Forming the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, in Southern Italy, is home to the Massa Company. Still family owned and founded in the last 1950s, the Massa Boutique is one of Southern Italy’s premier fashion stores offering the best in ‘sprezzatura’.
A young Francesco Massa began his career as a dressmaker with a few basic tools: scissors, sewing needle and thread. He opened a small tailoring shop in Martina Franca and quickly became a trusted local outfitter for the gentlemen of the time. Eminent people of the city quickly demanded the gold hands of a Massa custom-made product.
Today, they sell men’s clothing, footwear and accessories. Located near Corso Messapia in Martina Franca, and online, Massa Boutique is strong in Italian brands including Ferragamo, Etro and a Tod’s online shop.
Suiting brands include Lardini, Zegna and Isaia and the name of Massa remains synonymous with quality and style.
Left - Shirt - Barba - £107.81
There was a time when prestigious shopping centres, usually out of town, could pick and choose - ‘curate’ - its retailers. Those deemed too low rent, not literally, weren’t given house room and everything was perfect in these sanitised high-streets.
Well, things are changing, we’ve heard many ‘Death of the Mall’ stories, but ultimately visitor numbers and footfall is dropping and they need/want to stay relevant.These shopping centres need bodies and lots of them.
So, it’s interesting to see how Primark is now being heralded at shopping centres that before wouldn’t have given such a large space to this affordable retailer.
Left - The extension of Westfield White City includes John Lewis and Primark
Bluewater recently announced a huge new Primark after it said it was the most requested brand from its visitors and Westfield White City’s new extension contains not only a John Lewis but a Primark, which was missing from the original lineup. Manchester’s Trafford Centre enlarged to accommodate one and, soon, Primark will be seen as an anchor tenant much like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.
What Primark brings to a shopping centre is a constant lifeblood of customers. With no online option, people have to get out there and physically go into the stores and this will have the knock on effect of making the whole place busier.
It’s an interesting time for shopping centres. Without something distinctive or ‘destination’, many will end up with large holes as retailers trim their retail footprint. Argos is moving in with Sainsbury’s, many of those BHS stores remain empty and with retailers such as New Look and M&S closing stores, there aren’t many big retailers to take their place.
A few years back, when Littlewoods and C&A disappeared, M&S was expanding and Primark was taking big units as it was growing so fast.
New shopping centres, such as ‘Coal Drops’ in Kings Cross, will take a different approach from the bigger is best attitude of shopping centres previously. Even the wording ‘Shopping Centre’ sounds a bit dated. What should we call them? Not ‘Town Squares’, hey, Apple!
It’s going to be about design - Thomas Heatherwick has designed Coal Drops - and discovery, with retailers many people wouldn’t have seen before. It’s about selling cool and constantly changing to keep up with this. It’s never ending. You need events, social media and a siren-like call to constantly remind your customers what you have to offer.
In America, their shopping centres are important because many places didn’t have much before it. Without the shopping centre there is no hub or heart to the town or city. In the UK, we’ve had High-Streets for centuries which have evolved constantly and also a street culture which is ingrained within our society. Admittedly, less prosperous places will see their high-streets struggle, but then maybe shops with be replaced with homes or other ideas we’re yet to even think about.
Shopping centres need to start thinking about what they stand for and question the future of shopping and retail. I think just ignoring it and ploughing on will speed up their demise.
Straight off the back of London’s LFWM and a look around Florence’s Pitti Uomo, the smarter jacket shape for AW18 is what I’m calling the ‘Slouchy Norfolk’.
It’s a longer jacket with a distinctive waist, and rather than the rigid and thick tweed of the Edwardians, this is more relaxed, unstructured and modern.
Oliver Spencer showed his with matching trousers in a handsome micro checked fabric, while Danish brand, Hansen Garments, featured the Norfolk’s signature waist belt and multiple pockets in a soft flecked material.
You’ll be able to wear this as a light coat and, also, instead of a smarter jacket during autumn and early winter.
Far Left - Oliver Spencer AW18
Left - Denmark’s Hansen Garments
Below - Classic Hunting Norfolk Jackets
We’ve all been there: you get back from the shops and they’ve left the security tag on. The alarms never went off and you’re left with a veal-coloured piece of plastic visibly hanging from your prized purchase. You’ve now got the task to remove it without creating a giant hole in the cloth, or, annoyingly, having to venture back to the shops to have it taken off.
Worry no more, as it’s actually a style statement now. Thanks to South London’s cheeky Oiboy label and LA’s Palm Angels, those security tags are the new must-have.
Wear it with pride and channel your inner Winona Ryder even though you’ve paid for it. Just be wary of those suspicious looking security cards and let’s just hope you don’t get a crescendo of alarms everytime you visit the shops.
Far Left - Palm Angels AW18
Left - Oiboy - 'Stolen Goods' Sweatshirt - £45
Below From Left - Oiboy - 'Stolen Goods' Cap - £25, Oiboy branded security tags
I’ve spoken of ‘Fashion Saturation’ before - here’s an article I wrote in 2016 - but, now, it’s official.
According to Weight Watchers, Britons hoard £10billion worth of clothes we never wear: 588 million unworn garments are languishing in the nation's wardrobes with women hoarding 365million and men 223million.
Of the 2,000 people polled – 1,000 men and 1,000 women – 25 per cent said they plan to wear their outfits again once they lose the extra pounds they have gained since buying the items.
Okay, I know it’s Weight Watchers, and they obviously see a motivator for people to lose weight is to get into all these unworn clothes, but it’s also a signifier of the wastage and glut of clothes we have in our wardrobes.
Left - Take a leaf out of Joey's book? Maybe this will be a trend to wear as much as possible to get those unworn percentages down
Men reported wearing just 53 per cent of their clothes, with the 47 per cent of unworn items worth £5.1billion. The most commonly unworn garments were T-shirts, jeans and jackets.
One in ten respondents claimed they did not throw out unworn clothes because they were waiting for them to ‘come back into fashion’. That’ll be those bootcut jeans then!
Overall, the £10billion figure breaks down to £200 of unworn clothes per adult in the UK.
People are drowning in stuff. This is why retailers aimed at more mature customers are suffering. The Debenhams, Marks & Spencer’s and House of Frasers of the world.
People have wardrobes full of unworn clothes and adding to this pile is turning many off the idea of relentless consumption.
Retailers aimed at the younger market are doing better - Boohoo, ASOS - as these consumers are still hungry for items and also their mindset is: wear, enjoy, dispose.
The irony is the less space we have, as homes become smaller, we’re using our precious space to store clothes we’ll never wear. Okay, I understand you can’t wear 100% of your wardrobe 100% of the time, but that 47% could easily be reduced to around 15-20%. Things for special occasions or have sentimental value you’ll keep.
Just look at your wardrobe, there’s not enough days in the year to wear the amount we have.
We need to unlearn this idea of ownership and also close the loop on reusing and recycling clothes. We need processes that make clothes’ fibres easily reduced back to their raw state and then reused and those which don’t fit this process, we limit their use. We can’t simply keeping adding to the unworn pile.
Happy New Year, Chic Geeks. What a crazy year. Things all went a bit Back To The Future II with our Trumpian dystopia, jaffa cakes got reduced from 12 to 10 in a box - the tragedy! - and online started to really eat into, and effect, traditional retail models.
It feels like we’re in an in-between period, right now, looking to the past, while waiting for the future. Prepare yourself, it’s definitely coming. Here’s a bit of TheChicGeek looking back, rewarding and remembering the past year.
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Best Label of 2017 Balenciaga
You had me at ‘rubber car mat skirt’. Anybody who can make a blue leather Ikea bag, at £1800, desirable, is on to something. Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian fashion designer, has made looking drab and unglamorous an art form. While not a massive fan of Vetements - his own label - Balenciaga still has some of the luxury polish left which makes something desirable. ‘Interesting’ could be the word, but what he does with this label is make you think about what you are looking at. It makes you question what you like and what you don’t, and that has to be interesting, no?
Left - Balenciaga Lookbook SS18 Glamour!
Best New Label of 2017 Martine Rose
Before you scream 'it’s not new' at me, I know, but this year Martine Rose broke through. After 10 years on the margins, and, I’ll be honest, I never really quite got it, everything changed and fashion turned towards her style.
She also started working at Balenciaga, above, and, used their manufacturing, giving her collections the polish it needed. She's making some of the best items of the season and if you’re into fleeces and cycle shorts, you’ll be in 90s heaven.
Left - Martine Rose SS18 - One of the must-have menswear pieces of the season - more about that later
Below - Boohoo has just launched activewear for men
Best High Street of 2017 Boohoo Man
Manchester based Boohoo has expanded hugely over the last few years. It was founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane who previously supplied high street chains such as Primark and New Look.
Boohoo recently announced plans in June 2017 to build a 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2) warehouse, costing £150m over the next three years, and would offer the capacity to deliver annual sales of £3 billion, alongside their existing Burnley warehouse.
One of the most successful British online retailers, Boohoo has massive potential and is doing really well in the US. In fashion terms, it’s fast and cheap, and this is the only way to survive and thrive in this market, aimed at 16-24 year olds.
While they nod to the trends, Boohoo makes clothes these people want to wear and while they aren’t all hits, there’s enough choice to be able to make a selection to reflect your personality or the character you want to be that day. Affordable, yes, disposable, yes, but this market is fickle and you’re only as strong as your last product, but there’s plenty here to get excited about and it’s only going to get bigger.
Best Grooming Product 2017 La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-shine Invisible Fresh Mist SPF50
Anything that protects, is easy to use and you’re not conscious of wearing, is the Holy Grail of grooming products. This spray goes on like a light mist and offers a high SPF protection. Sun damage is the biggest factor in visible ageing and anything that makes it simple and quick to add a layer of protection has to a good thing. You’ll actually enjoy using this and it shouldn’t just be restricted to the summer months.
Left - Get one of these for your holiday and then carry on using it - more here
Best Grooming Brand 2017 Perricone MD
The best grooming brands are those which make you feel like you’re in a knowledgable and safe pair of hands. Dr Perricone’s MD brand launched this 3-part men's CBx range, this year, containing a face wash, post-shave product and a moisturiser.
The 'CBx' part is a reference to Phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis sativa plant - hemp.
Expensive, but it feels like you’re getting more than fancy packaging here and with a new supplements range out this year - 2018 - and twists on his cult products, I think I’m going to carry on being a big fan.
Above - Dr Perricone's first men's range - read more here
Fragrance of the Year 2017 Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous
Picture the scene: Tom Ford walks into Esteé Lauder’s New York headquarters. He’s here to talk about the future of his cosmetics and fragrance business. It gets to new fragrance names. We have a new ‘oud this’, ‘something leather’ that, it’s all very predictable, and then, suddenly, somebody suggests, how about ‘Fucking Fabulous’? The room laughs. We all say it, don't we?!
The execs at Esteé Lauder look at each other, want to carry on laughing and then move over the joke. But, Tom’s feeling cheeky and he wants the name to stick.
No other brand would do it and that’s the power of having your name, and the power that goes with it, on the product. Nobody is going to question Mr Ford. What he says goes and this is why many fashion companies struggle. It’s all bit beige, a bit done by committee, nobody is willing to stick their neck out. Especially in conservative America.
Okay, so I’ve made this story up. But, this will be the fragrance people will remember from 2017. It’s just a shame the actual scent doesn’t live up to the name and is a cult for more than its name. If this had a memorable and individual scent it would be unstoppable. I just love how they have to blank out the f-word on the adverts.
Above - More than a name? Fucking Fabulous by Tom Ford
Most Stylish Programme 2017 The Deuce
If you know me, you’ll know I love a bit of 70s style. Think the pimps from ‘Live & Let Die’, and you’ll get an idea about the wardrobe for The Deuce. James Franco, annoyingly, and unnecessarily, plays twins in this, but Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the show. It’s a mix of mafia, prostitutes, pimps and punters in this grimy yet quite glamourous take on bankrupt 70s New York.
Left - The Deuce's pimps getting pimped
Best Menswear Collaboration 2017 Topman X Stranger Things
The right product, at the right time, driven by a massively popular Netflix series made this a big success for Topman and Topshop. It’s been a tough year for Topman and they need to think clever in order to take on the ASOSs and Boohoos of this digital world. Think ringer tees and washed denim in a collection of early 80s teen-wear.
Left - Taking a trip to Hawkin
Special ChicGeek Award 2017 - Christopher Bailey
Bailey is Burberry and Burberry is Bailey. The giant luxury goods company we see today has been created thanks to his creative design, direction and his attention to detail. This doesn’t mean it can’t change, it just means, in my opinion, it will never be as good.
For many years, Burberry was flying high. It tightened up its licensing and became a must-have for the newly rich Chinese.
It’s hit the buffers recently, so it’s probably time for something new, but some of those Bailey/Burberry collections were some of the best of their time. Leather sleeves on jackets? Yes, Mr Bailey. He made heritage Britishness modern and exportable and gave it a gloss that made you proud that Burberry was British. Read more here
Left - 2018 is the year Burberry waves goodbye to Christopher Bailey, what will he do next?
Turkey of 2017
Jeff Koons for Louis Vuitton was a double take when it first appeared on Twitter. What looked like a collection of bags straight from the back of a Chinese counterfeit operation, was, in fact, a collaboration with one of the world’s most successful artists. This tacky collection hijacked some of the world’s greatest artists and their most famous paintings and then emblazoned their name all over it: as if you were too dumb to recognise them. If you need a gold “DA VINCI” on your Mona Lisa then this collection was for you.
Left - Never actually seen one on the street, maybe rarer than the real thing?!
What are your thoughts? #TheChicGeekAwards
Value and price are related, obviously. A high price can offer great value, and vice versa, but many designer brands are very far from this. See more here - Greedy Margins & Brand Blindness
We’re in an age where the arrogance of brands has caused many to push their prices up while lowering their quality. It’s not good enough. So, it was a nice surprise to go into the new Fiorucci store on London’s Brewer Street and see quality product at reasonable prices.
Left - Tired of shopping? Have a lie down
I’d been meaning to take a look since it opened in September. Now owned by Janie and Stephen Schaffer, who had founded the high street chain Knickerbox together in 1986, Fiorucci was one of the coolest fashion names of the 1970s. This is the first store in its rebirth.
Right - The spiral staircase up to the 1st floor in the Fiorucci store on London's Brewer Street
Founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967, after being inspired by London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road, the first Fiorucci store opened in Milan’s Galleria Passarella. More stores followed. In 1974, a second location in Milan, a year later in London. Then, in 1976, East 59th Street in New York. The Manhattan store becomes known as “the daytime Studio 54”. It laid down the blueprints for the concept store as we know it today.
Until recently it was just a name check in Sister Sledge’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” song. But with Halston gone, Gucci overloaded, it’s, now, all about Fiorucci.
We’ve seen many brands from the 1970s try, and, generally, fail to make a comeback. Ossie Clark never quite made it and Biba stuttered and became an in-house brand at House of Fraser. Many brands make the mistake of trying to carbon copy what was then rather than taking the best bits and thinking about a contemporary shop or experience.
The new owners of Fiorruci have done this really well. The shop has that disco, playground feeling yet still feels sophisticated and the product all seemed to be Made in Italy of decent weighted fabric and excellently priced - £80 for a T-shirt and £140 for a sweatshirt.
Left & Right - More images of the first Fiorucci store as part of the brand's rebirth
While £80 is a lot for a T-shirt to many, when you compare it to £250 for a Gucci one that is so thin you can see your hand through it, it seems great value. I’m not sure who is doing their manufacturing, but it looked like the reason why you buy Italian-made clothes.
At these prices it’s something you can get involved and have fun with. Young consumers will be able to afford it or at least save up to it. They are positioning the brand for the long term, looking for repeat custom and offering their consumers something decent for their money. I know if I see a guy in a Fiorucci T-shirt I’ll want to go over and speak to him. It’s cool.
Go check it out next time you’re in Soho.