the market with growth of more than 4 percent in the year to 11 March, the supermarket reported.
What’s going on? This isn’t purely price driven. While it’s a factor, they’re making product that people want and the bigger they get and more product they make, the more people they can please. Lots and often seems to be the mantra to keep the novelty of fashion ticking over.
Too many old brands do these big annual ‘collections’, but people just want lots of individual items and fast. These fast brands do look to designers and trends, but they seem to play and experiment themselves. They acknowledge what is going on, but come up with their own things too. It's a buy it or it's gone attitude.
While Next and Marks & Spencer’s languish, I think a lot of men are trading down, happy with the product and choice. I’ve never seen so many fun things for guys. ASOS and Boohoo are producing the kind of menswear once reserved for girls and the boys seem to be loving it. Ombre fringed sweaters, lace shirts and sequinned leggings are just a few of the crazy things that are coming out of these retailers, and while they wont sell in the thousands, it keeps the cool guys coming back for more.
The young guy, today, has the confidence to have fun with how he looks and he doesn’t want to invest big money in fun or one-off items that are part of a look, or something he feels he’s taking a risk on. The fact is it’s the cheapness that makes it more fun and less pressure to look like anything in particular. It also is a way of showing off, this only cost me…
I’m going to call it the ‘Harry Styles Effect’ - trying something different yet being cool enough to carry it off. Okay, he’s wearing Gucci dragons, but you get the idea.
Only a few guys can get away with it, but it receives admiration from the rest of their peer group. It’s basically about looking like a ‘cool dick’ and when you turn up in a white, see-through lace shirt and your friends ask you what you’re wearing, you secretly know they think you’re cool and it’s the buzz you get from trying something different or new. They then look to see where you've bought your items and, while maybe not getting the same things, it creates a halo for the brand.
It’s about having a sense of humour and this is why the British are so good at style: we can laugh at ourselves, while still looking cool. We can be experimental while not worrying too much about convention or others. It’s what makes us leaders and, also, why some of our retailers are so good at this too and internationally.
Another reason is young men aren’t so hung up on logos and branding anymore. They also don't have the money to spend and want something fresh and often, if only for their Instagram account. They want to go out and wear new clothes and with limited disposable incomes they have to buy cheaper. It’s FUN with a capital F and in a world that seems to be harder and harder to get by in, it’s an outlet of escapism for the young guy.
My only message is enough ‘super skinny’.
"If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends" or so the song goes. The Union Jack was the symbol - obvs - of “Cool Britannia”, when Liam was in bed with Patsy and everybody wore Wannabe loafers by Patrick Cox.
Left - Gucci - Union Jack Horsebit Leather Loafer - £530
I’ve been wanting to do something on this for ages, since Gucci took over Westminster Abbey to show their UK-inspired Cruise collection, last June, but, I'm not sure where the time went. Luckily, because Gucci are holding onto products and not putting them into the sale, they're still relevant.
If we’re talking about who owns the loafer then historically it’s Gucci, but during the 90s it was Patrick Cox. Selling 100,000 pairs a year, it was part of the Britpop wardrobe and while not cheap, they were suprisingly affordable with the silver 'W' on the side.
He sold his label and name and then the brand disappeared into the ether. He returned a few year's ago, designing a range with Geox and then decided to establish his new brand Lathbridge. The Lathbridge brand name is Cox's middle name and the company logo of the bulldog is inspired by Cox's much loved 2 English bulldogs, Caesar and Brutus.
I spoke to Patrick during a trade show in Paris where he was previewing this collection, I asked him about the Gucci homage, he knew about it and I think he was flattered. His version is slightly simpler, but with all the same positive 90s nostalgia. Now, to dig out those Benetton sweaters!
Below - Lathbridge by Patrick Cox - English Flash Penny Loafers - £321 from FarFetch
I don’t often write about new retail, it’s usually pretty boring and cookie-cutter the world over, but when something’s good, it’s good, and on a recent trip to Venice with Diadora, we were taken to the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi, the first retail store in Europe by LVMH’s travel retail arm, DFS.
Left - Inside the main atrium space of the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi
Looking out onto the Rialto Bridge, across from the fish market, stands the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi. First constructed in 1228, it was once home to the German merchants - Tedeschi means German in Italian - who traded with those wealthy Venetians, taking spices and the like to Northern Europe. It became a customs house under Napoleon, and a post office under Mussolini, then lay empty. Until now.
Right - The Venetian red escalators and special Venice-inspired product graces the entrance
Thanks to LVMH’s deep pockets and Dutch architecture practise, OMA, it been transformed into a sympathetic, luxury with a small L shopping space that feels more like a cross between a boutique hotel and museum that sells things, rather than a boring collection of luxury concessions all jostling for customers and attention.
Left - On the top floor is this exhibition space with a lit floor that just needs a disco soundtrack
It’s one of the best retail spaces I’ve seen recently. The escalators are Venetian red, like moving red carpets, they take you up to the floors of men’s and women's fashion and beauty.
On the top floor is an exhibition space and on the roof is a viewing deck looking out over the glorious city that is Venice.
Right - Head to the top floor for one of the best views of Venice.
Opened in October, the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi has been updated, without losing any of its charm, by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas – who was in charge of the exterior renovation – and architect Jamie Fobert – who handled the interior design.
Everywhere there is attention to detail. Every inch has been thought about: the floors, handrails, furniture, lights and the space has been designed for brands to flow, and in our ever fickle times, be replaced.
The brands are the same old: Gucci, Bally, Bottega Veneta etc., but because it’s such a nice building and environment it makes you want to explore regardless of it being the same tired things. To be fair, the brands have done a few special pieces with the colours of the Italian flag. Also, on the ground floor, they sell wine, souvenirs and other more affordable items.
The only negative was that it was so discreet, the name ‘ Fondaco Dei Tedeschi’, which doesn't exactly slip off the tongue, was only at the front door and you wanted to know/learn the name in order to tell other people how good it was. If you’re in Venice, definitely take a look.
Ryan Gosling topped TheChicGeek's Best Dressed Oscars list last year- here, and, again, his laid-back confidence shows with the reintroduction of the fun and retro ruffled shirt. He hasn't gone full-on Jared Leto Gucci, here, but, this is a wearable interpretation of Gucci's influence on menswear right now.
You can pick these shirts us from vintage shops or online and they add a touch of personality to a formal dinner or prom suit. Add a large floppy bow tie and you'll be the life and soul of the party.
Left - Ryan Gosling in Gucci Oscars 2017
In last week’s Evening Standard, Hatton Garden jeweller, Sam Hunter, brother of director, Sophie Hunter, wife of Benedict Cumberbatch, said, “People are bored of the little blue boxes, extortionate prices and minimal design that is now completely characterless,” he went on “It’s the name you’re paying for and nothing else… It’s fine if the piece is exquisite, but they’re producing less and less of those!”
He was, of course, talking about the American jeweller, Tiffany & Co., but he could have easily have been describing the majority of modern luxury brands.
There was a time when you wanted everybody to know your brand. There was a time when success was built on brand awareness. There was a time when consumers wanted you to know the brand they were wearing in order to convey status, but times change and this awareness and ultimately saturation has breed predictability and boredom.
For example, I was recently in Berlin. I walked past their fanciest department store, KaDeWe, and in the windows were great looking clothes. I always like to try and guess the designers and then, like a museum piece, look at the labels on the glass. I didn’t recognise a single one of them. In the past you would dismiss this as being a second rate store or inferior because the ‘big labels' weren’t there, but instead it was far more interesting and refreshing.
Inside was another story. The usual luxury shop-in-shops: Bottega Veneta, Valentino, Gucci, acres of marble and the same look, the world over, but the element of the unknown is what will get people off their sofas and into stores.
It’s much more exciting, today, to not recognise a label and go purely on quality and design. It’s a sign of good taste and a good eye rather than blindly buying a ‘name’. It's also a sign of confidence. But, it’s hard to stay unknown forever and why shouldn’t brands that are good be celebrated, but it’s the level to which they are exposed and rely solely on the name or label that I have a problem with.
A good example would be the Italian brand, Slowear, soon to open another store on London’s Marylebone High Street, they are understated and their multiple labels - Incotex, Montedoro, Zanone - aren’t household names and don't seem to want to be. Slowear, while not cheap, offers better quality, fit and value than clothes at twice the price. This isn't about being a contrarian and always different and obscure. It's about brands that have a humility, aren't a vehicle for a designer's ego and are understated with a ‘we’re too busy making great clothes-to-focus-solely-on-the-label’ attitude which makes it very democratic and far more interesting.
Go seek out the unknown. I've never heard of them. Tell me more.