London Collections: Men is making waves, and the men’s retail scene is riding them.
I came to New York nearly 10 years ago, straight out of college, and began my career in menswear. Professionally I grew up here, but I was raised near Notting Hill, in London, a fashion capital steeped in fashion history, from the artists and musicians on Portobello Road to Mod culture on Carnaby Street, the Goths on Camden Lock, and the epicenter of punk, new-wave, and Vivienne Westwood on Kings Road.
As time goes by, these London fashion hubs shift and evolve. Kings Road is now the stomping ground of preppy socialites, and East London is home to the ‘hipster.’ Carnaby, in the heart of London’s West End, has become commercial, but efforts to beat back the ‘big brands’ and nurture the diversity that helped make the area famous in the first place have been successful. OTHER / shop is the newest venture of British retail veterans Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beattie; it’s really pushing the envelope. On a recent trip back to London I visited the store. With key vendors including Stephan Schneider, Our Legacy, Peter Jensen, and Christophe Lemaire, OTHER / shop offers a concept realized through a mix of different media: a wall of art, a selection of ceramics, a book corner and exclusive clothing. “We want to focus on nurturing young creative talent from all media, whether it be fashion, art or interiors, with the vision to become an alternative voice,” says creative director Matthew Murphy. OTHER’s in-house brand is also a key component. “We launched the brand at the same time as the store and it’s really become the foundation and allows us to take more risks with un-established creatives.”
At the other end of the street, and at the other end of the menswear retail spectrum, the Tudor Revival building erected to house an expanding Liberty is visible. Founded in 1875, the world-renowned department store has been a defining influence on world fashion ever since, and following the success of the inaugural London Collections: Men event in June of last year, Liberty made some changes to its roster, introducing a bevy of British designers including Jonathan Saunders, Christopher Raeburn and Oliver Spencer. “The move of London Collections: Men to a three-day event really changed the perception of British menswear and gave designers from London a confidence that can be globally recognized now more than ever before,” says Liberty’s head of fashion buying Stephen Ayres. “We really saw this reflected in the designers’ collections and were delighted to pick up new lines for 2013.”
And while department stores’ adjustments to keep pace with trends are often impressive feats, smaller boutiques are in a more fluid position. HUB, originally a lifestyle store established in Manchester in 1998 by sisters Louise and Georgie, moved south to the country’s capital in 2002 in the form of a women’s wear boutique in Stoke Newington, North London. Menswear soon followed, then online in 2009, and in 2011 their third store, based in East London. Menswear manager Shane Kingdon begins with the basics. “We try to provide wardrobe staples for our everyday guy—pieces that will play their part in his wardrobe long-term; the perfect sweatshirt; a good chino; a timeless T-shirt,” he says. “And then we’ll add seasonal items that create interesting accents.”
With big plans for 2013, HUB, like OTHER / shop has their sights set on long-term success and they’re off to a roaring start.