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boxfresh aw12 lookbook

Boxfresh. There’s a brand I hadn’t thought about for a while. After their 2004 stint on the bargain rails at TK Maxx they’d slipped off my radar. I thought of them as over branded, over priced and let’s face it, a little chavvy.

When Boxfresh’s owner founded Boxpark it opened the door for the clothing brand to access a cooler market. However, Boxfresh would need a facelift first. Enough time has passed for the consumer to have forgotten about the graffiti slogan hoodies and the harshly branded printed tees and so Boxfresh have seized the opportunity to bounce back into the British Streetwear limelight.

Here’s their AW12 collection video. It’s nicely shot, showing some of the detailing on the collection and it looks pretty premium. I recon they’ve pretty well smashed it.

You can tell if you’ve done an alright job on a reinvention of a brand when you’re featured on Hypebeast as they very much work with a tight network of brands which are in favour with the streetwear community or doing new and exciting things. In other words, not everyone firing out the dry press releases 10 a penny will fit the bill, so it’s really great news for Boxfresh that they’ve secured such a seal of approval in advance of the collection launch despite having a pretty dodgy product offering for SS12 which is currently available on their website.

Looking forward to seeing more of the cool, Britsh and streetwear-orientated Boxfresh over the coming years.

Grenson Shoes

Grenson shoes have been around since 1866, but despite their long history I only became familiar with them around 2 or 3 years ago.

The Grenson that I am familiar with is a luxury shoe brand, with years of experience, skill and craftsmanship in footwear. I think of Grenson as the brand you would buy as a 20-35 year old when you first feel grown-up. Perhaps you’ve just landed a new job in the city, best man at a friend’s wedding or you’ve out-grown those battered vans and you’re looking for a smart, stylish and youthful (not stuffy) shoe for every day wear. You’re looking to invest in a great pair of shoes, you want quality, perhaps a British brand with heritage. Grenson would be my go to brand.

Grenson shoes Facebook

Anyway, I hope that goes some way towards explaining how disappointed I was to see Grenson’s latest Facebook update. Noooooooooooo. It’s the dreaded brand cycle kicking into action. Grenson are on the verge of big success. They have some really premium stockists, a loyal customer base and now they are teetering on the cusp of mainstream. The FHM coverage is one of the first tests. Grenson failed. Just because a publication gives you some coverage it doesn’t mean you have to get into bed with them. Sure, publish coverage from GQ, Esquire, even Shortlist, but not FHM. It isn’t a premium publication and you are a premium brand. For every 1000 people that read the feature in FHM you may have caught the attention of 1% of those readers, perhaps 10% of those (the 1%) will go on to become customers. However what is the impact on your existing loyal social fans? How many of them, like myself, cringed when they saw Keeley’s  skank pose plastered in their newsfeed? It’s what I would have expected from a brand like Voi or Luke but not Grenson.

The same goes for the Pixie Lott picture. It’s great that celebrities are endorsing your brand but you don’t have to push it upon your existing customers. When i think of Pixie I see Lipsy. Velour tracksuits and cheap party dresses to be worn at the Lloyds bar in the local town on a Saturday night. I don’t want to associate a brand I like with that lifestyle.

Not wanting to be the miserable grumbling critic, which is all too easy, I’ve also gone to the effort of making some recommendations:

Friends Of Grenson Mock Up

Team up with non-competitive adjacencies; work with a tailor, shirt maker, premium fashion brand (think Folk, Oliver Spencer, YMC, Universal Works etc). Cross promote each other’s products and services (see styled ‘look’ above, promoting apparel to team with shoes). Create an online guide through your blog for which shoes to match with which suit. Can I wear tan brogues with a navy suit? Do I match my belt and shoes? Which shoes are best for a wedding? Are slip-ons causal or formal? How can I wear my favourite Grenson’s with a casual look? What are the roots behind the Penny Loafer?

Grenson should see themselves as the educator of young men who are beginning to take an interest in the more refined side of style.

Join forces with a cobbler, someone who is also an expert in their field, a craftsman. Endorse them through your social media and educate your customers on caring for the shoes. For example when does a shoe need resoling? What polish should i use? How does suede protector work? Just little things that make for a quick five minute read but that reinforce the years of experience and knowledge that Grenson have over other shoe brands.

Team up with a grooming company. Introduce young men to the art of shaving. Maybe hold an event in collaboration with a barber shop which has a likeminded clientele. It may not be the most commercial option but it won’t damage the brand.

Maybe even set up an affiliate account and team looks with shoes. You can link to the online stores for the apparel and for every purchase made on the ‘friends of Grenson’ micro-site/blog, Grenson would make a commission.

It’s great to get a lot of press coverage, even in FHM, the more people who see your brand the better. Those that buy FHM think it’s great (or they wouldn’t buy it) so to be featured isn’t a bad thing. However don’t sell yourselves out to such press coverage or succumb to the lure of huge commerciality and compromise on the values that made you successful and popular in the first place. That way, once the brand cycle has made it’s inevitable loop, you’ll still have a tribe of loyal core customers.

That means no more tits on your Facebook.

percival lookbook ss12

Percival was conceived in 2009 by two designers. By 2012 the business has grown and has a neat website and is carried by some premium stockists.

percival website

I love the illustrations to denote product category and the clothes are classic with the attention to detail twist which seems to be the overriding trend in menswear at the moment for those who fancy themselves a bit of a connoisseur. Most of the range is also produced in the UK. One frustrating thing about the category illustrations is that many of the categories are empty and it’s time consuming to browse that way.

One thing that really caught my attention was their Journal. Percival looks like a nice place to work. It looks like a team of genuinely warm, passionate and creative people. They’ve given the brand a very friendly personal face. It gives you a sense of buying into the brand and buying into the Percival club which they’ve portrayed as a fun club to be a part of.

Anyway, I’m a bit behind the time with this as it’s done the rounds, but here’s Percival’s SS12 campaign vid with a wee cameo from none other than Rick Edwards.

Look forward to seeing Percival grow and go places.

I’d been feeling optimistic about Pringle. They’re backed by huge investment from the Far East and they seemed to be making all the right moves to shake off the TK Maxx, golf jumper image.

They have some fairly interesting collaborations, projects and online content. Their image was blossoming into that of a very premium women’s knitwear brand, and it would need to with their prices! Each time an email comes in I like to have a cheeky click and genuinely find myself shocked EVERY time at how much a company can charge for a sweater.

Pringle were getting some good online coverage and had some excellent press out of their stint at London fashion week. It all seems to have ground to somewhat of a halt though (bar the CSM collabs). Perhaps the investors are getting a little peeved at losing a cool 9M pa?!?!

So your budget has been slashed but you want to keep an air of exclusivity about the brand. Will it help to become a little more unattainable and mysterious? Keep the customer interested? Maybe this explains the state I found their website in on March 23rd!

They sent out an email to customers giving them an exclusive password for the all new Pringle website. I went on, had a snoop around. It’s all very clean and nice. They’ve done well with the site design although there were a few typos (jumpers listed as twinset? Last time I checked a twinset was 2 items) which could have been ironed out before the launch.

Then I started thinking, what about those without the password? I Googled Pringle and found that the homepage I was directed to was still the new site with the password protection. There was a message telling me the website was open to the public 23rd March (see image above). That was the day I was looking. I couldn’t get in. My heart sank. Any shopper looking for the site today would be greeted with a big no-entry sign, you’re not allowed in, you’re not part of the club. I thought I’d check out just how many people may have been affected using Google Adwords- careful not to bias my result with those searching for the moreish salty snack. Turns out it’s only around 500-700 a day. No biggie. But you don’t know who that shopper is. You might have just pissed of one loyal shopper who didn’t sign up to newsletter updates or a prospective first time customer.

I can see why Pringle might have initially thought it was a great idea to block entrance to the general public (So aspirational right now!), however I can understand how the plan actually went through to fruition. Why didn’t somebody say “Stop. No. This is a terrible idea. It’s the least commercial idea I’ve ever heard. We’re losing 9M a year, we can’t afford to turn customers away. We’re not ‘Louis Vuitton’ exclusive, we don’t have the brand power to be able to piss off customers and it still be brand building!”

The fact is that you can still go into bargain stores and pick up a cheap pack of Pringle socks, boxers etc and whilst that is the case I don’t think that they can pull off these sorts of premium, anti-commercial stunts. It’s clear they still have a core money maker in their bargain goods to fund the higher level side of the brand (through licensee or otherwise) but I think if they want to make it as a luxury brand they have to pull the plug on the cheap crap and work a little harder for their customers at the higher end instead of shutting them out.

I’m pleased to say that the new Pringle site is now open for business- to everyone! Whilst it seems a little slow and the product descriptions and photography could feel a little bit more special I think the site is looking really good.

Perks and Mini homepage

I liked this brand. Past tense.

Now I really wish I hadn’t bothered trying to find out more about them. Where do I start?

After a more than complimentary bio on the Coggles website (incredible streetwear that captures their spirit of freedom and fun), I decided these guys were worth a good look into.

Sure, there are the staple printed t-shirts, then there are the Comme-esque cut and sew/ panel detail shirts as well as the obligatory dropped crotch pants; not exactly ground breaking stuff, I’m sure you will agree. I was intrigued by the arty husband-wife duo, the promise of a creative spirit and of course the graffiti culture backdrop to it all.

Man, I was disappointed. For two artists, they have managed to make one of the fugliest websites I’ve ever seen. The logo hovers over the store address and opening times, it’s all done in Flash which I’ve decided I really hate, you get a choice of 2 backgrounds, neither of which means much to the collection and there is no story, no nothing about the brand.

I like to know a bit of history. I like to know what went in to the collection, what inspired the designers and what values the brand has other than ‘pizza and mezze or pot, acid, mushrooms. Haw haw haw, P.A.M. I get it. Mega lolz! How about Pricey Amateur Menswear?

It all seems like rather a big joke and once they have finished prating around and ridiculing each of their customers it’ll take a bit of work to mash together a collection and do a super cool and original photoshoot. Credit where credit’s due, it takes some brass balls to be such a d-bag of a brand.

No prizes for guessing I won’t be buying a printed t-shirt anytime soon, but props to PAM; they’re still shifting plenty of pieces in some of the best independent stores worldwide.

Wolsey Campaign Image

Wolsey has had a complete overhaul. It became privately owned in 2010 and since then it seems there has been a huge investment in the brand to give it a brand new image.

What I really like about the new Wolsey is that they don’t seem too bothered about their older consumer base. There were a lot of 60 odd men who used to get all their shirts/socks/[insert mundane article of clothing] from Wolsey. They have made a bold decision to aim for a different consumer and they’re really going for it. They make a lot of nice content, although I do find their blog layout a little confusing; there are so many different sections and it seems like it hasn’t been going on long enough for each section to be busy enough.

Their imagery is great; it’s striking and has fit really well with the themes behind each collection so far (the expedition theme was a really standout campaign).

I’ve not bought anything of theirs but the pieces look like a very nice quality, made from superior materials and there is a made in GB collection too.

Wolsey is a great heritage brand and it is nice to see that there is some real passion and creativity being poured back into such an interesting, prestigious and darn OLD British brand.

Wolsey Spring Summer Preview

I’m wondering when their Spring collection is going to launch as the AW11 imagery is still up on the store and it is still stocked with sale buys and heavy looking winter garments. It’ll be a collection I’ll be wanting to check out.

Citizens of Farah campaign shot

Farah have launched a new campaign for SS12. Citizens of Farah is aiming to bring together people from different scenes, lifestyles and sub cultures who all wear Farah.

I came across this article on the initiative from Sabotage Times and another in RWD online. The feature mentions an online community for fans of the brand to get involved. I followed the link to check the project out.

I didn’t find anything much useful. The Farah homepage doesn’t have much info on the initiative, the blog features some nice interviews with the models or ‘citizens’ which I like because Farah aren’t afraid to mention other brands in their content which many would think is a commercial no-no. I’m looking and I’m finding it difficult to get any other info on how to get involved, where else to read features, join in the online community and whether there is video, music or other related content.

I like the behind the scenes video from the campaign, people like to sneak a peek behind the closed doors of a brand that they like. There is something inaccessible about the fashion industry which gives it an intriguing and glamorous air. This sort of content is great fun and watchable.

I wish Farah had set up some sort of page for the project. It could just be a simple web page with an RSS feed from the blog to pull in posts tagged ‘Citizens of Farah’ and a bit more blurb about the campaign, why they’ve done it, when and if others can get involved etc. None of this would have mattered had the online coverage of the project not mentioned the online community aspect (immediately bringing up the idea of Burberry’s ‘art of the trench’ micro site or even Sperry’s ‘passion for the sea‘ micro site or Fred Perry’s Subculture website- all done with varying levels of success.).

On my quest for more information I clicked the link to their Facebook page and found that it only directs you to a home page. I wonder how many people have done that and then given up looking. Maybe that explains why they only have 2000 odd fans despite ticking the right boxes with their content.

What sounded like an interesting and bold project turns out to be a photoshoot with a load of journalists and artists that gave interviews afterwards. I’m sure there is a much deeper message or something that I’m missing but I can’t help but feel this whole concept would be much better conveyed if Farah was just that little bit more digitally attentive.

Still, SS12 collection has launched and stand out piece for me is The Rathbone lightweight jacket in Maize which takes me back to the British coastline with the smelly trawlers coming into the harbour with a flock of squawking gulls in tow and the rugged fisherman who simply doesn’t give a shit that his look has ‘like, so much style potential’.