Thursday, 12 December 2019 14:58

ChicGeek Comment Savile Row: Cozy or Cold?

Drakes Savile Row cozy retail designWithout doubt the most famous menswear street in the world, for the uninitiated, Savile Row could be something of an anti-climax. While the name is known the world over as the home of male sartorial elegance, the reality of the street is something quite small, higgledy piggledy and with little on show to inspire or buy. It’s a mishmash of designer brands, traditional tailors and workshops, and empty shop units.

Left - Drake's new Savile Row store

A small side street behind elegant Regent Street, Savile Row has become much bigger than the place itself, and while brands desire to be able to put Savile Row in their addresses and on the sides of their bags, it can a difficult place to make money. There just isn’t that much traffic.

While nothing new, the street has seen something of a brand churn of late. Chester Barrie is closing down, Hardy Amies disappeared and the short lived Abercombie Kids store in the old Beatles’ Apple building is being pushed back into the larger Burlington Gardens store over the road while it turns itself back into offices for their European business. 

I was recently invited to drinks at the Kilgour store on Savile Row and while on the way over I wanted to check out the new Drake’s store which had taken over from Alexander McQueen’s menswear store.

One of the bright spots of British menswear, Drake’s, the colourful accessories and preppy menswear business, has just moved around the corner from Clifford Street to a larger space and has built up a strong brand with locations from New York to Tokyo. Here, the new store has cosy striped window-type seats and an entire library of books. It looked like the kind of place you’d want to hang out in, or, heaven forbid, want to spend time in. It's welcoming. The product isn’t cheap, but it’s done properly.

Contrast this with the Kilgour store, which looks like a designer Swiss morgue, and these two juxtapositions perfectly illustrate the new mood in retail design. One reeks of personality and is overflowing with the owner’s touches, while the other is strict to the point of being a retail vacuum. 

There was a time, a few year’s ago, when the majority of Savile Row brands were being snapped up by Chinese conglomerates. Fung Capital, the private investment vehicle of the Fung family that controls Hong Kong sourcing and apparel mega-corporation Li & Fung, bought the most including Gieves & Hawkes, Kilgour, Hardy Amies and Kent & Curwen. While they splashed the cash and moulded each for a particular type of customer at the beginning, things have become tougher and they show a tiring of interest. They placed Hardy Amies into administration in January, while selling to Trinity, another Chinese group, the Italian/French tailoring house Cerruti who cancelled their catwalk show and stopped the designer collection’s entire production.

Drakes Savile Row cozy retail design kilgour

What looked like little, individual outfits on London’s Savile Row often had hundreds of branded stores in China, invisible to outsiders, but they’ve all become quite bland and lacking personality with no clear direction with a continual revolving door of creative directors or in-house design teams. All these brands have become faceless.

Another new bright spark on Savile Row is the new ‘J.P. Hackett No.14 Savile Row’ store in the elegant townhouse Hardy Amies restored. The new Hackett store is warm and welcoming, and is saying “come in”, “make yourself at home” and “relax” with its homely yet elegant interior by designer Ben Pentreath with input from Jeremy Hackett.

Right - Inside Kilgour Savile Row

What Drake’s and Hackett both have is a figure head who is involved and makes decisions and menswear has always latched on to these men who lead.

Michael Hill, the current creative director of Drake’s, who is responsible for the brand's full wardrobe offerings, has a great eye and taste, while Jeremy Hackett has nearly 40 years of experience in the vintage menswear trade and then creating his own eponymous label. And this is what it all comes down to, people. You need a singular, strong vision to offer direction and also a domestic homeliness.

Stark, cold and soulless retail spaces are being replaced by the perennial idea of a traditional shopkeeper welcoming customers into their worlds. Admittedly, Hackett previously had a store on Savile Row which didn’t work, but this new bespoke concept is hoping to elevate the standard Hackett product and, moving the wholesale showroom from Bond Street and combining it with retail, will probably see them save money while in a stunning Georgian townhouse which will look good the world over.

Hackett Savile Row cozy retail design

Savile Row can be so much better and it’s always worth remembering what you thought on your first visit there. These two recent additions are adding some colour and Britishness to a street which had become something neither designer nor tailored. 

Savile Row needs to hold onto what is good, but also be open to try new things. In 2016, Westminster Council said only new stores will only be allowed to open if they do not replace “bespoke tailoring uses”; “sell bespoke, unique, limited-edition or one-of-a-kind products”; and are “complementary to the character and function” of the zone, but that doesn’t mean 'The Row' should be stuck in a timewarp. 

Left - Inside the ‘J.P. Hackett No.14 Savile Row’ store

This isn’t about just preserving Savile Row, it’s about making it more successful. It should be welcoming to all British brands and not look down on commercialisation. The skills that have survived this long will continue to survive and these two new additions show its about individuals going back to the idea of being a nation of shopkeepers rather than anonymous 'brands'.

Friday, 06 December 2019 17:54

Product Of The Week The Crocodile Granny Bag

granny crocdile bag Product of the week menswearYesterday I saw a man in the Apple store on Regent Street with a Chanel Boy bag worn cross body with a puffer jacket. It looked chic and believable on a boy! It shows you how, sometimes, this smaller shape is useful for carrying a man’s essentials. Read more - Handbags At Brawn - from TheChicGeek archive.

There’s something elegant about the juxtaposition of a feminine bag and a masculine outfit. It shows confidence, but you may not want to invest too much by buying something like a Chanel. Small car, anybody?! You could get something fun and not too expensive, so this is where eBay always comes in.

If you’re going vintage, you can go luxe. Vintage crocodile is a snip - pun intended - and a fraction of modern prices. There was definitely more crocodiles in the past or they were more affordable to everyday consumers because there are so many vintage crocodile bags around.

Before you bid or buy, study the pictures, read the description and get an idea of size and style. Think about how and what you're going to wear it with and how much you're willing to spend. It also taps into the growing trend for vintage/secondhand items. New to you!

Around - £30 on eBay.

granny crocdile bag Product of the week menswear

Black Friday dales retail salesI said it at the start of this year if you’re a brand or retailer and you can make it through 2019 and into 2020 then you’re probably going to be alright. This year has been tough, very tough, and we’re well into the most important segment of the year for some retailers. It’s do or die for many brands who are on their uppers while trying to flog customers theirs. 

This period of physical retail contraction is more painful the larger you are and we’ve waved goodbye to some very well known retailers and brands this year which could no longer survive under the perfect storm of online competition, retail saturation and squeezed prices, increase in the minimum wage, Extinction Rebellion/consumption debate, Brexit uncertainty and a snap General Election, cost of returns, prolonged discounting and high business rates and rents. 

Christmas has always been a crucial time for retailers, but if it’s your single focus and main time to make profits then you need to rethink your business model and marketing. Many businesses with this old fashioned idea are many of those disappearing or have disappeared. But, it still matters, and a bad Christmas period will see many more retail business announcing their demise come the new year.

The lead up hasn’t been good, but a lot of spend could be skewed by the juggernaut of Black Friday. Sales decreased by 1.3% in September 2019, the worst September since BRC (British Retail Consortium) records began in 1995.

The following month, high street shoppers bought 0.6 per cent more goods in October 2019, representing a drop from 1.3 per cent sales growth recorded in October 2018, but still representing the retail industry’s best performance since April, according to figures compiled by the BRC and KPMG. Looking at a three-month average, which allows for month-to-month fluctuations, total in-store sales of non-food items dropped 3.6 per cent, while food sales grew 1.6 per cent (or 0.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis). 

According to Barclaycard, "consumer spending in November (2019) showed a muted 0.9% growth year-on-year as Brits plan for a frugal festive season”.

So far, so bad, but Black Friday was the biggest ever. According to retail intelligence firm Springboard, retail footfall on Black Friday was up 3.3% in comparison with the same day in 2018, with shoppers mostly hitting the shops after work. Black Friday spending rose 16.5% on 2018, Barclaycard said. They said spending was higher as of 10am that morning and “sustained” that high level throughout the day. They said the number of transactions then reached a “new peak” between 1pm and 2pm on Black Friday. Barclays, which has been monitoring real-time transaction data for Black Friday, processes almost £1 in every £3 spent in the UK.

“We recorded a new peak of 1,184 transactions per second between 1pm and 2pm, which is up on last year’s 1,087 by around nine per cent,” Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments told City A.M.

“The volume of transactions has been up all week and in terms of purchasing, we have seen a high level on spending from midnight all the way through.

“This is fantastic news for retailers, with our data showing that transactions have also been strong throughout the week,” says Cameron. “With many retailers spreading their deals out throughout the week, they will be encouraged to see this hasn’t cannibalised sales volumes on Black Friday itself.” he told City AM.

The volume of transactions on Black Friday rose 7.2% year-on-year, while the volume of transactions on Cyber Monday - the following Monday - was so far up 6.9%.

While this discounting could affect margins, it appears the hype of Black Friday and perceived discounts is something retailers are taking advantage of. The consumer title, Which? warned that few real deals were available, with most goods cheaper or available for the same price at other times. It found that just 4 of 83 products they studied last year were cheaper during the Black Friday promotions.

Black Friday benefited from falling on or just after payday this year with many people paid on 28th of the month. Black Friday has been big, but has is been big enough? The last few years saw many retailers see a wash of sales just before Christmas which allowed them to limp on into the next year.  It appears that retailers are finally understanding how to play the Black Friday game; getting rid of unwanted stock while holding firm on in-demand products. It will be interesting to see the level of returns and this giant spike can be difficult to manage, especially for smaller retailers which less stock holdings. 

The retail figures show a consumer holding tight until to Black Friday, and it will be interesting to see, now those purse strings have been loosened, whether it continues in the final few weeks until Christmas especially with the distraction of a General Election bang in the middle of that. See you in the next decade?

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Review 
Waterpik water flosser teeth tried testedThe Waterpik innovative Water Flosser will ensure any residual food or bacteria is gently flushed from around the teeth and below the gum line doing away with the need for floss or interdental brushes. With 45 seconds of water capacity in the chamber and the ability to remove up to 99.9% of plaque from treated areas, it is the #1 model recommended by dentists in the oral health-obsessed USA.

The Waterpik innovative Water Flosser is said to be up to 50% more effective than string floss for improving gum health and twice as effective for gum health around implants when using the Plaque Seeker® tip. It cleans between teeth and below the gum line where tooth brushing misses. It is up to 3x as effective as string floss for removing plaque around braces when using the Orthodontic Tip. 

The tip rotates 360 degrees, so you can reach all the areas of your mouth and comes with four tips – a Classic Jet, a Plaque Seeker® Tip, an Orthdontic Tip, and Tongue-Cleaner.

Left - Waterpik - Cordless Plus Water Flosser - £54.99

TheChicGeek says, “Flossing is a pain, both physically and figuratively, but your dentist will always tell you to do it, every day! We often skip flossing, so anything that makes it easier, less painful and quicker should be a welcome edition to anybody’s bathroom cabinet. 

Review 
Waterpik water flosser teeth tried tested

This is really is simple to use - you may spray your bathroom mirror with water on the first use though - and has a large base which holds the water so it’s not easily knocked over.

The high water pressure on the gums makes them feel quite sensitive, particularly if the water is cold. I would suggest filling up the base when you’re done, so the water is at least room temperature for the next time you use it.

I didn’t exactly look forward to using this every night, but I don’t look forward to visiting the dentist either. I was never good at sticking to my flossing, so I feel this will at least make up for that. You can see some of its work when you spit in the sink, but the idea of flushing between the teeth with water feels much less intrusive then dental floss."

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019 14:24

ChicGeek Comment Christmas Past

christmas ads stuck in the pastNot to sound too much like Scrooge, though he is part of the problem, but have you noticed how all the Christmas adverts look the same this year?

Their nostalgic Dickensian approach of snow, jingle bells, street urchins and false bonhomie is strikingly similar and just doesn’t feel particularly fresh from retailers trying to smile through the pain of the current retail environment. It feels faker than a Trump press release and disappointing and safe from marketing departments crossing everything and hoping their brands make it through to the new year.

Left - More urchins? Sainsbury's 2019

What started with wise men offering up gifts was hijacked by retailers and brands over the past century to make all their year’s profits in a few short months. Today's Christmas is, arguably, an American creation of commercialisation. It was Coca-Cola after all who changed Father Christmas from green to red to suit their branding.

This isn’t about taking Christmas back to its meaning, whatever that is, it’s about reflecting contemporary times and stripping the crap out of Christmas, which sits alongside Halloween and Valentine’s as commercial ‘Festivals of Crap’ with our overindulgence reflected in the bulging brown bin the days after.

Christmas needs a reboot to take it from Victoriana fake-fest to a simpler and more sustainable pagan and friends and family focussed festival to get us through the longest nights.

“Most of Christmas ads look almost identical because agencies and brands start from the almost same brief: ‘Lets create a piece of heart-warming storytelling that people will share online, so avoid pushing a specific product. Make it pretty’. says Marcio Delgado – Influencer Marketing Campaign Manager and Producer, www.marciodelgado.com

John Lewis christmas ads stuck in the past

"On paper, for the purpose of approving production budgets months before Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ climbs back the charts – again – it seems the perfect deal. However, when customers start being bombarded by similar content, exhaustively promoted within their social media feeds and favourite TV shows, it all starts to look too much of the same.” says Delgado.

Lesley Stonier, brand storytelling and marketing strategist. Founder of We Mean Business, London - helping women and entrepreneurs find their authentic voice and share their story with confidence, says, “I think for the last 5 or so years we’ve seen John Lewis and even more recently Lidl/Aldi do very well from a certain style and format of ad. I believe the briefs the ad agencies are receiving from these companies and their competitors now will be something like, I want what they are doing, but make it ours.

Right - More snow? John Lewis 2019.

“It just all feels very same-y and therefore it becomes difficult to distinguish who the retailers actually are. There’s no stand out brand this year. The ads all blur into one Christmassy mass with no distinction. Food, kids, 18th century nostalgia, it’s difficult to tell them apart now.” says Stonier.

Stephanie Melodia, marketing specialist, founder of startup marketing agency, Bloom says, “Persuasion is at the root of successful advertising, and the mechanism to this is by appealing to people’s emotions. As a nation that has become less religious and traditional over time, Christmastime no longer bears the same connotations as before. Instead, the “Dickensian nostalgia” plays to the magic and joy one can only achieve over the holidays - whether its spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts, enjoying good food & drink, or all of the above! It’s worth noting the generations that the Dickensian style will appeal to have quite a vast age range, from the grandparents to the millennials, (thanks to Mr. Dickens' literary genius in itself, as well as the modern remixes, like The Muppet Christmas Carol - for example). 

What can brands do to differentiate themselves more and make their marketing campaigns feel more contemporary? “Firstly, they could focus on what their unique perspective is on Christmas. Although I think that’s where the challenge ultimately lies. When it comes to retail, we now have promotions for Christmas starting 2 wks before Black Friday so it’s very hard to differentiate except via price.” says Stonier.

“John Lewis, for example, could have led the pack by taking a more sustainable approach to Christmas. Encouraging less packaging waste for example. Or a supermarket encouraging less food waste. That would be a different approach and that would have much greater stand out because you’re changing the story people expect to hear, and giving them something different to mull over, giving them a reason to choose to do something different and make that choice with you.” she says.

 Tesco christmas ads stuck in the past

“Behavioural changes, especially at a large scale, take a long time to kick in (whilst there is still lots of impactful work happening at the moment!)” says Melodia. “Hardwired social traditions like exchanging gifts at Christmastime won’t go away any time soon, but people are definitely thinking a lot more about how and what they buy than before. Retailers need to have sustainability at the heart of their businesses (if they don’t already) and beware of the PR risk in greenwashing while doing so.” she says.

Left - Tesco's 2019 Christmas table

Will this type of Christmas survive Extinction Rebellion and people rethinking over consumption?

“I think shoppers will always shop on price discounts. But it doesn’t drive loyalty so the retailers are just creating a vicious cycle that is then difficult to extract yourself from. 

“There’s a risk to a different approach, but I’m surprised no one has capitalised on the consumer demand for more sustainable approach to life, and taken Christmas, the season of excess as the time to put a stake in the ground.” says Stonier.

What will Christmas look like in the future for brands and retailers?

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can see us ironically returning to a simpler, less extravagant time, much like the Dickensian era. Where gifts are made rather than bought, and that we focus on the meaning and act of giving rather then needing, wanting and buying.” says Stonier. “The reality is there is very little we “need” now days in first world countries. We’re saturated. So what comes next? People search for meaning and purpose, and brands are doing good in the world, will be leading our hearts, minds and wallets in the future.” she says.

“We’ve already moved so far away from the religious and familial traditions from a mere century ago, the rate of change is only accelerating faster and faster. I believe people coming together and enjoying shared experiences will be the core festive factor that will remain for the foreseeable future, with the consumerist side of the holidays on the down.” says Melodia.

These Christmas ads are looking as done as the designer Christmas tree. This isn't about taking out the fun and the coming together of Christmas, it's about a fresher approach that is more reflective of where we are right now as consumers. The Christmas future looks simpler and less wasteful. ’Please, sir, no more!’.

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Monday, 25 November 2019 15:53

Product Of The Week The Pearl Necklace

pearl necklace giambattusta valli Product of the week menswearIn the Wham Rap! it goes “Boys in leather kiss girls in pearls!” Fast forward to 2019 and it’s more likely to be girls in Bottega leather kiss boys in pearls. Thanks to Harry and his giant pearl at this year’s Met Gala - See more here - the pearl necklace is the menswear accessory of the season.

Pearls are the oldest gem on earth and have been treasured for centuries. Their appeal declined in the mid-20th century, when Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kōkichi invented the ‘cultured’ pearl, which rendered them no longer a symbol of wealth.

pearl necklace giambattusta valli Product of the week menswear

As part of the GIAMBATTISTA VALLI x H&M collection - See more here - this necklace is made from real freshwater pearls with an antiqued metal hook fastener and pendant.

Left & Right - GIAMBATTISTA VALLI x H&M - Pearl Necklace - £49.99

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pearl necklace giambattusta valli Product of the week menswear harry stylesLeft - Harry Styles in Gucci at the Met Gala 2019

 

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