Happy New Year, Chic Geeks. What a year. Fashion years are a bit like dog years, so much happens and so much is forgotten about, while other things, unpredictably, have such an impact and filter out into the mainstream. Here's what I can remember from 2016. Tweet me your thoughts on #TheChicGeekAwards
Best Label of 2016 - Loewe
There weren’t many labels to rival Gucci this year, and while I (still) love it, I wanted to recognise something else. J W Anderson creates ‘fashion’ which is becoming harder and harder to find these days. Being the head of the Spanish label, Loewe, pronounced Loo-wavay, it has allowed his ideas to be polished with their skills in leather goods and skins.
He has created a clean high-fashion label out of Loewe, it’s almost like a male Celine, but with touches of humour and seasonal difference which gives it life without being too gimmicky and themed. If only we could afford it. He’s done such a good job here it wouldn’t be a surprise if he got the top job at Louis Vuitton, eventually.
Best New Label of 2016 - Gosha Rubchinskiy
‘Designing’ since 2008, this Russian designer is part of the non-fashion, sportswear trend that infiltrated the po-faced - read East London - side of fashion, this year. While he didn’t create anything new, he subverted like a professional and hit the sweet spot when it came to pricing the designer market. There’s a real market for affordable designer clothes and the Comme backed Gosha is cleaning up with his sweatshirts and skater style pieces. We’re spending more time in the gym and this is being reflected in our clothes and this is where it meets high-fashion with a side order of 80s charity shop.
Best High Street of 2016 - ASOS
With annual sales now standing at £1.4bn, ASOS is the ‘high-street’ giant of the internet. It’s obviously doing something right and it wins TheChicGeek Award for best high-street for its pure experimentation and ridiculousness. From Yeezy inspired Mad Max looking outfits to Gucci pussy-bow shirts, ASOS has the depth of choice at a price everybody can afford.
Where once the high-street copied designers, now, due to the sheer volume of product needed, they come up with their own ideas and run with it. Just don’t buy the ‘Super Skinny Fit’. Sequinned trousers, anybody?
Best Grooming Product 2016 - Boldking Razor
The razor market is dominated by the big players who out discount each other to monopolise the supermarket and pharmacy. They do innovate, but slowly, so it was nice to hear of a small player thinking differently.
The big difference here is the blades are further apart to prevent clogging, which, if you have thick, coarse hair, will happen a lot. Plus the razor comes with a suction cup to put on your mirror or sink, out of the way. Simply yet effective.
The branding is really good. Gone are the muscles and steamed up mirrors: replaced by cute graphics and chatty instructions. This feels modern, it feels like there’s no pressure to be a certain type of man, it’s simply about shaving and doing a good job. Time to start shaving again. Hello, Boldking. More here
Best Grooming Brand 2016 - Buly
Parisian brand, Buly, takes you back to a fantasy time of apothecaries and Renaissance snake oil salesmen where there’s a tortoiseshell comb for every part of your body. Where things have more meaning than is obvious, at first, and time-honoured traditions are bottled and squeezed into metal tubes and glass jars. This brand is all about the packaging which is always a big thing when it comes to grooming and beauty products.
I’ve tried the toothpaste - orange, clove and ginger - and the shaving cream - read more here
They add a difference and excitement to the grooming routine and the products work. They’re not cheap, but they’re special and feel like a historical treat.
Fragrance of the Year 2016 - Dunhill Icon Absolute
2016 was a bit of a disappointment from mainstream fragrance brands. The power of the fashion brand has waned and their offerings don’t feel as special or as premium as they once did. People are moving towards niche and specialised fragrance houses which offer something of quality, but at a higher price, usually.
Fashion brands and their licensees are too quick to release and they don’t commit to the fragrances they produce and thus fall by the wayside very quickly. I wanted to choose something more mainstream. Technically, this came out in 2015, but I only discovered it, this year. Even though Dunhill Icon won TheChicGeek Award last year, this Absolute version is completely different in a good way.
The top notes are bergamot and black pepper, middle notes are saffron, black rose and jasmine and base notes are agarwood (oud), tobacco leaf and leather. It smells really exotic and rich and warm and keeps you coming back for more. It doesn’t really last, but that’s okay, it’s not ridiculously expensive. I’ve smelt this on a few people over the year and it’s instantly recognisable. This really is rather good if you like something rich and intoxicating.
Most Stylish Programme 2016 - Deutschland ‘83
Forget the shoulder pads and power dressing, Deutschland ’83, was a lesson in Eastern European sportswear and military dressing. It was the great pop soundtrack of 80s classics that got us channelling our East Berlin realness and Vetements irony that made us want to stay firmly behind the wall.
Best Menswear Collaboration 2016 - Craig Green X Bjorn Borg
Affordability seems to be the word of 2016. Collaborations needs to tap a new market or appeal to those priced out. That’s why H&M always seem to do so well. Craig Green teamed up with Bjorn Borg this year to produce a collection that didn’t meet in the middle, it just gave the great unwashed Craig Green at a price they could afford. His samurai favourites were here in a capsule collection of unisex pieces. Doubles your market, natch!
Special ChicGeek Award 2016 - Dover Street Market
While the world tipped towards online, and the high-street continued to try to pile it high and sell it cheap, Dover Street Market moved.
It became what it should have always been. It got a proper retail space and had a flow and order to it. It’s dedication to designers and their visions will make Dover Street Market the hardcore venue and destination for devotees of the catwalk and its silliness. This is serious fashion for those who can’t see the humour in it all, but mock what you will, it’s nice that a Dover Street Market as good as this one exists in London.
Most Stylish Man of 2016 - Jared Leto
If you’re going to be a ‘style icon’ you need to take risks. We can all do a Thom Sweeney three piece suit with a horseshoe waistcoat and look the part, but it’s those little touches and breaking-out-of-the-mould outfits that gets TheChicGeek nod.
I’ve never been a fan of Jared Leto, not really sure why, but since he became Alessandro Michele’s dress-up doll, he’s really committed, with both GG logoed feet, to the Gucci renaissance. Some have been hits, other misses, but it’s definitely not safe and hats off to him.
Turkey of 2016
We got a lesson in how not to launch a website this year with Condé Nast’s style.com. The much delayed and anticipated site was supposed to use their expertise and kudos in the luxury market to rival Net-a-Porter and matchesfashion.com by using the power of their magazine brands and offering a new take on curated commerce. What we got was a quiet launch of something that didn’t have much content, was a shopping portal and didn’t offer anything new in a saturated luxury market. It will be interesting to see whether they further commit to this or quietly shelve it and put it down to experience. Read more here
What are your thoughts? #TheChicGeekAwards
Since its inception, e-commerce has been a difficult nut to crack. When it was growing fast and taking market share, from offline, it was easy to justify spending vast sums laying the foundations for something that you will reap the benefit of later on.
Today, the luxury market is contracting, so trying to grow, whether offline or online, is particular hard, at this moment in time, especially when you're not in control of the choice of products.
Luxury fashion was slow to get fully behind e-commerce and only now are the brands giving it the attention and respect it deserves. The reasons for the change being companies like Net-a-porter and matchesfashion.com having pioneered this area and shown the riches to be made and also being able to communicate with a future consumer and grow a direct database.
Publishing house, Condé Nast, has just launched its e-commerce offering in the form of style.com This has been coming for the past couple of years and has been put back and put back and then, it surprised me, two weeks ago, by appearing on my Twitter timeline. A reported £75 million has been spent - The Times - and with over 100 employees - The FT - this is a big commitment.
There’s always room for something different/good or both, in any form of retail and the idea to combine trusted editorial with shopping is a good one, especially in a tastemaker environment like this. It makes sense.
Unfortunately, the launch site looks nothing different from a luxury site from 10 years ago. The choice is limited and being run on affiliates - which means they earn a commission on each sale - all the items are distributed from various sellers at different costs in different locations. It’s going to be a nightmare for Condé Nast to deal with returns. They want the money, but don’t want to get their hands dirty. Don't we all?!
The biggest surprise is, where is all the editorial? People have tried shoppable magazines before, they don’t work. That’s fine. But, use the budget and teams of Vogue and GQ and give me the best of the season’s images and shoots and if there’s only one shoppable product, then so be it. It’s the magic that people buy into. It’s the world that these magazines live in.
It feels as though the editors aren’t playing ball and have washed their hands of it. It probably doesn't help that style.com is based in Camden and the magazines are over in Hanover Square.
After the delayed launch, the launch now feels rushed. I think they would have been better off keeping style.com as it was - runway reports and party pictures - to keep the traffic up and instead, now, they have to cannibalise digital advertising, which is hard to generate money from at the best of times, in order to push shoppers over to the site from the magazines' individual websites.
It launched with free shipping on orders over £350, very generous! Now, it’s free shipping and returns on all orders. Clearly taking some feedback. (Mr Porter had the same issue when it launched). It has only launched in the UK, atm, and there is nothing on there you can’t get anywhere else. It's interesting too that Condé Nast invested in FarFetch.com, another high-fashion portal, and is, now, technically a competitor. Maybe the two will merge?
I think style.com is too little, too late. They’ll spend the next 18 months finding out that this business model is particularly hard to make money from, while blowing millions and millions of pounds. They'll be lucky is they ever make a profit. This could be the Ocado of fashion! In hindsight, it would have been better to have had a chat with Natalie Massenet about 15 years ago.