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Monthly Archives: December 2011

One of the first times I came across Norse Projects was when I started my job. I’d not really heard too much about them as a brand but I was looking into competitors and getting more familiar with the menswear market. I instantly fell in love with the brand.

What struck me initially was their imagery. I think the first set of imagery I saw for them was AW10. it was a series of fantastic photographs of outdoors scenes and what I liked best was that it wasn’t trying to sell me product so obviously.

With a lot of campaign shoots it seems the primary aim is to pile in the key pieces and layer up as much as possible. Be commercial, drive ATV and all that other retail BS. You end up with images that are choc full of product in the hope that there’ll be something for everyone and appeal to the masses.

I’m not talking about lookbooks. Their lookbooks are fairly standard, just like a lot of other menswear companies, you have to fill the lookbook with product and that’s fine. I’m talking about their campaign imagery that is going to be the face of the brand for the next 6 months. It’ll be on the website, in ads and used by blogs and stockists.

Norse Projects campaign imagery is brilliant because it sets the scene for the collection and allows the customer to make their mind up about clothes as a separate entity, but only after they have been subject to the imagery brand exercise.

I like the look of going for a walk along that pebbled beach. It looks like a cold, crisp day but they’re warm in their Norse Projects coats. I wish I was good at photography so I could take a fantastic picture like that. I wish I could wear Norse Projects, they like similar things to me, they like cool things, their clothing is practical and timeless, it’s well designed, there are other values there besides consumerism behind this brand. They don’t even care if they sell any clothes otherwise why wouldn’t they put product in their images?! They just want to run their business the way they want, with the values they care about. I like this brand.

Then before I know it I’m sold! I’ll have an entry point 5-panel cap for my boyfriend please because that’s all I can afford. Thank you. Thank you Norse Projects for your fantastic imagery that sets the scene for your brand and then gives me an inferiority complex after I leave your website. I mean who am I kidding, I haven’t been on a long rural walk for some time, I haven’t the patience for photography or to make the values and interests of this brand my own. I am a bad person hijacking the values of the brand to make them merely appear my own. By wearing a jumper or a jacket from Norse Projects I am saying to others- ‘I’m wholesome, patient, anti consumerist consumer, I value good design and will invest in the items I love.’ I feel slightly guilty. But then it’s fine, I mean if people want to think that I have those values because I align myself with this brand then I guess I’ll let them. And if they don’t, we’ll I still have an aesthetically beautiful and wearable item at the end of it all.

From a slightly more objective and rational perspective I think that Norse Project’s imagery is also great because when you’re on their website homepage it immediately gives a sort of Scandinavian feeling starkness to the page. It also makes it easy to manage the page as there aren’t going to be boxes and text floating over the faces of haplessly over-layered models which will need hours of playing around with. I also love the sort of slide show aspect of their home page where there are 3 items on rotation as it’s not often you will stay on a home page long enough to see the change but it makes the site feel fresh and updates the next time that you visit even if it is within the same season and the imagery hasn’t changed.

I hope that Norse Projects continue to pull it out the bag season after season and that they don’t fuck too much with this formula that I think really works for them (it’s been a while since a few brand images have elicited such a profound emotional, albeit very irrational, response in me). On the other hand I hope they can keep it fresh feeling enough that the idea doesn’t stagnate and start looking a bit tired. They have, at least for me, managed to be commercial by not being commercial, they have effectively ‘broken the rules’ and, in my book, come out on top.

This song reminds me of summer 2000 or 2001 when my friend would drive us around Poole and Bournemouth listening to lots of Hip Hop. Tribe, Beatnuts and so much stuff I can’t remember. My favourite was the Dan The Automator stuff; Handsome Boy Modelling School and Lovage.

Quite a few months back I went to check out the Ben Sherman website, only to find that it had been taken down, and instead we were greeted by an ugly looking page telling me to try ASOS. My initial thought was ‘how ridiculous, that’s a rash decision, think about all the lost revenue, how bad can their old website have been?’. Looking back now I don’t think it was such a bad idea to pull the plug on their old website before the new one was ready. It gave people some time to forget the dated, cheap and gaudy looking black and orange number of the past. The customer would forget about the functionality and so when the new site launched they wouldn’t be met with the obligatory gripes from customers about the changes.

Ben Sherman have a new creative director who seems to have a strong, cohesive vision for the brand as well as the gumption to really push change forward. The new website is looking pretty good, the imagery is modern and the functionality is there.

In addition to the new website there are new flagship stores in London. I went to the one on Carnaby St for a bit of a nosey around.

The staff were really friendly, the shirt bar was a novel idea, but not one that is going to date terribly quickly which is a positive. The shop fit made me think of an abattoir or something similar. I know that sounds stupid, but I feel like it’s their way of nodding towards the Meat Packing District in New York with all the wipe clean tiles and the broad and sturdy looking wooden tables. I’ve never been, but it sounds a bit like the Shoreditch of NYC, but perhaps a bit more genuine. That notion also fits really well with their ‘Englishman in New York’ campaign. They are definitely going for that nostalgic vibe which harks back to the industrialism, working class and urban grittiness of the brands history (pray overlook the Debenhams and TK Maxx era of 5XL printed t-shirts turning up in the bargain bin) as well as the strong links between the states and London. A deal of inspiration also seems to have been pulled from stores like Hostem, DSM and Couverture and The Garb Store in that they have a de-constructed, borrowed and distressed look to them, except they don’t. They are very considered, polished and carefully executed. No matter how much rugged old shit, super cool vintage trunks or retro imagery you’ve managed to get your paws on, you’re shop fit isn’t going to look good unless it has a strong theme, strong aesthetic and a strong creative direction. Ben Sherman, you succeeded here.

The product in store was looking pretty strong, very much the chinos, Oxford, chunky knit and sturdy shoe/boot look, which was on trend for AW11. There is still some of the same old crap like the revolting PU flight bags, but I suppose they are a necessary evil for a brand that has to be commercial and bring home the dollars. I liked the new ticketing, however I took exception to the ‘Designed in London’ slogan. I wasn’t born yesterday, loads of crap is designed in London every day and then the production is outsourced to the Far East and your wool-blend cardigan is no different so don’t try and kid me on.

They have just dropped their pre-SS12 collection and a stand out piece is their cotton crew neck knitted sweater. I like the neckline, it looks a little higher than a standard crew neck, a bit more ‘fisherman’ inspired with the textured detailing and thick ribbing.

After what appears to be a pretty successful overhaul, I’m predicting bigger and better things from Ben Sherman as the seasons go on.

Yesterday the above landed in my inbox.

It caused me great offence. This is the second email I’ve had from Hollister that has made me wince with distain and discomfort at their marketing strategy which appears to be: ‘whore out pre-pubescent teenage boys in exchange for an unbearably inflated ego and a few quid in an attempt to drive the rabid hoards of slavering girls to distraction hence putting their boyfriends into a jealous decline so that they feel their only hope is to buy Hollister to emulate said badly airbrushed, fake tanned, ‘noughties’ highlighted, pre-pubescent, Hollister model. The girls will then proceed to deck themselves out in the brand because you simply aren’t going to snare yourself a Hollister dude, without being a head to toe Hollister Betty!’

There must be a string of guys round the block who actually like Hollister enough, have been on the protein shakes, queuing up, ready and raring to demean themselves by standing shirtless in a shopping centre pretending to be a ‘hot lifeguard’. I’m baffled. Instead of the expected revulsion and cynical reaction the kids now days are actually lapping this shit up! Or are they?

We’ll it must be working to an extent for the brand as they haven’t revised their strategy and seem to have an  abundance of money to throw into their shop fits which, at least from the outside, look pretty impressive. Once, I hasten to admit, I even thought about popping in to check the place out, however after their recent online campaign, with its faint whiff of paedophilia, I think I’ll be steering well clear and leaving it to the 13 year olds.