Let’s make something clear, Marc Jacobs is a great designer, yet his business is struggling. Why is this? Business of Fashion said, on Tuesday, the label announced its decision to shutter its men’s business, ending a license agreement with Staff International, after the delivery of the Autumn/Winter 2017 season.
Okay, Marc Jacobs menswear had disappeared recently and, to be honest, it never really have any identity and this is ultimately Marc Jacobs’ problem.
Left - Marc Jacobs going out with a Bang, now discontinued
One of the biggest designers in the world and he has difficulty establishing his own brand. Karl Lagerfeld has always been the same, but that’s a whole other ChicGeek comment.
I knew something was wrong when I went to a Coty fragrance launch, last year, and asked how the Marc Jacobs Bang fragrance was doing. They said they’d discontinued it. I was surprised because, firstly, the bottle was great and the black peppery fragrance was very wearable and commerical. Maybe it was those naked ads, starring the man himself, that tipped it over the edge!
Marc Jacobs has done a lot of things: he put Grunge on the catwalk, but unfortunately you’ll never make money from grunge, he pioneered Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and introduced many great collaborations, such as Stephen Sprouse, those leopard print-type scarves were everywhere, but he’s never really owned anything. You can’t point to something and say “that’s very Marc Jacobs” which is when a brand or designer because part of the visual language and, ultimately, means longevity and heritage.
In the early 00s it was all about the Stam handbags, which were expensive, then Marc by Marc Jacobs came along and everything was really cheap. He seemed to miss the middle, sweet spot that Michael Kors has come to dominate. He was either really expensive or pocket-money cheap and that confused the brand. You never felt like spending money on Marc Jacobs.
The fashion probably wasn't expensive looking enough for the clientele who buy designer clothes the world over and when the only shop left on the street in New York that you pioneered is a book shop - BookMarc - great name BTW - it seems as though this is a signifier of how tough things are to make money from ready-to-wear even when your name is established.
The bad news is it’s only going to get more difficult in the next few years in American fashion. Calvin Klein is hoping for a resurgence thanks to Raf Simons, Donna Karan has new owners, that will no doubt start investing heavily and Ralph Lauren is bound to hit bottom soon. They’re all chasing the same customers and competition is difficult in a saturated market. Marc Jacobs needs to decide where is wants to sit within the fashion market and aim for that. Or, hope check shirts make a major comeback!
One brand, two campaigns. The hot-of-the-moment label, or it wants to be, Calvin Klein, and two variations on the same thing.
Left - Clearly Raf Simons' idea of Calvin Klein advertising, but which will sell the most pants?
Both trying to sell pants: one campaign is sexy and classic Klein, the other less so, read baggy pants in a drafty art gallery.
What’s interesting is that it perfectly illustrates the sexual leveller of imagery and the different choice of art directors.
The fashion and style game is all about proving your sophistication and taste level, yadda, yadda, yadda. We all want to be different and express ourselves in the things we buy, wear and surround ourselves with, but ultimately a flash of a six-pack or a bulge in a pair of Y-fronts and the attraction is universal.
We judge ourselves and others by the decisions we make and the things we choose to wear and surround ourselves with. We can all pretend to be the most sophisticated and this is the endless game of modern style and social media. It's always been about proving yourself and staying ahead of the game.
The ‘Sex Leveller’ and its universal appeal is often cleverly disguised as sophisticated, but ultimately brands can be as clever as they like, but if you’re going to appeal to the mass and biggest market, especially if you’re selling underwear, the sexier the better.
This was pioneered in the 80s, perfected in the 90s and then seemingly forgotten about in the 00s. We can all pretend to like a Sterling Ruby as much as the next man, but it ain’t gonna shift many pairs of underpants. Sex is a leveller and it still sells.
Below Left - Classic Klein starring, Trevante Rhodes, one of the actors from Moonlight. Both campaigns are SS17
"If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends" or so the song goes. The Union Jack was the symbol - obvs - of “Cool Britannia”, when Liam was in bed with Patsy and everybody wore Wannabe loafers by Patrick Cox.
Left - Gucci - Union Jack Horsebit Leather Loafer - £530
I’ve been wanting to do something on this for ages, since Gucci took over Westminster Abbey to show their UK-inspired Cruise collection, last June, but, I'm not sure where the time went. Luckily, because Gucci are holding onto products and not putting them into the sale, they're still relevant.
If we’re talking about who owns the loafer then historically it’s Gucci, but during the 90s it was Patrick Cox. Selling 100,000 pairs a year, it was part of the Britpop wardrobe and while not cheap, they were suprisingly affordable with the silver 'W' on the side.
He sold his label and name and then the brand disappeared into the ether. He returned a few year's ago, designing a range with Geox and then decided to establish his new brand Lathbridge. The Lathbridge brand name is Cox's middle name and the company logo of the bulldog is inspired by Cox's much loved 2 English bulldogs, Caesar and Brutus.
I spoke to Patrick during a trade show in Paris where he was previewing this collection, I asked him about the Gucci homage, he knew about it and I think he was flattered. His version is slightly simpler, but with all the same positive 90s nostalgia. Now, to dig out those Benetton sweaters!
Below - Lathbridge by Patrick Cox - English Flash Penny Loafers - £321 from FarFetch
It was at the launch of the new men’s grooming destination, Beast, - more info here - in Covent Garden that I was introduced to Leo Crabtree, the man behind the Beaufort London fragrance brand. There were a few samples of his fragrances in the selection of products to try and I was impressed by the originality of the scents. Historically based, they are a dramatic concoction of rich and smokey scents inspired by Britain’s maritime history. I wanted to know more, so, TheChicGeek asked Leo a few questions:
CG: What’s your background and why and when did you start Beaufort London?
LC: My background is mainly in music and I studied history at university. BeauFort London came about as a vehicle to market some homemade grooming products I was making around 4 years back. I found myself getting bored of the stuff that was available at that time and I thought I could do a better job. This project then developed into something a bit different, particularly when I started to learn about making fragrance. This area really interested me and I’ve kind of followed this path for the last 3 years.
CG: Where does the name come from? 1805 is a special year for you, why is that?
LC: The brand’s name comes from the Beaufort Scale which was thought up in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort - a way that sailors could gauge and report the wind strength. It’s still in use today.
This idea of invisible strength resonates and seemed appropriate for a brand that initially was only selling very firm moustache wax. The metaphor works nicely for fragrance too.
Aside from this detail, 1805 was also a pivotal year for British fortunes at sea… following the win at the battle of Trafalgar (October 21st 1805) British sea power was established and continued unchallenged for a century or so… I think these naval events still echo in the way we Brits perceive ourselves. And there’s something about the early 19th century that fascinates us - it seems to pop up a lot in popular culture at the moment.
CG: How many fragrances are in the range?
LC: The ‘Come Hell or High Water’ Collection consists of 5 Eau De Parfum each representing a different aspect of our relationship with the sea: Tonnerre (Trafalgar/warfare), Coeur De Noir (adventure stories / tattoos), Vi Et Armis (The opium / sea trade), Lignum Vitae (ships clocks / time) and Fathom V (The Tempest - weather). We are launching a 6th later this year too and we recently released a leather discovery set of the whole collection - refillable 7.5ml vials of each which is really popular.
CG: What is the idea behind the packaging?
LC: Well the caps were at one point going to be made out of pieces of old ships, but this didn’t work all that well. So, now, they are made from ash, which is a bit more stable and safer to reproduce.
The boxes ended up becoming almost like books or possibly sarcophagi - this is a pretty important thread in all this. The past, history, books, it’s all in here. I like to include snippets of things I’ve read, pictures inspired by the events that inform the fragrances. Each box is embossed with a little latin phrase which I found on a medal that was given to those who fought at the battle of Trafalgar. All these little things build a coherent picture of the brand I think.
CG: I like Tonnerre, which is inspired by the battle of Trafalgar, how do you get that smokey effect?
LC: Lots and lots of birch tar. This is an intensely smokey material made by boiling birch sap. This has been used a lot in the past to create a ‘leather’ effect (Famously in Chanel’s 'Cuir De Russie’ - historically Russian soldiers used Birch tar to waterproof their boots). In the case of Tonnerre the perfumer uses it in far far higher concentration than anyone has before to produce a gunpowder effect. I love the intensity of it… and the smell of tar immediately reminds me of boats.
CG: Any highlights from the others? What is the most popular and why do you think that is?
LC: We actually use birch tar in a lot of our fragrances. That smokey tar effect is almost our signature so if you’re looking for fresh you’re in the wrong place…
Vi Et Armis is really popular, I think because it’s so ‘in your face’ and unusual - dark as all hell. And Fathom V is an intensely strange aquatic fragrance which seems to be doing well too. We use a lot of strong materials, a lot of wood, tobacco, spice and booze. I think people like our brand because we offer something very different to traditional fragrances.
CG: You also sell other products like candles and moustache wax, how did these come about?
LC: The candles were due to popular demand, we had a lot of people who loved the scents asking if we could make them, so we tried it, and it seemed to work. Again, it hasn’t really been about planning these products, they just seem to make sense, and so we do them. I like experimenting with ideas.
CG: Has it been easy to produce in the UK?
LC: The perfume industry is rooted in mainland Europe for sure, but there’s a rich history of British perfumery and some really interesting newer British brands.
It was always a key aspect of this project that we would only work with British companies, and that has made things tricky (and almost certainly more expensive) at times. But it can be done, and I’m proud of it.
Our perfumers are based just outside of London, our boxes are made by hand in Sheffield, our bottles are filled and packed in the Cotswolds, the candles are made in Derbyshire and the moustache wax cases were made in Coventry.
CG: What do you think about the current perfume industry? Is it welcoming to niche producers? Is there too much product?
LC: When I first launched the range we went to Paris fashion week to have a look around. I was talking to a guy who works for a very long established French perfume house and he said to me quite unequivocally, “now this is war”, which seemed pretty ridiculous at the time. However, as time has passed, I think he’s right. There’s so many brands all trying to get a piece of the pie and the pie isn’t all that big in the first place. New launches happen all the time and it seems like (as with everything else) attention spans are short and the temptation is to churn out ’newness’ (a word I particularly hate) to grab attention fleetingly.
In the next few years, we may see some of these brands falling away as saturation point is reached. In my mind, starting a brand is the easy bit. Establishing longevity and maintaining engagement with your customer over a significant period of time is much harder… Time will tell.
CG: Is there any advice you would give to men about choosing fragrance or how they apply or use it?
LC: As with anything, the most rewarding experiences are those you invest some time in… do some research, get some samples of things that intrigue you. Spend a bit of time getting to know the fragrance in different environments as the best fragrances can develop massively throughout a day. Don’t rush… I’ve always said that YOU should wear the fragrance, don’t let IT wear you which is particularly important with these strong, heavy fragrances. There just too much for some people… they should blend with your character somehow rather than take over.
CG: What’s next for Beaufort London?
LC: Put it this way, we have been researching Georgian vices… I can’t say much more than that but it’s going to be an interesting couple of years!
To call it a recession is maybe a little extreme, but let’s call it a contraction. Menswear is struggling. Some are mouthing the word #brexit but this was coming way before that and affecting international markets too, most notably America.
Like everything that goes in cycles, you have your ups and you have your downs. We’re definitely in a down cycle as brands merge their men’s and women’s and reduce the amount of labels within their brands.
Left - Inside menswear is screaming
Many are private companies so they don’t disclose profits, but when you have menswear giants like Armani and Ralph Lauren losing labels - Collezioni and Armani Jeans in the case of Armani and store closures - in the case of Ralph Lauren - then things are clearly unsustainable.
Why is this happening? The first big answer is a saturated market. Do we need much more ‘stuff’? When Ikea’s head of sustainability, Steve Howard, said we’d reached “peak stuff”, he hit the nail on the head. We’ve seen expansion online and offline and our wardrobes are bursting with clothes at every price point.
Designer fashion isn’t coming up with many new ideas and this has lead to the high-street bringing the new ideas and offering improved quality that many men are happy with. I think companies like ASOS are doing well because people are trading down to cheaper and more fun fashion and don't really wear it long enough to care about the quality.
Brands like Topman have got more and more expensive and are not reactive enough to trends and the latest gimmicks and fashions. They’ve believed in their own ‘cool’ which is dangerous for any brand. Arcadia, Topman’s parent company, has seen many high profile departures lately. Craig McGregor left his role as retail director at Topshop/Topman, after eight years, and Topshop/Topman global commercial director Matt Brewster is leaving the company. Wesley Taylor left his role as managing director of Burton and Yasmin Yusuf left as creative director of Miss Selfridge, both after more than 10 years at the business. Which all suggests the epic growth Arcadia has experienced over the last few decades has now ground to a halt. They are no longer the darling of the British high-street.
Another reason for the men’s downturn is competition is fierce and this had lead to a discount environment. People know they can wait for the sale or search the internet for a discount code. This makes margins smaller for companies which then need to sell even larger volumes. We’ve also seen growth in companies like TK Maxx that offer people the brands they want, but with heavy discounts.
Fashion has changed too. It’s very sportswear/dress down driven. These are cheap or old clothes. Looking ‘expensive’ has gone out of fashion. Brands like Balenciaga and Gosha Rubchinskiy have pioneered this style of fugly fashion and while not cheap they have prices that are more realistic and attainable.
Millennials are all about ‘experiences’ and are less materialistic, or so we’re are told. All those selfies tell a different story, but I think they want to eat out and wear something new, which ultimately means spending less. This big group of young consumers is squeezed by rents, student loans and low wages and this isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future.
In the Evening Standard on Monday, Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter boss, Alison Loehnis, said when they measured “zeitgeist buying” in the Mr Porter team they discovered the number one item was socks. “Followed by Ray-Bans and trainers.” Socks?!! Now, that is worrying. Unless Mr Porter is selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of socks, which I doubt, then it’s a signifier of the market. It’s too expensive and they are the cheapest things they sell. It’s also one of the main gifting items and something you don’t need to try on.
Online is still only 10% of the retail market so has huge potential, but that still means 9 in every 10 pounds is spent on the high street.
Net-a-Porter/Mr Porter call their top customers ‘EIPs’, (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT PERSON) and these EIPs are the two per cent of customers who account for 40 per cent of NAP revenue. It’s dangerous to have all your eggs in a few baskets, particularly a fickle customer which many others are chasing. They’re now offering a service where the driver waits while these EIPs try things on. It’s a gimmick, but at least it shows they’re trying. These EIPS are the people shopping in Selfridges and Harrods too, while the rest of us have seen our wage packets shrink or not go as far and designer prices continue to rise. #Brexit will make imports to the UK more expensive, temporarily, but fashion will just find somewhere cheaper to make it, but it’s true the weakest wont survive this price hike or margin cut.
Brands have been trimming the fat over the last few years and many are down to the bare bones. The recent christmas was good for retailers and I think that kept many afloat, for now.
Jaeger just announced its bankruptcy. I don’t think there’s much hope for it to survive as it is, but it’ll become a brand within Edinburgh Woollen Mill or the like. It’s the sign of the times and also the cycle of brands. There are times when a brand runs its course and no matter how much investment or time, it’s just time to let it go.
Okay, enough doom and gloom. On a positive note from a down you have an up and when a gap appears something new will come into fill it. But, our addiction to cheap clothes isn’t going anywhere which will make it very difficult for new, smaller brands or labels to compete. I think short term we’ll see more closures and less choice or a choice masked by the fact it’s a sub brand from a big retailer. H&M is just about to launch Arket.
One thing is for sure, fashion is unpredictable and that’s why I love it.
Ermengildo Zegna’s Acqua Di Iris takes on a splashy transparency from the high-quality, citrus freshness of Zegna Bergamot - they grow their own - and dewy violet leaves. Elements of spice serve to drive the immediacy of the signature and invigorate the top. Sleek woods and cistus labdanum absolute power the signature with strength in order to zero in on the iris’ masculine heart. All are lightly softened by musk.
TheChicGeek says, “When I first saw ‘Iris’ on the label I was pleased as these is one of my favourite ingredients. Often called orris and derived from the root of the iris, it is mega expensive and as such is very much prized in perfumery. It’s also very Italian, which works with a brand like Zegna.
Orris is said to smell like violets and this is where I have the problem. By adding violet leaves they are taking the fragrance in that direction and it’s too dominant. The woods and musk softens it, but ultimately reminds me that Zegna also do a fragrance called ‘Florentine Iris’, in their pricier Essenze Collection, which I prefer”.
Left - Ermenegildo Zegna - Acqua Di Iris - 100ml - £82 Exclusive to John Lewis
So, we’re coming to the end of the sugar free experiment and it’s gone quicker than I thought. The cravings are still there, but the thought of caving in, this close to the end, keeps me strong.
What I’ve noticed is you definitely over compensate with other things, so I’ve been eating more crisps and drinking more alcohol.
I’ve tried sugar-free chocolate - tastes okay, like cheap chocolate - I made a sugar- free chocolate cake, which was from a packet mix, so probably not the best anyway, but was dry and not to be repeated. The picture on the packet showed it served with cream and jam which probably would have helped, but they didn't have any sugar-free jam.
I’ve eaten more dried fruit that before and fresh fruit, especially for breakfast. I’ve discovered plain coconut yoghurt with honey. Even though it is high fat, this is a keeper.
I haven’t had a miraculous moment of change, where I’ve thought I’m over cold turkey and floating on cloud nine, and, like I said before, I don’t think I had that much refined sugar to start with so it hasn’t been such a drastic change.
It's been an effort, but it hasn't been really hard. Like I said in Part 1, my teeth and gums feel much healthier and this is definitely a reason to keep it up give or take the odd Jaffa Cake.
See Part 1 here
Over the centuries, the humble beard has been through many styles and transformations, but British men continue to love them and use them as a means of expressing their individuality. So far, we’ve witnessed everything from the glitter beard bomb of 2016, to intricate plait designs and wax styling wonders that would make most catwalk models jealous. Just when you think there’s a lull in beard trends, some crazy new twist is put on them to bring them back to the here and now.
So, which style do you go for when it’s time for a trim? Whether it’s the artistic goatee, the traditional gentlemen’s moustache, a bohemian style with funky dyes, or the full fisherman’s beard, each of these styles have something to say about your personality. However, it appears your facial hair can also be determined by where you live. In the following infographic, not only will you learn about the most popular beard trends of 2017 in Britain, but you’ll see why those who hail from Leeds are more likely to opt for the chin curtain, those from Sheffield prefer the mutton chops look, and Geordie’s choose the goatee. Not only that, but you’ll be able to see how our facial hair trends in the UK compared to those overseas, and some handy ideas on grooming.
It must be all that Flemish DNA because Dries van Noten mined a rich tapestry of ideas, quite literally, for this SS17 season. He said he was inspired by the British Pre-Raphaelites and their love of turning their art into woven wall hangings and this transfixed itself into quilted bombers, wide trousers and crocheted scarves.
Dries always does a good theme and is one of the best menswear designers there is. The shirt, here, will look great with shorts, a sort of renaissance Hawaiian shirt, and the wide trousers is part of the movement away from tight, slim trousers. This is classic Dries.
Credits - Clothes & Bag - Dries van Noten SS17 from MRPORTER.COM, Shoes - Tim Little X Grenson, Spectacles - Salvatore Ferragamo, Grooming Products - Omorovicza
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Shot on OlympusPEN by Robin Forster
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Fashion always surprises and reinterprets. We all have our preconceptions about things and it’s that willingness to change that separates the leaders from the followers. I love it when something you think couldn’t be less cool is presented in a new way that makes it desirable. This is what good designers do.
Far Left - Balenciaga SS17, Left - Striped Cotton-Poplin Cropped Shirt - £285 from Matchesfashion.com
When Georgian designer, Demna Gvasalia, of Vetements fame, started working as Creative Director of Balenciaga, I was a bit sceptical. I thought they - the parent company Kering - were chasing the latest cool wave and it was more about column inches and gimmicks than making great clothes. I’ll put my hands up and say I was wrong and they are making interesting clothes at more realistic prices. It’s also the first time that new designers have brought in some of the DNA of the house into the present.
What he has done is play with proportions and shapes, that at first sight seem comedic, but when they start to sink in become desirable and cool. It feels fresh, which brings me to the easiest way to buy into this collection.
Fashion has got basic, and that’s basic as in #basicbitch. Items you wouldn’t have given a second thought are now at the forefront of menswear thanks to Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga.
Long the wardrobe of the postman or the office dad, the short sleeve shirt, slightly oversized, is the style you should be going for. You want those nerdy triangular sleeves, this isn’t a gun show, and I would team with a pair of tailored sweat pants to stop it looking too dress-down office.
You can opt for the original or find a standard short sleeved shirt in most men’s shops like this like blue version from Esprit.
Left - Esprit - Poplin Shirt With Short Sleeves - £29