Monday, 8 December 2014

The Good, The Bargain, and the Hackney

If you've read this 'blog' for more than 5 seconds you'll know that I love a bargain. And while it's true that pretty much everyone in the world loves a bargain, people in fashion definitely love a bargain (and know how to find one) more than most.

Perhaps it's because you do tend to lose a sense of perspective about the true cost of things. You begin to believe that everyone actually buys multiple pairs of £200 jeans, or thinks nothing of dropping on a £700 coat twice a year, or actually pre-orders items from Bond Street stores. As we know from our own actual friends, this really doesn't apply.

Ergo, in fashion, there are a number of accepted, but on-the-DL routes to obtaining your dream wardrobe. You might know someone who knows someone at a PR agency and manage to get gifted, or a discount. You might rigorously shop the sales in high street shops and know which branch of which store is likely to have the exact piece in your size - normally somewhere unexpected like Canary Wharf or Richmond. You might scour eBay for items and get your bidding strategy sharpened up. Or, you might get into the world of sample sales and buy a combination of statement and staple pieces. A warning though, if you have to queue for a sample sale as I was asked to do today, walk away: a queue means that already too many people know about it, and all the best stuff will have gone to that exchange student who got up at 6am with Daddy's credit card to bag all the best stuff. And also, queuing for clothes is so *desperate* darling.

Or, you might (and here's where we come to the title), educate yourself about factory shops and outlets. Bicester Village is one such place, and indeed is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the UK for Chinese visitors. This weekend, I paid another visit to the burgeoning Hackney Fashion Hub, as it's been dubbed, and I came away with mixed feelings.

There's Aquascutum, Pringle, Bally, Anya Hindmarch, and of course Burberry (which was heaving), as well as a brand new Joseph outlet. We went to have a look for a coat for my Dad, which turned out to be an excellent idea since he's slightly larger than average, and those are the sizes that end up in these kind of places. Joseph was exceptionally well-stocked: Lanvin, Trussardi, McQueen, Comme, Dior...all sorts of top quality merch at somewhere between 60 and 80% off. I kept doing this stupid little fashiony gasp when I looked at the labels, deeply irritating my parents with repeated exclamations about 'how AMARZING the prices were for these pieces'. Sorry, Mum & Dad. Anyway, best thing I found was the Junya for Comme suede patchwork jacket that's at the top of this piece. Down from £2100 to £650 (and my size). Sadly I don't have £650, but that's a pretty good saving for a truly statement trans-seasonal piece that'll last for years and become a future classic.

What made me more uneasy is what this means for Hackney. As we know, the irrepressible march of gentrification has claimed a good part of East London and is the reason that I will probably never be able to afford to buy a house in the Capital. It's the reason that crime is down and some of my friends have made £200k on their houses in 2 years. It's the reason that areas that used to be deprived and stab-ridden are now habitable. Gentrification has so many plus and minus points...I'm not going to go into it here. But the new Hackney Fashion Hub is a case in point: transforming a once-no-go area of East London into a hub for designer shopping. The (already-approved) plan involves reclaiming the arches under the overground from light local industry, and demolishing some old terrace houses and a pub to make way for two glass towers and a huge number of retail units.

Yes, this'll surely bring jobs into the area, and trickledown into the local economy, but it's hardly characterful. Having seen the rapid rise of Broadway market from local street just 20 years ago to the yuppie £13-loaf-of-bread promenade that it is now (and playing my own small part in that too), I...well, I don't know. Is this progress? Is it the future? Is it (without wanting to sound *too* Kevin McCloud) better? A relentless rise of these kind of places, that are so blatantly not for locals that it's basically the rule now that anyone who looks vaguely Chinese in Hackney will either be looking for or coming from the Burberry outlet.

It's an integral part of fashion: the global supply chain, and the way things are made that you at least have to be aware of, whatever your opinion on how the wealth is distributed.

But I'm torn. There's no right answer. And the march of progress is tough to deal with. But the one thing is for sure, there is a price to pay for these kind of bargains, wherever you buy them.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Staple: A Fresh Challenge

I do not wear shirts. Since being forced to iron them for school some years ago, and then forced to wear them while working at a job I despised in the City, I've been off the collar and cuffs look. Aside from weddings, funerals, posh parties, interviews and the occasional fashion week, they hang forlornly in my wardrobe, complementing the colour-coded system, but never used.

Wearing a tie is just not for me (hence my hilarious attempts to be sartorial in the recent Hackett #10Men1City campaign). I loathe ironing shirts. The air tie (or as one friend once commented many years ago "the emperor's new clothes of styling") thing is just not me. Above all, I am not good with authority (if my last post wasn't clear enough), and kowtowing to the shirted authority is something I have, in my own small way, attempted to rebel against.

However, I also realise that this may sound a little childish. I am lucky enough to own quite a few rather nice shirts from posho places like Prada, Miu Miu, Paul & Joe and Liberty. Somehow I even have a custom-made one from Savile Row's Norton & Sons. Strange for an eschewer of the form.

When I rebooted this blog a couple of months ago, I posted the following onto Facebook: "It's been a while but I'm kinda bringing The Staple back! Ish. Still working out what I might do with it... suggestions/ criticism/ LOLZ welcome".

Brilliantly, one of my friends loves this sort of thing. Catherine Sweeney is a woman I have known since I was about nine years old, and she's a part of my awesome group of nine of us that are still fantastic friends since school. Probably, in fact, my most important friends in the world - even though I don't see them that often. Ms Sweeney though, loves an adventure, and a challenge (and is currently in Kenya, sporadically - and BRILLIANTLY - blogging at Twendevso), so she read this as a challenge. Luckily for me, she didn't really set any parameters, so I'm setting them for myself.

So, I'm going take her up on the challenge, and start wearing shirts again. It might not sound like a big thing to anyone that doesn't know me, but to those that do: when was the last time you saw me in a shirt?! Anyway, I've just counted in my wardrobe, and I have 20 - though the spangly Prada one may have to wait. The aim will be to wear a different shirt every week, and see how it goes. Will I become a committed shirt-wearer, or leave them gladly behind? Will anyone aside from Catherine care?

Don't worry btw, this isn't for charity (I'm more of a believer in giving money regularly to charity); there's no participation required. I'm going to do a thing, and then write about it. Hopefully it'll be vaguely interesting...

A disclaimer: Apologies if you find this deathly dull. I'm sure there's plenty happening on Buzzfeed.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Staple: Mastering the Dark Arts* (of eBay)

Over the summer, I became a bit of an eBay addict. Nothing too serious, but like most people in fashion, I try and seek out something different to what everyone else is wearing. And like most people in fashion, eBay is my chosen arena for this search.

Now that vintage shops, and even charity shops, are basically the same price as Topman, and the high street's enormous turnover of cheaply-made garments aren't becoming less appealing for anyone looking for interesting clothes, it seems like the forum for buying good quality second-hand clothing at a reasonable price is rather necessary. In the same way that I wouldn't advise anyone buying nice second-hand furniture to buy it at a fancy boutique in any London area with 'Village' in its name, buying top quality vintage fashion in the capital is riddled with issues, namely price and quality.

On the other side, there's a delicious ease to eBay, and a simple naivete to it. Like Twitter, the listings process is a great leveller, equating Balenciaga couture with a pair of old H&M socks, and leaving it to anyone with a bit of nous to truffle out the prizes. And usually it'll be Mr Fury, um furiously, bidding on the couture, so watch out - he's a formidable buyer.

Does it take a bit of time? Well yes. But then so does going to the shops. Also, I can't go to the shops under my duvet, or at 2am. Is there a possibility that you might buy a fake? Well, yes, but like buying a stolen bike on Gumtree, it's pretty obvious once you've looked for more then ten minutes. If you know which labels to look out for then you'll be OK (top tip #1: cult boutiques and smaller labels; if they a massive catwalk show/perfume line/enormous shop on Bond St then you'll be wading through piles of crap). Is it a bit annoying sometimes? Well yes, but that just makes the wins all the sweeter.

But what to buy? It's the same as when that flashing cursor of Google blinks and all of human knowledge is at your fingertips: start with something you know and love. My latest bargain is right there at the top of this post: a pair of Strawberry Thief Liberty print Vans in exactly my size, purchased just the other week, at half the retail price. I tried on the ones they had in Liberty a few weeks ago, but the sizing wasn't quite right, and sixty quid for canvas daps is a bit steep. Cue eBay - these ones are from a few seasons ago, but in this much jollier print, and crucially for me, a UK 10.5. Apparently that's my size, I've been getting it wrong for years.

Anyway, a drunken bid (top tip #2: booze helps all purchases - eBay or not, as we saw from my recent Neil Barrett purchase) secured them for a perfectly reasonable price, and they arrived a few days later. Admittedly the box was knackered, but tbh they've barely been off my feet. Florals for winter - groundbreaking apparently. Just spray them with some sort of protector like the woefully-names but very effective Crep Protect and you'll be AOK.

A warning: like Tinder, eBay is a dangerously addictive way of spending time and money. With an app on your phone, a bit of booze and a few quid in your Paypal account, you can rapidly become obsessed with it. I'm gutted to have missed out on a few items recently (an Aquascutum camel cashmere parka and an Antipodium T back from the days when they did menswear), but this is only fuelling the fire of more purchasing.

There are of course pitfalls to avoid, and ways of scoring that bargain last-minute, but this isn't a blow-by-blow how-to guide. Dive in, make some mistakes and buy something inappropriate, it's *such fun*, I promise.

* why a 'Dark Art', you might ask? Well, eBay is very much the fashion insider's secret, like the Chiswick car boot sale (apparently). Everyone's at it, but no-one talks about it. If someone in fashion tells you they've never used it, eye them suspiciously and quiz them on the names of the staff on the second floor of DSM where that Limited Edition Alaia utility came from, and watch them crumble.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Staple: Stighlorgan and the Brilliant Backpack

Over the summer, I was doing a bit of 'brand consulting' and 'content strategy' for a few different places. You know, the kind of things you can't really describe without sounding like a total wanker. The kind of work that you do at 2pm on a smashed macbook while sipping a flat white in a trendy Hackney coffee shop. Before cycling home.

Yes, it was a cliche filler for sure, but it was also a bit of a confidence-booster. Working freelance isn't all that bad, in fact it can be great (when people 'remember' to pay their invoices). The place that I worked at consistently was Irish accessories brand Stighlorgan.

Run by Yvonne and Christian, the brand is all about taking traditional techniques and materials and giving them a unique spin. Not only that, but the way they put collections together is fascinating: they start with a few outline ideas for the season, then fire these over to one of their mates (a fantastically creative writer named Davin Gaffney), and then he sends back a short piece of writing that is then transmogrified into an entire range. It results in a line of products that are more than just bags and hats; they are the embodiment of the people that run the brand and the way they run it.

On to a bit of product. I've had this Driscoll bag for a good few years now, and in that time it gets more comments that pretty much anything else I own. It's a srsly simple design idea, but difficult to pull off without a sharp eye for detail and a strong knowledge of craft. Harking back to drawstring bags from the '90s (JJB Sports anyone?), it's a classic design, reworked in thick bridle leather with rope shoulder straps and some slick zip pocket details both inside and at the bottom, as well as subtle oversize embossed logo on the front. Over the time I've had it, the leather has softened and taken on a gorgeous patina, and since I started my new job, I've worn this every day. Basically, it's bloody awesome.

It's characteristic of the way Stighlorgan works. While these guys have an eye firmly on commerce, they're also very careful about the way they do things: reworking the entire range every season for example, isn't really necessary, but that's the way they want to do it. I find this approach very appealing, and the designs that Christian comes up with every season are SO on point. He's created the kind of brand that is consistently a few seasons ahead of everyone else. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but incredibly I've not seen anywhere else that's managed a copy of the Driscoll.

Anyway, I appeared at Stighlorgan at the start of the summer, and since then, these two have launched a new season, taken on new clients, moved studios and opened their own standalone retail store in Dalston, with all of the rollercoaster ride that this entails. They are some of the most lovely people I know, and not to sound sycophantic, properly inspiring. They also love a drink, which always helps matters, I find.

Anyway, I'm thrilled to say that the SLG Store is opening tomorrow (Thursday 30th) at 1 Stoke Newington High Street, in a space that's been bespoke-designed by Christian, and built with love over the last few months. Stocking a range of brands alongside their backpacks, it's a beautiful place and sure to become a bit of a destination for discerning shoppers, design lovers, and most importantly of all, prospective new friends, in coming months and years.

Proof, if it were needed, that good things come to great people. Now on with the booze!

A quick postscript: While I did love my old Sandqvist, two things. 1) they're now everywhere (ew), and 2) it broke. None of that with these guys...

(With apologies (um, again) for terrible photo, there are much better ones on the site)

Monday, 27 October 2014

Published & Damned: The Decline of the Magazine

I've made no secret over the years of my love for the form of the magazine. Hell, I even worked at one for four years (before it 'went biannual'). And I had a brilliant time: I travelled the world, was showered with gifts, was invited to events as diverse as you can imagine, ate and drank for free...

It sounds ridiculous, and for the most part it was. But please note: this money for travel and gifts and everything else doesn't come from your publication, but from an increasing number of brands with a small to sky-high marketing budget chasing a rapidly-decreasing number of journalists and publications - especially in print.

The current model of fashion media is still doggedly clinging to print publications. Everyone loves to see something in print, is what we're told, but in truth, who does it matter to? Not to the public for starters. Here's a truth that might sting, if you work in print: no-one reads magazines. Your mates don't, your parents don't, people under 25 definitely don't. It's an industry in decline, and that isn't going to change. Print publications as a mass-market means of communication are over. When was the last time you bought a magazine? When was the last time you saw someone with a daily paper that they'd paid money for? Even the Saturday/Sunday papers tradition seems only kept alive by pubs.

I don't think I'm being overly hyperbolic (and in fact, I'm happy to be put right), but the way people consume has changed. It's all about the internet. Obvs. Print magazines won't die, but I've always likened the relationship to MP3s and vinyl records: you wouldn't wander around today with a turntable in your bag would you? Everyone has an MP3 player, or more likely, a phone that plays music. But the people who love a certain band, who cherish the experience of hearing their music, will go out and buy a vinyl record. Same with magazines; but fashion (like music) is a bit of an inward-looking world, and everyone that works in it buys magazines (or rather, has them delivered to their desks), and still likes seeing shoots in glossy format. Interns devour biannuals at a voracious speed.

This decline in popularity has lead to a depressing lack of money in an industry that is supposed to be reasonably desirable: the trickledown effect being that magazines are run by posh girls who love shopping and Daddy's Platinum Amex, and interns. The resulting effect of the lack of money, is a lack of investment in the surrounding media and talent: the second-tiers of print publications are run now by mavericks with a little VC investment (or inheritance); a lack of competition means that advertisers don't spend money further down the tree - I know enormous fashion websites with readerships in seven figures that are run from kitchen tables. Great journalists and writers are following the dollar signs to the Land of Content, overflowing with rollerball pens and heavy gsm writing paper.

Anyway, without going a bit Lexi Featherstone (or moaning relentlessly about the volume of emails one has to sift through) I guess it's just a bit sad to see that the established media hasn't found a way to get around this and jumpstart the industry. The halcyon days of making whatever you want and getting paid top dollar for it are over. Writing a 20-page feature for a glossy magazine and being paid £10k just doesn't happen any more. You're lucky if someone even pays your paltry invoice these days, especially in music journalism.

Some might say that the closure of a magazine is a sad thing, but really, it's an inevitability - they were never meant to last forever. It's the medium that I'll miss; the idea that you could turn a page and have no idea what's coming - a hugely powerful trope in a mass-market product. As my old Editor once memorably put it: "A magazine is a storage space for dynamite; and we want ours to blow your face off."

Don't get me wrong. There are still great opportunities to make content and tell great stories (I'm working in one such place now, in fact). You could start a blog, work with your mates, start a niche's not hard. Build your voice on social media, speak what you believe to be the truth, read (for God's sake READ!), write some words somewhere, and who knows, you could be the next Suroosh Alvi or Shane Smith - seemingly Vice is the last hope for some sort of future to the media, and I can't imagine having typed that a few years ago.

I guess what I'm most sad about is the changing idea of telling a great story, and telling it with words, really well. So many fashion writers are so bad at using a keyboard (not that I'm Proust, but at least my sentences are vaguely grammatically correct), which I find to be a huge shame: there are so many fantastic stories in the fashion industry that are just waiting to be well-told.

But I'm going to end on a positive note (and try to get this one put to bed).

First, remember that as long as those sky-high marketing budgets are there, there's always a way to get your words read.

To conclude (and continuing the musical analogy): all the best music has come from tiny, unknown scenes; repressed people, searching for a way to do things their own way. Look at disco, or acid house, or techno. Perhaps this switch in writing culture, driving the best writers away from established channels, away from the old structures of work and supporting themselves will drive a revolution in people writing great stories, putting great words in unusual sequences and making thrilling narratives, just because they want to.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Staple: Sugar-Coated Iceberg

Apologies in advance for the Lightning Seeds reference - I'm sure you'll get over it though (aside: CHRIST, that song is nearly 20 years old.) It's a terrible reference to coats, and thank the Lord, one that avoids talking about a change of seasons. #copywriterproblems

Anyway, I seem to have developed an obsession with coats of late; partly because, well, why the fuck not, and partly because of my summer-fuelled eBay addiction. It started off (like all good addictions) with a bit of fun, and has of late turned into a proper compulsion; I'm constantly searching for some really good menswear pieces from brands like Cacharel, Wooyoungmi, Carven, APC (of course) and vintage Helmut Lang and B Store. And there's plenty to be had, at a pretty reasonable price. A month or so ago, I managed to pick up an old B Store raglan-sleeve coat for £15, which was a bit of a steal.

Anyway, I digress. After a late-night booze-fuelled trawl of the Neil Barrett stream on eBay (tip: NEVER do this), I decided that bidding a not inconsiderable, but just about bearable amount on a short, DB camel peacoat was a superb idea. Also, I'm newly employed, so obvs had to treat myself. And I'm SO glad I did - this piece was a runway piece from AW13, and appaz retailed for in excess of $1200 originally, so it was a total bargain. And it is EXQUISITELY made; all stiff wool lapels and beautifully-lined interior. It's also bloody warm which is nice on the freezing overground platforms of east London. There's something rather pleasant about a coat like this: it is clearly beautifully-tailored and constructed, and you feel that every time you put it on. For significantly less the price of a wool & leather-look jacket from Topman, I've got a proper, made in Italy, piece of craftsmanship. Long live my eBay addiction, right (currently bidding on an Aquascutum cashmere parka - OMGZ, right?)

My other coat acquisition comes from Stone Island - the other end of Italian outerwear. This was, I am incredibly lucky to say, a gift for working with the brand and their fab PR agency 4M over many years at Notion (they got their fair share of coverage), and I was invited to pick something out in-store (yes, clearly missing some parts of being a magazine-hack). Cobalt blue has always been one of my favourite colours, and in this classic windbreaker shape, it's a lovely bit of bright on the overground. It's featherweight, beautifully-tailored (with narrow arms) and makes me walk with a weird kind of lad-swagger. I'm obvs such a terrace hooligan IRL, though I'm not sure it sits well with listening to Annie on repeat on my iPhone. I'm actually after a nice pair of Adidas Gazelles to complete the look, after seeing some look fabulous at the Richard Nicoll SS15 show in June (OMG ALERT: 4 days of LCM in Jan!)

Anyway, I have much-digressed. The great thing about these two coats is that they are both fantastically-made, fit brilliantly, and cost about the same as a run-of-the-mill high street winter jacket (OK the Stoney was a gift, but you can pick them up for about that much on eeBs). It just proves that with a little research and a well-timed drink/bid, there's stuff out there that will really elevate your wardrobe from the masses. And make you feel great at the same time. Cos that's one of the most important things about buying great statement pieces, right? Especially when you wrap yourself into a winter coat? You want to feel great.

(With apologies for the photos: I'm a Wordsmith, not a photographer, so these cheesy shots in my hall mirror, nicked from Instagram, will have to do. Plenty more baking, mirror shots and embarrassing moments there if you need a laugh.)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Staple: Proper Fashion Telly

So it seemed that the BBC actually made an effort to do some proper fashion TV around this season's LFW. There was a triplet of short docs on BBC4, hosted by Susie Lau, Abbey Clancy and Daisy Lowe, they were variously entertaining (intelligent, fun and pretty pointless, respectively), but it also seemed to catapult someone in the backend of iPlayer- longing for the much-vaunted return of The Clothes Show, perhaps - to dig around in the Beeb's archives and pull out a number of old-school documentaries on fashion.

Entitled the Art of Fashion collection, it's not only a really fascinating selection of programmes, but a window on how documentaries used to be made, before the advent of event telly and overbearing, omniscient, dramatic Big Brother-style narrators. My favourite was an episode of 'Ex-S' (a long-running Scottish documentary series akin to Arena) called Styling the Swan which explored Jasper Conran's attempt to costume design a version of Swan Lake, back in 1995. Presented without knowind comment or celebrity voiceover, the whole thing is a simple set of montages with Conran talking us through what's going on; there's a deliciously simple pace to it. It's not been through several rounds of Director approval; it doesn't have a social media strategy or a hashtag; there's no tacked-on 'mission'; it's not really even all that sensational. It's just a film crew following a creative guy as he wrestles with a creative problem.

And stripping all of this away (or rather before all of this was bolted onto documentaries), it's much more freeing, intimate and intelligent as a result. Maybe that's how telly was before the internet, maybe there was much more of an emphasis on showing without judging, but this simple and clean format is endlessly appealing for telling a story. In keeping the format and filming style as simple as possible, the entire focus is on the story, and crucially, on the costumes themselves; the camera is allowed to linger on details and slot in breaks for the digestion of ideas. It felt at times like a documentary from the future: when attention spans were elongated. I hope someone, somewhere, with commissioning powers watches it, and takes some notes.

The joy of this for me was both the format, and the way it allowed Conran's ideas to breathe. Looking in detail at the costumes, the problems they presented, and the way the designer got around them was hugely interesting. It kind of reminded me of Grand Designs tbh, and that can only be a good thing.

It also reminded me that there's so little good fashion telly, especially on YouTube. A very good friend of mine who is now running a fairly powerful video company was asking me if there were any and I drew a blank. I've sought a number of times a credible, intelligent fashion vlogger (especially in menswear), and they just don't seem to exist. Surely someone (*not me*) is going to take this slot - it seems too good not to, right?

Anyway, there's a few still on iPlayer (apparently for a year!) so if you're looking for a distraction, I can highly recommend. Oooh or the Julien Macdonald one! Back when he was relevant (post his days at Chanel, pre-Strictly), there are some great PTCs of him talking about how he got to where he was and how he put on a show (in Spitalfields! In 1997!), but the best bits are his parents and sisters sitting around on a dralon lounge suite, giggling about "how we knew he was diff-rent".

It's fashion televisual gold. And when was the last time you could say that?

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Staple: Spray It Again, Sam

The thing with grooming products is that, as we all know deep down, they are shameless cash cows. Flavoured waters and scented creams in shiny boxes are the mainstay of most of the big fashion houses now, offering more profit per unit than a custom-detailed jacket could ever hope to. It could be seen as sad, but really it works: you buy into a brand at a fraction of the cost of a dress, you feel great, brand makes money. All good, right?

I'm as guilty as anyone else of spending £25 on a tube of face moisturiser: sometimes you know it's wrong, even at the overly-perfumed duty free desks of doom, but you get involved anyway. There's something of the treat to great grooming products, especially those that work perfectly with your skin.

Thing is though, there are limits. Some time ago, after a fabulously indulgent haircut, I purchased an expensive bottle of salt hair texturing spray, thinking it was some hugely complex concoction. High on hair putty and great beards (as is the norm after a haircut anywhere in a postcode beginning with 'E'), I swished home and had a look at my bottle of magic. Ingredients: water, sea salt, and lavender oil. Price £16.

I'm not normally one to complain about the pricing of luxury goods, but £16 for some salty water was a step too far, and though it was a great product, I decided that, to teach myself a lesson, I'd mix my own. I mean, how hard can it be?

Turns out it's easy as pie, so for the last few years, that's exactly what I've done. And here's how you too can do it at home - it's *really* not rocket science. Get an empty spray bottle from Boots, or use an old one from an expensive bottle of hair product that you were duped into buying. Measure out some hot water from the tap into a jug, add plenty of salt - it's amazing how much will hang in suspension in the liquid - and stir vigourously. Find an old perfume tester, or use some drops of your current fragrance, or mix up some essential oils, or bath oil, or face oil - hell you could even add coconut oil - and put a few drops in to add a bit of fragrance and oil to the mixture. Mix well, et voila. Total cost of hair spray: can't be more than about 10p.

Spray on liberally before styling or blowdrying and Bob is indeed your mother's brother. Think about how much money you've saved, and then splurge it on eBay. Repeat daily.

Rarely has Saxa been chicer.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

What menswear can learn from womenswear (maybe)

So SS15’s fashion shows have finally come to an end, with Paris’ stragglers ending yesterday. Slightly outside of the magazine world, it’s hard to believe that it went on for so long – how can an entire industry take two collective months a year to view new product? It seems like an age since I took my Mum to a few shows at LFW.

Anyway - while the fashion elite are in recovery (and the rest of the industry gears up for the torrent of press days, launches and industry tradeshows), it’s time for observers to pull together overarching ‘think pieces’ on ‘trends’.

I know I said just last week that I wasn’t going to look at broad brushstrokes, but I’m contradicting myself: the joy of being in charge and all that. I’m going to try and look at womenswear from a menswear perspective: what can menswear designers learn (if anything) from the way womenswear was presented?

I’ve often said that menswear and womenswear are totally different industries. Like live telly and on-demand (or DVD and film), they are two separate industries with different consumers, different habits, different approaches, different teams, different marketing campaigns etc etc, united solely by a single medium: in this case, clothes.

Actually. That’s not strictly true. They’re also united in the way in which the clothes are presented: catwalks and presentations. One thing that really stood out about this season’s shows was the sense of spectacle and occasion that the shows – particularly the Paris shows – had.

Karl Lagerfeld ‘s Chanel is the obvious proponent of this here. You don’t need me to tell you how much of a shift in ideas that the Chanel supermarket was for AW14. SS15’s dubiously-motivated ‘feminist’ ‘demonstration’ (‘inspired by May ‘68’, I mean, c'mon!) was all about the sense of occasion – or more cynically, the Instagram moment. Bailey’s Burberry might have had all the digital bells and whistles, but Chanel trended much more successfully by putting on a proper spectacle.

Back in the day designers like Galliano and McQueen used their clothes to evoke a sense of drama. This season though saw a micro-trend of fresh takes on presenting clothes: Opening Ceremony’s Spike Jonze-scripted play at NYFW, for example; or Gareth Pugh’s beautiful balletic drama (in collab with, bizarrely, Lexus); or even Meadham Kirchhoff’s tampon-adorned tree installations.

Though OC’s show was devoid of cameras (and let’s be honest, designers have played with subverting the catwalk format for years), it seems like this reworking of a clothing presentation is mostly about creating a social media ‘moment’: giving a seasonal shove to a more established brand that brings them back to the forefront. Rick Owens did a great job of this with the step-dancers for SS14’s ‘Vicious’ collection.

But would January’s menswear shows benefit from these bells and whistles? Not yet. But I reckon designers would do well to keep the idea in the back of their minds. Creating a moment that defines the brand has worked for someone like Craig Green, and as the world’s Instagram users get used to regular floods of catwalk images (aside: please no more fuzzy finale videos), they need the occasional shot of something different to punctuate those shots.

In the age of Instagram, shows are no longer just for buyers or top press; they are the first way that a designer’s clothes are presented to the world, so you want to make the most noise. Shows cost so much money…etc etc; you get what I’m saying.

The way that fashion weeks work has been revolutionised over the last five years. So why not change the way that designers show their clothes? I expect some designers are already plotting some exciting things for the men’s shows in January.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Staple Returns

No apologies for being a bad ‘blogger’ this time.

As most people reading this will probably know, I left Notion a few months ago to ‘freelance’ and work out what I actually wanted to do. A tough thing, given that the future of word-based editorial around the topic of fashion and music is so uncertain. I’ve been pretty lucky in that a number of great opportunities have come my way (you know who you are) and I’ve managed to forge a semi-successful/solvent career of sorts in the last few months.

It’s taken me a while though, to realise that I can actually be a publisher myself again, without the backing of Style Title X or Men’s Magazine Y behind me (though if ‘Style Title X’ or ‘Men’s Magazine Y’ do want to commission me, then drop me a line at the usual address). After a number of enlightening conversations with an array of great people within fashion, I’ve decided to reboot my blog.

I’m hoping that writing and publishing this way - without any specific editorial constraints, advertiser puff-pieces or deadlines - will be much more entertaining for anyone reading (and me as a writer), without the hassle joy of chasing invoices.

I’m going to try and avoid broad brushstrokes of ‘trends’ or ‘scenes’ and focus simple on great things, done well. Whether that’s music, fashion or a particularly well-made bathmat (getting a strong homewares vibe right now), but let’s say the focus will be primarily menswear. The whole LCM thing is pretty well-documented, but there are pockets of brilliance that never really get the coverage they deserve, and aspects of what the big designers do that often end up on the digital editing room floor.

Anyway, slightly pretentious manifesto over, on with some ‘content’. Well, some words at least. No fancy bells and whistles, not even any GIFs (for the moment) – I’m going to stick to what I’m good at: words. Hope you enjoy.