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.
We’re going to take our warm weather inspiration from Michael Fassbender, today. This is how you want your polo shirt to look this summer. Of course, it helps if you have the body, but a knitted polo shirt with stretch will compliment most body types.
You want it to cling in the right places, so the chest and arms, so go for something fitted, but not too tight. The high-street are doing some great knitted polos at affordable prices or opt for something pricier in a bold colour. Go for a fine knit wool, even in summer, or a silk mix.
Left - Michael Fassbender at SXSW showing us how something so simple can look so good
Here are TheChicGeek’s favourites of the season:
Left - William Lockie for L+M Ecru Fine Knit Cotton Polo - £43 from Trouva
Left - Pretty Green - Stone Fortrose Knitted Polo - £65
Left - Prada - Slim-Fit Jacquard-Knit Wool Polo Shirt - £545 from MRPORTER.COM
Below - Reiss 'Manor' Merino Wool Polo Shirt - £75
Left - Fred Perry - Tipped Knitted Shirt - £70
Left - ASOS - Knitted Short Sleeve Textured Polo In Muscle Fit - £20
Below - River Island - Ecru Knitted Polo Shirt - £20
Left - Pretty Green X John Smedley - Chartham - £135
Left - H&M - Silk-Blend Polo Shirt - £24.99
Below - Peter Werth - SS17
Robyn Ferris, Junior Buyer at MR PORTER
"This summer expect a renewed popularity of vintage-style jackets. The colour of this Officine Generale’s suede jacket pairs perfectly with jeans and is ideal for those in-between months when the weather can’t seem to make up its mind. The jacket’s water-repellent coating guarantees that the beautiful suede won't be sullied by any light rain!"
Left - Officine Generale - Slim-Fit Water-Repellent Suede Jacket - £930
"I’m a big fan of Inis Meáin and their hand finished knits. We have a great selection for spring available on site now including lightweight linen melange sweaters and cardigans. My favourite piece is this waffle-knit sweater, it will introduce textual diversity into your casual wardrobe, looks great worn with jeans or shorts and will take you through to autumn".
Below - Inis Meáin - Gansey Waffle-Knit Linen and Cotton-Blend Sweater - £185
"The relaxed vibe of this shirt perfectly encapsulates summer for me. I love the variations in tone it has from the dye and its crisp touch gives a summer feel whether worn under a cardigan with jeans or with swim shorts on holiday".
Left - Massimo Alba - Watercolour-Dyed Washed-Ramie Shirt - £200
"Having recently just launched on MR PORTER, I adore Arpenteur’s heritage-inspired collection. Perfectly capturing casual French attire, this classic cotton Breton stripe t-shirt is a must have for summer. The relaxed cut and three-quarter sleeves recall traditional naval uniforms".
Left - Arpenteur - Brehat Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt - £75
"No man’s summer wardrobe is complete without a new pair of swim shorts and my pick out of this season’s selection is this Incotex swim short. The art deco print will get you noticed on the beach and as they are designed to fit like a pair of trousers, they are far more refined than your average pair".
Below - Incotex - Short-Length Printed Swim Shorts - £150
This tank top is kinda amazing. The deep V is back, (check out TheChicGeek's favourite cricket sweaters - here) in knitwear, this season, and this mongrel-type confection of clashing colours and stripes is the perfect bad taste piece for the season. Prada's knitwear is really strong at the moment - the rainbow cardigan from AW16 - here - was a favourite, and this just continues the lust. Wear with sportswear. Clash.
Left & Below - Prada - Intarsia Wool Vest - £655 from MRPORTER.COM
It all started with Raf Simons with his AW16 collection and, now, it’s the knitwear neckline du jour. The quintessentially British cricket jumper has been grunged up and distressed and become less gentleman's summer sport and more urban and edgy thanks to designers such as Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Brands such as Stella McCartney and Kent & Curwen have all done their interpretation of the cricket V and there's plenty of mileage in this style as many brands such as the Spanish knitwear brand, Sweaterhouse, is showing them for AW17. If you don't want to pay designer prices then pop to your local sports store, university or school shop and buy the largest size they have.
Left - Raf Simons AW16
Left - AMI - £225 - matchesfashion.com
Below - Prada SS17
Left - Stella McCartney - £570 MRPORTER.COM
Left - Gucci - £560 - MRPORTER.COM
Below - Kent & Curwen - £495 - MRPORTER.COM
Left - Raf Simons AW16
Left - Smart Turnout - £149
Below - Cambridge University - Magdalene College Cricket Sweater - Ryder & Amies - £110
Yasmin Mehmet, Junior Buyer, MRPORTER.COM
“I was so happy when Orslow launched on MR PORTER, last season! The 107 jeans are a special denim, in a slim fit style which is slightly tapered. They have been crafted in Japan, using premium selvedge and the13.5oz denim has been washed specially to give a two year wear look”.
Left - Orslow - 107 Slim-Fit Washed Selvedge Denim Jeans - £255
“Soft, 50’s style looking checks are key for FW16. This overshirt is a really easy way to get this trend across and finished in a beautiful soft cotton flannel and loose fit, gives the perfect look of contemporary cool”
Left - Our Legacy - Checked Cotton-Flannel Overshirt - £150
“One of my favourite brands, who needs no introduction, is A.P.C. The label’s co-designer Louis Wong has created the perfect sophisticated version of one of our more understated trends for FW16 - velvet. Presented in a classic bomber shape in a lovely midnight blue and finished with a dense ribbed trim, this jacket is crafted with quality and will work well teamed with a simple white tee”.
Left - A.P.C. - Louis W Cotton-Velvet Bomber Jacket - £400
“The best tee ever! American based brand Velva Sheen have been crafting a unique tubular knit technique that eliminates side seams making this the perfect fit. I would suggest having several colourways in your wardrobe”.
Left - Velva - Sheen Rolled Slub Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt - £40
“I was trying to get my hands on a pair of Moscot sunglasses for a while, so was pleased when they launched on MR PORTER, this season. The ’Lemtosh’ style is probably their most classic shape and I like the vintage inspired design. This tortoiseshell pair with the green lens is quite unusual but super cool for FW16”.
Left - Moscot - Lemtosh Round-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses - £250
You've probably got the hint by now that I'm a big fan of Alessandro Michele's Gucci. The fantasy of getting dressed up and, finally, being excited by fashion makes this a fashion moment to cherish and get involved in.
It may not be for everybody, but if you're a lover of beautiful things then you'll find plenty here. It's not revolutionary, but, boy, is it good. It has so many references that it's hard to pigeonhole it in a particular time or place. If you don't fancy the checked deerstalker or snake jeans, then how about the logo belt?
Credits - Full Gucci look from MRPORTER.COM, Velvet Trainers - Russell & Bromley
If Gucci did grooming, this is what it would look like. I first heard/saw of Buly - full name L’Officine Universelle Buly - a few months ago when they were just about to open a counter in the new Dover Street Market. It has just gone onto MR PORTER, as a global online exclusive, so is much more widely available.
Here’s a bit of background. It was originally founded in 1803 in Paris and was rediscovered by owners, Mr Ramdane Touhami and Ms Victoire de Taillac, who reinvented the brand in 2014 and has since become highly-regarded for its naturally sourced products and handmade grooming accessories.
They sell over 700 products including tens of different types of combs and interior fragrance products.
Left - Buly - Crème Pogonotomienne - £33 from MRPORTER.COM
TheChicGeek says, “For something that looks so old, Buly is surprisingly refreshing. It is part of the trend for richly decorated products which give the impression of ancient manuscripts and knowledgable elders. These products look like something da Vinci or Michelangelo would have used and feel like a discovery. I've wanted to try some since I first saw it.
I tried the Crème Pogonotomienne (shaving cream). It's a mouthful and means to cut the beard in Greek. Buly is anti-plastic so all products come in metal tubes or glass packaging. This is a metal tube with a metal top and adds to the historical feeling. The reason, Mr Touhami says, is that plastic packaging, as you squeeze it, lets air into the product and therefore bacteria.
This is a light, white shaving cream containing burnt hinoki wood and goes on and washes off easily. The smell is strong. I think it smells like burnt marzipan and when I look at the ingredients it does contain sweet almond oil.
It’s often hard to review a shaving product as it’s usually as good or as sharp as your razor. Unless you have a reaction or breakouts, they are usually all pretty passable. That said, the smell of this makes shaving something different. You’re transported to the world of Buly; dusty mahogany drawers and stone floors making ancient magic. It’s not cheap, but it sure looks nice next to the sink, but, there is substance underneath all that beautiful packaging”.
Prada was once one of the coolest brands. Twice a year, I’d eagerly await each Milan show for that sophisticated yet intellectual take on beautiful men’s clothes. They’d always be something new and clever, which sometimes took a couple of months to sink in, and defined this intelligent type of dressing.
Unfortunately, not everything lasts and this has disappeared from the label which hasn’t been updating as quickly as they used to. It’s like Miuccia has left the building, but then maybe that’s what happens when you become a fashion billionaire?
Anyway, they’ve realised that in order to slow their drop in sales they need to get online and they’ve just gone on to MRPORTER.COM. This cardigan is a standout for all it’s ‘children’s-tv-presenter-rainbow-realness’. It’s something a crazed aunt would knit for you as a child and something that would quickly become your favourite and return to year-after-year. It's hand-knitted in Italy from Shetland wool and is basically a smile in a cardigan.
Left & Below - Prada - Intarsia Shetland Wool Cardigan - £1130
The final new landmark for TheChicGeek's epic #FutureIcons adventure with the new BMW i3 Mr Porter limited-edition, the American Embassy in Nine Elms near Battersea is the new home of the American consulate when it moves from Mayfair. Looking the picture of diplomacy, TheChicGeek is wearing a classic lounge suit and club tie, the umbrella is a nod to the typical English weather.
DIPLOMACY - Designed by Kieran Timberlake, the new cube shaped embassy is exceptionally environmentally friendly and features a security moat.
Credits - Suit - Hackett, Tie - Thom Browne, Umbrella - Francesco Maglia, Cufflinks - Alice Made This All from MRPORTER.COM, Shoes - Russell & Bromley, Watch - Daniel Wellington, Socks - Pringle of Scotland, Shirt - Thomas Pink, Black Fragrance - Jaguar 'Pace', Frosted Fragrance - Paul Smith 'Sunshine'