Some of Britain’s best known, mid-sized fashion brands are up for sale. French Connection, Pretty Green and Anya Hindmarch are all rumoured to be looking for new owners. Put LK Bennett into the mix, which recently when into administration, closing five stores and making 55 redundancies, and you have a slew of established British brands trying to forge the next chapter of their existence.
While Anya Hindmarch is more in the luxury pricing category, the others are all premium high-street; asking consumers to stump up more cash for their products in a mid-market squeezed between fast-fashion and ‘luxury’ brands. This is an area that has suffered the most over recent years. Hooked on sales and discounts, many of these brands operate an unsustainable retail network, flabby business model and have suffered due to the demise of the traditional department store.
Putting themselves up for sale is timely. If you’re a foreign investor, British companies have never been so cheap, due to the weakness in the pound and Brexit, but there’s also a watch and wait attitude for most of the retail market at the moment, with many companies, particular private equity, being burnt, over the last few years, and only investing in strong, bankable billion dollar brands.
Left - Anya Hindmarch bag with her quirky sticker designs, but does the brand need to make more conservative product?
French Connection has been on the block for a while now. A brand that reached its zenith in the late 90s, thanks to their provocative and attention seeking FCUK slogan, it had lost its way. It recently went into the black, thanks to an ambitious store closure programme. Recently reported, French Connection made a slim profit of £100,000 for the year to January 31, 2018, compared with a £2.1million loss the year before. Revenues edged up 0.2% to £135.3million but its same-store sales fell 6.8%. French Connection said it will continue to close stores, having shut down more than half of its sites in the past five years. Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has a 26% stake in the business with founder Stephen Marks, who is also chairman and chief executive, owning almost 40% of it and they say talks were “ongoing” with several potential buyers.
French Connection has done the correct and drastic decision to close the majority of it stores and department store concessions. Truly international, it is not wholly reliant on the UK market, but needs to remind people of their USP and make people feel good about paying more. It needs to decide what the sustainable size of the business is.
Liam Gallagher’s menswear brand Pretty Green, which is named after a song by The Jam, has called in Moorfields Advisory to help look at options for the company. Founded in 2009, Pretty Green channels British Mod culture into branded basics, linking the brand to music heroes and a strong Made-in-England feeling for its more premium ranges. The company said that it was “not immune to the challenges currently facing the UK high street as customers migrate from purchasing in store to online.”
It currently has 14 standalone UK stores and numerous concessions within House of Fraser department stores. The brand lost £500,000 when House of Fraser feel into administration in August 2018. “The growing overall demand for the brand, coupled with a strong online customer base, position the company well to navigate these changes and we are therefore considering all options,” they said with regards to a sale. In the 16 months to January 2018, turnover at Pretty Green rose to £38.2 million and pre-tax losses narrowed to £1.5 million following a £5.6 million loss the year before. Private equity company, Rockpool, invested £11m into Pretty Green in 2017 for a minority stake.
Pretty Green has a very distinctive British look, and, while it has its core Mod audience, it needs to develop and reintroduce itself into the larger men’s market. It has to define what it sells and make men more aware of this. Its small retail network will probably be trimmed further and it’s good they are starting to narrow their losses, but they need to tap into that rich vein of cult British style that Fred Perry and Dr Martens do so well. This cool also translates internationally. Any investor would probably want Liam Gallagher to have a more prominent role at the brand and increase his visibility in it.
Right - Liam Gallagher in Pretty Green
The British luxury goods brand, Anya Hindmarch, has been put up for sale. Mayhoola, the Qatari royal family’s investment fund, which also owns Pal Zileri, Balmain and Valentino, has decided to sell the brand it started buying into in 2012. The fund has grown its stake from 39.9% in 2012 – Mayhoola bought a controlling stake in the company for £27million - to at least 75% by the middle of last year.
Founded in 1987, Anya Hindmarch has become known for her quirky and colourful designs. The brand lost £28.2 million and reported a 10 percent decline in revenue to £37.2 million for the year in 2017, the latest year for publicly available accounts. The selling decision is said to be “mutual”.
Anya Hindmarch has plenty of fun ideas, but, they, as a brand, just need to establish who the customer is. It has a lot of potential, but, unusually for a leather goods company, it needs to focus on more conservative product. Sometimes it’s hard to find a plain, elegant black bag, which means they are missing out on a huge amount of sales. The prices are premium, so the high-fashion, seasonal and quirky fashion product has a limited audience, while more classic and trans-seasonal product would sell well too.
Their £40 stickers were a surprise hit, but, as an example, their candle range has a strange disconnect between customers. I don’t think many of the older women carrying the bags want cartoon eyes and rainbow decorated candles on their coffee tables. It needs to balance the fun with the sophisticated.
This brand would sit well with Burberry - there are rumours they are looking to buy something - or maybe a Mulberry, and drill down into that affordable luxury market more. I think they will have plenty of interest, possibly from the Americans - Tapestry, Capri Holdings - growing their brand portfolios.
If retailers can survive 2019, there is a strong chance they’ll be okay. Investors will want to see that losses are stabilising, or reducing, and there is a clear strategy for the future. Skeleton retail networks, offering enough brand awareness while pushing people online with good product will be the future for these brands. Being less reliant on the department store model and taking your quality product direct to consumers will be the only way to make these brands profitable. You need a point of difference to make people pay more and a feeling they can’t get what you offer anywhere else. The days of chucking huge amounts of money at growing brands is over and private equity will opt for more realistic, tidy returns rather than huge growth.
These brands have that problem of being too big to be nimble and streamlined, while not big or glamourous enough to catch the eye of the big investors to take it somewhere big. Mike Ashley can’t buy everything. Or can he?!
Read more of TheChicGeek's expert comment here
Sometimes in danger of believing his own hype, Jeff Goldblum, is a cool customer. On a recent Graham Norton Show, Goldblum totally nailed this year’s evening look. A snakeskin jacket was teamed with a lurex shirt and tie combo and striking zebra socks and matching shoes.
Left - Jeff on Graham's sofa showing the zebra shoes and matching socks
What, on paper, shouldn’t work, totally does and shows it’s all about the sparkle and animal prints, this party season. This is confident evening wear and shows everybody at the office party what a lounge lizard you are.
Get the look below:
Right - Smart evening wear with character
Left - River Island - Black Snakeskin Print Skinny Fit Blazer - £85
Left - Saint Laurent - Damier Lurex Shirt - £685
Left - Moss London - Black & Silver Knitted Tie - £20
Left - Dr Martens Core Fusion Zebra Creepers In Black - £112 from ASOS
Left - Saint Laurent - Men’s Deck 20 Loafers In Black Suede And Black And White Zebra-look Calfskin - £795
If you’ve been taking notes from the latest men’s collection from Gucci, Cruise ’17 to be precise, you’ll have seen that they’ve looked to Britain and our anarchic past and created classically punked denim.
Both - Gucci Cruise '17
I’ve been tempted to bleach some jeans for a while now, ever since a splash back, while cleaning, left an interesting finish.
Below - An original skinhead
Take a pair of jeans that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. Look for something slim or tapered. Make it a pair you were going to chuck out, so you’ve got nothing to lose if you don’t like the finish.
Left - Test the bleach on a pair of unwanted jeans so you get an idea of the finish
Don’t use your favourite pair of jeans. Look for a pair where you like the fit, but not the wash or colour.
Left - Stuff the legs with newspaper to control the bleach to one side of the jeans
I’ve gone for an old pair of Lee 101s which have braces attached which only adds to the skinhead look. Im taking the braces off before I start as I don’t want these splattered with bleach.
Get some standard household bleach. You can wear gloves if you prefer.
Lie the jeans out flat in the bath tub or shower tray or do outside. Stuff the legs with newspaper to control the bleach to one side.
Left - Mohicans are optional!
Pretend you're Jackson Pollock and liberally drip the bleach over the jeans.
Left - Use standard household bleach
Let the jeans dry, best left overnight, then do the same on the other side.
Right - The bleach will look a bit green, but don't worry, it's working its punk magic!
Use a bucket to rinse or throw into the washing machine.
If you want a stronger contrast you can use the bleach directly. For something more subtle you can dilute the bleach with water and apply with a sponge.
The longer you leave on the bleach the whiter/lighter it will become.
Left - Hang the jeans on the washing line to dry
It will look a bit sludgy green as though it has been attacked by Slimmer from Ghostbusters. Don’t PANIC. It gets worse before it gets better.
Left - When you've done both sides put them on a cold rinse in the washing machine
Below - Skinhead Geek! You can opt classic skinhead with a Brutus shirt or, maybe, a Fred Perry polo shirt and Dr Martens or you can take inspiration from the Gucci show above
Left - TheChicGeek practising what he preaches and making WWD's street style pictures during LCM
The British have always had a very particular look when they hit the beach. Every Bank Holiday it used to be a case of taking one's jacket off, rolling up your trousers, knotting a hanky on your head and paddling up to your ankles, well, it seems not much has changed!
Stripey windbreak in hand, TheChicGeek hit the shingle in this retro beach look of white wife-beater and pastel pyjama bottoms. Catching up on his reading and admiring the view, TheChicGeek is the geek version of a stick of rock: it runs all the way through him.
Credits - Long Vest Top - Casely-Hayford, Bag - Scotch & Soda, Trousers - Casely-Hayford, Sunglasses - Dita, Socks - Topman, Sandals - Dr Martens, Bracelet - River Island, Towel - Frescobol Carioca, Sun Protection - Clinique, Neckerchief - River Island
Shot by Robin Forster on #OlympusPEN
See more images below
Forget the summerhouse in the Hamptons, a true geek has a shabby-chic beach hut on the south coast.
Who needs to be beach body ready when you have a rubber ring to disguise your spare tyre?! Just make sure you match it with your T-shirt.
TheChicGeekTip - If you're going bright, at the beach, match colour with more colour.
Credits - Jacket - G-Lab, Shorts - Vilebrequin, T-Shirt - Make Your Odyssey, Hat - Umbro, Socks - Topman, Sandals - Dr Martens, Sunglasses - River Island, Suncare - Clarins
Shot by Robin Forster on #OlympusPEN
See more images below