Happy New Year, Chic Geeks. What a crazy year. Things all went a bit Back To The Future II with our Trumpian dystopia, jaffa cakes got reduced from 12 to 10 in a box - the tragedy! - and online started to really eat into, and effect, traditional retail models.
It feels like we’re in an in-between period, right now, looking to the past, while waiting for the future. Prepare yourself, it’s definitely coming. Here’s a bit of TheChicGeek looking back, rewarding and remembering the past year.
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Best Label of 2017 Balenciaga
You had me at ‘rubber car mat skirt’. Anybody who can make a blue leather Ikea bag, at £1800, desirable, is on to something. Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian fashion designer, has made looking drab and unglamorous an art form. While not a massive fan of Vetements - his own label - Balenciaga still has some of the luxury polish left which makes something desirable. ‘Interesting’ could be the word, but what he does with this label is make you think about what you are looking at. It makes you question what you like and what you don’t, and that has to be interesting, no?
Left - Balenciaga Lookbook SS18 Glamour!
Best New Label of 2017 Martine Rose
Before you scream 'it’s not new' at me, I know, but this year Martine Rose broke through. After 10 years on the margins, and, I’ll be honest, I never really quite got it, everything changed and fashion turned towards her style.
She also started working at Balenciaga, above, and, used their manufacturing, giving her collections the polish it needed. She's making some of the best items of the season and if you’re into fleeces and cycle shorts, you’ll be in 90s heaven.
Left - Martine Rose SS18 - One of the must-have menswear pieces of the season - more about that later
Below - Boohoo has just launched activewear for men
Best High Street of 2017 Boohoo Man
Manchester based Boohoo has expanded hugely over the last few years. It was founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane who previously supplied high street chains such as Primark and New Look.
Boohoo recently announced plans in June 2017 to build a 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2) warehouse, costing £150m over the next three years, and would offer the capacity to deliver annual sales of £3 billion, alongside their existing Burnley warehouse.
One of the most successful British online retailers, Boohoo has massive potential and is doing really well in the US. In fashion terms, it’s fast and cheap, and this is the only way to survive and thrive in this market, aimed at 16-24 year olds.
While they nod to the trends, Boohoo makes clothes these people want to wear and while they aren’t all hits, there’s enough choice to be able to make a selection to reflect your personality or the character you want to be that day. Affordable, yes, disposable, yes, but this market is fickle and you’re only as strong as your last product, but there’s plenty here to get excited about and it’s only going to get bigger.
Best Grooming Product 2017 La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-shine Invisible Fresh Mist SPF50
Anything that protects, is easy to use and you’re not conscious of wearing, is the Holy Grail of grooming products. This spray goes on like a light mist and offers a high SPF protection. Sun damage is the biggest factor in visible ageing and anything that makes it simple and quick to add a layer of protection has to a good thing. You’ll actually enjoy using this and it shouldn’t just be restricted to the summer months.
Left - Get one of these for your holiday and then carry on using it - more here
Best Grooming Brand 2017 Perricone MD
The best grooming brands are those which make you feel like you’re in a knowledgable and safe pair of hands. Dr Perricone’s MD brand launched this 3-part men's CBx range, this year, containing a face wash, post-shave product and a moisturiser.
The 'CBx' part is a reference to Phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis sativa plant - hemp.
Expensive, but it feels like you’re getting more than fancy packaging here and with a new supplements range out this year - 2018 - and twists on his cult products, I think I’m going to carry on being a big fan.
Above - Dr Perricone's first men's range - read more here
Fragrance of the Year 2017 Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous
Picture the scene: Tom Ford walks into Esteé Lauder’s New York headquarters. He’s here to talk about the future of his cosmetics and fragrance business. It gets to new fragrance names. We have a new ‘oud this’, ‘something leather’ that, it’s all very predictable, and then, suddenly, somebody suggests, how about ‘Fucking Fabulous’? The room laughs. We all say it, don't we?!
The execs at Esteé Lauder look at each other, want to carry on laughing and then move over the joke. But, Tom’s feeling cheeky and he wants the name to stick.
No other brand would do it and that’s the power of having your name, and the power that goes with it, on the product. Nobody is going to question Mr Ford. What he says goes and this is why many fashion companies struggle. It’s all bit beige, a bit done by committee, nobody is willing to stick their neck out. Especially in conservative America.
Okay, so I’ve made this story up. But, this will be the fragrance people will remember from 2017. It’s just a shame the actually scent doesn’t live up to the name and is a cult for more than its name. If this had a memorable and individual scent it would be unstoppable. I just love how they have to blank out the f-word on the adverts.
Above - More than a name? Fucking Fabulous by Tom Ford
Most Stylish Programme 2017 The Deuce
If you know me, you’ll know I love a bit of 70s style. Think the pimps from ‘Live & Let Die’, and you’ll get an idea about the wardrobe for The Deuce. James Franco, annoyingly, and unnecessarily, plays twins in this, but Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the show. It’s a mix of mafia, prostitutes, pimps and punters in this grimy yet quite glamourous take on bankrupt 70s New York.
Left - The Deuce's pimps getting pimped
Best Menswear Collaboration 2017 Topman X Stranger Things
The right product, at the right time, driven by a massively popular Netflix series made this a big success for Topman and Topshop. It’s been a tough year for Topman and they need to think clever in order to take on the ASOSs and Boohoos of this digital world. Think ringer tees and washed denim in a collection of early 80s teen-wear.
Left - Taking a trip to Hawkin
Special ChicGeek Award 2017 - Christopher Bailey
Bailey is Burberry and Burberry is Bailey. The giant luxury goods company we see today has been created thanks to his creative design, direction and his attention to detail. This doesn’t mean it can’t change, it just means, in my opinion, it will never be as good.
For many years, Burberry was flying high. It tightened up its licensing and became a must-have for the newly rich Chinese.
It’s hit the buffers recently, so it’s probably time for something new, but some of those Bailey/Burberry collections were some of the best of their time. Leather sleeves on jackets? Yes, Mr Bailey. He made heritage Britishness modern and exportable and gave it a gloss that made you proud that Burberry was British. Read more here
Left - 2018 is the year Burberry waves goodbye to Christopher Bailey, what will he do next?
Turkey of 2017
Jeff Koons for Louis Vuitton was a double take when it first appeared on Twitter. What looked like a collection of bags straight from the back of a Chinese counterfeit operation, was, in fact, a collaboration with one of the world’s most successful artists. This tacky collection hijacked some of the world’s greatest artists and their most famous paintings and then emblazoned their name all over it: as if you were too dumb to recognise them. If you need a gold “DA VINCI” on your Mona Lisa then this collection was for you.
Left - Never actually seen one on the street, maybe rarer than the real thing?!
What are your thoughts? #TheChicGeekAwards
Walking into Topman’s Oxford Circus flagship, a couple of weeks ago, there was a collection of bought-in brands such as Nicce, Le Coq Sportif and Champion, in an area on the first floor. All familiar, all offering the current taste for branded clothing.
Left - Vision Streetwear - Scarf £30
There was a large section for a brand I hadn’t heard of called “Vision”. All Balenciaga-type logo tops and branded football scarves, the product was good and definitely where we are right now and what guys want to buy.
I always like retailers to surprise me and give me things I hadn’t heard of before. I just thought it was a street/sportswear brand that was yet to jump onto my radar.
I went to the Topman SS18 press day, the following week, and there was a special area for “Vision” and, then, the penny dropped: this must be an in-house brand.
It’s clever. It allows brands to do something different, have a clean creative sheet and for it to be detached from the parent brand. It can also, unlike the main brand, be disposed of the minute it starts to wobble. Easy come, easy go.
People are much more open to fresh brands and this is the future for high-street retail. Secretive in-house brands, that look like they’ve been created by a young, dynamic group of creatives rather than be tainted by the connotations of the parent brand. TK Maxx have been doing it for years.
And this takes me to HIIT. A new sportswear focussed brand under Burton’s umbrella. I’m much more likely to get excited about HIIT - it looks really good BTW - than “Burton Sportswear” for example. It also allows the people who work there to push it and be very current without a buyer in the background wailing “It’s not very Burton, is it?”.
Right - HIIT Available at Burton in January 2018
It also allows it to be stocked by third parties such as Zalando and ASOS. It stands on its own right and when its life cycle is over it can be shelved and a replacement or alternative waiting in the wings.
I’m calling these “Russian Doll Brands”: brands within brands offering a new niche and more fashion forward or specialised clothing.
What these do is represent the shortening lives of brand and how they can easily come and go and also, it’s a step away from “collaborations” which many consumers and brands have grown tired of.
Correction - Vision is owned by Authentic Brands Group, a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, which owns a global portfolio of lifestyle, sports, and celebrity and entertainment brands. It is exclusive to Topman in the UK and US, but not in Japan.
If you thought Borg was a 1970s tennis player. you’d be correct, but, it’s also this season’s hottest material. Normcore, dad-chic, basic-bitch, the sources of reference are numerable, but it’s all about the fleeciest of fleeces, this season.
Borg is a type of synthetic plush pile imitation fur fabric commonly used for linings, according to Wikipedia, and the coolest of London designers - Martine Rose, Cottweiler - have been lapping it up.
You can find it at all price points, just look for exaggerated fleeces in dull colours. You could even ask your dad for his old one - very Countryfile. You don’t want to stand out, you want to blend in. Bring on the boring Borg!
Left - Martine Rose SS18
Left - ASOS - Oversized Hoodie In Borg - £30
Left - Topman - Red Check Borg Jacket - £50
Left - Uniqlo - Men Fleece Long Sleeve Full-Zip Jacket - £19.90
Left - River Island - Navy Fleece Hoodie - £32
Left - Napa by Martine Rose - Off-White Tyson Fleece - £275 from brownsfashion.com
Left - Cottweiler - Contrast-Panel Fleece Sweatshirt - £252 from matchesfashion.com
Left - CMMN SWDN - Fleece Track Jacket - £215 from MRPORTER.COM
Left - Albam - Fleece Jacket - £150
Left - Fila Vintage - Retro Teddy Bear Fleece Jacket - £64.99
Left - Tommy Hilfiger - Block Stripe Fleece Jacket - £240
A Halloween top you can wear all year around, Topman has teamed up with Netflix to produce a special collection to celebrate the launch of Stranger Things 2. The popular American show, set in 1983, based in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, is returning for a second even stranger series.
Even if you’ve never seen it, this ringer T-shirt features a cute design that encapsulates the best of being young in the 70s and 80s, all at a bargain price of 20 quid and definitely beats going as a kidnapped Kardashian.
Left & Below - Topman X Stranger Things Tee - £20
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 bum bag or fanny pack, call it what you will, has been on the cusp of style acceptance recently. Teetering on the brink, it finally came thru this season. YAS! Now, it feels right. It could be all the 90s sportswear or its practicality, but from designer to high-street to online we’re seeing the renaissance of this hands free solution.
Left - Jared Leto Guccifying his bum bag
It's perfect for festivals or when you want some extra security. You can wear it two ways: the classic around the waist or, like the kids, across the body.
Left - Louis Vuitton - Géronimos - £775
Below - Streetstyle cross body inspiration
Left - Weekday - Nylon Bumbag - £20 from ASOS
Left - Herschel - Khaki Orange Cross Body Bag - £45 from Topman
Far Left - Eastpak - Springer Bonded Blue - £22
Left - Jack Russell - £305
Below - Supreme X Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton AW17
If Instagram was to make a TV channel - which no doubt is probably on the expansion cards sometime in the future - it would look like Love Island: an endless stream of scantily clad hot people looking toned and buff in a semi-exotic holiday location.
It’s ticking all those visual social media boxes and the people don't really need to do or say anything. Which probably suits.
Love Island doesn't pretend to have an ‘real people’ like other reality shows, and therefore sticks to a young and more ‘filtered’ age group. It’s all the Vs: vain, vacuous and very addictive.
Left - One for the villa?! ASOS TALL Muscle Raglan T-Shirt - £14
You can chuck in shows such as Ex On The Beach and Ibiza Weekender too and you, basically, have a moving Instagram feed. These people are ‘mega stars’ on social media promoting protein powders and long-line, muscle-fit tees in the gaps between the yo-yoing opportunity of featuring in various forms of reality TV shows.
We’ve grown so used to swiping these types of pics that we can now deal with nightly, hourly viewings of people pretending to find L.O.V.E. when, in fact, the only thing the majority of people love is themselves and this attention we give only encourages it. #Brandme
What these shows show is the growing niche of Instagram and the things the audience on there wants to see. The power and endless fascination of looking at tanned, toned bodies in hotter climes pleases the braindead. It’s the visual equivalent of having a sun-bed.
And they’re influence cannot be underestimated within its targeted group. Move over Liz Hurley, as there have been reports of an explosion of sales of skinny white jeans thanks to the boys in the Love Island house. H&M, Topman and ASOS are all ‘reporting healthy sales’, well, according to The Daily Mail anyway.
And if you own a swim short brand, it's usually the only thing they're wearing, you want it on these guys.
It’s #BasicBitch TV and these are active consumers open to be influenced. This is the ‘skinny’ generation where too tight is not fitted enough. This is TV as fast and throwaway as the fashion.
It all looks so perfect and effortless, when in fact they’ve probably been working hard and eating ‘clean’ for months before the show. You can't 'cane it' like they do on Geordie Shore and maintain a six-pack. It increases the pressure, especially on the targeted young audience, to look like this and the stressful, bullying and competitive environment that crosses over to dating apps and their own social media.
I think Love Island is the peak of guys looking like this, in fashion terms anyway. The body beautiful isn't going anywhere, but the tide has turned on tight and I think we’ll look back in a few years and wonder what on earth were they wearing. Read more Goodbye Fitted/Skinny here
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
Put yellow and red together and you don't get orange, but Baywatch. This colour combo always says ‘Lifeguard’, even though on the new film, strangely, they’re using red and blue. Must be a copyright issue!
Anyway, make like Zac and Dwayne down on the beach and go for T-shirts and swim shorts in primary red and yellow. Take the hassle out of Hasselhoff and keep it simple. A strong yellow T-Shirt has always been a difficult one to blend into the wardrobe, but add a red swim short and you get a perfect combo.
Left - An oldie, but a goodie - Original Baywatch
Even if the film’s a load of rubbish, which it probably will be, you can’t get away from the attraction of the sea and surf. Forever and always, I'm always here!
Below - St. Moriz, the no.1 volume self tan brand in the UK, is making a big splash this summer by partnering with the new Baywatch movie which hit screens from 29th May
Left - Orlebar Brown - OB-V - Sunshine Tailored-Fit V-Neck T-Shirt - £65, BULLDOG - Raspberry Mid-Length Swim Shorts - £145
Left - Whistles - Crumple Everyday T-Shirt - £35
Below - Topman - Red Embroidery Swim Shorts - £16
Left - Orlebar Brown SS17
Left - ASOS - Longline Knitted T-Shirt With Curved Hem In Yellow - £18
Below - Thom Browne - Slim-Fit Short-Length Stripe-Trimmed Swim Shorts - £290 from MRPORTER
Below - Topman - Mustard Reality Print T-Shirt - £15
Left - River Island - Yellow Rolled Sleeve Pocket T-Shirt - £8
Left - Patagonia - Nine Trails Jersey T-Shirt - £35 from MRPORTER
Below - Speedo - Solid Leisure 16” Swim Shorts - £15]