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.
I think we all know how competitive it is at the lower end of the clothing market. But, it was an e-mail, a few weeks ago, from Marks & Spencer that really summed up where we are. It was announcing their new range of men’s ‘Quick Dry Swim Shorts’, all pretty standard for this time of year, but it was the price that caught my eye. A bargain £10! This is cheaper than Topman, cheaper than River Island and even New Look. It’s certainly cheap for M&S and, then, you realise all the retailers are busy racing to the bottom.
What this means is, in order for those companies to make money, they need to shift a hell of a lot of product. British retailers are currently playing a game of poker, holding their hand i.e. keeping prices low, waiting for their competitors to fold.
Left - Pep&Co at Poundland SS17
But, if this game wasn’t tough enough, new competition is entering the market which will only increase pressure on those margins and unsustainable volumes.
For example, Poundland has entered the clothing market. Their in-house brand, Pep&Co, launched into stores in March this year.
They've already opened over 50 Poundland shop-in-shops with another 50 or so planned for the second half of 2017. The chain, which was bought by the South African group Steinhoff International, expects to put Pep&Co clothing outlets in up to 200 of its 850 stores over the longer term.
Pep&Co was founded by Andy Bond, who once ran Asda’s George clothing label, with backing from the South African tycoon and Steinhoff shareholder Christo Wiese.
The first shop opened in Kettering, Northamptonshire, in July 2015 and the chain opened its first 50 stores in less than two months.
If people are wearing Poundland, it means they aren’t wearing another brand. This isn’t about sneering at this end of the market, it’s about wondering who will go out of business first. It's unsustainable.
The market is saturated and these business models only work if you can order huge volumes and shift it fast.
This is new competition for all the supermarket brands plus Peacocks and Primark and traditional high-street retailers like M&S and Debenhams are more keenly pricing their offering. Add discount brands such as TK Maxx and the neverending discounts and sales and you have an environment that is harder to make profit in.
Consumers are being squeezed with higher inflation and low wages and are generally satisfied with cheaper clothes. They can't or don't want to pay more.
Then add the internet, with Boohoo offering bargain fashion-led clothing and websites such as EverythingFivePounds, where everything is, literally, five pounds, and you have the perfect storm to implode some of the giants of the British high-street. Arcadia, the owner of Topman, is already seeing revenues fall and Topman is looking increasingly expensive against the competition.
In this game of pound wars poker, who will run out of chips and fold first?
Left - Louis Vuitton? No, Everythingfivepounds - £5
You can thank me after, but I just may have found the prom outfit to beat all other prom outfits!!!!! Be the king of the prom by taking inspiration from the king, Elvis himself, and Harry Styles with a combination of black and pink. A pink suit with a black shirt, no tie, says 'dressy cool' and is as timeless as rock itself.
The classic 50s colour combo of pink and black brings to mind Teddy Boys and rock 'n' roll. You want a black shirt with black buttons, plain. No contrasting. You can do black trousers if you don't want to buy the whole suit, but add white socks classic penny loafers and you'll be the beau of the ball!
Left - Harry Styles giving good Elvis in an bespoke Edward Sexton suit
Left - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Jacket - £85
Left Below - River Island - Pink Slim Fit Suit Trousers - £40
Below - Hugo - Ebros Stretch Cotton Shirt - £100 from HarveyNichols.com
Left - ASOS - Super Skinny Suit In Mid Pink - £85
Left - Topman - Rose Pink Ultra Skinny Fit Suit - £130
Below - Ted Baker - Rosest Tailored Fit Shirt - £65 from John Lewis
Left - Opposuits - Mr Pink - £64.95
Below - The original, Elvis Presley
Left - Zara - Sartorial Suit Blazer - £99.99, Trousers - £49.99
Left - Zara - Basic Blazer - £39.99
Left - Actor Aidan Alexander at the Billboard Awards
Left - Marks & Spencer - Autograph - Pure Cotton Tailored Fit Shirt - £35
Left - Moss Bros - Moss Esq. - Regular Fit Black Single Cuff Non Iron Shirt - £25
Left - 1950s Cliff Richard
Below - New Look - Deep Pink Suit Jacket - £64.99, Deep Pink Suit Trousers - £29.99
Below - Be the king, this prom season
Another year, another crop of prestigious ChicGeek Awards. Fashion years are longer than dog years, crammed full of so much celebrity, business and unpredictability, it feels like a never-ending rollercoaster of stylish ups and downs.
And, what a stylish year 2015 was. This was the year the Apple Watch arrived, Gucci became cool again and the British high-street took over the world. Here’s what TheChicGeek rated for 2015:
Get involved #TheChicGeekAwards
Best Label of 2015 - GUCCI
Creative directors of fashion brands get replaced all the time. They come and go quicker than many football managers, but without as much drama! Historical Italian house, Gucci, was crying out for a fresh injection of ideas for a very long time, but it’s the speed and quality of the turnaround that has made it TheChicGeek’s Label of the Year.
Thanks to Alessandro Michele, the new Creative Director, it completed an 180 degree turnaround into the ultimate geek-chic look of fantasy dressing within one and a half seasons. Gone was the obviously sexual to something that is sophisticated, clever and interesting.
When you’re the world’s second largest luxury goods company and you decide to change this drastically, it has a huge global influence. I was just pleasantly surprised how radical and comprehensive it has been.
His first collection (AW15) of androgyny had many of us thinking "we’ve seen this before", but it’s the subsequent Cruise collections, campaigns and store refurbishments that has cemented this new look of vintage maximalism.
Gucci has become the buzziest label of late and looks set to continue its dominance. Unfortunately, high-street menswear isn’t copying it straight away, but expect to see details and influences in the coming few months. You can always add a simple grosgrain ribbon to your silk shirt!
A double GG belt buckle hasn’t been this cool since the 90s, but this one is in a more delicate font finished in vintage brass.
Gucci has added much needed excitement back into fashion, but there are so many ideas in each collection I’m scared there aren’t enough ideas to go around. Let’s just hope it doesn’t run out of steam anytime soon. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Best New Label of 2015 - DANIEL W. FLETCHER
Selling designer menswear is a difficult business. Men with deep enough pockets are traditionally conservative and those with the will often don’t have the way. So, any new designer menswear label that appears has to be admired.
A new menswear label that caught my eye was Daniel W. Fletcher. Originally from Chester, the brand was founded shortly after Daniel finished at Central Saint Martins, this year, after studying Fashion Design: Menswear, and his graduate collection was picked up by Opening Ceremony who will be the exclusive stockist of a capsule of 8 pieces from this first SS16 collection.
The collection - Peckham Pony Club - is a reaction to the gentrification and re-development of urban space in London. The writings of Ruth Glass and witnessing first hand the gentrification of London neighbourhoods inspired a collection which aims to capture the essence of the urban gentry which Glass defined.
Peckham, in South-East London, provided a backdrop for a collection which reflects the mix of cultures and styles as a result of socio-economic change, whilst highlighting the effects of regeneration schemes and the displacement of long term residents.
Featuring shaved mink collars, silk pyjama shirts and stretch leggings in a palette of baby blue, white and black, it has a retro-futurism quality with humorous touches with the ‘Peckham Pony Club’ branding. I’m wearing a look in a forthcoming OOTD and it sure beats all those Peckham hipsters in their Barbour jackets.
Best High Street of 2015 - NEW LOOK
After a few false starts, this was the year New Look’s menswear finally made it into the pantheon of men’s British high-street retailers. Menswear became a new focus of their business with 4 standalone men’s stores opening across the UK and another 20 are planned for the new year.
The collections became more trend lead and sophisticated with some of the best suede pieces I’d seen this season regardless of price point.
New Look menswear grew up without losing its youthful side and became a bonafide menswear player in what must be the most competitive affordable menswear market in the world.
As if we weren’t spoilt enough with affordable menswear retailers, in 2015 New Look became another great place to find well-fitted, affordable and fashionable menswear.
Best Grooming Product 2015 - GILLETTE FUSION PROGLIDE FLEXBALL RAZOR
Razor brands often herald something ‘new’ with great fanfare when in fact it’s the same old tired concept in a new colour way or they’ve added more blades. Revolutionary.
Gillette, this year, really did come up with something new and it works.
It’s a simple concept really - a sprung ball that can move up, down and sideways following the different contours of the face.
The FlexBall is a little bit like the Dyson of the shaving world allowing for ease of movement and a close, safer shave.
When the hipsters rediscover shaving again they’ll be pleased to know it’s got a lot easier and more comfortable since they last did it thanks to this.
Best Grooming Brand 2015 - KIEHL’S
American grooming brand, Kiehl’s, seemed to have the most innovation this year. Admittedly, a lot of it was unisex, but it still introduced me to facial oils and leave on overnight masks.
Kiehl’s has cornered the market in that pharmacy stroke skincare brand with attractive stores and simple yet recognisable packaging. They’ve expanded yet still managed to keep it cult.
I also particularly liked the Peter Max psychedelic makeover they gave their packaging for Christmas 2015.
Most Stylish Man 2015 - HARRY STYLES
Harry gets an A for effort. A stylist can take a star to water, but they certainly can’t make them drink. Harry took a tall glass of water, this year, with his floral suits from Gucci and silk pyjama shirts from Daniel W. Fletcher (above).
He’s owning that Saint Laurent/Gucci rocker look that is one part timeless and one part contemporary. It’s a tough ask being the new Mick Jagger, but it needs to come easy especially when it comes to the clothes.
He’s been cleverly distancing himself from the rest of One Direction and using his wardrobe and hair to do this. While not every outfit hits the mark, it’s the experimentation and interest that he gets TheChicGeek recognition for.
Best Fragrance 2015 - DUNHILL ICON
This was an early release in the year. dunhill ICON opens with top notes of Italian bergamot and neroli absolute intertwine with a black pepper, fusing the mid notes of cardamom lavender de Provence.
The dunhill brand was given a refresh by new designer John Ray and this was the first fragrance to complement that. The advertising for this matched the advertising for the main brand. The bottle perfectly reflected dunhill’s art-deco heritage while the fragrance was mainstream yet sophisticated and wearable.
It sits up there with Mont Blanc Legend. A modern classic.
Most Stylish Film 2015 - CRIMSON PEAK
Director Guillermo Del Toro’s spooky, gothic thriller Crimson Peak gets TheChicGeek award because of its attention to detail. While the beginning American section is a little bit Titanic, the rest is a visual feast in high-Victorian gothic.
Costume designer, Kate Hawley, fills the film with late Victorian menswear and while it does take a back-seat to the women’s costumes, it adds to the many layers of this visual feast of incest and gory mass murders.
Best Menswear Collaboration 2015 - MONCLER A
Menswear is suffering from something that I can only describe as ‘Collaboration Fatigue’, right now, so this year wasn’t as perky as it once was in the world of collaborations.
One that caught my eye was Moncler A. A Wes Anderson like exaggeration of logos and colours, Moncler A is tie-up with AMI, founded in 2011 by Parisian menswear designer Alexandre Mattiussi.
Playing with the tricolour palette - red, white and blue - of Moncler, Moncler A was a tasteful and handsome take on Moncler’s outerwear classics.
Special ChicGeek Award 2015 - CILLA BLACK
What’s Cilla Black doing on TheChicGeek Awards, you may ask, but she was instrumental in one of the most exciting periods of British menswear.
Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter and master cutter Edward Sexton teamed up and opened ‘Nutters’ on Savile Row in 1969, and was financially backed by British pop singer Cilla Black and Beatles’ executive Peter Brown.
She introduced the label to her long-standing friends, the Beatles, three of them are wearing Tommy Nutter on the cover of Abbey Road and others within her pop-star circle.
This was and still is the most influential of 1960s tailors and gave rise to the Peacock Revolution and the huge lapelled and flared suits of the 1970s.
Her friendship and financial support of Tommy Nutter left us with one of the most exciting episodes of 20th century menswear. I bet she has left one of the best vintage collections of Tommy Nutter.
If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big surprise...
TheChicGeek has been putting his best festive foot forward and decorating the trees in the forest. In an abstract Christmas jumper, cosy snood and sturdy boots, TheChicGeek knows less is more definitely more when it comes to casual Christmas attire.
Credits - Jumper - Paul Smith, Watch - Swatch, Trousers - New Look, Boots - Aigle, Snood - Johnstons of Elgin, Long-Johns - ABOUT, Tobacco Absolute Body Wash - Molton Brown, Face Masks - Kiehl's, Shampoo & Conditioner - Mojo Hair
Shot by Robin Forster on OlympusPEN
More images below
A cross between a jacket and a shirt, the shacket is that useful menswear transition piece for when you need something more than a sweater, but not a fully blown coat.
A ChicGeek must-have piece of the season, this suede shacket, in a rich blue, has just arrived at New Look. At under £90 and in real suede this is something of a bargain and a sophisticated addition to any man's wardrobe.
TheChicGeek says, "Team it with a roll-neck for a cold day or leave open as a luxury overshirt".
Left & Below New Look - Navy Suede Shacket - £89.99 See TheChicGeek wearing it here
It's a very exciting week at New Look, this week, as they open the first of their menswear only stores.
The first in a whole raft of UK men's destinations open in Portsmouth and Wigan, followed swiftly by Manchester Trafford and Merry Hill.
TheChicGeek wanted to showcase the best of the new men's AW15 New Look collection. Centred around the luxury suede shacket - hitting stores in the next couple of weeks - TheChicGeek's look is a smart casual mix of slim grey jeans, knitted roll neck, leather belt and chocolate coloured suede desert boots.
Perfect for that stylish autumnal walk no matter how moody the weather!
Credits - All items New Look Menswear AW15
Shot on Olympus PEN
Never one to stop himself bagging a bargain, TheChicGeek ventures into the ladies department at New Look for this one.
It's not just Edinburgh that is crazy about the fringe, fringing is a big trend for the forthcoming #AW15 season, particularly in suede (another trend!).
TheChicGeek says "Fringing is a bit too feminine, unless accessorised with a Stetson, on clothes and shoes, but it works well on men's bags, particularly totes. Burberry showed this tiered fringed shopper on their catwalk while New Look has a slightly longer fringed version in rich-looking brown suede at a fraction of the price".
Left - Burberry - Dark Chocolate 'Carryall' - £1895
Below - New Look - £24.99