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.
Who said toothpaste had to be boring? The two French founders of LEBON, Stephanie, an art historian and professional photographer and her husband Richard, a pharmacist MD and dermatologist - cosmetics certified, are both sea and nature lovers.
They selected ethical and natural ingredients combined with delicious and exclusive perfume notes from Grasse to produce their range of toothpaste. They all contain Certified Organic aloe vera and green tea to naturally help protect gums and prevent tooth decay. LEBON toothpastes are vegan and naturally sweetened with stevia rebaudiana. They also have a non-ending 'free of' list: cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfates, fluoride and titanium dioxide
TheChicGeek says, “I’ve never seen a more glamourous toothpaste than this. The glitzy packaging and shiny tube gives you that Caribbean holiday feel, especially the pineapple one that I tried. Toothpastes, as grooming products, are becoming quite a thing: I love Buly and their interesting flavours and Beverly Hills Formula Black Pearl Toothpaste is a firm favourite.
There are 6 LEBON flavours in total. I opted for the pineapple mixed with rooibos and mint, so it saved me rinsing my mouth out with Malibu every morning - jokes.
I didn’t realise it was organic until I looked on the website, as it doesn’t scream it on the packaging, and I’ve never really thought about organic toothpaste before. It turns out the mouth is highly porous and any chemicals in it can quickly become absorbed by the body so probably best to avoid any nasties. It is missing fluoride, though, so I would ask your dentist whether this is affecting your teeth the next time you see them.
The fragrance is quite synthetic as you bring it towards your nose, but the taste is pleasant. This is toothpaste for the Instagram age and it's easy to be seduced by the packaging. While, relatively, pricey, it’ll transport your twice-daily, 2 minutes of brushing to a totally tropical island every time.”
Left - LEBON Organic Toothpaste - £17.99
Good things coming to those who wait goes against everything modern retail has taught us. To test this theory, Patria is a new website crowdfunding made in the UK products in aid of Armed Forces Charities. All employees of Patria are veterans and 10% of profits go to the brand’s chosen charities which include The Royal Navy Charity, The Soldiers Charity and the RAFBF.
"Patria is a uniquely British company. We were founded by veterans, employ only veterans and 10% of our profits go to the main armed forces charities. All of our luxury pieces are 100% British made. We wanted a name that ties this together. Patria is derived from the Latin 'Pro Patria' or 'for one's country'," says Founder, Richard Thackray.
Left - Patria’s Cordwainer or shoemaker has been hand-making the finest footwear in Northamptonshire for over 130 years - £275 (Takes 12 weeks)
Launching on Remembrance Day, Patria hopes to deliver the best price in the market and have zero waste. Patria only makes onshore in Great Britain using the best materials and works with leading UK artisanal manufactures - leading to less impact on the environment and a better value product.
Patria prides itself in being a non-seasonal brand. Not about trend led pieces, but staple quality and timeless garments that are built to last. The brand even offers mending services to their customers.
Right - Patria ‘Jack’ Sweatshirt - £120
Oxford Street is the main artery linking west and central London. Everything goes through it: either sucked or pushed out the other side. You can spend hours on the bus thinking you’re on a magical mystery tour rather than a straight road bookended by two Primarks.
Well, “radical” plans are afoot, there are plans to pedestrian Oxford Street from December 2018. Admittedly, only half of it, at first, but this is going to be the retail equivalent of the smoking ban. You think it’s never going to happen, then, all of a sudden, it’s happening and everybody is on board and it’s the best thing that ever happened. The End!
Left - The "Posh" end gets the first pedestrianisation treatment in December 2018
No doubt this has been speeded up by the ridiculously poor air quality along Oxford Street and the need to separate people and vehicles due to terrorism, but this is really exciting, nonetheless.
The section of Europe’s busiest shopping street between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street - that’s the corner of Marble Arch M&S & Selfridges - would be the first to become "predominantly traffic-free". However, north and south routes across Oxford Street will be retained after businesses and locals raised concerns about gridlock on nearby side-streets.
The plans would also see cyclists being forced to dismount on the pedestrianised stretch. The plans are designed to address concerns about rising numbers of traffic collisions, pollution and overcrowding. The proposals for the traffic-free Western section include new seating areas and raising the existing street to pavement level to make it more accessible. An 800 metre-long work of public art, acting as a centrepiece along the entire length of the pedestrianised section, could be commissioned. There will also be new public spaces, cycle lanes, improved pedestrian crossings, wider pavements and extra taxi ranks across the wider West End.
The first pedestrianised section will coincide with the launch of Elizabeth line services - and increased visitor numbers - through central London in December 2018.
Let’s be honest, the current Oxford Street isn’t a place you hang about in. You get in and get out. It’s not somewhere you can wax lyrical to tourists about either as it's slightly embarrassing and a busy mess. These plans can transform it from not only the busiest but the most attractive streets in the world. They need to have a contemporary concept and a "vision" - maybe ask Thomas Heatherwick? Or a competition to showcase the best of British architecture and design? - and really think differently rather than a simple repaving and adding extra benches. Let’s make this the centre of British fashion and style. Let’s celebrate our leadership in these areas. Fashion week outside Selfridges? Shopable shows on the retailers' doorsteps? The greenest street in the world? Cafés all along? Street theatres? Christmas markets? A street that comes alive after the shops close? This has so much potential and could be just over a year away. Exciting times.
When wholesaling multiple brands you’re as strong as the market. You can’t sell what isn’t available. Obvs. Often there is a demand from your customers with nobody fulfilling the supply.
I’ve spoken to buyers at large designer websites, in the past, who have said that many brands have forgotten about the basics and instead only offer key, statement pieces of the season. Tiger, anybody?!
Left - RAEY - AW17
They’ve picked up lesser known brands to fill these gaps - sometimes a guy just wants a plain white shirt without a snake on it - but, ultimately, they know what they need and often the only way to find it is to create your own “house” label.
Matchesfashion.com launched “Raey” a few years ago and, Mr Porter is launching a “Mr P” own label, today. Own labels used to be looked down upon as the lower/entry end of the retailer’s offering, but, now, they are offering something you can’t get from the other brands or give the retailers some consistency and reliability, whether that be black trousers, simple grey v-necks, or something more directional like Sta-press denim.
There’s obviously a demand. Since its inception, in 2015, Raey, matchesfashion.com's in-house brand, has seen 85% growth year-on-year with strong growth across knits and jersey, in particular. A standalone store opened in April 2017 in Notting Hill, in a former franchise store owned by matchesfashion.com.
According to the blurb, the creation of MR PORTER’s “MR P.” brand has been informed by seven years' of customer insight - more than 600,000 shoppers to date - and the invaluable feedback and shopping patterns they’ve observed since launching in February 2011.
The MR P. launch collection has 53 items across ready-to-wear, including 24 “Essential" styles, available year-round, and 29 seasonal styles within the debut capsule. The majority of the collection is made in Italy, with select items made in Portugal, and the denim in Japan. Pricing ranges from £55 for the core T-shirts, through to £875 for the capsule’s leather aviator jacket.
Right - MR P. - the new own label by MRPORTER
The chosen muse for this launch capsule is 20th-century British painter and portraitist Lucian Freud, during his prime in 1950s London.
“At MR PORTER, we are – first and foremost – product people. This passion for quality, uniqueness, style and versatility has been the backbone to developing our business for the past seven years. The launch of MR P. has therefore been quite organic for us; we felt there was a space in our mix of 400-plus brands for something that could present a unique take on wardrobe classics and also present regular capsules of more trend- and seasonal-driven pieces throughout the year. We like to think we have an unparalleled view of the male wardrobe, garnering the combined knowledge of our buyers and editors, and MR P. is ultimately the result of that: smart details, easy pieces and enduring style.” says Toby Bateman, Managing Director, MR PORTER.
The second limited-edition MR P. capsule will launch in February, followed by a third in April. MR P. will introduce shoes and accessories for AW18.
This is a case of these retailers trying to fill the gaps and offer pieces that are consistently available. As these businesses get bigger and bigger then can afford to offer more and also a point of difference that makes them a destination rather than just another retail site selling the same designers.
It’s also important to note that wholesale is so difficult, now, that many brands are moving away from it or closing altogether. Smaller brands can’t afford to tie all their money up in stock, which they won’t get money from until the end of the season or, could, at worst, be sent back to them. This cashflow problem is what has killed off many small brands and also deters many from the wholesale model.
Plus, many people are happy with affordable basics so look to designers for something different or recognisable which has driven designers to only offer these styles. Matchesfashion.com and MRPORTER are so big now they can offer these own-label collections. What they have to remember is, these “Essentials” are the workhorses of a man’s wardrobe and as such need to be good quality in order to satisfy the customer.
Left - Unbranded "Essentials" mixed with a few capsule pieces is part of the new MR P. ethos
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
Danielle Grantham, Menswear Buyer, Harvey Nichols
“This season, we’ve introduced New York label Saturdays NYC to our casualwear offer. Look to this brand for effortlessly cool lifestyle pieces to upgrade your weekend wardrobe. A parka is always an essential autumn/winter investment and this olive cotton one from the brand is no exception.”
Left - Saturdays NYC – Olive Cotton Parka - £530
“Logomania isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Buy into this trend with Parisian cool brand A.P.C that is renowned for its simple yet stylish staples. Paying homage to the brand’s first collection; this white flocked T-shirt is part of the Hiver 87 capsule collection celebrating the brand’s 30th anniversary and will undoubtedly be a future classic.”
Left - A.P.C – White Flocked Cotton T-shirt - £80
“Manchester based brand Private White VC nails luxury casualwear. All its collections are sourced and handmade in England, creating contemporary classics designed to last for years to come. This season, their rich ochre corduroy shirt ticks two key autumn/winter trends in one.”
Left - Private White VC - Orange Corduroy Shirt - £260
“Elevating our casualwear offer is Officine Generale, champions of classic wardrobe staples, beautifully designed and made out of the finest fabrics, the brand offers core pieces to be worn in everyday life. This brushed blush pink jumper can be worn with tailored pieces or dressed down with jeans and trainers.”
Left - Officine Generale - Shetland Pink Wool Jumper - £235
“Danish label Norse Projects is an expert in pared back functional basics for the modern wardrobe spanning across RTW and accessories. This merino wool beanie is undoubtedly an essential purchase for the winter months, it’s so soft that you’ll never want to take it off.”
Left - Norse Projects - Navy Merino Wool Beanie - £50
Based on a 50 acre estate called “Keyneston Mill" in Dorset, Parterre - translated as “on the ground” - is a new and experimental British perfume brand aiming to grow many of the ingredients themselves. Two thousand plant varieties to be precise.
Founded by husband and wife, David and Julia Bridger, their backgrounds are farming and graphic design, respectively, Parterre launches with three fragrances, all limited in number and stocked at Fortnum & Mason.
Left - Not the Crystal Maze - Keyneston Mill, Dorset
TheChicGeek says, “Who knew you could grow vetiver in the UK? I always thought it was a tropical grass found in places like Haiti. Soon to be open to the public, Keyneston Mill looks set to be a destination in itself and not just for perfume fans. I can see a Monty Don special coming on!
No budget has been spared here with Sir Elton John’s ex-gardener Stuart Neilson and former RHS botanist Nanette Wraith being brought on board. Design plays an important part in the core of the garden with Renaissance Italy and Kandinsky referenced while the rest of the acreage is put to growing in volume.
Based on botanicals, obvs, the three fragrances, produced in collaboration with leading perfumer, Jacques Chabert, are “A Tribute To Edith”, geranium and rose, “Run Of The River”, bergamot mint and orange flower, and, the most masculine, “Root Of All Goodness”, bergamot, vetiver and leather.
I admire Parterre because they will be at the whim of the unpredictable British weather and, as such, they’re still trying to work out what works and what gives a decent standard of product. They’re also producing the oils themselves using steam distillation.
Right - Parterre - "Root Of All Goodness" - 50ml/100ml - £95/£160
Like the majority of gardens, things will get better with age. Everything seems quite new and experimental, and while the French will probably scoff and turn up their noses, literally and metaphorically, just remember they did that once to English sparkling wine and look how far that has come.
It would be nice to see which of the ingredients are homegrown - maybe a Union flag next to them? - I do think they’re missing a trick not doing at least one fragrance with 100% British grown ingredients, but I’m sure, in time, that will come. Also, they should use a British perfumer or try doing it in-house.
This plugs into the British obsession with plants and gardening and being able to visit and see the place will only add to the attraction. Of the three fragrances, the most masculine is the “Root Of All Goodness”, but I was drawn to the rose one. Men can wear pink and smell of roses, these days. I like the branding, it is fairly feminine, but the hand calligraphy numbering on the bottles is a nice touch. I’d just love to know what they could do with the stinging nettles, bindweed and Japanese knotweed in my garden!”
News just in - Burberry president and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, who has been with the Burberry brand for 17 years, will stand down from its board in March 2018 and work with CEO Marco Gobbetti and team on a transition period until December 2018.
When Burberry’s renaissance began in the late 1990s, it was the perfect time to turn around a recognisable British name, dust it off and grow it into the new desire for luxury and branded products. We’d witnessed it at Gucci, under Tom Ford, and other languishing brands were thirsty for the same.
Burberry initially started with the Italian designer, Robert Menchetti. That didn’t last long and was soon replaced by an unknown designer, Christopher Bailey.
Left - Christopher Bailey who turned Burberry into the billion dollar business it is today
Initially, and this was pre-Google, so you can forgive me, I thought it was the same Chris Bailey who had started Jigsaw Menswear and the soon-to-be defunct Uth. A great designer and businessman, I thought it was a perfect fit.
I quickly realised they were different people and I bought a shirt from that first 2001/02 collection. Admittedly, it was in the Harrods sale and it was very expensive, if I remember, and I still have it. It was in a stretch, striped fabric, one I hadn’t seen before, with metal Burberry branded buttons and epaulettes. There was something beautiful yet innovative which became the signature of the new Burberry.
I quickly became fan. Every collection had a strong theme and the pieces were well designed and had that all important desire factor. The brand got bigger, the shows became fancier and major events with Christopher Bailey overseeing every detail, from store fits to the music to the Testino campaigns.
Those Bill & Ben hats, the paisley collection and then there was the coats with the leather arms which are still yet to disappear off the British high-street.
Bailey is one of the greatest Creative Directors of our time. He’s up there with Tom Ford for a progressive and consistent luxury handwriting. Burberry’s growth and success is down to his balance of updating Britishness while respecting the past and knowing exactly what consumers want now.
While the average Burberry customer probably doesn’t know or care who Christopher Bailey is, for us fashion folk, we like to see the whites of the eyes of those designing and leading the brands we look at.
Seventeen years in fashion is a lifetime, especially today, and while “See Now, Buy Now” pushed him into a creative cul-de-sac, Bailey produced some great clothes and images.
I think he’ll probably take a break. Burberry has made him a very rich man. But, it is exciting what this talented man decides to do next. Perhaps he’ll join Angela Ahrendts at Apple, maybe a bigger fashion job such as Louis Vuitton, his own label or maybe something really radical like Amazon. Who knows?
See more Burberry related comment pieces:
Time to Ditch “See Now, Buy Now” here
Choose Your Rip-Off here
As American as apple pie and a lack of gun control, the cowboy shirt is one of the most romantic and masculine of menswear items. This beauty from Ralph Lauren's Double RL label popped off their US website and is constructed from a medium-weight Japanese wool blend fabric with a Concho button at the neck. Chain-stitched embroidery uses ombré threads in a vintage Western–inspired spur motif created exclusively for Double RL.
This is the kind of shirt you'll have forever and keep returning to time and time again.
Left & Below - RRL - Stretch Wool Western Shirt - $495