One certainty is the trainer/sneaker/casual shoe juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Young men are now the biggest purchasers of footwear - Read more #ChicGeekComment The Mass Male Sneakerheads - and trainers are driving this addiction.
A new trainer label to know is Oliver Cabell. Founded in England, but now based in the US, Oliver Cabell was started in 2016 by Scott Gabrielson, who left his job at a non-profit and moved to England to start a business. With no fashion, retail, or start-up experience, Scott relied on his passion for balanced design and quality products to launch Oliver Cabell.
Left - Oliver Cabell - Ash - £145
In 2015 Gabrielson came across a news story from the 1970s highlighting a heavy night out for actors Oliver Reed and Steve McQueen. He had long been inspired by the rebellious duo, who spurred a generation to take the road less travelled. In the 1960s Reed and McQueen played the characters Oliver Twist and Martin Cabell, and he combined the two and came up with "Oliver Cabell".
As for the night out? It turns out even the “King of Cool”, Steve McQueen, proved no match for the Oliver Reed life force. The story goes that McQueen flew to London to discuss a project. Putting business aside, for a bit, the duo went on a marathon pub crawl, which resulted in Reed losing his lunch on McQueen. The project was never finished.
Right - Oliver Cabell - Amazon - £145
All Oliver Cabell footwear is made in Spain using Italian materials, and for every piece they create, they reveal their costs and tell the story of the people behind it. (This is part of the new trend of brand “Pricing Transparency” - Read more about it here ChicGeekComment Pricing Transparency)
Doing the intelligent thing of releasing new styles gradually, Oliver Cabell are launching, in two new colourways, Amazon and Ash, in their Rennes retro looking trainer. Made with 3oz suede, full-grain leather, and rubber shore A outsoles, all are sourced directly from the Tuscan region of Italy.
Based on a 50 acre estate called “Keyneston Mill" in Dorset, Parterre - translated as “on the ground” - is a new and experimental British perfume brand aiming to grow many of the ingredients themselves. Two thousand plant varieties to be precise.
Founded by husband and wife, David and Julia Bridger, their backgrounds are farming and graphic design, respectively, Parterre launches with three fragrances, all limited in number and stocked at Fortnum & Mason.
Left - Not the Crystal Maze - Keyneston Mill, Dorset
TheChicGeek says, “Who knew you could grow vetiver in the UK? I always thought it was a tropical grass found in places like Haiti. Soon to be open to the public, Keyneston Mill looks set to be a destination in itself and not just for perfume fans. I can see a Monty Don special coming on!
No budget has been spared here with Sir Elton John’s ex-gardener Stuart Neilson and former RHS botanist Nanette Wraith being brought on board. Design plays an important part in the core of the garden with Renaissance Italy and Kandinsky referenced while the rest of the acreage is put to growing in volume.
Based on botanicals, obvs, the three fragrances, produced in collaboration with leading perfumer, Jacques Chabert, are “A Tribute To Edith”, geranium and rose, “Run Of The River”, bergamot mint and orange flower, and, the most masculine, “Root Of All Goodness”, bergamot, vetiver and leather.
I admire Parterre because they will be at the whim of the unpredictable British weather and, as such, they’re still trying to work out what works and what gives a decent standard of product. They’re also producing the oils themselves using steam distillation.
Right - Parterre - "Root Of All Goodness" - 50ml/100ml - £95/£160
Like the majority of gardens, things will get better with age. Everything seems quite new and experimental, and while the French will probably scoff and turn up their noses, literally and metaphorically, just remember they did that once to English sparkling wine and look how far that has come.
It would be nice to see which of the ingredients are homegrown - maybe a Union flag next to them? - I do think they’re missing a trick not doing at least one fragrance with 100% British grown ingredients, but I’m sure, in time, that will come. Also, they should use a British perfumer or try doing it in-house.
This plugs into the British obsession with plants and gardening and being able to visit and see the place will only add to the attraction. Of the three fragrances, the most masculine is the “Root Of All Goodness”, but I was drawn to the rose one. Men can wear pink and smell of roses, these days. I like the branding, it is fairly feminine, but the hand calligraphy numbering on the bottles is a nice touch. I’d just love to know what they could do with the stinging nettles, bindweed and Japanese knotweed in my garden!”
Just as everybody seems to be turning veggie or vegan, so too are our accessorises. M.R.K.T. - Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger - is a Los Angeles-based accessories label established in 2010 by Harvard-trained architect, Tom Pen.
The designs are inspired by modern architecture and produced in materials which are carefully selected with structure, texture, and durability in mind. All of the materials are socially conscious and vegan friendly and feature vegan leather, felt and micro suede.
TheChicGeek featured one in this OOTD - here
Left - Are you a Mad Rabbit or a Kicking Tiger? Carter Backpack
Streetwear is all the rage and it seems as though everyone is trying to create their own clothing line these days. Even so, there are still plenty of streetwear designers that are making some of the most fashionable clothes this side of the catwalk and you'd be amiss not to take advantage of these exciting creators. Here are a few of the brands that you should be paying attention to if you're not already:
It felt as though this British skateboard label came out of nowhere in 2010 to quickly become one of the hottest streetwear brands on the market. Known as much for its irreverent sense of humour as it is for it incredible clothes, Palace has gone from a flash in the pan to a fashion mainstay. Palace will also be doing a new collaboration with Adidas this year, complete with fresh new shoes and a range of other apparel and accessories.
Supreme is one of the most iconic and respected skate brands out there and they continue to kill it today. The legendary box logo is a badge of honor and the company continues to put out incredibly fresh clothes year after year. It was recently revealed that the latest collaboration for Supreme would be with the legendary thrash-metal band Slayer in a collection that will include jackets, sweaters, shirts, and more based around some of the band's classic albums.
Stussy is another classic street brand that has managed to remain hip and relevant throughout the years. The brand was founded back in 1980 and it's hard to believe a 36-year-old label can stay as fashionable and with-the-times as Stussy is today. With a wide range of T-shirts, sweats, jackets, and more the name is one of the most recognised and beloved in street fashion and is a must-have for anyone trying to rock the style.
Mishka has been a hot name in the NYC underground fashion scene for some time now, but their irreverent riffs on pop culture combined with cutting edge street style has made them popular throughout the world as well. The streetwear company and record label was founded in 2003 and continues to be wildly popular in the hip-hop community with its eyeball logo keeping watch over New York's streets.
The 32-year-old Russian designer has taken the fashion world by storm, and if 2015 was when Gosha made a name for himself then 2016 is when he really took off. Rubchinskiy opened the Vetements SS16 show and shot this year's holiday campaign for Topman. His takes on classic American '90s street style is both ironic and original and the designer has established himself as one of the preeminent streewear stylists of today. Even better, Gosha's clothes are remarkably affordable for a label with such a high profile, thanks to his emphasis on being accessible to the youth trying to buy them.
Does menswear really need yet another luxury label? It does if it can offer something different that caters to wealthy men by making their lives easier, increasing comfort and looking smart while not being too difficult or ‘fashiony’ to wear. So, no challenge there then?!
Left - Helbers AW16 Luxury menswear staples with sports detailing and modern fabric mixes
Many traditional luxury menswear brands have fallen into that trap of trying to draw attention to themselves, the brand and the product and it risks alienating its core group and those who can really afford it. Just look at the new Brioni or Zegna’s, now, defunct Couture line. They are all chasing the same customers and these men are picky and know exactly what they want.
Well, I’m introducing, Helbers, a new label of luxury menswear staples from Dutch designer, Paul Helbers. When I first saw this, in the Spring, it was the attention to detail and quality which you could instantly see, and that was just the branded hangers!
You may have heard of Helbers before from his time in charge of Louis Vuitton’s men’s under Marc Jacobs from 2006 to 2011. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, he has also worked at Maison Margiela.
AW16 is his first collection and I would describe it as Jil Sander meets Neil Barrett. Made in Italy, mostly near Venice, it is a small selection of classic and pure menswear pieces with athletic elements and fabric mixes. It is pricey, but I think this is a brand designed to complement the wearer rather than dominate.
Anyone that gets fired up by that entrepreneurial spirit and decides to launch into the tricky world of menswear deserves a fair hearing. Daniel Gardner, 25, from Kent, has launched Brother & Gent. Moving from media publishing to brand owner, Dan wanted to combine the act of brotherly love with the manners of a gentleman. And, this new men’s accessories brand certainly has lofty aspirations.
Left - Where is all began, Dan's loft
“When I was younger I often wondered how many of these well established and respected menswear brands such as Hackett, Ted Baker, Paul Smith or Charles Tyrwhitt actually started out!? They must have started somewhere, right?.. And I’m sure all would agree there’s no way of creating such a renowned brand name, such a reputation simply overnight... “ says Dan.
Brother & Gent sells men’s accessorises, think ties, bow ties, braces, pins and tie-clips, and while the dandy look is disappearing in menswear, men always like nice things, especially when it comes to gifting. Some of the accessorises are made in England, others in Italy and even some Dan is making himself in his loft. The prices are keen, and, from what I can see, offer great value. Ambition and passion are the two things needed most when starting a business. Watch out Paul Smith!
Right - From Dan’s home county - ’Garden of England' Tie - £36
I don’t usually feature Kickstarter campaigns. I like to wait until something is concrete and there’s something to see. Otherwise, the website can become a graveyard of sartorial dreams that never quite materialised.
Left - MDN English trainers in ChicGeek 'ginger'
I met Jamie Harris from shoe brand, Modern English, at LCM, last summer, and the recent Jacket Required men’s trade show in February. He had finished product and from what I could see it looked really good.
Here's the Modern English story. Until the 70s, there were hundreds of shoe factories in England – capable of turning out almost 180 million shoes per year and the majority of shoes bought in the UK were made locally. Today, only a handful of shoemakers remain and imports account for 98% of UK shoe sales.
Founder and Creative Director, Jamie Harris, believed England's craft footwear industry could only survive if its products were relevant to today's consumers and, in 2013, Modern English was established with the intention of ‘evolving', rather than ‘preserving’ this 600 year old Northampton-based industry.
The name, Modern English, is their manifesto; everything they make will be made in England, and will be modern in its thinking. He likes to point out that “Modern English is NOT another 'Heritage Brand’".
Right - MDN English sandals in this clean, polished white
Keeping it simple, there are just 2 styles of shoes - trainers & sandals - in 6 bold colours, all made in Northampton, the home of English-made shoes.
He first produced a small run (100), because he wasn't sure how they’d be received, and they immediately sold out. He's now doing an exclusive collaboration with Natural Shoe Store which will be a limited-edition of 65 pairs and available at their stores in mid-July.
Now, he’s decided he wants to go straight to consumers and decided to start selling by Kickstarter. He’s got the factory, made the all the mistakes and, now, you can grab a pair at the remarkable price of £125. He can keep costs low because the construction of the shoe has been simplified which, I think, also adds to its physical appeal.
A pair of contemporary and stylish made in England shoes for £125? It’s definitely worth a punt.
Watch the video below
Life outside of London?! Yes! Tailors, Clements & Church, are proof that by doing what you do well and slowly growing your retail network in wealthy pockets around the UK, you can build a healthy menswear business with a point of difference.
Left - All images Clements & Church SS16
Starting life a decade ago when Clements & Church’s Managing Director, Mark Nash, bought a tailor’s in the heart of Birmingham, they now have a further four shops in Oxford, Solihull, Leamington Spa, Beaconsfield and, now, online.
They’re not cheap, but then quality tailoring never is.
The Clements & Church’s localised tailors have a feel for their customers and, literally, tailor their offering to suit the area they are in. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t experiment. Using quality Italian and British fabrics, they design new styles of tailoring and accessories every season in bold fabrics and colours while still grounded with good taste. Many items are made in Britain and are an update of traditional designs and processes.
Mark Nash, says, “We have always wanted to combine the very best quality, with individuality and something different. If a customer was after something a bit different, when we first started, other than a navy or grey suit, they wouldn’t have been able to find it. We have filled that gap.
“Clements and Church is unique. We are an extension of our customers’ lifestyle and have fantastic relationships and a very high level of retention. We offer a product that has a sophisticated and distinctive look and we pride ourselves on our knowledge and service,” he adds.
Highly trained tailors are available to service customers for Bespoke and Custom Made suiting in each of their shops.
TheChicGeek says, "This is some of the best tailoring I've seen lately from a label unknown to me, until recently. It's great to see this kind of quality coming from outside of London. It is expensive, but, you are getting value for money when looking at the fabrics and manufacturing used. You're also pretty safe in the knowledge that nobody else will be wearing it, plus you'll standout for the right reasons. Slow and steady always wins the race!"
The English countryside has a timeless quality reflected in the garments designed for it. While practical, many of these, most notably jackets, have become fashion items and are worn all over the world, in both the countryside and urban places, yet still grounded in our green and pleasant land.
Left - The quilted Prufrock Tweed Country Coat - £425
The British wax jacket is the one the majority of people think of and never shows any sign of waning from popularity. I was recently introduced to the British outdoor brand, English Utopia. Concentrating on wax and tweed country jackets, it has grown over the last couple of years through its attention to detail and British made jackets.
English Utopia currently turns over £650k per annum and has doubled in size every year since its launch in 2013. The label launched in Europe first, via a network of sales agents, and in the US in 2014. The UK launch commenced in 2015 and the label now employs 6 members of staff.
The wax cotton and quilted garments are entirely made in the UK. English Utopia only uses one UK factory, one that Gary - the founder - has had a manufacturing relationship with for over 20 years. All of the woollen garments are made in Lithuania in a family run factory that’s Scottish owned. This particular factory is a specialist at combining natural fibre garment manufacturing with technical /performance expertise.
Founder, Gary Newbold, ‘the Leicester lad’, as he calls himself, is a self-taught designer who left school with ‘nowt’. Long before Wiggins and co captured the cycling zeitgeist, Gary represented team GB becoming a pro cyclist at the age of 18. He competed in sportives including the legendary Milk Race Tour of Britain and lived in France for eight years.
Upon hanging up his wheels at the age of 28, he dabbled in a bit of pattern cutting and in put himself through night school to secure a place at York University. He honed his freelance design talents before landing the top creative job at Barbour in 2000.
Gary has steered the creative vision for renowned heritage brands including Farlows of Pall Mall, and Kneissl (the world’s oldest Ski brand) where in 2009 he was appointment Head of Design. In 2001 he joined John Partridge, where he helped resurrect the label, a perennial favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales.
He still cycles 25 miles to work, though these days he’s swapped Lycra for English Utopia waxed cotton.
The English Utopia name is an amalgamation of his two passions. Firstly, his love of what it means to enjoy the English landscape – from the Cotswolds to Cornwall and Glastonbury to Glyndebourne – English Utopia is a brand firmly rooted in the countryside. Secondly as a designer, the initial vision for a collection is often distorted during the production and marketing process. This ‘utopia’, the original sentiment behind a creation, is something he does his utmost to preserve.
The balloon logo was inspired by seeing them in the summer months air balloons taking off from York races, near his studio. But in addition to this beautiful spectacle, for Gary the balloon symbolises creative freedom. In an age of corporate restraint where there isn’t a place for the unmeasurable, allowing ideas the space ‘see where they go’ is a precious thing.
The company is based in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate and draws inspiration in its designs from the surrounding countryside.
Right - Gary Newbold
If you’re bored of Prada you could do very well to look at new brand UTC00. Founded by four worldwide creatives, UTC00 is a truly global accessories brand with an aesthetic that spans continents. Named after Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated as UTC, a slightly more scientific version of Greenwich Mean Time, UTC00 is Greenwich and they use these different times, plus or minus, to regulate all meeting up and developing the brand.
From Milan, Seoul and London, they know their travel and have developed luxury accessories to suit. The colours are bold yet masculine and the quality details are streamlined for practicality. The majority of the materials, trims, hardware, and other components are custom developed and produced for UTC00. It brings to mind early Prada and the famous nylon rucksack and with prices of around £120 for a bum bag and £210 for a rucksack, it is premium but without the designer mark-up.