Zoey Goto | Journalist & Feature Writer

July, 2013 Monthly archive

I have just returned from Tachiagari at Dover Street Market (Rei Kawakubo’s 5 floor emporium of fashion, ideas, taxidermy and great cake). This is a seasonal ritual where the entire store is closed for 3 days to install the new design spaces. Then, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the new look store and collections are unveiled – voilà! This season we can look forward to the new collections from designers including Yang Li, Greg Lauren, Sacai, Simone Rocha, Casely-Hayford and of course lots of Comme des Garcons (including the launch of their children’s shirting collection). The online store is also expanding: http://www.doverstreetmarket.com/

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This is an interview that I did with the architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw last year, which was published in Noblesse magazine’s London supplement. Grimshaw is one of the leading British architects, having designed the Eden Project in Cornwall and the National Space Centre in Leicester.

ZG: As an renowned London-based architect, how would you describe the architectural landscape of London?

NG: The most interesting thing about the London scene is that it does not change. There is a huge feeling of constancy in term of the big areas like South Kensington. They are like conservation areas with their low townhouses and tree lined streets.The areas where London is allowed to spread its wings are The City, Canary Wharf and the new Olympic sites, but these areas are quite controlled and confined areas and do not effect the rest of London at all. When people say they love London, they love the street-scape, the trees, the squares and the general balance of the city.

ZG: In terms of architecture, what makes London unique in comparison to other cities around the world?

NG: I suspect that London has one of the most restrictive planning regulations in the world. The areas where you are allowed to build sky scrappers or tall office buildings are extremely restrictive. Even when you do, the quality has to be very high as the various planning offices in London are happy to reject a building just because they do not like the design.

ZG: Which buildings in London do you find most interesting and why?

NG: I would have to say that the Lloyd’s Building and the Leadenhall Building, both by Richard Rogers. On a smaller scale we did a nice office complex ourselves called the The St Botolph Building where we introduced the idea of people working in villages rather than floor by floor. It was a ground-scrapper as opposed to the sky-scrapper and worked well in The City as they like to keep the buildings relatively low.

ZG: For the Olympic Games, quite a few new buildings and stadiums have appeared. Which ones you like most and why?

NG: There are two outstanding Olympic buildings. One is the Velodrome by Michael Hopkins, which simple and sustainable. The other is the London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid, which is a pretty spectacular shape.

ZG: Which park/outside space would you recommend to visitors to London and why?

NG: Hyde Park combined with St James’s Park, and Regents Park. These are not just little green squares that you walk around, they are big tracks of countryside. You should go to the top of Primrose Hill and look at the fantastic view of London. Another less visited park is Richmond Park, which has a rural feel and great views of the city.

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Written by Zoey Goto and originally published in the January 2013 issue of Vantage magazine:

2013 is the year that the British fashion industry hopes to make its mark in China. A crop of big name designers will be testing the water with their first flagship stores in China, while brands that have already established a presence will be looking to expand with new stores and concessions. The recent decline in designer purchases has sent shock waves through the luxury sector. However, the long-term forecast is more optimistic, with predictions that by 2017 China will be the second largest luxury market, after America. In light of this, British fashion brands such as Burberry, Vivienne Westwood, Gieves & Hawkes and Mulberry are continuing to expand in major cities throughout China, keen to showcase a comprehensive message about their brand to the consumer. If the labels can get it right, it results not only in sales in their Chinese stores, but also from Chinese visitors in Europe. Burberry recently reported that a staggering 30% of their London customers are from Asia.

Having withdrawn from the Chinese market five years ago, the British designer Paul Smith is set to make a comeback for 2013. His store in Tianjin opened towards the end of 2012 and will be followed by the Beijing store opening in the Spring of 2013, then a 5,000 square foot flagship store in Shanghai in the Fall of 2013. This is part of a wider attempt to reintroduce the brand in China, with the long-term strategy to open over twenty stores over the next five years. Vivienne Westwood, who already has two outlets in Shanghai, is also aiming to open twenty stores throughout China. The British Fashion Council, responsible for promoting British fashion designers internationally, recently set up a showroom in Hong Kong to showcase rising stars such as Nicholas Kirkwood, Peter Pilotto and Jonathan Saunders.

British heritage brands are also receiving great interest within the Chinese luxury market. Mulberry, famed for their crafted leather handbags, will continue to expand in China this coming year. The company, which started in rural Somerset in 1971, has gained popularity both in the UK and internationally by presenting a quintessentially British style that is inspired by the country pursuits of fishing, hunting and shooting. Mulberry initially ventured into China two years ago with a store in Beijing. The brand was recently introduced into a large department store in Shanghai and 2013 will see three new stores pop up in Shanghai and Beijing. Mulberry’s Chief Executive, Bruno Guillon, says that the best sellers in China at the moment are the iconic products such as the Bayswater, Alexa and Del Rey bags. So why does he think Chinese customers have connected with Mulberry as a brand? ‘Our Chinese customers want to invest in a piece of luxury that they feel confident about. Mulberry has a strong sense of its British heritage and history of craftsmanship and our customers appreciate this – our dedication to the craft behind handbag-making and the fact that we still produce many of our bags in the UK.’

He has hit on a key theme that is being echoed elsewhere in the luxury market – heritage and authenticity. Consumers are more willing to invest in established brands that have an engaging story to tell. There is a genuine interest in British brands with a rich history, from Burberry’s classic trench coat, to Savile Row tailors who have traditionally dressed the British aristocracy. One such brand is the gentlemen’s tailors Gieves & Hawkes, whose previous clients have included Sir Winston Churchill. From their workshop in Savile Row, an address that is associated with quintessentially British tailoring, they have expanded throughout Asia to now have 108 stores and concessions in China. The company has successfully carved out a niche in the market by offering a traditional tailoring service in a modern environment, selling suits, blazers and dress shirts to the Chinese gentlemen. Gieves & Hawkes make regional adaptations in respect to Chinese taste, consumer behavior and styles. As the company says, it is striving to create ‘the balance between upholding the British authenticity and allowing regional adaptations.’ Gieves & Hawkes were recently brought by the Hong Kong group Trinity, who also own the gentlemen’s outfitters Kent and Curwen. In 2011, the British label Aquascutum, famed for its raincoats, entered administration and was brought up by a Chinese trading company for £15 million. China is not only buying the products from these luxury brands, but also increasingly buying the brands themselves.

However, European brands are becoming increasingly aware that their luxury goods will not sell themselves in China. The brands that will forge ahead in the current climate need to actively engage the customer and attempt to understand the cultural landscape. There is a higher interest in fashion brands that use a sophisticated and symbolic language, rather than those that rely on logos to do the talking. Fashion houses that have traditionally relied on Western cultural associations will now need to put the effort in to communicating their brand story to the Chinese audience. European brands that have recognised this and are wooing the Chinese public include the Parisian fashion house Lanvin, who sent its creative director Alber Elbaz to China last May to host a star-studded event entitled ‘Lanvin Loves Beijing’. Gucci has chosen the actress Li Bingbing to model for their Asia campaign, and the French fashion house Dior are temping the big spenders into their Chinese stores with glamorous VIP rooms for shoppers. Burberry have also been utilising the social media sites such as Kaixin to attract a younger crowd of fans and the luxury men’s wear label Dunhill created limited edition cufflinks to celebrate 2012 as the year of the Dragon. As China’s retail scene evolves, the short-term challenge for these British brands will be how to engage the Chinese market and establish a loyal fan base. Once that is achieved, it will be interesting to see how they tackle the long-term challenge of ensuring availability, whilst maintaining that all important exclusivity.

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While researching for an article on what men should be wearing in the office, I went to vox-pop with the workers in The City of London to ask their opinions. Here is what the man on the street has to say about about getting the workwear look right.

Name: Courtney Charles
Job Title: Fashion Sales Adviser (he was returning from an interview when we met him – he should definitely get the job due to his sartorial knowledge we feel!)

What do you look for in a work-wear suit?
Durability and comfort. Quirkiness, as I like to stand out from other people.

How do you do this?
With textiles, colour and print. My best suit is from Etro, which I got from a boutique on Old Bond Street. It is chocolate brown with a windowpane check in fuchsia. The check is a kind of barbed-wire print.

Where is the suit you are wearing today from?
Zara. The shoes are from YSL and the shirt is T.M. Lewin

What are the unwritten rules for office attire?
A lot of the office workers are wearing separates now, while still being quite formal and smart. To be a little more casual, they might add a checked shirt or loose the tie.

How can office workers add personality through accessories?
A lot of gentlemen are wearing braces now, a pochette or even a summer hat such as a Panama.

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Name: Arthur Colvill
Job Title: Suiting adviser at Roderick Charles

What are the unwritten rules of office attire?
It is harder to wear casual than formal. Dress down Friday really affected our trade when it came in from America. It shouldn’t exist as mentally it brings a person down. The suit is the better option as top and bottom match, so it is easier, and with a shirt and tie you can change the look of the suit. If you want to dress the suit down, take you tie off and open your shirt. It is all about presentation.

How would you add personality through accessories?
Colour is the main thing, so adding a brightly coloured tie can change your whole look. Our bright orange, yellow or pink ties can really lift a dark suit.

What should people look for in an office suit?
For a formal style, a two button with side vents, with a single pleated trouser so you have room to sit down. Navy or charcoal is the office colour, but that’s been eased a bit by other colours coming in such as mid-blue or mid-grey. Coordinate with white, blue or pink shirt with the matching ties and you can change your look everyday.

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Name: Adriano Orzelleca
Job Title: Deal Coordinator for a leasing company

Where did you buy your suit?

What are the unwritten rules of dress in your office?
To look smart – no unclipping of shirt collars or rolling up sleeves. Being super casual is a no-go.

How do you express your personality in your dress?
Through ties and cufflinks. I try to get them coordinated.

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Name: Edward Burdell
Job Title: Commercial Property Surveyor

Where did you buy your suit?
TK Maxx (and I took it to a tailors to get it properly fitted)

What do you look for in a suit?
I have quite broad shoulders, so something that fits the shoulder and I can get taken in at the waist.

What are the unwritten rules of dress in your office?
No pockets on shirts, no short sleeved shirts, no buttons on collars. Apart from that we have creative freedom.

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