Why Do Today’s Fashion Brands All Want to be Content Creators?

In many respects, the days of walking into a store or visiting a website simply to buy a sweater or a pair of jeans are over. Today, stores, brands and designers want you to step inside their little universe and buy into theirentire commercial ideology.

Sure, there are still some brands who cling to the straightforward model and will just sell you some sneakers, wish you good luck and send you off with little more than a receipt as proof of where you spent your money. The thing is: they’re the ones losing out. In an overcrowded market where new brandspop up every other week (and the old ones are continually relaunched or reinvented to maintain their relevance) this extra mile is all they can do to boost their unique selling point. That might sound cynical, but it’s simply the reality of a new retail charter set by consumers worldwide. It’s tough being a brand these days, but it’s fun being a consumer. We, the customers, have the power.

Independent retail outlets have watched these general trends emerge and develop over the last few years and the majority have moved with them. These days, retail brands feel the need to create stories or expand on existing ones, to paint a bigger picture about what they want to present with their company. The heritage trend of the past decade was part of that – the idea that the history, traditions and craftsmanship of a brand had to be explored and explained to the customer. But what storytelling vehicle is best used for this? Look across the global retail landscape and most have settled on editorial content as a universal solution – and that’s why content creation is the new advertising.

Today, many brands and stores produce their own in-house magazines, not to mention compile rich, content-heavy newsletters and fill their websites with articles, interviews and inspirational images all designed to communicate an overall brand message. While, of course, the purpose of this activity is to drive sales, this goes hand-in-hand with the desire to educate customers and shape them after a particular image. For instance, a site likeMR PORTER is – at its heart – an online retail outlet; however, from the outside it seems to spend just as much of its time and money creatingeditorial content as it does on buying merchandise. The idea is to showcase the kind of person they want their customers to be – or who they can be if they shop there – and these days there’s barely a self-respecting store out there that doesn’t shoot its own fashion editorials or interview figures it believes to be aspirational.  There’s even been talk about Nike relaunching Nike.com as a hub for content, as opposed to merely acting as a web shop.

So why is this so important? Because it signals a whole new way for brands to project their image. What’s more, it’s more effective than ever. Go back 10 or 15 years and magazines had to send out questionnaires to learn who read them. Nowadays, the internet feeds back an almost endless source of information that covers everything right down to the smallest detail –  who reads what, how long they spend doing it, where they access the site from, etc. This information is invaluable in helping brands identify their audience and once they have that, they can work on influencing them. This, after all, is the definition of advertising, whether it’s above or below the line.

As I’ve already mentioned, MR PORTER is an excellent example of this; so, too, is Opening Ceremony. Both sites are well known for the quality and quantity of their content. It’s no surprise to learn that many of the people hired by brands and stores these days come from a background in magazines and newspapers –they simply apply this editorial point of view to a newfound commercial venture.

Another early content adopter was LVMH, who operated the eLuxury.com site as an overall retail outlet for the fashion conglomerate’s network of high-end brands. A few years ago that site was transformed into NOWNESS – an editorial platform publishing one piece of high-quality video content every single day. At the height of the internet’s power (where nothing limits the amount of stories published), to only post one exclusive and beautifully filmed clip a day, is, arguably, a very modern definition of what luxury means. That, in turn, reflects exceptionally well on the brands who are featured on the site.

Essentially, the whole drive towards content creating is a consequence of an overcrowded marketplace. Brands now have to take everything to the “next level” and this extends not only across their products but also theircommunication and marketing. Content creation – in a time when brands are questioning the worth of expensive two-page ads in print magazines – is a good way to both drive traffic and educate your customers on what makes you tick. It also allows you to take in a far broader range of interests and influences, creating an image that’s complex and well-developed, as opposed to static and two-dimensional.

Whether it’s an experimental fashion editorial or an in-depth interview with a pop-cultural icon, such content engages and inspires the right kind of customer, creating a much more valuable fanbase at the end of it. What some brands are forgetting (or at least choosing to ignore), however, is that continually improving your editorial output leaves customers hungry, and soon they will want more and better content. Without intending to, these brands are setting the hamster wheel off again and soon they’ll find themselves producing fully-fledged magazines – which, in turn, are funded on traditional print advertising…


Porter Turns 80!

There are instances when the clothes you wear become accessories to the actual accessory. Sometimes this sartorial appendix can be so powerful in colour, shape or all-around design that it overtakes the best suit or coat in your wardrobe. Accessories, be it shoes, jewellery or bags, are the underdogs – they have to work harder to be seen, due to size issues (jewellery) or because of their position on the body (shoes). But, when they’re good, they can make or break an outfit.

In the last few years, there’s been an influx of statement accessories. Some women buy ‘it-bags’ and spend both time and money finding the ultimate heels, while some men join queues that stretch around corners for limited edition trainers. Bags, though, have always been a tricky accessory for men. Bar the odd rucksack, we’ve struggled to master ‘man bags’. Briefcases are for businessmen and document holders are, well, they’re just rarefied pouches, aren’t they? There is a small handful of brands that have mastered the craft of making bag for the male market, and Porter-Yoshida is certainly one of them.

In 1935, in Tokyo’s Kanda-Sudachō district, Kichizo Yoshida started what would lovingly become known as Porter-Yoshida. The Japanese bag-maker has since manufactured satchels, backpacks, wallets and briefcases (in its characteristic green nylon), and beyond. Starting life as Yoshida Kaban Seisakujyo, the brand was close to never taking off, due to the timing of its inception.

“During the 10 years from the company’s establishment until the end of the Second World War, Kichizo had to do military service twice,” explains Ken Matsubara, Porter-Yoshida’s managing director. “However, thanks to his wife, Chika, his sewing machine, fabric, and tools were kept in a warehouse under a girder bridge. As a result, they weren’t lost during the war and therefore he was able to come back to work at the end of 1945.”

It’s not unusual for big fashion houses to have started as luggage brands – Louis VuittonGucci and Prada are all examples of bag specialists that branched out into the wider fashion world. But Porter-Yoshida has refused the temptations of any such adventures. Instead of expanding horizontally, the Japanese label has grown vertically by adding new lines and products. Currently, the company boasts 1,500 bag styles over 130 different sub-lines. This has made it the go-to for any multi-brand store in search of a characteristic, well-made bag with a standalone identity.

The label’s famous nylon bags launched in 1962, taking inspiration from porters carrying the luggage of hotel guests. It’s arguably this line that has made Porter-Yoshida a household name among fashionable bag carriers around the world. That and a long list of illustrious fashion collaborators, two of which include Italian brands Marni, for SS15, and Stone Island, for AW15.

Arguably, the best collaborations are always based on the expertise of a niche company and a brand with a strong aesthetic. As it’s Porter-Yoshida’s anniversary year in 2015, the collaboration tempo has been increased. “As the first stage of the celebrations, we’re releasing items in collaboration with Michael Lau, Ryota Aoki, Adidas, and Maehara Kouei Shoten,” Matsubara says.

Kichizo was born at Samukawa-cho in the Kanagawa prefecture, as the second of eight children – all boys. As early as aged 12, Kichizo knew it was bags he wanted to work with and at 29 he managed to fulfil his dream when setting up Yoshida Kaban Seisakujyo. His first bag to gain mainstream appeal was the ‘Elegant’, developed in 1953, which came with a zipper around its base that allowed the owner to extend the bag’s depth.

“This design was a big hit, since there were many apartments built at that time and people’s homes were not very spacious,” Matsubara explains. “However, it was very difficult to supply leather material right after the war, so the products he made were mainly rucksacks and shoulder bags made by canvas material that Chika had kept.”

Though Porter-Yoshida has a loyal fan base and continues to develop future classics, it’s a tough market. The fact that the company only makes bags can be seen as both an advantage and a problem. But, for Matsubara, there’s no question what school of thought he subscribes to.

“We think that our strongest point is that we are purely a bag manufacturer. Our products are made with the idea of the bag being a tool. Of course, the design is very important, but we think that durability and functionality are the most important features of a bag.” he explains. “We would never see design as a priority over functionality. We want to be able to continue making new and interesting products so our company can continue for eternity.”


Can Public School Save DKNY?

It’s a funny business, fashion. While, on the one hand, it’s all about setting trends and fads for the industry to follow, on the business side, the big brands are heading in all sorts of different directions right now.

A few weeks ago it was announced that Marc by Marc Jacobs, the diffusion line designed by Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, was to cease trading. Shortly after, Public School designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne were revealed as the new creative directors of DKNY – Donna Karan’s younger, more urban-focused offshoot line. Although both brands are owned by LVMH, it seems the parent company has rather different ideas about which diffusion lines work and which ones aren’t worth saving. So it is, with the New York sub-label given the green light, two designers just as obsessed with the beating heart of the Big Apple have been brought in to inject some new life. But does it really work to limit a brand and its inspiration so geographically, like this?

Speaking to The New York Times (of course), chairman and chief executive of LVMH Fashion Group Pierre-Yves Roussel revealed that DKNY is responsible for 80% of the DKI (Donna Karan International) business. First started in 1989 as a younger and more affordable version of the main brand (the typical definition of a diffusion line), DKNY set out to capture the energy and attitude of New York in a way that was aimed squarely at the youth of the day. Since then, however, its domestic allure has waned.

Nowadays only 50% of DKNY sales take place inside the United States, yet that’s perhaps not surprising, given the ongoing international allure of the city. There’s only a few cities in the world – arguably New York, London, Paris and Tokyo – with enough charisma and personality to form the entire basis of a fashion brand, so why shouldn’t they make the most of that? Incidentally, Donna Karan’s main line was initially dubbed Donna Karan New York, so there’s no doubt the designer has always seen New York as her spiritual, creative (not to mention physical) home.

In actual fact, the re-ignition of DKNY right now makes complete sense. The brand’s heyday was in the ’90s, and no one’s looked at it for directional fashion in at least 20 years. Both Karan’s lines became “fashion furniture” of sorts: ticking over at best, slowly decaying at worst. Sure, the numbers were there (likely explaining LVMH’s decision to buy the company in 2001), but as we all know, economic stability does not always equal creative stock. While there were signs of a DKNY resurgence a few years back – when its collaboration with Opening Ceremony managed to tap, fortuitously, into the ’90s resurgence trend – since then it hasn’t managed to build much beyond a “throwback” aesthetic. Now it’s time for the brand to create a new era for itself under the stewardship of two names very much a part of the current, and next, generation.

Just like when Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim were appointed at KENZO, Chow and Osborne’s New York is a new New York – one that’s completely at ease with its diverse makeup and the digital revolution sweeping through all corners of life. In fact, this digital link-up is the final piece of the jigsaw paving the way for DKNY’s brand reinvention. Alongside the Public School boys, DKNY has also appointed Hector Muelas as its Chief Image Officer, creating this entirely new position specifically for him. Muelas, a former creative director of Worldwide Marketing Communications at Apple, moved over to the fashion house having helped launch the Apple Watch – a rare reversal of talent after the tech giant pinched fashion executives Angela Ahrendts from Burberry and Paul Deneve from Saint Laurent. That’s a formidable hire on DKNY’s part, and one that should help them keep up with the digital wave.

While it’s interesting to note that Public School only started producing women’s clothing a few seasons ago, the industry response to their womenswear debut was overwhelmingly positive; Anna Wintour is now a regular, and the brand nicely followed up their CFDA menswear nomination with a women’s one. That’s not bad going for a brand that, while founded in 2007, only really became known when they swooped the CFDA’s Swarovski Award for Menswear in 2013. Without doubt, their take on what it means to be a New Yorker in 2015 will be a refreshing one. So far that has meant mostly monochrome, sportswear-inspired clothes – like a cooler version of Theory or Rag & Bone – and while these brands perfectly define the NYC look, Public School has managed to cleverly mix the dressed-up formality of suiting with a loose and relaxed “T-shirt look.” For want of a different phrase, Public School makes “fashion for the streets” – they just so happen to be the streets the designers themselves grew up on.

If the diffusion line as we know it is dead, then long live DKNY. According to LVMH’s Roussel, the brand has its own solo identity anyway (“DKNY is not a byproduct of the main line, but a stand-alone brand”). I, for one, think it needs to be that way. Clearly, this brand has far more potential than the main line, and though Donna Karan is still an “adviser” to DKNY, she no longer has ownership of the brand.

Arguably, it now belongs to the streets of New York…


Patrick Grant and the Palace of Fun

Patrick Grant is something of a Savile Row stalwart, both in terms of his Mayfair-based bespoke tailoring house, Norton & Sons, and his own personal style, which is a very ‘dandy’ take on the traditional English gentleman. To ensure that his eclectic style is available to more than just businessmen, Grant cleverly acquired E Tautz: a ready-to-wear brand catering for casual and formal needs.

While Grant and his brands have a contemporary, 21st-century feel, there’s something a bit ‘vintage’ about his lifestyle. His influences can often be traced back to a bygone era, a time and place where people acted differently but also dressed accordingly.

After last year’s Original Man book, his latest foray into publishing makes complete sense. Having discovered Peter Lane’s images of English seaside towns by chance, taken between 1960 and 1980, Grant decided to use them as loose inspiration for the current SS15 collection and published them too.

Palace of Fun is a beautiful collection of previously unpublished images from a time when seaside towns like Brighton, Morecambe and Blackpool were full of joyous holidaying families. This book is a good reminder of these halcyon days and the people that made them.

How and where did you come across Peter Lane’s photography?

I came across Peter’s photographs buried deep within a website devoted to the Morecambe Grammar School while researching the SS15 collection. A note beneath gave a short biography and an email address, which I contacted. I went to Peter’s home and he showed me his stash of albums over a nice cup of tea.

What was your initial reaction to the images?

Peter has a wonderful eye for the surreal, the funny, the melancholic – working in fashion we’re always looking for a story and Peter’s photos tell great stories of their own. These are the tales of Brits living a different, more carefree life, if only just a for a few days of the year.

Did you grow up on the seaside?

No, I could see the sea from the hills above my house in Edinburgh, but that was the coastline, and not seaside. Seaside to me requires a promenade and probably some flashing lights and a waltzer. 

What do you think is the attraction of living on the coast?

There is nothing quite like the seaside, that’s what makes it so alluring. People feel free to be a different version of themselves; they physically and mentally unbutton themselves. Maybe it’s the feeling of being at the very edge of the island, maybe it’s just the music and the flashing lights. It’s hypnotic.
Did you take any inspiration from the images that later influenced a collection?

Very much the feeling of freeness and abandon. The clothes they wore back then had a louche looseness to them, an attitude that was more carefree and away from the usual strictness of English tailoring. There were also quite literal references – the stripes on the side of an ice-cream shed, or a deckchair, or the paint on a theatre.

What does the British seaside represent to you?

There’s something wonderfully freeing about being close to the sea. It draws you in, it liberates the mind and seaside towns are all about abandoning your normal mores. The seaside is a great release. We go there to feel different about ourselves.

What’s the attraction from a fashion design perspective ?

It’s an incredibly rich vein of inspiration, both the physical – the light, the colours, the rolled up trousers legs – and the metaphysical – the sense of abandon, the lightness of being.


De förvridna drömmarnas konung

Det första besökaren möter när den kommer in till Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty på Victoria & Albert Museum är ett stort porträtt av designern. Hans nyfikna ögon granskar alla som besöker utställningen, när den nu flyttat från Metropolitan Museum of Art i New York till South Kensington i London, staden där Lee McQueen föddes, jobbade och dog.

Alexander McQueens självmord år 2010 skakade modevärlden. Även fast hans efterträdare, Sarah Burton, lyckats att både respektera Lees arv och sätta sin egen prägel på märket, lämnade McQueen ett gigantiskt tomrum efter sig.

Om man inte insåg det då, blir det nu – med Savage Beauty som ett retroaktivt bevis – plågsamt tydligt att Lee McQueen var, och fortfarande är, en av världens mest inflytelserika designer. Det spelar ingen roll att man, som jag, är herrmodeskribent och därför saknar kunskap och intresse för womenswear – Savage Beauty handlar om mer än kläder. Utställningen har lyckas återskapa Lees universum. Formerna, hans enorma teknikkunskaper – mycket tack vare hans år som skräddare på Savile Row – och hans förmåga att kunna förankra sina kläder i ett historiskt sammanhang gör honom unik.

Det är bara fem år sedan Lee gick bort, men mycket har hänt i modebranschen sedan dess. Vad hade han till exempel tyckt om att redaktörer numera ser visningar genom en iPhone? Eller att en uppsjö av skådespelare sitter front row och, som vi såg hos Valentino nyss, även går på catwalken? Kanske tillhörde Lee, tillsammans med John Galliano, den sista generationen av ”riktiga” designer, den typ av kreativa människor som inte har något till övers för kändiscirkusen och mediaspektakel?

I dag är Lee McQueen en ikon inte olik Kurt Cobain, James Dean, Elvis Presley eller Marilyn Monroe. De verkade inom olika kreativa områden, och var offentliga personer som lämnade oss för tidigt, under sorgliga omständigheter. Det har bidragit till Alexander McQueens postuma popularitet, även utanför modeindustrin. När Savage Beautyställdes ut på The Metropolitan Museum of Art blev den en av museets tio mest populära utställningar någonsin. Chansen är stor att detsamma kommer hända på V&A. Kanske kommer Savage Beauty till och med slå förra årets David Bowie-blockbuster.

Samtidigt, för att verkligen förankra Savage Beauty och Alexander McQueens talang, har två andra utställningar relaterade till hans arbete lanserats. Unseen McQueen är en digital exposé på SHOWStudio.com, som består av arkivmaterial från Lees arbete med fotografen Nick Knight. Tate Moderns Working Progress skildrar McQueens nära samarbete med en annan fotograf, Nick Waplington.

Väl inne i V&As enorma rum tas besökaren med på en välkurerad resa genom Lees professionella liv. Med en taxiförare till pappa och en skolgång i East End som slutade redan som femtonåring var det inte mycket som talade för att att han skulle gå ut Central St Martins prestigefyllda masterkurs, ta över Givenchy i Paris och starta sitt eget märke, som kom att ägas av Kering.

Men utställningens majestätiska salar är bevis nog på hans talang. Med teman byggda runt de influenser som guidade Lees arbete, upplevs den romantiska nationalismen, primitivisten och exotisismen, innan rummen Cabinet of Curiosities och Gothic Mind.

Lee hade en förmåga att förverkliga sina drömmar, ibland mardrömmar. Vad det än var, var de vackra och konstiga utomjordingar. Någonting liknande har inte funnits i den här världen. Mest imponerade är det gedigna arbetet: Visst, det är mode, i all sin flyktiga prakt, men det är också craftsmanship. McQueens talang låg inte bara i praktfulla former och intellektuell inspiration utan också hans sällan skådade precision.

Den sista byggstenen i hans vision var Lees förmåga att göra oförglömliga shower. Folk pratar fortfarande om hans modevisningar. ”Showmanship” är en stor del av mode – det handlar trots allt om image. Människorna McQueen jobbade med – set designern Simon Costin, produktionsdesignern Joseph Bennett, koreografen Michael Clark och så vidare – hjälpte alla till att göra Lees fantasier verkliga, någonting du kunde ta på. För det var det det var: Fantasier.

Lee hade en förmåga att förverkliga sina drömmar, ibland mardrömmar. Vad det än var, var de vackra och konstiga utomjordingar. Någonting liknande har inte funnits i den här världen. Plato’s Atlantis från våren/sommaren 2010, skulle komma att bli Alexander McQueens sista kollektion. Den säsongen studerade han naturen, inspirerad av Charles Darwins Om evolutionens uppkomst från 1859. Men trots att han var fascinerad av naturen och dess förhållande till människan var det inte evolutionen han var mest nyfiken på. Lee var mer intresserad av att tolka vår ’devolution’, en dystopisk och negativ version av våra förutsättningar och framtid.

Så slutade Alexander McQueens liv och karriär, och även Savage Beauty.


Tobia Sloth on the new Norse Project womenswear line

As if running a menswear brand with two seasonal collections, multiple collaborations and a multi-brand online store wasn’t enough, Danish lifestyle brand Norse Projects have just announced they’re now also doingwomenswear from Fall/Winter 2015. Over the years, Norse Projects have come to define a new Scandinavian aesthetic, a modern and contemporary version of the classic Nordic minimalism. Not just obsessed with being plain and simple, co-founders Tobia Sloth, Anton Juul and Mikkel Grønnebæk were instead looking for functional pieces with a refined quality. It’s neither streetwear, workwear nor high-end fashion. If anything it’s a healthy mixture of all three, with a hint of that Danish sensibility.

Anyway, beginning next season that Scandi design DNA will also be made available for women. By now, over a decade since its inception as a gallery space and select retail store, and six years since the launch of the menswear line, it now seems the Copenhagen-based brand is secure enough, not only in its design and fundamental aesthetic, but also in its factories and fabrics, to take the next step. You get the feeling Norse is very much an organic brand, relying on a slow maturing process before making such a decision. And, considering how cutthroat womenswear can be, that’s a wise route. It will be interesting to see how the new female line develops. But, as Tobia Sloth, explains here, Norse Projects is not going to rush it.

Why start up a womenswear line now?

We had been talking about creating a women’s line for quite a while but had been too busy with other projects and learning the skills required for developing menswear on the level we wanted. Finally, after five years, it felt like the time was right to approach a women’s project on the same level as we had with men’s. We were also selective and patient in finding designers with a background in womenswear and an aesthetic sensibility that we felt fit our DNA and philosophy – a team that would be able to design clothes they felt they needed for themselves, much like how we approach the menswear line.

Is it menswear altered to fit women?

No, we didn’t want to make a literal translation of the men’s line, but perhaps more ideologically a collection that is designed for how (some) modern women think of themselves today, expressing both feminine and functional, daily aspects of modern life.

What inspired the Fall/Winter 2015 collection?

Paul Klee was chosen for inspiration for this first collection as his work spanned a great amount of research, especially in color, technique and form. His painting, ad Parnassum, sums up the approach of gradual evolution and process via exploration, layering techniques and how all things link and are related. Paul Klee also worked with abstract expression but was inspired by existing forms, which eloquently reflects our philosophy as a design company.

The first collection is sort of a mixture between those fundamentals – a purist approach expressing the the ongoing search within the realm of art and design that can be done within a more constrained design language, which in turn can lead to a nuanced expression with a poetic subtlety rather than the “big brush strokes.”

Is there any connection between the men’s and women’s design?

The anchor is that both lines seek to define the point between where utility and form meets style and function as applied to modern life; where you want to feel dressed for the occasion at all times, not necessarily changing your outfit to each social interaction. One feels best when in a garment that is at once functional and expressive of one’s nature.

Norse, maybe because you’ve only done menswear so far, feels very masculine. Is that why the clothes aren’t too feminine?

I actually feel they are quite feminine, but its all a matter of perception. As this is the first collection we did, we didn’t want to come out and shock everyone with a very feminine expression, and instead focused on the links between the men’s and women’s collections. The collection will, of course, explore a different design language as we evolve, but our underlying values will not change as we feel there are enough other brands exploring that side. Time will tell if there is a need for what we make.

Do you find girls are less interested in functionality and practicality?

I think it depends who you ask and how it’s designed. Confident women know how to dress creatively and navigate functional and aesthetic requirements of daily life based on how they live. They do it for themselves – not to fit someone’s idea of how they should look or act. You see this expressed in Copenhagen where many women are currently touting minimal sneakers and are very “dressed down” while still combining a feminine expression and personal style. Lots of women are adopting a more functional approach to dressing and mixing it up with subtle styling cues to create an individual look that expresses their unique personality. Much like good design, it’s the nuances that count.

What are the key pieces from the collection?

This being the first collection, our focus has been on adapting some key functional aspects of the menswear line such as knitwear, rainwear and shirting and creating some interesting pieces via creative use of materials and cuts that are at once geometrically beautiful and functionally adapted to each piece. The main constituents are materials that embody their own personality and contribute to the expression of each piece.

How would you describe the look?

I would say it expresses our values, sort of a naive and playful simplicity that is in fact not simple at all to achieve, but masks a great deal of consideration behind each garment. We have considered each item to make it unique to how women would wear it. The inspiration is a juxtaposition of crafts-based techniques and fabrics, where tactile expressive elements are combined with modern techniques and materials, combining Japanese and Italian materials, each chosen for their particular property.

Tell me about the lookbook setting and the concept behind the shoot, with its interior design theme, etc.

We had previously worked with Fritz Hansen on the “stoflighed” project curating furniture by Paul Kjærholm (launched at colette last year) and it felt natural to follow it up with our women’s launch. In order to explain our philosophical roots and the brand’s ethos, we shot the lookbook in a space filled with the spirit that embodies those values and it felt like a natural fit.


Errolson Hugh and Nike’s All Conditions Gear

Nike has always been about creating the best possible circumstances for top performance. Mark Parker and his Portland-based sportswear mavericks know that the X factor, that final component needed for ultimate success, is the athlete and his or her body. Since its inception in 1964, Nike has been committed to supplying us with the best possible gear in order to maximise the chances of victory. As such Nike’s footwear and apparel is as much defined by function as form… If anything, the streamlined beauty of its many products is just an aesthetic bonus. Few Nike sub-lines showcase that mentality as well as ACG. The All Conditions Gear collection was officially launched in 1989 as an outdoors-focused brand, supplying amateur hikers and professional athletes with purpose-built trainers and clothes. Almost instantly the ACG line gained cult status among Nike heads. Often due to the piece’s characteristic designs, most notably the Air Moc (1994), Escape (1984) and Lava Dome (1981), many of them became collector’s pieces, as well as outdoor trail blazers.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise that NikeLab decided that the ACG line was due a revival in 2014. Cleverly, though, the NikeLab design team – lead by Sportswear Senior Design Director Matthew Millward – decided against taking the project down a retro route. Instead, having called in the services of Acronym founder Errolson Hugh, the new ACG line was given a distinctively modern and contemporary feel. “It’s not vintage but stealth and modern,” Millward explains, sitting in NikeLab’s 1948 space in east London. “There’s still the same vibe and aggression, but Mark wanted to take it away from the mountains and place it in the city. The old ACG was all about trekking up K2 and traveling in the Mojave desert, but this ACG is far removed from that…The city is a multifaceted metropolis, there’s so much going in terms of weather and that was the brief, that’s the angle.”

Moving the arena from the woods to the city centre, NikeLab ACG has given itself a set of new problems to solve, following completely new rules. No longer is it a mountain that needs to be conquered but metropolitan life in the 21st century. “The previous ACG was for a specific customer with a focused goal, an outdoors explorer,” Hugh says. “This ACG is for a broader range of people, it’s more varied in terms of your everyday activity – you can be on the subway, you can be a business man on a bike or a walking photographer but you’ll still need storage, warmth, mobility and protection.” The result, at least for the first holiday season, is a focused capsule collection of apparel and footwear, all in black. “The black directive came from Mark Parker; he wanted it to be stealth,” Hugh explains. “Black also reduces the clothes to be all about the fit and the silhouette. Culturally, it’s right at the moment as well.”

The collection was secretly unveiled last week in London, in typical larger-than-life manner. Nike took over the abandoned tube station in Aldwych, in central London. Having walked all the way down to the old train tracks, Millward and Hugh, accompanied by journalist and host for the day, Gary Warnett, all of a sudden stepped out from the shadows and presented the collection. Two jackets, a pair of trousers, a backpack and two pairs of trainers (NikeLab ACG Flyknit Chukka SFB and NikeLab ACG Lunarterra Arktos) stood on melting ice blocks. The jackets, one of which is a limited edition piece featuring graphics and an “exploded logo,” are perhaps the signature pieces of the collection. With extensive pockets and made out of a three-layer Gore-Tex fabric, it’s a 2-in-1 garment. It gives the wearer the possibility to take out or add a layer when needed. Its storm collar includes a deployable hood designed to maintain structural stability even in the fiercest wind conditions. The actual in store collection also features a sweatshirt and a T-shirt.

Nike staple fabrics, such as Tech Fleece, Dri-FIT Wool and Flyknit, are incorporated into ACG’s knife sharp take on comfortable mobility. “I lived in many bigger cities, including New York, so it wasn’t like I had to make it up. And Errolson travels a lot himself. We’ve been in those situations ourselves, where you’ll be hot and dry or wet and cold, and in need of comfortable footwear,” Millward says. “The difference between designing ACG compared to any other performance-driven line is that they are focused on one activity. In the city that’s different. We have to equate for so many different situations, life really,” Hugh fills in. Movement, for a city dweller as well as top notch athletes, is key. “It’s about urban sports utility, this is a modern approach to problem solving.”

For Errolson Hugh, the ratio between style and substance is irrelevant; they are intertwined and dependent on each other: “You can’t divorce form from function, they are intrinsically linked. It’s a holistic point of view. Even if you just focused on the form, it would still have a function.” The key to ACG, when moving in the city, is to master the transition from exterior to interior, environmental changes in micro climates – being over heated in the subway or too cold outside. But, as Hugh acknowledges, there’s also a socio-political side to the project: “Yes, there are cultural aspects as well. This ACG collection moves and operate among people so the code and context of your dress is important – communication is paramount.”

In the early planning stages Mark Parker kept using the word “stealth” when talking to Millward and Hugh but, in the context of the new ACG line, what does the word mean to the design duo? “Stealth has many facets, it means undercover and sharp… It’s also cool and calculated,” Hugh says, while Millward adds: “For me the word means minimal, sharp and sophisticated.” With stealth as a one-word outline for the new line, ACG fits the brief perfectly.


The Seventh Day Suit

Answer me this, what is sportswear? Over the last few decades, and especially in recent years with the fashion industry taking a bite out of the term and claiming it as its own, the meaning of ‘sportswear’ has changed. These days it’s not so much actual sportswear, the kind of garments athletes wear when training or competing, but a loose term for casual and contemporary leisurewear. These clothes aren’t designed to be exercised in but to be worn when relaxing in your spare time or, for that matter, going to work. As fashion became less formal in the 1960s, it looked towards the world of sport for inspiration; the idea of movement, facilitated in a comfortable way, became the lead word for how a whole new generation dressed. There are a handful of garments, such as t-shirts, sweatshirts and tracksuits, that have come to define this grey area, the twilight zone between sportswear and leisurewear, as pieces of clothing that sit comfortably in both areas.

But the tracksuit, more so than the other mentioned garments, has struggled to completely integrate itself into sartorial society. Unlike the t-shirt and sweatshirt, it’s not so commonly worn, even broken up and styled separately. “I suppose the tracksuit has connotations, some of them founded but many of them unfounded. They don’t necessarily reek of an effort being made — maybe they’re the wrong kind of effortless to some people,” suggests Gary Warnett, a writer, footwear expert and tracksuit aficionado. Warnett also has another theory for the tracksuit’s uphill battle: “I blame Jerry Seinfeld after he lambasted George Costanza for wearing sweatpants!” Neil Bedford, a photographer working with Wonderland, Kinfolk, Green Soccer Journal andHighsnobiety, to mention but a few, acknowledges the sportswear connection: “My take would be because it’s something heavily associated with sport and not fashion. It might be that it’s too casual for some people to accept as appropriate daily wear – but I’m not sure as I have no negative views of a tracksuit.” Bedford argues too much is made of the tracksuit’s alleged problem, though. “It’s easy to over think everything, but there’s enough going on in the world to not look down on an specific clothes, I feel a bit sorry for people that see themselves above an item of clothing.”

Le Coq Sportif, the French sports apparel and footwear brand, is not above any item of clothing – and especially not the tracksuit. In the mid-60s, the brand developed a tracksuit suitable for the leisurable seventh day off, having worked hard for six days. “I think it’s fair to say the tracksuit, and our development of it, can be seen as a defining moment in the brand’s history,” says Le Coq Sportif’s Ben Ari Grant, “as it enabled us to take the core ideals of production quality and well-considered design that we had been applying to professional sportswear for years, and replicate that on a commercial scale.” Le Coq Sportif is a brand born out of innovative knitting techniques at the turn of the 20th century. At a time when athletic clothing was made using fabrics that were normally the preserve of workwear garments, and therefore counter-intuitive to the needs of a sportsman, Emile Camuset, the brand’s founder, began developing cotton ribs, brushed fleece and jerseys that allowed for increased comfort and breathability. This was a time when, as the idea of casual sportswear was developed and the concept of a suit, tie and hat as an everyday uniform, especially during weekends, was decommissioned. As a direct result, men and women needed new wardrobe stapes. “Yes, as the traditional six-day working week spent in heavy workwear or a stiflingly smart suit gave way to increased weekend time, often spent in the countryside or at home with the family, Le Coq Sportif was able to provide a comfortable yet stylish alternative, which preserved a distinct sense of masculinity and elegance,” Ari Grant says.

But for many staunch supporters, there very simple reasons why the tracksuit works: “Ultimately it’s about comfort and you being comfortable with what you wear and a tracksuit does that for me, whether it’s a luxury one or something from a sports brand,” says Bedford. “For me, it’s simple – it’s clean and easy to be worn straight out of the shower. It takes very little effort to put one on and allows you the freedom of movement all day that you don’t get from, for example, denim.” Gary Warnett takes a similar point of view: “I feel free in it… It’s a grown up romper suit in many ways – forget all this stupid onesie talk. There are options too – it’s modular. A lot of the slimmer, tailored versions seem a bit try hard, which a tracksuit should never be.”

Bedford also acknowledges the humble beginnings of the garment. “There’s also that hidden athlete in me that still gets excited about wearing a full tracksuit, the power that it brings with being an athlete can be brought into the normal world. If I had the opportunity to have been involved in sport, I don’t think I’d have worn anything but sportswear and tracksuits!” And this is where Le Coq Sportif steps up. “Our products are designed to deal with the rigours of sport, so despite being premised on the idea of the ‘7th Day’, the tracksuit is of course well suited to being worn all week in a more leisurely capacity,” Ari Grant explains.

In 1964, Le Coq Sportif launched what would become its archetypal leisurewear tracksuit: the ‘7th Day Suit’. Since then the garment has been developed and improved, altered to answer new demands and fit with the aesthetic quirks of each decade, as these images show. But, according to Ari Grant, the garment is essentially the same now compared with 50 years ago: “The spirit of the tracksuit is the same, and I think that’s apparent in our desire to respect the elegance of the original 1964 design in our 50th anniversary version,” he says. “There are of course some differences which consumers would expect to find; we haven’t ignored the evolution in our own manufacturing techniques, so the quality, fit and feel is modernised, while we have changed the shape and detailing of the collar for example.” A lot has changed over the last five decades. The way we dressed in the 60s compared to the 80s and the 00s differ, as part of a natural style progression. The same goes for the Le Coq Sportif tracksuit.

“The 1980s were without a doubt the most ‘different’ of the past five decades,” Ari Grant summaries. “I suppose, in many people’s minds, it was an era dominated by the tracksuit, with the introduction of the polyester-based shell suits providing the basis for brighter colours and geometric patterns, which in turn contributed to its adoption into the style language of various sub-cultures that were growing in popularity at the time.” Today, the brand thrives on those connotations: “We’re very proud to be equally associated with quality and comfort by East Coast hip-hop fans as we are with those who remember Diego Maradona famously lifting the World Cup in 1986.”

Whatever day of the week it is, whether you’re into music or sport, the tracksuit is as relevant today as in 1964.


Nigel Cabourn and his London Army Gym

Henrietta Street runs in a straight line, cutting through the hustle and bustle of the West End and, indirectly, connects the Strand with Covent Garden’s market and shops. Here, among countless long-running musicals and small family-owned Italian cafes, you’ll find the new Nigel Cabourn store. It’s the first store of his in the UK, adding to the six Army Gyms already up and running in Japan, his biggest market by far. Sitting in the basement of his store, with a noisy launch party in full commotion above us, Nigel is wearing baggy shorts, an oversized army surplus shirt and a three-button tweed jacket. On his head, he’s sporting a green cap with the peak turned up, making it look a bit like a cycling hat. Thick-soled desert boots from Viberg, with an arrow pointing forward on the toe cap, sit on his feet. The whole outfit is khaki green, the traditional army uniform colour. Finally he’s wearing a pair of round glasses, modern in their make but reminiscent of the 1950s in their style. The look, arguably, does not only sum up the man but also the brand, Nigel Cabourn. Since relaunching his label in 2003, the Newcastle upon Tyne-based designer has crafted a niche, focused and coherent aesthetic made up of equal parts military uniforms, sport clothing and workwear. But Cabourn has his own take on the brand: “It’s a combination of storytelling and quality production,” he says looking around the store. “I can tell you stories about most things in this place.”

For lazy sartorial commentators, Nigel Cabourn can easily be bundled in with a group of designers making clothes based on British heritage, and it’s true that Cabourn’s fabric and production is ‘Made in Britain’ where possible. But the brand DNA goes deeper than that, mostly because Nigel Cabourn doesn’t actually have a heritage of its own to lean back on – it’s all borrowed from the vaults of history. “Everything has a story because it comes from vintage piece with history. I’ve probably invested a couple of million pounds in vintage clothing over 40 years which has resulted in my 4,000 piece archive. I don’t have a warehouse or anything – I keep it all in deep wardrobes, folded like shirts on top of each other.” And it isn’t just clothes Nigel buys; the store is full of trinkets and pieces picked up all over the world. “I travel four months of the year,” Nigel explains. “I’ve had ten trips in ten weeks, and wherever I go – whether it’s Hong Kong, New York or Seattle – I spend at least 25 percent of my time seeing vintage dealers.” But there’s also good quality vintage to be had here, in the UK. “Yes, there’s Doug [Gunn] from Vintage Showroom here in London, I buy a lot from him.”

Though this is the first Army Gym in the UK, Nigel used to have a store here back in the 90s, before he relaunched the brand. “We used to have a London shop that the architect John Pawson designed for me. It did OK but not so great towards the end. But our style was a lot more commercial at the time. Back then, our contemporaries were brands like Fred Perry and Lacoste, though they were also different brands then compared to now… a lot has changed. But no-one’s come with me, I’m completely on my own as a one-off.” Twelve years ago, Nigel’s perspective on how and why he designed clothes changed: “I felt I was fed up with the commerciality [of the business] and decided to re-face Cabourn. In 2003 we launched a new, limited edition collection all based on the 50th anniversary of Edmund Hillary reaching the top of Mount Everest. That re-launched the brand to what it is today, a niche brand. I decided to base the brand on British heritage, things that really happened.” And though he uses the word ‘heritage’, it’s the ’s’ word Nigel keeps coming back to. “I wasn’t so much a storyteller back then, but that’s what I’ve become.”

A lot of Nigel’s sartorial storytelling comes in the shape of small scale capsule collections that celebrate a particular person and his or hers achievements. “Since the relaunch I’ve done three limited editions: the Edmund Hillary collection, one on what my dad wore as he fought in Burma during the Second World War, and the one on the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott’s Antarctica crossing.” Nigel is very precise in his sources of inspiration: “I know all about history but only history that’s relevant to me; World War I and II, Antarctica and the 1950s.” The reason for his fascination with this particular period is evident. “I was born in 1949 so the 50s is a special time for me. Generally speaking, I start my research at 1910,” he says, counting the historical figureheads and events that have come to shape his personal and professional life: “Sir Ernest Shackleton, Scott… mountaineer George Mallory… the two world wars… then Hillary. “I’m not interested in the 1960s onwards – though I’m doing a project on rucksacks with Karrimor about climbers in the 60s, which is unusual for me.” As such, Nigel touches on a subject that’s not only relevant for him and his brand, but for lots of other contemporary menswear brands; the concept of collaboration.


Of late, Nigel has been (or will be) collaborating with Filson, Aigle and Fred Perry. Recently he also worked with Converse on a series of trainers. The list goes on. The collaborations stand out from the rest of the Nigel Cabourn brand as the design process, for obvious reasons, is completely different. “Yes, the collaborations are the only that isn’t vintage-based. So for the Filson collab, for example, we looked at Filson styles from 1915 to 30… with a little bit of Cabourn added and some fishing and hunting references. I zoom in on their history and ‘Cabourn-ise’ it– it’s maybe 50:50 between me and the brand I work with. I add fabric, colour, play around with details,” he explains. Often the collaborations are based on a mutual respect between the brands: “I like Filson, but I love Barbour even more. There’s a good few of us working around these brands, like Haversack and Daiki [Suzuki] from Engineered Garments. We share a point of view but we’re all very different at the same time; Daiki is more workwear-influenced and he makes it all in New York whereas Haversack is slightly more sophisticated I’d say.”

The Fred Perry hook up is a good example of how Nigel isn’t just collaborating for the sake of generating column inches on blogs, but to actually further his brand and to develop his own, personal interests. The capsule collection isn’t based on outwear, which is arguably what his brand is known for. No, Nigel demanded it’d be inspired by table tennis. “In 1929, Fred Perry won the table tennis world championship before moving on to tennis. When they phoned me I said I wasn’t interested in doing an outerwear collab, let’s do a ping pong collection instead. And they said yes.” Nigel is a fan himself. “I play ping pong between 6am and 7am, five days a week – I even got an international coach. I’m playing Ray Kelvin from Ted Baker tomorrow… he’s good but he’s gonna get beaten!”

Though the Nigel Cabourn aesthetic is firmly based in the past, it’s vital for the designer to stay relevant in terms of contemporary culture. He mentions Ben Fogle, the adventurer, as both a friend and a loyal customer. Fogle was part of Cabourn’s recent Scott campaign and wore Cabourn pieces as they re-traced Scott’s Polar adventure. “I’m contemporary for sure, you can’t take a vintage piece and make it like another vintage piece, it’s got to meet modern demands by using contemporary technology,” he agrees. It’s important for Nigel to find the right balance between yesterday and tomorrow so that it fits with ‘today’. “Although I sometimes use fabric that’s 70 years old… for me, old technology is better than new, I don’t like Gore-Tex for example. Instead, I took Second World War Ventile fabric and seam-sealed it. Sometimes we use Mackintosh fabric but, really, that’s not a new fabric, it’s not a modern technology.” He isn’t afraid of running out of vintage inspiration, neither is he scared of basing his entire brand on the conquests of the past: Nigel knows that, in order to foresee the future, we must understand and appreciate history first.

Photos by Jonnie Craig


James Lavelle on his Mo’Wax x Nike collab

There are certain brands that define a time and place, they become signifiers of a cultural moment. And it’s not just fashion labels but also “music brands,” such as artists and record labels. A bit like fashion conglomerates – think LVMH and Kering – record labels can be creative motherships, places where artists unite. Although they have different sounds and visions they share a fundamental idea of who they are and what they are doing. If you lived in London in the mid/late ’90s, early ’00s and were into hip hop and street culture, that record label was Mo’ Wax and the man in charge was James Lavelle. Having started Mo’ Wax at age 18 in 1992, Lavelle went on to release music from DJ Shadow, Money Mark, Blackalicious and NIGO, among others, and start his own band, UNKLE.

Mo’ Wax’s history, over the course of five studio albums and countless mix CDs and remixes, is lined with collaborations. Arguably more than any other artist and label, Lavelle understood the power of pooled creativity. He brought in musicians, artists and designers from all over the world to help create and curate the Mo’ Wax universe. The list of guest musicians is impressive but so are the artistic contributions from the likes of Stash, Futura, Nigo’s A Bathing Ape and Nike. In Fraser Cooke, a former flatmate of Lavelle, Mo’ Wax found a longterm friend and collaborator who now, as the Nike Global Energy Marketing Director, is co-sponsoring Lavelle’s latest sartorial partnership.

Returning to the Nike shelves, after a 12 year break, Lavelle’s NikeLab collaboration include two colorways of the Nike Blazer trainer and a MA1 Destroyer jacket crafted from a classic collegiate leather-and-wool combination remixed with flight jacket-style details. Graffiti-like embroidery and removable twill patches add a slight military look, while the signature reverse script of Mo’Wax collaborator Gio Estevez, such as “Your future is our past” and “Headz,” brings the collaboration full circle.

When did your relationship with Nike start?

I started working with Nike around 2002. Our collaboration was part of the wave of the first non-sportswear partnerships that Nike worked on. It was with people like Eric Haze, the artist who designed the Def Jam logo, Futura, Stash and Mo’ Wax. Before that it was only film stars and athletes, i.e. Jordan. It was purely seen as a sports brand at the time, it wasn’t marketed to fashion at all. In the mid-’90s, with the birth of Bathing Ape, Supreme, Maharishi etc, all that changed.

What did that first collab look like?

It was based on the artwork from my 2002 album, Never, Never, Land. I wanted it to be a bit like a collage, quiet loud. We juxtaposed colours like pink black and white on a high top Dunk… It was called the Dunkle. And then there was a a low top in green camo. Back then we just did trainers, Nike didn’t collaborate on apparel at the time. I remember it launched at Michael Koppelman’s original Footpatrol store.

For you, what was the Nike appeal?

I was a massive sneaker collector at the time, especially Nike Dunks. I was into Nike as a result of growing up with hip-hop and street culture. I remember seeing bands like Run-D.M.C… The first trainers I was into was actually the adidas Shell Toe ones they wore. One of the first pair of trainers I bought, as a pre-teenager, was the Nike Air Max when they came out. Me and Fraser [Cooke, works for Nike], who I lived with at the time, we used to go to New York and hunt rare Nikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Later on we also shared an office, when he set up Pervert clothing and worked with Stash and Futura, while I was setting up Mo’ Wax.

The fact that Nike was American, did that help?

Yeah, at that time Britain was black and white while America was Technicolor. They had rare trainers and decent Levi’s jeans. There wasn’t much around her at all. We grew up reading about it in i-D and The Face.

Were you born in London?

No, I grew up in Oxford but used to come in to London all the time to do martial arts. I was into Kung-Fu and an obsessive hip-hop fan – I used to go Four Star General on Carnaby Street and Soul 2 Soul in Camden for my clothes and music.

What’s the relationship between music and fashion?

They’ve always been close, it’s tribal – you’re defined by what you wear and listen to. Sure, we wear clothes for practicality but it’s also about identity. Music might be about sound but it’s all very visual – we look at the musicians in magazines and in music videos.

Has it changed today?

It is different and it isn’t. It’s still tribal but it’s difficult to recognize what that tribe is. A lot of kids look the same and they might be wearing fashion but they don’t know what it is or where it came from. Someone will be in a Joy Division T-shirt but they won’t have heard the band, etc.

Can you quickly explain the purpose and USP of the collab?

For me it’s about the creative experience, it’s a celebration of Mo’ Wax and past collaborations with Nike. It has a strong attention to detail through a considered design process.

How did you pick the pieces?

The concept was more about the aesthetic of Mo’ Wax rather than its visual identity. I didn’t just want to use a load of old imagery that had existed in the past… It’s sample and counter culture: we make clothes in similar way we make records. We take things and make a new a product. I didn’t want it to feel like record company merchandise so the text gives it narrative. For those who know and recognise it, it makes sense… But if you don’t then it’s just a nice product and that’s fine.

Is it odd to communicate Mo’ Wax, a record label, through clothing?

Not really, we always worked through different mediums.

Can you explain the “Build and Destroy” theme?

It’s about the architectural idea of building and destroying something to then rebuild it. It was also an elitist joke between me and DJ Shadow, the idea that as soon as someone was on your shit you had to move on.There’s a few repetitive phrases that’s been popping up throughout Mo’ Wax’s history, and I like that in a Pop Art kind of way. It’s subtle themes running through Mo’ Wax – a sample that runs on two records, a slogan that’s repeated by two artists etc, and you can see that in this Nike collaboration as well.


Gary Aspden adidas Originals x SPEZIAL SS15

As the worldwide trainer community wakes up to news of what the new Kanye x adidas “Yeezy 750 Boost” looks like, there’s elements of said industry that view these pop cultural collaborations (the adidas ones or by other brands) as total hype machines, designed with only two purposes in mind; media attention followed by enormous sales. The intent of adidas Originals x SPEZIAL, a line curated by adidas expert Gary Aspden and now in its second season, is of course not dissimilar to Kanye’s. Coverage and commercial success is not only the goal but a must to stay in the game. These two examples, though, take two very different routes to reach their end goals.

Whereas the Kanye trainer is based on fame and celebrity culture, the SPEZIAL range is rooted in adidas’s staff and their loyal customers’ love for the brand. It’s a collection that, as Gary says himself, looks back in time to create clothes for today. Using archetypical adidas staples, updated for 21st-century demands in new fabrics, the line pays homage not only to Adi Dassler himself but to a bygone era of European sportswear. The apparel and trainers evoke memories among the in-the-know customers as they remind them of, perhaps, clothes they wore when playing or watching football in the 60s, 70s or 80s. They have, as such, enormous nostalgic value but SPEZIAL works as the sartorial re-appropriation by Gary and his team makes it relevant for modern life. One can’t help to think that the Kanye trainer, meanwhile, is only designed with the Internet in mind.

What inspired the SPEZIAL Spring/Summer 2015 collection?

It’s about adidas using itself as a key reference point to create something modern.  I have always seen adidas as a sophisticated sports brand and want the range to reflect that. It perhaps comes from my memories as a child of seeing the German football team in the 1970s wearing presentation suits and black boots with white stripes. I loved that uniformity and those suits had very clean lines – their clothing looked like a cross between sportswear and tailoring. None of the oversized sloppiness and garish colors that came to dominate the sportswear industry in the decades that followed. I take the lead from the strap line adidas used for its apparel products in the era of Adi Dassler where they would sign off the packaging with the phrase “sports and leisure wear.” On the apparel I have created contemporary leisurewear that is sports and luxury-inspired. Europe is where the brand started so that is always a big part of my inspiration – an idealization of the Europe I traveled around as a youth – there is a lot of mileage in that.

How is it a followup to Fall/Winter 2014? Is there any connection?

Yes. Some of the graphics that originally appeared on the patch hoodie in Fall/Winter 2014 make another appearance. I like the idea of adidas Originals x SPEZIAL having consistency in its approach and the products from different seasons should mix seamlessly. We have evolved it while sticking with its original philosophy of identifying what it is within iconic adidas designs outside of the branding that makes them feel and look like adidas. We then take those elements and marry them with modern fabrics to create new pieces. I’m very pleased to have resurrected the ST1 rain jacket in the highest quality Climastorm fabric as I believe it is a design classic but advances in fabric technology had consigned to the past until now.

How are you settling into the role as a designer?

I guess it depends how you define a designer. I have always described myself as a curator as I cannot fully take credit when I am revisiting iconic pieces like the Beckenbauer tracksuit or the Colorado hooded top – the geniuses that created those pieces are truly the designers. A number of fashion designers buy up vintage clothing and rework it as “designer” clothing – maybe I am splitting hairs but I personally see that more as curating than designing. That is a skill in itself and I’m not taking anything away from them but I am not sure I would call it designing. I feel that calling my role that of a curator is more transparent and honest.

Do you think one reason SPEZIAL was so well-received is because adidas are doing so many contemporary pop culture collabs (Pharrell, Kanye, etc.) that it needed an “old school” project looking back in time?

It was particularly well-received here in the UK and in northern Europe. In the UK there is a huge cultural connection with adidas that has little to do with the “cop or drop” sneaker culture that seems to be popular in some quarters. I have a lot of experience of third-party collaborations going back to the turn of this century and I believe they have become an industry standard now. Companies will continue do them as there is an audience out there that wants and expects that from them and I wouldn’t criticize that – it most definitely has its place. adidas Originals x  SPEZIAL is not that – it is from us and by us.

I drive the ideas but there are a great team of people internally at adidas who support those ideas. It looks at the past for inspiration but most definitely doesn’t live in it – it glances at our history but tries not to stare if you know what I mean. This apparel collection uses modern fabric technologies like Climastorm, Climacool and organic ETA but marries that with iconic adidas design. I have spent years watching fashion designers use adidas’s vast archive as a reference so to have the opportunity to utilize that archive legitimately is a dream gig.

What are the key Spring/Summer 2015 pieces?

For me it’s the four-pocket Haslingden jacket in the organic ETA fabric, the piquet Beckenbauer leisure suit and the herringbone “Witton” cardigan.

Where did some of the characteristic details, like the “Jog-On” slogan and the “three top mountain” logo, come from?

The “Jog-On” graphic came from a 1980 graphic sweatshirt that said “Jogging” across the chest. I used the same font but married it with a modern phrase. It’s a bit tongue in cheek that one. The three peaks graphic started from a design the guy who I work with on my graphics (Gary Watson) created based on some references I sent him. We tweaked his design by adding the reflection of the three peaks under the horizontal lines and it ended up looking like a Modernist Trefoil. We felt that captured the ideology behind the range so we stayed with it.

For obvious reasons, SPEZIAL is very Euro-centric – what’s the biggest difference between European and American sportswear, according to you?

It’s only my personal opinion but I guess you have to look at the sports that are popular in those places and how that is adopted into the broader culture. Sport itself has always been at the root of this type of clothing. Football has always been a driving force for sport in Europe whereas basketball is probably its equivalent in the U.S. Sportswear is primarily produced to serve a purpose – it is built to perform a task. The requirements of those sports and the cultures that surround them are very different in Europe and the U.S. which is reflected the product design.

I have been wearing sportswear and casualwear for over 30 years and despite the protestations of some sections of the men’s fashion media I don’t plan on changing the way I dress anytime soon. I am a fan of some aspects of American culture but European sportswear has always suited me better – it is on the whole more understated in its delivery. I believe there is huge value in those European design values that extends beyond Europe itself hence why hip-hop kids adopted brands like adidas, PUMA, Kangol, Sergio Tacchini and Fila. I guess with the rise of the internet and everything being accessible to everyone, Europe now appears to be far more influenced by the U.S. than it ever was before and people’s interpretations of U.S. lifestyle and fashion here are far more literal nowadays. I’m contrary by nature so I wanted to create something with adidas Originals x SPEZIAL that in some way questions or even challenges that.

Soulland x Colette

The correct shade of Colette blue is called 293c Pantone. Like so many Colette collaborators before him, Silas Adler—founder and designer of Danish menswear brand Soulland—knows the color code by heart. The legendary Parisian store, headed up by Sarah Andelman, is not only famous for its select choice of products, but also the never-ending parade of exclusive partnerships and one-offs. Next up to get the Rue Saint-Honoré treatment is Adler’s small-but-up-and-coming Copenhagen-based brand. 

Adler, who just debuted his AW15 collection at London Collections: Men, is on a roll. His very personal and unique take on Scandinavian menswear, one that he’s been crafting since 2002, sits comfortably alongside contemporaries such as Acne Studios, Wood Wood, and Our Legacy. Unlike many other recent Colette collaborators, Soulland is a small-timer, but the relationship is still a solid and long-standing one. “I started working with Colette two years ago when we did the Babar collection,” Adler explains. “I got in touch about carrying the collaboration, and that’s how I met Sarah. They ended up launching the whole collection, and since then we’ve been on the shop floor.”

For the limited SS15 collection, Adler wanted to present a full look instead of just T-shirts and sweatshirts. And for his inspiration, Adler looked to Paris, a city to which he has personal ties: “Paris is classic—it refuses to renew itself, but it works as if time is not standing still. It moves forward without changing too much, and I love that about Paris.” The collection is inspired by tourist merchandise. “I’ve always been interested in merch, like band T-shirts and so on. But there’s something special about Paris because the buildings here—the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe—look so good on the postcards, tourist T-shirts, and polyester scarves. For me there is no better tourist merch than what you can buy in Paris…Better than London, better than New York—it’s just classy in its own tacky way.” 

Adler then took this commercial and mainstream aspect of Paris and mixed it with a dose of counterculture. “As a skater, I’m always looking for potential spots—or if you’re in a park, for example, I think about what could be done to make it skate-able. And last time I was in Paris I went to the Tuileries Garden, which is really close to Colette, and I wondered if I could skate there. You can’t, as it’s made up of grass and gravel, so the idea behind the collection was to create a tourist-merchandise-inspired collection about being able to skate in the Tuileries Garden.” But since it’s impossible to do that in real life, Adler had to make up an imaginary skater who was able to skate there. “We’ve even created an animated film where you can see him skate in the park. And the print is inspired by all the statues you see in the Tuileries Garden. But it’s all done in my very analogue way of drawing.” 

Colette’s strength is that the store is so well-curated that it makes you feel that every single thing is handpicked, even though there are thousands of things on sale at any given time. “Yes,” Adler summarizes, “there’s a high level of quality of what comes through the door. They’re good at making stuff look good and fit in, even though it might be a €1 Haribo sweet sitting next to a €50K watch. That’s the skill of Colette, to display things in a way that it always looks new and fresh…” 

Our Legacy’s new London store

Silver Place is that rare thing, a small pedestrian Soho street in central London with a laid-back atmosphere devoid of honking cars; in spring and summer time, the shops put out benches for coffee-sipping staff and lounging customers. Though only a stone’s throw away from tourist-heavy Oxford Street and chaotic Carnaby Street, the street stump attracts a healthy mix of destination shoppers and random passers-by. Our Legacy, the Swedish fashion brand famed for its intellectual and contemporary menswear, could not have asked for a better spot for its fourth store, the first one outside Sweden. “We’re in a nice part of London - it’s smack in the middle of Soho, but still a bit hidden,” explains Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin.

Set up in 2005 by two friends, Christopher Nying and Hallin started out by printing t-shirts in a studio belonging to Nying’s dad. Their internal roles quickly became clear; Nying looks after the creative side, designing the collections, while Hallin handles the strategic business side of the brand. Since then the Stockholm-based duo has taken on a third partner, Ricardo Klarén, and organically grown Our Legacy into a global brand loved by press, buyers and customers alike. And they’ve done especially well in the UK, hence the imminent store opening: “We had been looking for a space here for a while, we wanted something magical and with character,” says Hallin. They ended up with a small but cosy London home, perfectly in synch with both the Our Legacy DNA and their loyal UK following. “England has developed into a great market for us, especially in the last two years. We’ve thought a lot about that, and we’re not entirely sure why - it’s not like it’s been a conscious decision to focus on the UK. I suppose there was just something that clicked between us.”

Sitting in what will soon be a fitting room, with paint cans and DIY tools around him, Hallin proposes Our Legacy’s sartorial connection with Great Britain could be down to their choice of fabrics, the similar climate and the fundamentally scaled back, no-nonsense aesthetic the two countries share. “Our cut is far from over-designed, we spend more time on getting the fabrication, weight and texture right. A lot probably has to do with our positioning as well, it’s hard to completely define what kind of brand we are, which means we have a broad customer base.” He’s referring to Our Legacy’s mode of communication. The brand hasn’t always been that forthcoming in terms of conversing with the rest of the world. “Yes, we’ve been surrounded by a kind of a romantic obscurity. We have to trust the customer to get it and to understand what we’re saying, but I think Our Legacy has a fairly educated customer.” Hallin knows the trick is to early on establish who the customer is in order to best offer them a product true to the brand. “It isn’t always wise to try and cater to everyone, of course, but I think different stores and customers are able to read us in different ways, and that’s why it works. We have a quite big collection now and stores can buy into it in a way that suits them. If they want to buy just black clothes, we have a theme in the collection that works for them, for example,” he says.

Traditionally, an Our Legacy collection has been defined by elevated basics, sometimes just plain wardrobe staples that have been updated in terms of fit and fabrics. But, whereas Our Legacy made its name as purveyors of preppy basics, today the brand is in the business of fashion - though it’s their own kind of fashion, featuring pieces that have been ‘taken for a ride’. “We used to be more of a ‘wardrobe brand’ dedicated to refining classics, but today you can find statement pieces in our collections as well,” Hallin says. “But, even though it might be a sheepskin jacket, the most expensive piece of clothing we’ve ever done, we still treat it like one of our t-shirts. We often push full looks and complete outfits as opposed to individual pieces.” But there’s still an apparent focus on details. Our Legacy is good at transforming existing ideas into new and exciting sartorial concepts, adopted for the streets as opposed to catwalks. “Often we do quite formal garments but you’ll never feel over dressed in them. We’ll clash two unexpected fabrics with each other to create something new. And it’s not just about fabrics but also how you can create new garments, like a suede shirt with a zip or suit trousers with a elasticised waist - they’re hybrid pieces.”

The development of Our Legacy, as a brand, is a textbook case for a new generation of menswear brands popping up this side the millennium. Not trapped in a fashion system, such the ones in Paris and Milan where brands are held captive by catwalk seasons in the prison of tradition and heritage, Our Legacy has been free to write its own history. “Ten years ago, when we started Our Legacy, we just put out some t-shirts. Christopher had studied a bit of art, but we both came from a graphic design background. And that was coupled with an extreme passion for clothes - I had been working in shops and as a wholesaler for years.” That was the factual foundation for the brand; the other part was just about making clothes for themselves. “We made the kind of clothes we felt our wardrobes lacked. It started with tees and then that grew each season, we started making shirts and then knitwear.” Soon, workwear pieces and suiting were added to the equation. What had started as a small collection of graphic t-shirts was starting to look like a full collection. For SS08, Our Legacy launched as we know it today. “To start with, the goal was to reintroduce classics that we thought were missing. You couldn’t get button down shirts in great fabrics, and the classic chino trouser needed a new shape. We were going for some sort of yuppie artist look back then,” Hallin summaries.

Our Legacy carried on with its characteristic look until the SS12 season when the team felt they had to develop the brand. “We didn’t necessarily know what we wanted to change into, just that something had to happen. We needed to think less about ‘classic’ shapes and find new ones.” According to Hallin, by changing the aesthetic like that, the brand denounced all they had done before and spent a year or two trying to find a ‘new’ Our Legacy expression. “I think that this current season, AW14, is probably where we’ve completely found our confidence. We’ve even been able to re-introduce a few classic Our Legacy pieces but done differently from a new angle.” As always, that means pushing the boundaries of how both the customers and Our Legacy themselves see the brand: “We’ve even tried to make copies of our own products to highlight refined qualities that look a bit cheap. We have bomber jackets that look like a silver NASA uniforms but are made out of a sturdy bag material. It’s a quite difficult material so the challenge lies in making that into a qualitative ‘luxury’ product.” But not all of it has to be so complicated; designer Christopher Nying is able to completely change the appearance of fabrics with very simple means. “We use wash and dyeing processes on indigo and other natural fabrics a lot. You dye and then wash, wash again and maybe re-dye it to find the right colour and texture. It’s a big part of our brand,” Hallin says. “For example, we’d take a check shirt and dye it so dark that the checks are hardly visible. We’ve never really been that into technology - trying to be high-tech is not really what Our Legacy is about.”

Visit the Silver Place shop and you’ll see that Our Legacy’s design DNA can also applied to bricks and mortar. Far from over-designed, the stores use plain but elegant materials to create a sophisticated shopping experience. “With the store, the goal was to get heavy things floating. We used simple materials to look more than they are, a bit like with the clothes. There’s an industrial feel to it that we tried to make exclusive… there’s lots of stainless steel, glass and concrete plus a resin-covered floor that makes it look like you’re standing on glass. The white walls stop an inch above the floor and the cash desk appears to be floating in mid air.” The shop is more than part of an expansion plan; it’s a statement of intent. This is Our Legacy showing its true colours. Ten years in, the brand has matured and gathered confidence. “The ambition has always been to grow organically, even though that sounds like a cliché. Since it’s a quite small company, we have to expand slowly. It’s expensive to grow, whatever business you’re in. We want to continue this kind of growth, and going forward I think opening up in New York, or even Los Angeles, is a good fit and natural progression for us.” World domination isn’t a very Swedish ambition, but it seems Our Legacy is destined for it.


How Louis Vuitton defined luxury in the 21st century

A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Karl Lagerfeld had created a Louis Vuitton punching bag that retails for $175,000. The Chanel and Fendi designer, and a few other high-level creatives, was invited to celebrate the LV monogram logo by reinterpreting the intertwining letters on a selection of fashion and lifestyle goods. How many, if any, of the 25 boxing bags the French luxury brand expect to sell is unknown. But these kind of extraordinary marketing exercises (the true identity of the punching bag and other such costly one-offs) is in line with Louis Vuitton’s position in the contemporary luxury market. The French bag make, founded in 1854, holds a very special place at the top of the fashion pyramid; Louis Vuitton is seen as a bellwether for the rest of the industry.

Recently, except for Karl Lagerfeld’s punching bag, Louis Vuitton has been hitting the headlines because of its new creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière. Showing his second Ready-to-Wear collection in Paris in early October, he’s still putting his mark on the brand. As his predecessor, Marc Jacobs, held the job for 16 years, it will take some time for Ghesquière to settle in. Still, the initial success of his tenure is already sealed. The 70s retro looks from his AW14 collection, continued and modified for SS15, is in line with the Louis Vuitton aesthetic but decidedly different from Marc Jacobs’ version of the 160-year-old brand. Such a high profile brand of course needs a high profile creative director, and Ghesquière fits the bill. Having taken over Balenciaga in 1997, coincidentally the same year Marc Jacobs started at Louis Vuitton, Ghesquière reinvigorated the Spanish label and made it into a fashion force to be reckoned with. A very public resignation in 2012 made sure all eyes were on Ghesquière and his future employer.

Meanwhile, British designer Kim Jones was taken on in 2011 as style director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s ready-to-wear division. Jones was a bold choice for Louis Vuitton even though he had served as creative director at the traditional British tailoring brand Alfred Dunhill. Until his Dunhill appointment, Jones was famous for his casual sportswear and Umbro collaboration, but the Dunhill job showed he was capable of creating luxury lifestyle collections as well as contemporary leisurewear. Jones took the job from Paul Helbers, a soft-spoken Dutchman who designed sleek and sporty collections for Louis Vuitton for five years, but lacked personality and charisma. The appointment of Kim Jones was a statement of intent for Louis Vuitton. Today, Jones is wowing the menswear press with his fine balance of high-tech sportswear and travel-inspired luxury garments.

And it seems to be working. Recent figures show that the brand is doing well financially. Sales of the group’s fashion and leather goods business grew 9% in the third quarter of the year. LVMH, the umbrella company that owns Fendi, Moët et Chandon and Bulgari, as well as Louis Vuitton, has stated overall sales rose 5.2% to 7.39 billion euros ($9.37 billion) in the third quarter from €7.02 billion in the same period last year. Financially, Louis Vuitton is a solid business, but – and this is by no means self-evident in the world of high-end fashion – it’s a also a creatively sound brand, constantly pushing itself forward with the help of exceptional designers and world class collaborators.

Between Jacobs, Ghesquière and Jones, Louis Vuitton has spent the best part of 15 years trying to make the brand a cultural force, a contemporary leader when it comes to fashion. For a company that makes the majority of its money on bags and other leather goods, its fashion presence has been strong. Each season, for both menswear and womenswear, it’s one of the top shows, one that can not be missed. That’s partly down to the brand’s advertising spend, but also because how Louis Vuitton takes the concept of “ultimate luxury” and makes it relevant to our wardrobes. At least in theory. Even if you can afford it, it’s quite difficult to actually buy Louis Vuitton menswear. Even the flagship stores only carry selected pieces from the shows. But Jones and Ghesquière, and Jacobs before him, know that the role of their catwalk collections is about much more than selling lambskin jackets and cashmere T-shirts. They contextualise fashion in pop cultural history. And no one was better at that then Marc Jacobs. During his rein, Louis Vuitton instigated several partnerships and collaborations that brought high-end art into high-end fashion, and vice versa. Not only that, Jacobs also fused street art with his clothes and the all-important handbags.

Taking in to consideration Stephen Sprouse’s graffiti, Takashi Murakami’s camouflage and Yayoi Kusama’s dots, Louis Vuitton not only kickstarted fashion’s inclusion of art, but helped bring together two creative disciplines in what’s arguably a new 21st century art form. Designers have always been inspired by art and music, but what Marc Jacobs, and the late Louis Vuitton CEO, Yves Carcelle, did was to transform the catwalk into a gallery. And it wasn’t just restricted to the runway; Yayoi Kusama’s collaborative work was showcased in the windows of 460 Louis Vuitton stores in 64 countries, and sold in seven special concept stores throughout the world. Few other brands would have the man power, creative desire and financial backing to pull that off.

When the Louis Vuitton handbags with Sprouse’s graffiti logos went on sale in 2001, they sold out. And they sold even faster when Jacobs used the scrawlings again in 2008 as a homage to Sprouse who passed away in 2004. Having spent a considerable time trying to convince the LV team that defacing their most priced asset, the logo bag, was a good idea, Marc Jacobs first awed the press at the show and then the customer at the counter. The idea of taking the classic monogram bag and adding Sprouse’s graffiti was far from an obvious hit, it was an inspired move by Jacobs and his employers. By daring to play with the ultimate sign of luxury, the brand moved the goal posts and altered the way we looked at the brand; Louis Vuitton, the age-old leather bag manufacturer, was now a pop cultural player doing exactly what we expect from trendsetters; mixing two old ingredients to create new and exciting products.


Marc Newson x Beretta

Most collaborations are focused on trainers or items of clothing, at least the ones you end up reading about here. Except for music, where producers and guest vocalists, arguably, also collaborate with artists, fashion is where most partnerships are formed. It’s easy to forget about all the other creative disciplines where artisans are looking up each other in order to create a new and unique product. Product design is one such area and the recent collaboration between classic Italian weapon manufacturers, Beretta, and industrial designer Marc Newson proves that point. Newson, Sydney-born but UK-based, Marc is an excellent example of a designer working across the board, constantly challenging others and himself. For over 10 years Newson has collaborated on a clothing line with denim experts G-Star and in September this year he also joined Jonathan Ive as a designer at Apple. Not satisfied with jeans and phones, Newson hooked upearlier this year with Beretta, a classic firearms brand with a documented history going back all the way to 1526. Making over 1,500 guns a day, Beretta specializes in over-and-under and side-by-side rifles, semiautomatic rifles and carabines, express double rifles, semiautomatic pistols and assault rifles.

The 486 by Marc Newson Beretta rifle, a side-by-side shotgun, has been modified both in terms of technology and design. The traditional tail of the receiver has been lowered, allowing the wood to separate the receiver and the safety/selector like a wooden bridge over the steel. Meanwhile, the engraving is a clear homage to Asia as the homeland of the pheasant. The unique design is made possible by the high-tech laser technology used in the manufacturing process, ensuring the best texture wrap over the entire surface of the receiver while allowing for a deep contrast and sharp resolution in all the details of the engraving. Mixing Beretta’s technologic expertise with Newson’s eye for details, the 486 is arguably one of the most effective and stylish guns around. Here Newson explains the background and details of the collaboration.

How did the partnership start?

I was introduced socially to Franco Beretta and his wife Umberta, who is a serious art and design aficionado. She knew my work and had mentioned to Franco that I could be a collaborator in a project with Beretta at some point. We hit it off and eventually I was asked if I would design a new side-by-side.

What was the biggest challenge for you as a designer?

To respect the DNA of the product typology while creating an innovative and modern design.

What were the biggest differences compared to the other projects you work on?

My approach to every project is actually always the same. It is all design for me – the only difference ever is one of scale. Of course, the research part is particularly interesting and diverse. What I love about my job is the opportunity I get to acquire knowledge about the different processes, technologies and materials utilized in various industries. It has been fascinating to visit Beretta, a company which has its roots in the Italian Renaissance and to observe its standards of excellence.

Do you shoot? Have you tried this gun?

I have only been on a few shoots, as a guest, in the UK and no, I have not tried this gun as yet.

What does Beretta mean and stand for, according to you?

I hugely admire companies such as Beretta with its long history of superior manufacture and craftsmanship. It is a thrill for me to work with companies that have such a commitment to maintaining and delivering supreme standards of quality and excellence in their products. It is what I strive for in my work – I am pretty obsessional myself and fixate over details to the bitter end.

How do you modernize a design that is so ancient and traditional?

During the manufacture of my design in the Beretta workshops I got to observe the fascinating mix of traditional skills employed by Beretta’s craftsmen in conjunction with the most impressive state-of-the-art engineering processes including the use of intricate x-ray equipment, sophisticated laser technology and robotics. With these standards of ingenuity in place I endeavored to focus my design of the 486 on simplifying and rationalizing all the surfaces. Specifically streamlining the area of the action.

Where did you look for inspiration for this project?

My initial source of inspiration came from the Far East and from the fact that I already knew that pheasants originate from and are native to Asia, before being widely introduced elsewhere as a game bird. For me, it was important to somehow pay homage to this and incorporate a subtle Asian influence into the design.


London Collections Men needs a men’s tradeshow

Coming up to its sixth show season, London Collections: Men doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Straight off the bat the menswear event proved it was good enough to compete with Milan and Paris. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength: new brands are propping up, stars are born (Craig Green being a recent and excellent example), international designers are making guest appearances, press and buyers from far away have added LC:M to their show tour and – most importantly – big British brands like Burberry and Alexander McQueen have come back to show on their home turf. And for the Fall/Winter 2015 season, a fourth day has been added to fit in all the shows and presentations.

There is no doubt London is a creative hub, a must-see for anyone on the look out for forward-pushing and avant-garde fashion, as well as commercial bits from more established labels. But, still, there is a problem. Or rather, maybe it’s now we’re getting to the problem. Five seasons in, the honeymoon is over. We’re here, we’ve arrived – everyone knows it… so what’s next? Well, money. Business. More accounts, new doors. Bigger orders. Is that happening? Not really, at least not in London.

After their shows and presentations, many LC:M designers go on a sales tour to Paris, setting up a base in Le Marais. Throughout the year, there are several BFC-organised trips to Hong Kong and Los Angeles etc. where they meet buyers. But why isn’t that happening in London during LC:M? Sure, there’s a BFC showroom during LC:M, where brands can exhibit their collections. Great. But they’re not always in the best locations; most people run past the expo space outside the show venue in Bloomsbury House, and the Hospital Club is relatively far off and not advertised sufficiently.

One solution to this issue would be a proper trade show taking place during LC:M, like Capsule in Paris during the French menswear week. Over there they co-habit, each benefiting from the other’s presence. Buyers can pop into several trade shows in between shows. Paris, being a “fashion hub,” plays host to – except for Capsule – two other trade shows; Man and Tranoï. After the catwalk shows, brands set up their show rooms, showing and selling in a synergy that London is yet to experience. Yes, the schedule has always been tight in London, but a fourth day will certainly help create breathing space.

London has all these editors and buyers in town anyway, why not create a commercial platform for brands to sell here at the same time as we’re showing them all the creative collections our designers have produced? We have Jacket Required and it’s a great trade show, especially now that it’s back in East London. But it’s late – the February and July dates are well after the menswear shows in January and June. By then all buyers who were in town for LC:M have left or moved on to the womenswear calendar.

Another problem is that not many LC:M brands “do” trade shows. Walking around Jacket Required in July, I didn’t see a single catwalk brand participating. This fact, plus the timing of Jacket Required, indicates that the show isn’t angling itself to a high-end fashion audience. But, visit Capsule in Paris and New York and in the last few seasons you would have come across brands like Kit Neale, Baartmans and Siegel, Joseph Turvey and Katie Eary etc, all of them LC:M participants. Except for selling in their collections, these brands also benefitted from introducing their brands to a new type of buyer, one that doesn’t necessarily go to LC:M.

One obvious problem is that designers can’t expose their collections at a trade show before having shown them on the catwalk. And if you show on the last day of LC:M, there won’t be much time to join Capsule, or whatever trade show is in town. But there will be lots of other designers able to, plus other brands can sell basic parts of the collection, the classic and essential staples. There is always going to be problems, the timing is difficult and there are many loud voices claiming they know the answer. But the truth remains, London’s designers need to start selling their clothes on a bigger scale, and we need to utilize all the press and buyers who take four days out of their busy schedule to come and visit London each season.


Yosuke Aizawa talks White Mountaineering x Barbour

In many ways, Barbour and White Mountaineering are two sides of the same coin. One’s a British heritage brand, focused on classic and functional outdoors clothing, the other is a hyper-modern Japanese fashion brand committed to offering a utilitarian and urban wardrobe. Same purpose, different audiences. Barbour, even though the jackets can be re-appropriated for a 21st-century style, is about quality and style seen from a pragmatic point of view. Mr. Yosuke Aizawa from White Mountaineering, who used to work for Rei Kawakubo of COMME des GARCONS fame before setting up his own brand in 2006, approaches the idea of functionalism with the help of innovative technology. These two aesthetic schools of thought make the Barbour x White Mountaineering ideal; here heritage and modernity come together in a streamlined and technical collection.

Barbour has looked towards Japan for collaborative partners before, not unsurprisingly the brand has had a hardcore fan base here for decades. Most notably the Tokihito Yoshida collections have furthered the South Shields-based brand’s image as a heritage brand not stuck in a maze of tradition but on the look out for likeminded creatives that can help propel the brand forward. The Spring/Summer 2015 collection, the first in a series of capsule collections, does just that. Intrinsically Barbour, the jackets are still tweaked enough to resemble White Mountaineering. Though the fabric looks like Barbour’s classic wax-coated cotton, Aizawa’s wash and treatment creates a new garment, with added versions of White Mountaineering’s characteristic camouflage. The result is a perfect balance between South Shield culture and Tokyo’s futurism.

What’s your relationship to Barbour?

I’ve been looking at Barbour as inspiration for ages, even when I was working for COMME des GARCONS. When I set up White Mountaineering I was constantly looking for good and strong brands to collaborate with and I think I found that in Barbour.

Did you or your family wear it?

My father was into fly fishing and military uniforms, so there was a lot of Barbour at home. And even if they didn’t all fit me I used to wear the jackets oversized. And the first thing I did once the Barbour collaboration was decided was to open up and check my father’s wardrobe… But by now it was mostly repair kits and membership club cards, and stuff like that. Also, most of his jackets were made for fly fishing and they are a lot shorter in the body to fit with the high-waisted wading trousers, so we couldn’t really use them for this capsule collection.

What was your objective with the collaboration, what did you want to achieve with the clothes?

Barbour has always been big in Japan but it’s often the traditional heritage styles they wear – I wanted to bring a new look, a new point of view on Barbour. In Tokyo, you’ll see the people wearing Barbour with raw denim Levi’s jeans and Alden shoes – I wanted to update that combination. Actually, you can keep the Levi’s and Alden shoes, but wear it with a Barbour x White Mountaineering jacket and all of a sudden it’s a completely new look. Whether you’re in South Shields or Tokyo, people see Barbour as a very classic brand. The purpose was to show that Barbour can be modern and that it can do new things in a different way. Also bringing it to new territories. For example, Barbour is now presenting at London Collections: Men in January.

How do you balance two such different brands?

It’s important not to put too much White Mountaineering design into it and to make use of the Barbour fabrics and details. More than a source of inspiration, it’s about blending White Mountaineering’s DNA with Barbour’s, that’s the secret to a good collaboration. I kept the pockets rounded but added angular and edgy details, which is more in line with White Mountaineering’s technical approach. There are elements of both brands present. It looks like Barbour from a distance but come closer and you can tell it’s White Mountaineering.

How would you describe the SS15 collection?

Though White Mountaineering is very technical, this collab was more about me learning from Barbour. For example, how to work with and print on coated fabrics is difficult. Especially as we also washed and treated them afterwards. I learnt a lot about that process. The print is inspired by the sea coast near South Shields. I wanted to see the environment of the area where Barbour is from. I really liked the breaking waves and the coast line reminded me of back home. We use a lot of camouflage in White Mountaineering so it made sense to come up with a new such pattern but one that was relevant to Barbour.

What are the key styles?

This Wave Mountain Parka – we kept the Barbour feeling and details. It’s waxed and washed fabric, the full camouflage print is very White Mountaineering in this instance. The biggest challenge was to think more about individual pieces as opposed to the full collection. Normally, with White Mountaineering, I have to think about full looks and for it to make sense on a catwalk. Here, it’s such a small collection that each piece really had to stand out and make sense. And maybe you have more ideas to play around with in a full collection, here there’s less ideas but they have to be better and work for more pieces.

How Adidas came to rule the AW15 Men’s season in Paris

The fashion week season isn’t meant to be about sportswear. Sure, there’s elements of it in some collections, and of late functional details such as taped seems and waterproof fabrics have been part of the seasonal trends. Like with all trends, that will come and go; next season there might be a reaction against sporty utilitarianism, and all of a sudden formalwear will dominate again. For a few seasons at least. But there are elements of sportswear that transcend fashion fads. Representing a more casual and relaxed part of the male wardrobe, trainers, sweatshirts and tracksuit bottoms are now recognized staples worn by men all over the world – though perhaps the term “sportswear” is a bit misleading as it implies exercise clothing suitable for professional athletes. What we are referring to is more like “leisurewear” for everyday life.

Whatever you call it, there’s no denying it’s everywhere – just look at the past Fall/Winter 2015 show season in London, Milan and Paris. None of those cities are considered “sporty” – especially not Paris – but ironically that’s were lots of great sports/leisurewear was on display back in January. What was interesting to observe, once you’d reached the conclusion that sportswear is still integral to fashion, not as a trend but as a lifestyle choice, is where all that gear came from. Just like with bags, shoes and hats, brands often go to another, third-party manufacturer when producing such items as these brands contribute a unique expert knowledge. In the case of Fall/Winter 2015 sportswear, and trainers specifically, there was no doubt about who the main supplier was: adidas.

No other brand in the sportswear sphere has, it appears, grasped the importance of allying itself with high-end fashion in the same way adidas has. Now, collaborations between trainer brands and fashion designers are not rare, but often it’s just a case of brief partnerships. Alexander McQueen x PUMA, Nike x Riccardo Tisci, Le Coq Sportif x Baartmans & Siegel, Converse x Maison Margiela and Reebok x Palace. The list goes on. These collabs fill a gap and (hopefully) serve both brands well. But what adidas has launched is an onslaught of high-end fashion partnerships on different involvement levels and for various amounts of time. Sure, some of it isn’t that new; the ongoing Y-3 collab brand, in partnership with design legend Yohji Yamamoto, is over 12 years old. But of late, especially since the Y-3 show moved from New York to Paris, it’s fueled by an invigorated energy. The Fall/Winter 2015 collection, inspired by Air Force uniforms, was a testament to that. Today we take Y-3 for granted, but think about it; what other sportswear brand has its own collaborative runway show featuring each season’s collations in Paris, the home of fashion?

As if that wasn’t enough (and most sport brands would be thrilled to be able to pull that off alone), adidas continued to supply two of the giants on the Parisian men’s catwalk schedule with trainers. Raf Simons and Rick Owens have both been collaborating with adidas for several seasons, each time upping their game – and adidas’s – in terms of styles, fabrication and direction. Rick’s trainer silhouettes and Raf’s color scheme are integral to their collections, even though this time Rick Owens did all in his power to move the focus up from the model’s feet to their crotches. Some fell for it, others continued to be impressed by the forward-thinking footwear design. The extra long high-top trainers and his use of the Spring Blade technology has given both Owens and adidas a powerful sartorial look that’s instantly recognizable.

Furthermore the adidas dominance was felt at two other events during Paris Fashion Week. The second outing of the ongoing adidas x White Mountaineering collab was unveiled at a Rue de Turenne presentation. Designer Yosuke Aizawa perfectly blended the adidas ZX Flux trainer into his camouflage-heavy collection. Aizawa is known for pushing technology in his collections and the adidas association will do both good as the German sportswear brand is also constantly challenging itself in that area. adidas is no stranger to working with Japanese brands – old and new collabs include NEIGHBORHOOD, Kazuki Kuraishi from The Fourness and Cash Ca, mastermind JAPAN, BAPE, etc. – but this felt like more of a substantial partnership as different kinds of adidas trainer styles were properly embedded into the collection.

But, famously, there’s a second catwalk as well, one that validates the looks seen months before on the runway: the street. In the last year or so – basically since the relaunch of the Stan Smith – adidas was seen on nearly every other person attending shows. At least that’s what it feels like. The plain retro feeling of the Stan Smith really struck a chord with the fashion community, with its minimal design perfectly framing the intricately detailed clothes that make up the rest of the fashionista uniform. As the aforementioned Raf, Rick and Y-3 trainers started appearing on shop floors, industry insiders increasingly put them to the test in real life with a shocking number of pairs seen in our ongoing Street Style coverage over the past few months. Now, with the ongoing Superstar relaunch, it’s only a matter of time before London, Paris and Milan are literally overrun by multicolored shell toes.

Finally, adidas also launched a proper brand collaboration with (another) Japanese brand, Kolor. The line perfectly marries adidas’s high-tech approach with Junichi Abe’s avant-garde take on contemporary fashion. Focused on luxurious exercise clothing, the capsule collection can perhaps be likened to Nike and UNDERCOVER designer Jun Takahashi’s very successful Gyakusou line. If so, adidas is going after Nike in one of the few areas where the American brand has gained ground in the lucrative sport/fashion hybrid area. Gyakusou managed to excite both runners and contemporary customers looking for stylish and effective sportswear. It’s also quite far removed from Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER aesthetic, which is good as it means it’s not just a water-downed diffusion style collection. Gyakusou is honest and it remains to be seen if the adidas x Kolor collab can match that.

What can be confirmed, though, is that if there ever was any doubt about what sportswear brand unofficially “owned” the Fall/Winter 2015 European menswear season, it was adidas. Through its own catwalk line and several partnerships with some of the most established and revered brands and designers around, adidas seem to be very comfortable in its Prime-Knitted Boost throne.