Why to Department Stores hate men? Body Confidential investigates!

I should be a busy bee working away but I’ve just got to pop on here to direct you to a saving grace for menswear retail!

Debenhams Manchester Market Street

Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square

House of Fraser/Kendals, Manchester Deansgate

Harvay Nichols, Manchester

David McCourt, retail reviewer and all round shopoholic for online fash-mag Body Confidential, has been out and about to score Department Stores on their approach to a male clientele.

Go read (click here)!

The future of the High Street

At the end of 2011 I posted a review of my year. As you do. The Portas Review had been published and Government were (and still are) considering their response. Since then Barratts has collapsed, Peacocks nearly went under and the high street is still gripped by the effects of recession. 

from ‘Taking the Credit?’

Whilst the Portas Review had some very interesting things to say about High Streets, the majority of fashion independents didn’t think allocating ‘Town Teams’ and ‘National Market Day’ would necessarily help nudge British high streets into the right direction. Why? Because one fundamental issue was missed out of this report: Credit Insurance Terms.

from ‘Taking the Credit?’

Many small independent fashion businesses in the UK are being strangled by changes to their supplier’s Credit Insurance Terms. What does this mean? Well, let Caroline Nodder, Editor-In-Chief of Drapers Magazine, explain:

This ‘enormous pressure’ loosely translates as indie businesses having to use Credit Cards and personal overdrafts to fund the purchase of new stock months before the stock even lands in store. Cash flow is the life-blood of any business and fashion independents are being drained of their supplies to fund next season’s buy.

North Western Independent retailer, Paul Turner-Mitchell of 25 Ten Boutique teamed up with his local MP in Rochdale and Drapers Magazine to produce a document urging the Government to speed up their response to the Portas Review and to consider Credit Insurance Terms as a fundamental aspect of fashion retail.

One other aspect I would like to add to this is that suppliers may not be directly responsible for  moving the goal posts in terms of Credit Insurance Terms BUT they are responsible for other failings.

Brands and retails need to work together for a better working relationship and a prosperous 2012. Refusing to consider stock-swaps, knowingly over-stocking start-ups, threatening stores with black-listing should they cancel orders they can’t fulfil are all practises that infringe on the productivity of the fashion sector.

Business is business, true, but how can we go on when all we do is fight against one another?

PR support, staff training, POS and Merchandising material, offers on ‘sale or return’ for new lines and collections, exclusivity agreements are all small things that go a long way in fashion independent business.


Be the Business

I’ve recently been on the peripherals of a campaign that was in support of progress, enterprise and trade in a local town that is dying on its feet.
The campaign’s main objective was to get local businesses to vote in favour of adding a little extra, around £135.00 p/a for most small retailers, onto their Council Tax bill. This money would then be totted up and given back to the community at the end of the year to do with what the community felt was most important. Perhaps hanging baskets to brighten the town centre, perhaps marketing to support a Christmas market. The possibilities were endless. The money was for the town’s businesses to invest in what they cared about most. Not only this, but by being part of the scheme the town would have been open to a plethora of other international funds and money pots, basically because they were showing effort and initiative. 
The main plan for this town was to spruce it up and get it on the map with key events in the tourist season and out-of-season to drum up business where it is needed most.
Working with a budget of £52,500 p/a based on the participation of 350 businesses in the BID area: £13000 had been designated for new events, £5000 for festive lights to illuminate the appalling effort currently made by the council, £7000 to help support the administrative arm of the new Chamber of Commerce and even £2500 had been designated as Contingency.
The vote went to ballot and the result was negative. What is so crushing is that it was not turned down because of an overwhelming opposition, but instead because of overwhelming apathy.
How does business, small independent business at that, hope to dig itself out of this recession if the people behind the businesses can’t be arsed to pick up a pen and paper and make their voice heard. I’m not talking about committing to weekly meetings, knocking on doors. There are people with more guts and energy in every town that are happy to do that for you, for free, they just need you to show one ounce of support to give them to go ahead to make your towns and your businesses thrive.
My passion is in business and independent business is the key to a prosperous future but that future is nothing but a dream if these businesses don’t wake up and make use of the few tools they have at this time.
If you’re interested in the case study I’ve presented, you can find out more here:


It is the only town in the history of this specific BID to have turned down the opportunity.


fashion Rambler meets Philip Stephens and Jodie Harsh at Unconditional + Manchester Launch

Unconditional, the clothing brand that loves a bit of male cleavage (heavage if you will) opened their first Northern flagship store in Manchester’s Exchange Square last week. Designer and brand owner Philip Stephens and his posse of Soho club kids, including the infamous Miss Jodie Harsh, came up for the do to introduce the north to sexy clothing for men (and women, but that’s not as interesting to me).
Anna Westerman of Flux Magazine (see my interview with the mag’s founder here), Christopher Hulme (ma +1), Lynda Moyo and Ryan (Senior Sales Advisor for Unconditional)
The store is huge and a great use of an empty unit that I’ve known for years since it used to be a unit that held sample sales and pop-up shops so I was always having a good old nosey. Unconditional took the unit primarily because of the fact that the ceiling consisted of exposed pipe work and the floor was concrete. That’s their thing. Stephens told me it was ‘like a dream’ because it needed so little doing to it.
The store stocks both the brand’s famous menswear and the womenswear collections as well as the company’s latest venture into homeware by way of scented candles and throws. 
Jonathan on the flyer for the last Circus night.
The party was very cool, it had a London androgyny about it, boys dressed as girls and girls dressed… well, as girls but not as convincingly. We met Jonathan, the latest Cover-girl for Harsh’s London club night Circus. He was a size 00 and modeled the latest Unconditional ladieswear perfectly (ouch, size 00 debate) he also danced like a nothing Manchester has seen before.
Unconditional Launch Party
Jodie Harsh, Philip Stephens, Lynda Moyo (see my interview with Lynda here) and Me!
It was pretty cool to be able to hear Jodie Harsh play a set too since an appearance in Manchester during the Ibiza season and Circus’ prime is something of a rarity. I managed to get behind the DJ deck to give her a mwah-mwah-darling welcome to the North and as I kissed her left cheek I got stuck in her hairsprayed weave. Beautiful. I will cherish the moment I peeled my face off hers.
I managed to speak to Philip Stephens earlier in the day about his move to Manchester, you can see the interview here. I have saved this little snippet for fR readers:
Fashion Rambler: How is the new transactional website doing?
Philip Stephens: It’s going well, it is interesting because Unconditional is me, it’s completely financed by me and we’re not part of some huge chain and we don’t have lots of money so we have to do one thing at a time. I don’t have a huge master plan but obviously you can have all these ideas but you need the infrastructure to support it. We launched the site but we’ve not pushed it, it get hits and we sell but without even pushing. It’s a process.
FR: So, the company’s approach to Social Media isn’t strong if you’re not pushing the site?
PS: I started Facebook reluctantly. I think I’m going to start twitter.
FR: You have to.
PS: I know, Jodie (Harsh), well Jay is my friend and he’s busy on Twitter and I have a friend in Social Media PR and he’s telling me I have to do it. I know I’ve got to, you’ve got to embrace these things.
Shop Unconditional here.

Fashion Rambler meets Roland Mouret

So. I’d barely slept since my insane holiday to Gran Canaria with boozy friends (pictures coming soon if you’re good) and I was already back on form.
Roland Mouret, the french man that makes all women weak at the knees and the purse strings, was launching his latest collection at Selfridges Manchester Exchange. I got the chance to ask him a few questions whilst resisting his annoyingly sexy accent.

You can see my interview with him here, but I saved the more important questions for Fashion Rambler readers (as per).

Shirt, customised from Jaeger
Trousers, my trusty TOPMAN Ltd.

Fashion Rambler: You do Bloke’s clothes too. Love it?
Roland Mouret: Menswear is great, it’s fun and different. I hope that my male customers are the partner of my female customers.
(So the gay only designs for Heteros?)
FR: You told the Guardian that we all dress up to undress. Is this how you dress?
RM: Yes. Less now because I’m a bit older. I think we all dress to undress, to find our long term partner, to be a bit sexy and it is really important. It’s the way we are and we shouldn’t avoid it but we shouldn’t put it in people’s faces like ‘I wanna shag’.
FR: Favourite Spice Girls song? (not so odd, he’s BFFs with Victoria Beckham/probably does her designs for her)
RM: No, I don’t have one. I hated the Spice Girls.
FR: Does Victoria know?
RM: She does, it makes her laugh because we are really good friends now. I hated that they were everywhere, in your face. It was what it was and it was the 1990s. But no, I wasn’t a fan.
It was then time for the fashion show which was my cue to exit to get to my dinner at Harvey Nichols (and you thought I’d dressed up for him?). To celebrating their being chosen as Manchester Cathedral’s main grub provider, Harvey’s threw a dinner party for the Manchester set. Any excuse.

Fashion Rambler Meets Jessica Hart (and Casey Gillespie)

I’m currently sunning my buns as you read. Yes, this is a scheduled post and I’m in Gran Canaria. Feel jealous. Oh don’t be like that… I’ve left you some loveliness….

So, if you follow my mobile ramblings on twitter, you’ll have learnt that I was in the Big Smoke this week. ‘But, why?’ I hear you cry, well, for many reasons. First and foremost I was there to interview Jess Hart the Australian model and next Elle Macpherson who has just brought her own label line to Selfridges London and Manchester Trafford Centre.
Upon arriving at Selfridges Oxford Street I sat outside with an orange Lucozade in the sun and people watched my arse off. The world’s most famous high street was buzzing with the beautiful people, the people and the ugly people. I breathed it all in, coughed out the air pollution and entered Selfridges via Chanel (naturally).
Jessica was waiting in the Personal Shopping department and after being shown the collection I was whisked off to meet her. But, not before ELLE Magazine. Elle had sent their newest staff reporter who was slightly frazzled and very unprepared after being told to get to Selfridges only 2 minutes before hand. Woops. So, as she was rather unprepared I wasn’t waiting long for my turn. Just enough time to order some water and charge my Blackberry.
Jess Hart is bloody gorgeous. Obviously. She’s a model. Some might say a super-model. But she really is that beautiful. A face you can stare at with ease. Not only this but she has enough brains to be modest and coy and all ‘Style Icon, moi?’ which was cute, at first, but then I was all ‘you have a fashion line, own it’.
To see my interview with Jess Hart click here, but I saved the vital and most important questions for Fashion Rambler readers:
Fashion Rambler: London Fashion Week or Rosemount Australian Fasion Week?
Jessica Hart: London Fashion Week.
FR: Savage Garden or Oasis?
JH: Oasis.
FR: Neighbours or Coronation Street?
JH: Neighbours
Tess (Ghost Designer): She had to say that, she’s from Melbourne!
FR: Britain’s Next Top Model or Australia’s Next Top Model?
JH: Have I ever been on BNTM? I was on Australian one, as an example.
Tess (Not-so Ghost like is she…): But Elle is hosting the British one.
JH: Really?
FR: Yes, her first year.
JH: Britain’s Next Top Model. The Australian one is awful anyway.
FR: Menswear?
JH: I’d love to!

After meeting the beautiful Hart I left, gabbed my water from the PR and headed for UniQlo where I bought Lady Gaga’s SAVE JAPAN Tee. As I was paying, I pulled out what I thought was my Blackberry. Fail. It was Jessica Hart’s. The Jessica’s Hart’s mobile was in m hands. I felt like I was on CrimeWatch. I laughed, rather hysterically and scared the cashier.
A giggly phone-call between myself and the PR, who was a little hysterical herself, resulted in the device being returned without problem. Phew. Now onto my next appointment: Casey Gillespie of the newly founded London Confidential.
As you may know I write for Manchester Confidential and Body Confidential, I’m quite the Confidential parasite. So, I had to meet this fine lady. She’s a New Yorker in every sense of the word, funny, opinionated, doesn’t get the Tube or alcohol and likes to offer reading suggestions (I’m about to start her recommendation, Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors). Watch this space LonCon is going to get oh-so-good.
We chatted for a very brief time as I had to dash to Victoria from Hoxton (not easy) for my Brighton bound train. Yes, I do London in style, I stay in Brighton.

Fashion Rambler meets Charlie Miller of Grazia Magazine

At a recent S/S’11 womenswear show at Selfridgesicon Manchester Trafford, Charlie Miller the Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor for Grazia gave her advice on the latest trends. I managed to corner her for a chat

 Sophie Heldley of Selfridges and Charlie Miller
Fashion Rambler: what value do you place on blogs as a means of gaining experience and as a medium of fashion press?
Charlie Miller: I think it has been a revolutionary thing for fashion. I was reading on Business of Fashion that Suzanne Menkes of International Herald Tribune and she said “The world changed when fashion instead of being a monologue, became a conversation”… Now we have live streaming at shows, we got Brian Boy front row, it all goes hand-in-hand. Street Style is huge too because at the end of the day, that is where the credibility lies. I can show you a beautiful designer dress but sometimes it is a little bit more interesting to see what that girl over there is wearing and how she put it together. We tweet, blog and file reports in the cab between shows and so I think we’re really on it as a magazine.
FR: Do you think that, in order for magazines to stay relevant, social media and multi-platform communications are important?
CM: I do, and I think some are probably not at the moment, as much as we are. We’re new and we’re used to speed so we’re probably a little ahead of the monthly publications. They’ll get there.
FR: There are Magazines with little online presence, those with both and those that are just online. Is the future a balance or is online taking over print?
CM: I don’t think it’s taking over. I think it is very important, particularly with young kids who haven’t found a magazine that has really spoken to them. So, I understand that they are getting a lot of their information online. I don’t think it’ll take over, at least I hope not! What I think print does is give you that luxury of kicking back without looking at a screen and getting into that blue sky world.
FR: Is this a major factor when publishing on the duel platforms, both the faster daily updates of GraziaDaily.co.uk and the equally relevant but weekly Grazia Magazine?
CM: Often at times we can’t take everything onboard in the magazine, so we try to not cannibalise what is happenSing in the magazine. The Grazia Daily girls are really smart and I think it is a great partnership.
To see more of this interview click here
Selfridges & Co Ltd

Fashion Rambler meets Michael Brown of Frater Menswear

Gotta love a newbie. Frater Menswear is a new Manchester brand that has launched online and has big plans for nationwide exposure. The brand suits that guy who care what he looks like without caring much about ‘trend’ or ‘fashion’, the guys that smell good and have floppy hair in the pub. 

I got to quiz Michael Brown, the brand owner, about his career, brand and future.
Fashion Rambler: Would you consider Frater synonymous with Manchester or a Brand with broader roots?
Michael Brown: Frater definitely has deep roots in Manchester due to the fact that I’ve grown up here, being inspired by Manchester’s last creative generation from Joy Division to Peter Saville – there’s so much music and cultural heritage here to draw from. I hope that Frater will be part of the next wave of creativity to come out of the city, and think that Manchester has a really exciting future, but I also take inspiration from places and people all over the world – it’s important for the brand’s development that we’re always looking beyond where we are at the moment.

FR: Who is the Frater customer, who do you design for?
MB: When I put together a new collection or design a new piece, I’m always aiming to come up with something that my friends and I would wear and get excited about. The whole brotherhood of Frater is based on looking at my peer group and designing for them, and I want the Frater customer to be passionate about the clothes and feel something for what they’re wearing. I don’t want to create clothing that’s generic, I want our customers to have an opinion – items like our Liberty and Pierson t-shirts are a good example of this, the bold graphic wartime prints really show how art and fashion can flow together, and the people that wear them want to make this statement.
FR: What are the plans for the future of the Brand?
MB: Our ultimate are aim is to become an established brand in the UK market and continue to push forward, creating something different and unique as we go along, which people will be excited to see and feel proud to wear. We’re conscious of not growing things too quickly, and want to develop the brand personality while building the business over time.

To see more of this interview go here