I popped into Selfridges last week to have a look at their new eyewear department - more of that later - and thought I’d have a look at the new deliveries on the menswear floor. This is the best time of year: all the collections are box fresh, straight out of the cellophane and you get a visual reminder of all the great things you saw from the shows in January. It’s like being a stylish kid in a sweet shop.
I was drawn to the Dries van Noten collection. Full of all the swirling and beautiful marbling which was central to the collection - see more in TheChicGeek AW18 Trends here - It was reminded of a beautiful collection of silk shirts and printed coats that had caught my eye at the beginning of the year.
The new Dries collection is fine. The marbling and swirls put his artistic touch on some of the best distinctive menswear around. This is what you buy him for. The standout was this satin and unstructured evening jacket with a Big Brother like eye on the back. It's kind of Hugh Hefner in his hippie days and is perfect for the current relaxed formal type of dressing. Forget Big Brother, TheChicGeek is watching you!
Left & Below - Dries van Noten - Swirl-Print Satin Wrap Shirt - £630.36 from Barneys New York
ITV’s hit show ‘Love Island’ didn’t just dominate people’s evening viewing, this summer, it also inspired guys to get grooming. Recent data from Kantar Worldpanel showed a spike in grooming sales during the 12 weeks to 12th August 2018. The reality show is credited with helping to drive a 16% sales surge in men’s skincare products.
“Love Island not only tugged on shoppers’ heartstrings but also their purse strings,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, which produced the report.
Left - Love Island 2018 cause a spike in male grooming sales
An incredible 3.6 million tuned into to watch Dani and Jack win the show, breaking viewing records at ITV2. The scantily clad couples, supposedly all looking for love, clearly hit the right spot when inspiring guys to make the best of themselves.
Superdrug – which has sponsored the last three series of Love Island – launched a campaign promoting the products “the Love Island boys will be using all summer”. These included avocado and manuka honey conditioner, beard oil, volcanic cleansing wash and charcoal toothpaste to get that all important Love Island smile.
Lee Kynaston, Grooming Expert, Grooming Guru, says, “Those Love Island lotharios are a televisual reminder to all men that they need to raise their grooming game. The programme, with its identikit contestant selection, is saying 'this is what men are meant to look like in 2018' and the fact that the producers seem to pick guys that conform to a stereotype - hairless, muscular, tanned, perfectly-groomed eyebrows, blindingly white teeth - reinforces the image. I mean, where are the guys with hairy chests? It reinforces the idea that men shouldn't have a scrap of body hair. Love Island is manscaping's biggest cheerleader. Everyone of them is (forgive me for saying this) 'Instagram Ready’.”
Love Island adds that competitive element to how men look. Are you good looking enough? It clearly hit the marketing sweet spot.
“Well, the premise of the show is about getting the girl (or the boy if you're a female contestant) so it automatically associates a certain physical look with romantic - and sexual - success. Quiet sad really because we all know that outside of the Love Island/Instagram bubble that that's not reality.” says Kynaston.
Since the start of the new Love Island series, the number of men having eyebrow threading treatments at Superdrug have increased by 43% compared to last year.
Less than two years ago, only one in 50 appointments at Superdrug’s ‘Brow Bars’ were for male customers - today, men make up almost ten per cent of all appointments at the retailer who has 293 Brow & Lash Bars in its stores across the UK.
According to the brow specialists in Superdrug it appears younger men are opting for perfectly shaped dyed brows whereas the 40 plus generation are opting for a ‘tidy up’.
Simon Comins, Superdrug Commercial Director, says, “Programmes such as Love Island always influence customers to try out a new look and this year we’ve already seen males customers rush in to stores to get their guy-brows shaped and tidied.
“There has been a huge shift in male grooming over the past few years with a significant increase in customers looking for male grooming products with an 11 per cent increase in sales. But, male grooming has changed now it’s as likely to mean a concealer and lipgloss as shaving products.”
The UK’s men’s grooming market is said to be worth £2 billion a year and this is continuing to grow as men start to use more products and the grooming categories increase. Even Chanel is launching a men’s line called ‘Boy de Chanel’. It will first launch in South Korea, the biggest men’s grooming market in the world, with three "essential” products: a tinted foundation, coming in four colours, a matte moisturising lip balm, and four shades of eyebrow pencil.
So, what are men buying into?
According to Mintel, “Popular reality TV shows including Love Island and TOWIE have helped to popularise a preference for hair-free bodies amongst younger men, underscoring a growing demand for men’s hair removal products.”
All six men who originally entered the Love Island villa did so with hairless chests and all but one sported some form of facial hair or designer stubble.
Josephine O’Brien, analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Male contestants were even shown lathering hair removal cream on their bodies in an open-air shower and the hairless chests of the islanders set the standard for men hitting the beach this season.
Right - Will Love Island be looked back upon as 'peak grooming'?
“This is reflected in the sales – the number of men buying hair removal cream is up a staggering 17.7% in the past year and under-45s shopping for hair removal products have shot up 35.6% in the past 12 months.
“There’s less stigma among men about these grooming practices. In fact, peer pressure is one of the factors contributing to the increase in sales, with British men more likely than their European counterparts to remove their body hair because of societal pressures. This means that brands hoping to attract shoppers should be looking at the male market and how they can target this growing group – something the likes of Nads and Veet are already capitalising on.”
Over a quarter of men (28%) have shaved their body in the past 6 months with 72% of these removing hair from their intimate parts according to the Kantar Worldpanel data.
Brands such as Nads and Veet are capitalising on the trend and bringing out products targeted at men as brands like Nair. 54% of men who remove body hair describe themselves as image conscious compared to 41% of those that don’t, while the biggest driver to remove hair is personal hygiene with 42% saying a fear of odour makes them reach for the razor.
Men are also buying “Manscaping tools like the Philips OneBlade Face & Body and you dare not be pale these days, so a spray tan or bronzer is going to be important and I think there's a real interest in perfecting products - skincare products that act like real life filters.” says Kynaston.
“Increasingly men buy for themselves. Women are no longer the gatekeepers of male grooming. Yes, they're still popping things in the shopping trolley for their bf/husbands/sons, but increasingly men are seeking out their own grooming gear and treatments. They want to take charge of how they look and they have plenty of role models for inspiration. Plus, those role models are totally comfortable with manscaping, fake-tanning and eyebrow threading. I know a lot of men who are incredibly fussy about what skin and haircare products they use and they spend ages selecting the right gear. That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago.” he says.
Love Island is a reflection of where the image conscious male is right now. This show intensifies and proliferates a single image of tanned, hairless and ripped males with glossy hair and white teeth. This type of look requires money, time and products and has clearly resonated with its male viewers and the subsequent uptick in grooming sales.
What’s interesting is, it feels like this type of look is becoming increasingly dated and men are and will be turning to more hairy, masculine(?) and natural looking ideals. It’ll be interesting to see, when we look back in a few year’s time, whether Love Island will be seen as the era of the peak groomed man?
“With 'the modernist', I designed a fragrance that has that self-assured simplicity. Bergamot opens the parfum and leads the way to a oral centre. Freesia felt like the perfect choice in this journey from citrus to timber. I love the sweet and sharp sensation of freesia and the way it softens and radiates a cleanliness on the skin. This is cradled in the warm hands of frankincense. I wanted a dominant, distinguished base and its complexity is enriched with labdanum, timber and even fruit, creating an autograph for the wearer. I’m not a big fan of scents that arrive before you do and linger in the room after you’ve left. For sure, be powerful and be bold, but let them remember how you smell, not just the smell.” says John Evans, Fragrance Designer & Founder of the modernist fragrance.
Taking a break from corporate life, John worked full-time as a writer and has seven novels published. Following his re-entry into the world of finance, John lived and worked in the US and Australia for a number of years. He and Andrew, his partner, returned to the UK in 2008 where John was the Managing Director of a global business.
Leaving full time work at the end of 2014, and at Andrew's suggestion, John began formalising a lifelong passion for fine fragrance. Soon after, John authored the modernist manifesto and founded the house of modernist fragrance. Formulated in London and made in England, this is his first fragrance.
Left - The Modernist - 50ml - £145
TheChicGeek says, “It’s refreshing when somebody has put everything into a single fragrance. This feels like a labour of love and another welcome addition to the family of small British perfume producers. I’m not sure whether ‘the modernist’ is the name of the company or the fragrance or both. But, I really like it.
It has a cool, almost menthol, freshness at the top, with an element of turpentine. Then, a peppery layer which moves into spice and the comforting and intoxicating depth of the frankincense. It doesn’t dominate, but has a delicate richness, very much like John’s goal in the creation - see his quote above. The packaging reminds me of Miller Harris.”
“The classically fresh DNA of Fougère is reinvented, converging impeccable decorum with the modus operandi of an agent provocateur.” says Tom Ford, rather cryptically.
Left - Tom Ford - Fougère d’Argent - 50ml - £162
A bold burst of top notes features refreshing mandarin and bergamot blend with shimmering ginger. The masculine heart combines French lavenders of two kinds, one softly aromatic and one with a woody dimension. Amplified by geranium’s green and minty facets. The drydown reveals the provocateur teasing behind the fresh, razor sharp sophistication—the warm wood of akigalawood and coumarin extracted from tonka bean.
TheChicGeek says, “One of the lynchpins of men’s fragrance, ‘fougère’ is the lavender family of fragrances and has been the basis for many masculine scents and one we've, unfortunately, taken for granted. When it's good, it's really good, but, at times can smell very generic, especially in the mass fragrance market.
Here it gets Tom Ford’s silver hand over it - hence the name ‘Silver Fern’.
This is a very solid woody fougère. It feels very constant, rooted to the heart and is much less fragrant, flowery and more woody - a signature of Mr Ford’s.
I’m not getting much of the top, while there is a note of spice, it’s dominated by warm woods. Tonka bean usually adds a metallic touch - that could be the d’argent bit of the labelling - but again, it’s distant.
This isn’t the greatest fougère, that’s reserved for the original, Houbigant’s 'Fougère Royale', created in 1882, but it’s Tom Ford’s woody version.”
As this year’s A Level and GSCE students collect their results I’m going to look at the reasons behind the death of the Saturday job amongst this demographic - Generation Z or iGen - why they seem to need less money and whether this will make them less attractive as a target market to marketeers, brands and retailers.
According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) some 42% of 16- and 17-year-old students were studying and working simultaneously in 1997. This had dropped to just 18% in 2014.
Post-millennial youth - those born after 1996 - have been labelled as ‘Generation Boring’ or ‘Generation Sensible’. A recent survey by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service showed teenagers are becoming less likely to have sex, preferring to spend time with their families and having romantic relationships online. Teenage pregnancy rates have fallen by 55% in the last decade to their lowest ever level (July 2018). Add this to the rates of smoking, arrests, drug taking and drinking all falling and you can see why older generations are perplexed at this conservative and law abiding wave of youngsters.
Hannah Elderfield, Consumer Behavioural Analyst, Canvas8, says, “From paper-rounds to sweeping up at the hairdressers, Saturday jobs can give a first taste of independence and provide useful future skills. But, data shows that less British teens are taking on part time work, with pressure to get good academic results partly the reason."
“Research conducted by the BBC found that the number of young teens working part time jobs after school or at the weekend has declined steadily since 2013. Businesses employing kids aged between 13 and 15 are required to apply for a permit, and the number of permits issued in 140 local authorities across the country fell by a fifth – dropping from 29,498 in 2012, to 23,071 in 2016.” says Elderfield.
“When looking at dropping levels of Gen-Z taking up weekend jobs in general, it’s important to recognise the pressure teens today feel to do well in exams. 61% of 15- to 17-year-olds believe that good grades are more important than happiness! As a result, they’re channelling their focus into a different type of work, the hard work of studying.” she says.
Leila Willingham, Founder @Digipigz, which targets this demographic and offers ‘market research and insights supplemented by their community of industry astute 16-24 year olds’, says, “We think that statistics like that will mean marketing professionals label Gen Z as 'lazy' and what they won’t be interpreting is that Gen Z are very future focused and these statistics could be off the back of their dedication to learning and prioritising their studies over a job at that age. It may even be that they are doing work experience as opposed to paid work.”
Today’s teenagers don’t seem to be so driven to get themselves a part-time job, like previous generations, and it’s not because of a lack of opportunities. The number of jobseekers per vacancy has fallen to a record low despite a drop in the number of posts on offer. There was less than one person for each vacancy in June 2018 even though the number of advertised jobs fell by 5 per cent to 1.1million compared with a year ago, according to job site, Adzuna. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed there are 32.4million people in work in the UK, a record high, and 388,000 more than a year earlier. The National Minimum Wage for people under 18 is £4.20, compared to £7.83 for those over 25. But, you would think this would make them more attractive to low-skilled employers? But, Generation Z seem to be set on concentrating on their studies.
Mia, 15, from London, says, “I don't have a Saturday job because I spend most of the day at a Dance School, which is my exercise and release from the pressures of school. I also have an absurd amount of homework which can take on average 2-3 hours a night/day, leaving little time to work or socialise. I also need some time to relax and recuperate.”
Her father, Darren, says, “I feel that the amount of homework received certainly affects the possibilities of part time work. The kids, today, are under a huge amount of pressure to live up to an adult role model, living a fantasy lifestyle. To be able to do this they know they need to succeed at school to achieve a high paying job. I also believe that parents are being lent on more to assist with these social lifestyles. I had a part time job from the age of 12 to 17 and didn't rely on my parents much. But, at the same time I received a fraction of the workload from school that children seem to receive today.”
“Many people think it’s better to get qualifications before leaving education to work straight away as many believe it is the best way to achieve a high income.” says Rhianna, 16, from Hounslow.
It’s not ‘cool’ to be seen flipping burgers or stacking shelves when you’re living ‘your best life’ on social media. If Generation Z are too busy studying and doing their homework then they aren’t spending money on going out, drinking and maybe the knock on effects of needing new clothes to go out in etc. But, this doesn’t take into account teens documenting their lives through social media and the tendency towards materialism and showing off what they have.
Rihanna, 16, says, ““Some people get their money from 'cool' jobs like modelling or Saturday jobs, but many people use other illegal ways to allow them to quickly achieve the 'lavish lifestyle'. I get my money from my Mum and Dad and my grandparents, but I have to do jobs around the house. People want money and usually don’t mind sharing the fact that they have a job if it enables them to flaunt the expensive things they have bought on Instagram.”
Mia, 15, says, “There is definitely a truth in not wanting to do 'uncool' jobs. On Social Media you don't really see people working Saturday jobs and most of what you do see is a glamorous lifestyle. This creates a false impression of what you should be aspiring to.”
Teenagers are more reliant than ever on their parents for money. Liliah Zion, 14, from London, says, “My Mum gives me £40 a month to my account for which I am supposed to help with household chores, but, then I get more on top. Everyone just relies on their parents or sells clothing/stuff on depop.”
Her mother, Caroline, says, “I want my 14 year old daughter to work, as does she, however, I think she in the minority, and I recently asked a friend, who owns a long established West London clothing store, if she could work. He was dubious, but said "yes if she was genuinely into it” so that’s on the cards. She has been babysitting to earn money for herself . One of her friend’s Mum’s recently told me her daughter couldn’t even comprehend that she needed to work… ever and her fear was that because she doesn’t.”
But, not all of this generation are studiously just looking at their books or screens. There is a group of young entrepreneurs using their skill set and talents to make extra income. Jenk Oz, the 13-year old CEO of iCoolKid Ltd. a website highlighting ‘cool’ hobbies and activities for the younger generation, says, “We are definitely witnessing a trend of teenagers moving away from the traditional ‘Saturday job’. However, the truth is that the idea of young people seeking part time work, and starting their own businesses is thriving more than ever before. Young people want jobs that help to enhance their CV for university applications - as it’s so competitive - and they want to feel like their employers and job contributes in some way to their interests and hobbies. Gone are the days when a dish washing job in the local restaurant or a paper round are the only options. Now, with the rise and influence of social media and the internet, young people are open to a whole range of money making opportunities which just weren’t possible previously.”
“For example, there’s so many digital orientated jobs which kids can get involved in today, and carry out remotely. From slime manufacturing and selling via Instagram, to writing social media copy for brands during their lunch break (so they can market better to teens), to personalising badges and selling them on Etsy – there’s so many creative activities that young people can try.” says Oz.
“These types of jobs work better with school schedules and present more opportunities for individuals with entrepreneurial flair, a key attribute of Gen Z’ers today. As most of these jobs are done remotely from a bedroom or garage, the wider public don’t see young people doing them – which makes their part time jobs less obvious. Today’s teens and tweens are starting their own businesses that suit their schedules and personal interests – rather than opting for the traditional weekend jobs.” he says.
Hannah Elderfield, says, “Embracing a long term view, they’re using every opportunity to give their careers a head start by swapping would-be weekend shifts at supermarkets for study and experiences. That's not to say they're abandoning work completely – many are finding ‘side hustles’ using tools like Pickle or launching entrepreneurial projects early on, on resale platforms such as Depop."
“Gen-Z’s disposable income is dropping, which has a knock-on effect on the brands they buy from. While they might not be buying into their favourite brands as often as they’d like, they’re still engaging with them, which is important for marketers to consider in the long run. More often than not, that engagement is happening online via social media channels. Eight out of ten Gen-Zers say that their purchases are influenced by social media and over half of 13- to 17-year-olds say they would rather their favourite brand be advertised via influencers.” she says.
Leila Willingham says, “These statistics paint Gen Z in a bad light and if marketing teams aren’t careful, and don’t take time to understand this complex generation, there’s a danger they’ll disregard this generation and later loose out when Gen Z have huge spending power and will look to brands that align with their values/beliefs and have a track record of being good on social, innovative with tech and accepting of diversity, for example.”
Brands need think long term about this generation. It's about raising awareness and desire in the hope of reaping the benefits when they can afford to make larger purchases and buying decisions in the future. This is especially true for luxury brands.
If these teenagers aren’t going out clubbing and drinking like previous generations, then what are they doing with their spare time? “Nothing most of the time. They might play Xbox (mainly boys), go to the park. Go shopping. Meet at friend’s house.” says Rhianna, 16. “See friends, actually and digitally, and pursue hobbies like dancing, exercising, for boys football or skating or mates’ time.” says Liliah Zion, 14. Mia, 15, says, “I don't go out as much, but generally split costs with parents, depending on what I am doing. There is also an expectation as a teenager to dress or act in a certain way (thanks to social media and peer group pressure) and this can be expensive. I generally save up for something special or ask my parents.”
When not online with each other, it feels like teenagers are spending a lot of time in each other’s houses with their activities watched over or supervised by parents. Because they have less disposable income, they are going out less to places involving drinking, smoking and drugs and probably a reason why many of these night time economy places have closed or are struggling to survive, giving even more reasons not to go out. It’s also an element of peer pressure in reverse. If your friends don’t have part-time jobs then, maybe, you don’t feel as much pressure to get one. You also don’t feel left out by having less money. As long as you can afford your phone and you have the internet and social media, then you have a satisfied social life. Is it all ‘Netflix & Chill” without the sex, or is that already yesterday’s news?
Life, it seems, gets very serious from an early age today and Generation Z is a reflection of this. Growing up through the age of austerity, they are very focussed on their futures. “Today, we know how important it is to achieve good grades to allow us to follow the career we eventually want to succeed in. I feel that paid work can be delayed for now until we begin to work professionally and if I study hard enough the results will come in time.” says Mia, 15.
The pressures and time constraints of studying is weighing heavy on the ability and motivation to get part-time work. This is probably why the country’s exam results have got steadily better over the past few years. There are over 7 million 16-24 year olds living in the UK and the number of full-time students rose from 2.16 million in 1996 to 3.24 million in 2014.
But these young people are missing out on valuable experiences. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) report also stated 'earners and learners' are likely to perform better and earn more than those students who focus only on their studies in the longer term. They are also likely to earn more than those just in full-time education, with a premium of 12-15 per cent. Part-time jobs are also excellent ways for young people to gain experience of the working world, a factor which 66% of employers say is important when recruiting.
It’s clear Generation Z aren’t being lazy. On the one hand we have a very diligent, healthy and focussed generation which seems to be putting education before anything else, but, on the other, a generation without as much life experience and rebellious streak as previous ones. This generation is concentrating on learning and their revolution will just have to wait.
A psychedelic outdoor brand? Only in Manchester. Born out of the Manchester-based fanzine, Proper, Hikerdelic was inspired by creators Mark and Neil’s home town of Stockport. Lying between Manchester and the Peak District, Stockport and Hikerdelic brings together the two worlds of rambling and raving. Crossing the streams with late 80s Acid House and technical outerwear, it is said to find the perfect position between indoor shopping centres and outdoor pursuits - ‘where the peak meets the precinct’, as they say.
Starting with printed tees, mugs and sweatshirts over 3 years ago, the brand has expanded to include collaborations with Topo Designs, Holubar and Novesta. For SS19, Hikerdelic goes on a mind-expanding adventure in rugby shirts, shorts and fleece outerwear.
Right - Hikerdelic ‘Hiker Derek’ Pin - £5
Hikerdelic has that dry, but funny Mancunian wit running through it and makes practical and staple men’s pieces fun and different. Definitely something to wear when looking for those magic mushrooms up on the dark and brooding moors.
Left - Hikerdelic - Rugby Shirt Amber/BabyBlue - £65
Below - Hikerdelic - Core Logo T-Shirt Grey/Yellow - £35
HERMETICA, says it is the first of its kind – a digitally focused fragrance brand, with 13 unique fragrances – that will be delivering internationally due to its alcohol-free fragrances.
From the fragrance stable of Irish/French couple, John and Clara Molloy – founders of MEMO International which has brands such as MEMO Paris and Floraïku. See what TheChicGeek thought about Floraïku - here Hermetica is a collection of molecular fragrances inspired by the ancient practice of alchemy, which sought to transform basic metals into precious materials and to find the ultimate elixir of life
This hybrid formula, using unique patented technology - Innoscent™ - where synthetic molecules are extracted from natural source, developed by Symrise, is a first-ever in the fragrance industry. The alcohol-free formula reveals immediately the heart of the fragrance.
The result of this modern-day alchemy is four collections of 13 long-lasting and powerful perfumes plus, Source1 – a unique scent that can be found in all of the fragrances.
Left - Hermetica - 100ml - £155
Each Hermetica scent is presented in an emerald green lacquered bottle with a golden metallic cap debossed with the Hermetica logo. The bottle is housed inside a golden perforated cylinder reminiscent of the molecule that carries the perfume to your nose.
TheChicGeek says, “When you’re presented with 13 fragrances it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s a random ‘personality’ questionnaire to go through on the website which asks you questions to help define your fragrance. Mine came out with ‘Source1’, which, funnily enough, was the first fragrance I tried from the box of 13. Lucky?! Maybe.
The ‘Source1’ is found in each fragrance, ranging in concentration from 20 to 60%, and contains bergamot essence, amber and a fresh wood.
They say because of the complexity of an alcohol free fragrance, this took more than two years to create, due to its new and innovative formula that enables the top and mid notes to appear instantly, revealing the heart of the perfume after the first spritz, making it unique to every individual.
They offer a ‘discovery kit’, containing all 13 perfumes, and can be purchased through the website, allowing consumers to smell each scent, before buying; the cost is then offset against the price of a full priced fragrance.
I was drawn to ‘Greenlion’ with its patchouli, juniper berry oil and amber wood, but there's so much good stuff here. This has the pedigree and is another welcome addition from the MEMO founders. I love the names and I’m still enjoying discovering them all.
As the for the digital bit, they’re launching in Harvey Nichols later on this month and extending the MEMO counter to be 50% HERMETICA, so they’re not purely online, but they want to position themselves as digital native as they’re sold internationally due to its alcohol free formula and can be therefore be shipped globally. Personally, I would just buy the sample set and enjoying playing until those run out.”
Sample Set - £25 Redeemable against the price of a full sized bottle
Forget being a lounge lizard, this season, it’s all about falling for the temptation of snakeskin. Much like Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, that slippy serpent is seductive and looks right for Autumn/Winter 2018. This is your new going out shirt. Take inspiration from Tom Ford's catwalk and team it with typical menswear fabrics such as pinstripes and Prince of Wales check and a neck tie.
Left - Tom Ford - Black Snake Printed Slim Fit Shirt - $980
Below - River Island - Pink Snake Print Short Sleeve Revere Shirt £28
Need more inspiration? See Best Dressed Chic Geek Jeff Goldblum rocking party season
Once the preserve of bank robbers and Mexican wrestlers, the balaclava is AW18's biggest headwear - or should that be facewear? - trend. Seen on the catwalks of Calvin Klein and Gucci, the balaclava is a literal disguise from the cold weather.
Left - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC AW18
Right - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC - Striped Wool Knit Balaclava £232 from luisaviaroma.com
The name comes from their use at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, referring to the town near Sevastopol in the Crimea. British troops wore them to keep warm.
The designer brands have produced their own versions, as seen in their latest ad. campaigns, but you could easily pick a cheaper one up on Ebay or find somebody's grandmother to knit you one. Go bright and fun. You don't want to scare anybody.
An item of clothing that only shows your eyes? Now, what would Boris Johnson say?!
Left - Calvin Klein 205W39NYC AW18 catwalk
Below - Knitting Patten
Right - Gucci - Mirrored GG Jacquard Wool Balaclava - £175
Left - Mexican wrestler inspiration
Above - Gucci AW18 advertising campaign
Mike Ashley is a retail predator. Much like a lion watching his prey out on the savannah, he waits until the wildebeest looks weak and separated from the herd and then bides his time. Pouncing only when it suits him and he’s certain of a tasty and easy meal.
This week he pounced and was rewarded with House of Fraser for £90m. He already had a 11% stake in HOF, bought in 2014, so he had an interest.
Left - Harrods of the High-Street?
This price was drastically down from the £480m the Chinese owners, Sanpower, paid for it. The brand is weak and damaged, but not dead, but it will need investment in order to survive. They didn’t seem to have a strategy and they didn’t define why you would go to House of Fraser over another store.
Ashley needs to work on making it clear why you’d return to House of Fraser. While John Lewis is offers mostly necessity, and can be bought online, Ashley would be better at targeting ‘treats’, relating to fashion and dressing up to seduce a higher spending customer to leave the house.
This needs to be the store for birthdays, for Christmas, for anniversaries, or anything that requires fancy packaging and that feel good, swinging bag feeling. Fewer visits, but more money out of people’s pockets. At the moment the nicest thing they sell is a Mulberry handbag, but they need more excitement to keep people interested.
Promising to turn the struggling chain into “the Harrods of the high street”, could be Ashley’s flippant words, but if he focuses on that idea, he could be onto something. You don’t go to Harrods for the mundane or ordinary. Admittedly, the prices will have to be different, but you can still package everything nicely and tie-in exclusive product and brands.
Reading about his ‘elevation’ and expansion plans for his other brands, recently, what’s left of House of Fraser will be in prime locations such as Bluewater, Westfield White City and Glasgow, if he decides to stick to closing the other 31 struggling stores, and would fit nicely into this expansion plan. He could easily use his premium Flannels brands to insert much higher end product, something House of Fraser always aspired to be, but never quite got there.
He’s realised that it’s important to have product and brands for each level of customer. The bargain end is fickle and requires huge volumes, while the growth in luxury brands offers lower volumes, but much higher profits. Flannels is expanding rapidly and this acquisition will help create a larger scale.
Flannels is opening new stores at Glasgow Fort shopping centre, Hull and Leicester as part of its ongoing expansion drive. The retailer announced, recently, it expects to open between 6 and 12 new Flannels stores before its financial year end next April 2019. In its premium lifestyle division, Sports Direct currently operates 21 Flannels stores, 10 Cruise stores and three Van Mildert stores, so its premium designer business is really growing. Even Oxford Street is getting a Flannels next year.
He could introduce his underwear brand, Agent Provocateur, into HOF stores and work on their strong existing brands like Biba.
It’s inevitable, if Debenhams continues to struggle, that he’ll merge the two, already owning 29.7% of Debenhams. He’s probably waiting for his moment to strike on this one too and get it at a knocked down price. The high street will plateau soon and even go back into a growth mode and, if in the right locations, in the right cities, House of Fraser will be smaller, but much stronger.