Saturday, 25 October 2008

Daniel Jenkins on British Mens Fashion

We asked Daniel Jenkins if he would like to write a guest post for the blog and were surprised after he agreed without hesitation. He went away back to his store in Monmouth and wrote the post in secret (he didn't even give us any clues on the subject matter) and here it is. A recurrent theme on the blog in recent months has been the discussion on the rise of menswear but despite this rise there are still so much room for improvement. As a store owner Daniel Jenkins has a clear vision on menswear and the designers he wants to sell. As a passionate, intelligent chap he has insightful thoughts on the current state of men's fashion in Britian so here they are!

Posts from the last week or so have forced me to rethink what I was going to write about, particularly the Lulu Kennedy interview. Her comments regarding men’s fashion fascinated me. As someone who believes in British menswear to such an extent that my shop is only stocking British menswear labels from ss09 I have a slightly vested interest in what happens with regards to MAN and menswear during British fashion week. During fashion week this time around there was much talk of New York, Milan and Paris trying to expand their timetable. In order to facilitate such a change London Fashion Week would have to be truncated. Maurice Chittenden in The Times wrote that menswear was likely to be the main casualty, something that, if I was of a sensitive disposition, I might find deeply upsetting. However, it could be argued that British menswear, despite a lack of mainstream coverage, is currently stronger than womenswear. In spite of this when was the last time you read an intelligent and thought provoking piece on menswear in any of the mainstream newspapers? Unless it is about how to look as if you’ve surrendered your manhood. Some of the looks that are proposed as ideal for the chap about town would make you look as if you’ve fallen out of an advert for Next and been dressed by your partner – I remove Charlie Porter from this blame, who is perhaps the best men’s fashion journalist we have in the UK. Time and time again I have the same line fed to me that women buy clothes for their husbands, boyfriends and sons. I’m struggling to see the evidence for this. It’s certainly not the case in my store or online. In fact I did a quick straw poll amongst my girlfriend and her friends the other night. They agreed with me that they would rather cut their arms off than go shopping for the ‘other half’. Is this the case with you as well?

As I stated before, menswear is fairly healthy in the UK. Some of the UK’s best stores are purely menswear affairs... something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. The British male has certainly become more savvy and demanding. Is it any surprise then that we lead the world in online retailers? Last week saw the launch of FarFetch, another British concept. In fact I sat down and thought about purely womenswear stores which offered the level and breadth of talent that some of the best men's stores do. I’m not talking about replicating Vogue and Elle but rather those that offered well made clothes sourced from small labels from around the world. Answers on a postcard please.

British Talent: Satyenkumar, Lou Dalton and Stanfeild.

Not all is peachy though. Of the men’s fashion weeks Paris has traditionally been where the most business is done. Almost all the British labels we deal with do large amounts of business when in Paris or perhaps in Copenhagen. As a store based in deepest darkest Wales – only 200 years from London - I could quite easily do all of my buying without ever setting foot in London... the creative capital of the world? This isn’t because of a paucity of talent. Some of the best and brightest men's talent, those that will last the course, are British. We have labels as diverse as Lou Dalton, Stansfield and Passarella Death Squad – a modern phenomenon if there ever was one - all of which are stocked in the best stores in America, Japan, Europe yet have small presence in this country. Why is this? I found the last MAN show interesting. I usually go to fashion shows alone so I enjoyed watching it with Steve and being able to pick his brain about the collections.

Ms Kennedy is right, there was a good balance – although wool in July is never going to be a winner - but three labels and Topman design does not a fashion week make. The idea of a men’s fashion week in London is something I don’t believe I’ll see in my lifetime. The menswear could presently be fitted into one day. What a fine day it would be, but, it’s not enough! The New Gen programme has worked well for womenswear and poses interesting questions about menswear. Far too many labels are allowed to gather a head of steam then left to crash. I understand the 'why should we help people?’ argument. No-one helps retailers etc but if we aren’t careful we will lose our brightest and best talent. Rachel Sanderson in the International Herald Tribune writes about the shift away from British manufacture, stating that labels have decided that being able to put 'made in Britain' no longer has the cache it used to and that the problems in the global economy force them to construct their garments elsewhere. This is something I often chat with customers about. Most are quite informed about where something comes from and we’ve found as a business that those labels that are made in the UK tend to do quite well for us. Satyenkumar is quite a good example. We’ve had a number of repeat customers who have commented on the fact that everything is British and made in the UK. The use of British fabric again is important.

If you missed the Tailoring show - go watch it on iplayer now!

This week the BBC’s British Style Genius series dealt with Tailoring. Within the show there was a brief segment that dealt with Burton. The creative director was at pains to mention several times that they were using British fabric for their ‘Heritage’ range. Unfortunately this is something that is unlikely to end up in Monmouth’s branch of Burton. They however do fabulous business in Mister Men t-shirts...

In France the FFC was set up not only to deal with the organisation for Paris Fashion week but also to protect the interests of French fashion. We have the BFC in this country that aims to do this. It’s created an interesting dialogue with the media regarding the size zero debate. Yet we hear very little from them about British menswear. I’ve certainly never spoken to anyone connected with the organisation. Of course there are organisations such as the CFE (Centre for Fashion Enterprise) which offer government backed help. but this only goes so far.

Jonathan Saunders in an interview with stated that he and the other stars of his generation quickly realised that you needed to work on collaborations and for other companies in order to further your own business. MAN does a wonderful job of bringing the industry together and celebrating menswear through the show and party, but there is only so much they can do. Once fashion week is over we seem to be left to our own devices. Constantly I hear that British Fashion is a multi billion dollar industry... given that according to Robert Peston of the BBC the world should end sometime next Tuesday shouldn’t we do something to make sure that we safeguard it?

In more trying and testing economic times the maxim was always that people dressed better, stopped buying disposable fashion and moved towards items which would last and wear well. This has always been our maxim. Trying to offer something a little different to the customer. Limiting the chance that they will see 5 men wearing the same outfit while out and about. This is what the British male who is interested in fashion strives for. Limited edition releases and hard to find products will always do well. Sir Paul Smith (my hero) summed it up quite nicely last night when dealt with the topic of other nations being better dressed than us Brits. He said “the Italians are extraordinarily well dressed. Yet there is very little individuality in the way they dress... In Britain we have our own character and we dress to fit our character.” British fashion is incredibly important. We created most of the prevailing trends of the last 200 years. Constantly we are at the forefront pushing new ideas without losing that sense of British identity in our cut and drape. Raf Simons – the nearest we currently have to a genius in men's fashion - is constantly influenced by British fashion and our youth culture. Wouldn’t it be a shame to lose that sense of craft in order to push fast celebrity fashion?


Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,
I'm the other Daniel Jenkins. Does genius and a passion for fashion just follow the name? Love what you're doing. Keep it up.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Are there any more Daniel Jenkins' out there? We love you all.

Anonymous said...

Great article, it raises some important questions for the future of menswear.
Men's fashion is constantly touted as the next big thing, but without the support of industry and a change in attitudes it's going to take a while.

Avery said...

Good post for British mens fashion!! Those pictures of mens apparel are looking cool and stylish!!

candyfusion belt buckles said...

great article


Related Posts with Thumbnails