It doesn’t take a genius to note that now is not the ideal time to launch a new fashion business. If you are launching your new business, this season, you probably started way before this disaster of a virus appeared and it was too late not to see it through. Too much time and money has been invested to pull out. You’re not a quitter.
Left - In September, MATCHESFASHION launched its The Innovators Programme to help support young designers
It’s a bit like all those cranes on the skyline and builders finishing off their dense blocks of luxury flats. It’s too late to down tools, not finish them and get them on the market. But, fast forward six months and how many spades will still be in or breaking new ground?
There will a gaping hole of projects starting and the fashion business will have one of the largest.
The V shaped, bounce-back recession is ideal because it conserves this economic momentum and it just becomes a blip. Sadly, it’s not looking that way. There is still momentum in the market, but the longer Covid disrupts everything, momentum lessens, and the more time and energy it will take to get it all moving again. This will also make this gap even larger.
Fashion has a time lag. The time between starting and producing samples, to then show, get orders, make and then sell, and then get the revenues, is usually a long timeline. It’s a risk and nobody knows what the state of the market will be when you launch, even at the best of times. Today, many of those thinking about striking out alone and setting up their own thing will choose to put off starting well into next year when they can feel more confident about the economic landscape.
Without trade shows and fashion weeks - a vehicle to showcase to buyers - many stores and websites will reorder previous years’ product, with tweaks, from existing brands. This will only really start to show when SS21 hits the stores after Christmas and consumers will start to notice.
Fashion’s reason to be is newness, or the perception of newness, and a never ending supply of new brands and designers kept the whole industry feeling fresh and new, while established brands and giant luxury groups took most of the sales and profits.
Luxury multi-brand websites and department stores need newness to give vitality to its entire offer. It’s news, it’s buzz, it’s hype and they had it all without the financial risk. This veneer or gap needs to be filled and retailers and luxury groups are now realising that they will have to start supporting it or it won’t be there.
MATCHESFASHION has launched its year-long ‘The Innovators Programme’ designed to champion young design talent. It was built upon an existing womenswear project to include menswear and is a robust package of practical support including mentorship, preferential business terms and £1.8 million in marketing.
The programme was developed as the MATCHESFASHION team collaborated closely with designers during the Covid-19 pandemic. It became clear that many of the designers were unsure how their brands could thrive through 2020 and that practical support and ongoing commitment was required. The 12 designers are: Art School, Ahluwalia, Chopova Lowena, Stefan Cooke, Germanier, Halpern, Harris Reed, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Thebe Magugu, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Bianca Saunders and Wales Bonner. Eleven of these designers were already partner brands and each designer was chosen "for having a unique and powerful DNA which is intrinsic".
“I am delighted that we have formalised our support for emerging talent, developing The Innovators into a programme that actually helps futureproof their businesses in what has been a tough year for the creative industry. I have worked with many of these designers for a long time and I am so happy that we are committing to their visionary collections in a practical, material way.” said Natalie Kingham, Buying Director at MATCHESFASHION. This group of designers will only contribute marginally to MATCHESFASHION’s group revenues, £372 million ended 31st January 2019, but they add far more to its brand as a destination for people who love fashion and a place to discover newness and the hottest design talent. This desire is insatiable and companies need this veneer of young designers and brands. A small financial outlay is worth the newness halo effect
In 2019, Liberty launched its ‘Liberty Discovers’ platform for up-and-coming talent. It supported designers by offering mentorship from the Liberty buying team and exposure opportunities via the brand’s communication platforms and access to Liberty’s two in-house product and fabric design studios, located within its Central London store.
Right - The LVMH Prize fund of €300,000 was split amongst the 8 2020 nominees
As for all the designer prizes, many decided to split the prize monies amongst the nominees due to the pandemic. The LVMH Prize finalists, Ahluwalia, Casablanca, Chopova Lowena, Nicholas Daley, Peter Do, Sindiso Khumalo, Supriya Lele and Tomo Koizumi all shared the €300,000 prize money equally. LVMH also pledged to support previous winners of the prize with a new fund, an undisclosed amount, and the six previous winners of the LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
In America, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was renamed ‘A Common Thread’. A Common Thread has raised over $5 million of which over $2.13 million was granted to 44 businesses in the first round of funding, $2.015 million granted to 37 businesses in the second round of funding and $500,000 granted to 47 NYC-based manufacturing businesses in the third round of funding for a total of 128 recipients across the three rounds.
Fashion’s tight production timetable and traditional cashflow model makes it very difficult for small designers and brands to survive. While the giant brands and retailers want to dominate, they also want a veneer of choice and newness. Expect to see many more funds, support and ‘prizes’ to appear from the large luxury groups and retailers.
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London Fashion Week Men’s - LFWM - was stripped back in more ways than one, this season. While the bones of the skeleton schedule were showing through, it was the lack of themes on the catwalks that really raised questions. What we were given was a genderless, season-less and sex less display of menswear: a casstratrated men’s fashion week. The rumour mill was flying that LFWM will soon be merged with the women’s London Fashion Week. It’s worth noting, there were as many female models as men, so, if gender is becoming less of a differentiation, then London Fashion Week will become just that, and the two separate halves could make a whole.
Left - Alex Mullins AW19 - Girls for Boys?
If the men do return to the women, it needs to be as equals and not just a day tagged on at the end. Menswear is outgrowing womenswear, and is always seen as the less established and important sibling from brands who see ii as an add-on and not a priority. It’ll be interesting to see which brands are brave enough to give menswear equal billing.
Men’s fashion needs stereotypes to challenge, it needs boundaries to push and lines to blur, if all the lines have been erased, aren’t you just floating into nothingness? And that’s what it felt like a bit here. Menswear collections entirely shown on females models - Alex Mullins produced an entire men's show featuring only female models - more non-binary club kids dressing up in dated womenswear or six pack revealing T-shirts for the coldest months of the year: it was the male minimised.
As for gender, the whole big reveal of a chick-with-a-dick is no longer shocking, nor interesting, nor original. Art School showed a collection that didn’t look good on either gender and, Charles Jeffrey, the Uri Geller of the London scene, continued with more theatrics, but, in his defence, when the feathers stopped flying and the smoke and mirrors were turned off, the collection looked more accomplished and could hold its own alongside any other designer in-store.
This lack of focus made for a schizoid season, and it was brands like E. Tautz, which didn’t do anything particularly new, that created a pull and yearning for collections featuring something beautiful again. Bored with sports, bored with fugly, the next men’s movement will be a return to something you want to enjoy and cherish rather than Instagram and discard.
That most British thing of all, the weather, was totally missing during LFWM. It’s all about “drops”, and “Autumn/Winter” is delivered in the middle of the summer, but, before, many brands and designers would start with this idea of “Winter” or, rain, which made Burberry. That probably had something to do with bigger budgets and fancier staging. Larger and more established brands used to like to ram home the cold weather feel, already visualising the windows, and while this idea is dated, at this LFWM, many of the clothes could have been for any month, anywhere, at anytime. So, what makes it 2019?
Sex was missing too. Even the hyper masculine muscle boys at Astrid Andersen were covered up for a luxury pyjama party. It was as though men were getting ready to go into hibernation until all this woke madness blows over. Though, Per Götesson, showed T-shirts pulled up to reveal the stomach, perfect for those social media body fascists. “It’s about equal parts vanity and fragility.” he says. “Each piece is designed three dimensionally around the body. We are applying techniques perhaps more common in womenswear and couture where lines and proportions in movement are taken into consideration. The jersey pieces are developed using this process, it is about finding a balance between strength and fragility.” And, there was me just thinking it was about likes on Instagram. Back to creating a male pecking order, As soon as one thing disappears, a new line or goal is revealed to differentiate the masses: that unattainable 8-pack separating the men from the boys.
Right - Art School AW19
Fashion is about selling change and, as a designer or brand, you need to create desire for that change into what you are presenting at that moment in time. Genderless, season-less, sexless, can equal nothingness. Just please don’t make men redundant.
Big Coloured Bags
If you're a man carry man-sized stuff around, you need a man-sized bag, obvs. Matching it with your hair is up to you.
From Far Left - Tourne de Transmission, Berthold
LOVE & PEACE
Who was it that once sang, ‘All you need is love’? Well, whomever it was, London needs a bit of a cuddle right now.
Below - Oliver Spencer, Bodybound
Just as orange has become a menswear staple colour, it's now time for primary yellow.
From Far Left - Kiko Kostadinov, Berthold
Androgynous ‘Non Binary’ Club Kids
Men’s and women’s fashion collections are merging so they may as well make it all androgynous, unisex and non-binary. They’ll save a fortune!
Anything goes? Yep! Read more here
From Far Left - Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Art School
Alf Garnett becomes the style icon for SS18.
From Below Left - Per Götesson, Nicholas Daley, Bodybound, Katie Eary
Networking, fashionably so.
Far Left - Miharayasuhiro, Blood Brother
Selvedge tape continues to proclaim you allegiance.
Below - Bobby Abley, Christopher Raeburn
Striped Rowing Jackets
From Below Left - Topman Design, Songzio, Hackett, Kent & Curwen, Kent & Curwen
Border control. Who needs the eye scanner when you can wear this?
Left - Bobby Abley
The first rule of fashion week - always end your show on a high.
Below - Bobby Abley, Liam Hodges
Fashion gets streamlined. Bike optional.
From Far Left - Martine Rose, Daniel W Fletcher, Wan Hung
Fashion loves a few pointless dangly bits.
From Below - Tourne de Transmission, D.GNAK
Who knew big zips could be so slimming?
Both - Miharayasuhiro
It seems there’s competition for Charles Jeffrey’s party crown. The young designer who gave us a gritty and sweaty club night presentation at the ICA and, last season, giant monsters running around the catwalk followed by a wave of dancers, isn’t the only one offering us a new interpretation of the London ‘Club Kid’.
At this afternoon’s MAN show, ‘Art School’ made its dramatic debut with a small collection that was big on personality and, despite really pushing the androgyny and drag of menswear, was a believable treat. Entitled ‘Queer Couture’, designers Eden Loweth & Tom Barratt, say it is ‘rooted in a cast who are emblems of trans defiance’ and ‘the unfolding narrative of a non binary paradise to be indulged in’.
Translated that means boys as girls and clothes moulded and designed around the wearer and not the usual conformist approach. Slutty Swarovski covered hooded mini dresses in scarlet red mixed with biased cut dresses and splits to the gusset. The only way of spotting the girls from the boys was to look at their legs.
Left & Right - Charles Jeffrey's 'Loverboy'
While exhibitionist, it felt real and believable. It could simply be the models’ conviction, but it felt more than that.
Charles Jeffrey’s first standalone ‘Loverboy’ show was an ‘orgy’ of ‘clothes made of dreams’. Labelled ‘Queer hedonism’, this time, it was a theatrical display that included a crocheted daisy thong and Elizabethan finery. Jeffrey has become a poster boy for this polysexual energy of the city’s young and while it’s caught their’s and our imagination, I can’t help but think it’s a shame there isn’t a bigger scene for all this go with. I’m thinking music and clubs, because, as we all know, this has been in decline for most of this century. Of course, there are pockets, especially in East London, but you feel like you need a New Romantic moment that resonates into wider society.
And, this brings me back to Jeffrey’s collection. While fun and entertaining, it felt more like costume and the clothes dictating the wearer. While the tailoring is there, Vivienne Westwood’s shadow was ever present, especially with the styling and Blackadder type Elizabeth I wigs.
It feels like he needs to go back to the club and think less about the show and spectacle of fashion week. There was too much going on and didn't feel as raw and as fresh as previous shows.
Left & Right - Art School
But one thing is for sure, London’s young is sandwich between high rents, student loans and low pay and need this. This is the generation where, while they have the freedom, they feel handicapped by the older generation and in a cultural landscaped that is being squeezed.
This is fashion that inspires the creative. It's time for a night of a escapism.