Under the radar – ASOS menswear

It’s no secret that ASOS.com is going from strength to strength – half-year profits are up 68%! In the early days, ASOS’s USP was based on copying celebrity outfits stitch for stitch. ASOS – which stands for As Seen On Screen – would turn around a copy of a ‘Paris Hilton-style’ jacket or dress faster than any high street store, resulting in phenomenal sales and repeat starry-eyed customers who couldn’t get enough of its affordable take on celebrity style. These days, the brand has distanced itself from its copycat beginnings and now sets its own trends. At the SS09 press day I attended a couple of weeks ago, I did a double take at the Cacharel blouses (anyone else still in shock that Eley Kishimoto only last a couple of seasons at the helm? Travesty!), denim of every description and nostalgic florals.

But while we’re all familiar with Asos’s sassy cocktail frocks and statement shoes, the menswear offering has been quietly picking up speed. A preppie Brooks Brothers look prevails for next spring with natty seersucker checks and suede boat shoes of every hue. Then I gasped at the brands – Band of Outsiders for Sperry rubber boat shoes (quirky!), YMC two-tone loafers and a flurry of new labels – Acne Jeans, Comme des Garcons Shirt…

The ASOS mens magazine is also a bit of a who-knew discovery. Not sold in the shops, this gets sent out to customers and the quality of the book (as they like to say Stateside) is pretty damn good considering the tight constraints these things are usually executed under.

SS09 trend report: The legging that thinks it’s a jean

I always look forward the Urban Outfitters press day. This time around we saw psychedelic coloured sunnies (thank gawd they’ve moved on from Wayfarers), Vivienne Westwood totes and April 77 jeans (hmm, might these Joey jeans replace my can-only-get-them-online-from-Oz-since-Liberty-stopped-selling-them Nudies?)…

But what’s with the Legging That Thinks It’s A Jean? Urban Outfitters is wholeheartedly backing this questionable trend with no less than four, (four!) styles including a jeans-print legging, a stretch denim legging, a turn-up-jeans legging and an elasticated-waist skinny jean-legging monster hybrid. Please. No.

How do you feel about these legging-jean creations? Yay or nay?

Extreme heels: Have they reached their t(r)ipping point?

Ok designers. Can we please end it with the hellish heels? I’ve had enough of them and so have the poor models that were stumbling, tripping and flailing all over the Prada SS09 runway due to their inelegant footwear. Even Gwyneth has reverted to flats having worn a succession of increasingly challenging heels during the summer (sales at Selfridges subsequently leapt 35% due to the Gwyneth Effect – are these women crazy?).

Experts claim that high heels still have some mileage in them but I beg to differ. I can see a return to mid-heel shoes – Kurt Geiger’s little-publicised range Solea had plenty of non-frumpy sensible-height shoes at its recent spring preview while London footwear label Sumfortune is also championing the newer lower heel. I say give these a go. With a skinny cropped-above-the-anklebone jean or a 7/8 peg trouser, they’re just as chic as a Louboutin stiletto but way more managable.

[Shoe pics:
1-3: Solea at Kurt Geiger
4: Sumfotune]

I want, I want: Apple bags

Who knows where the apple bag trend started? I don’t, nor do I care. I first spotted this Missoni one (above) in Vogue last year – or perhaps it was the year before – but silly me, was too slow off the mark to scoop one up. Then there was the Hermes ‘apple holder’ outcry. Who on earth would want or use such a frivolous thing? (Um, me?)

Now, Alice Temperley has jumped on the band bagwagon with this tasty twosome in festive red and green. Hopelessly impractical but utterly delicious!

Antony Price for Topman

With all the hoo-hah about the H&M/Comme collab, you may not have known that the Anotony Price for Topman ‘Priceless‘ collection was unveiled last night. Sadly, I never got the Antony Price interview I was promised but I’m planning to head over to Topman/Oxford Circus this arvo to check it out. I hear the coats are particularly desirable (and come up small!)…

Pic: Topman.com

SS09 trend report: Topshop

Sport Nouveau, Memphis, Voodoo, Aztec and Eighties were just some of the words and phrases bandied about at the Topshop press day. Unlike Miss Selfridge, Topshop can take inspiration from a bygone era and style it so it looks new for now. That’s just what they’ve done for SS09 with tribal graphic T-shirts and leggings giving a gentle nod to Bodymap (Google them) but adding a noughties edge with silk boyfriend blazers, suede perforated peg pants and roll-up jeans. Last summer’s Liberty sprigs reappear next season along with plaid flannel shirts – this time reworked with heavy studding- and ’80s-wash denim (yuk). Shoes are as strong as ever…look, they’ve even done a Chloe ‘inspired’ boot!

SS 09 trend report: Miss Selfridge

I’m sure it sells very well but Miss Selfridge has become a tad predictable in its collections as essentially they always consist of a rehash of some past decade or other. Next spring it’s the turn of the bad-taste ’80s as Wednesday’s unveiling looked a lot like someone had been let loose in Absolute Vintage and carted the whole lot of primary-coloured suede gilets, bustier dresses and chain-strap bags to this disused space in the heart of Covent Garden. No matter, the presentation was super-slick with banks of TVs displaying iconic 80s films and videos (Who’s That Girl! Prince! Footloose!) to get us into the groove. I like how the ‘stories’ were arranged in colours – jade, royal blue and white are key. Highlights? The denim pieces were really strong and destined for commercial success in my eyes but a dubious beige acrylic crochet sweater was a bad-taste statement too far.


So after much anticipation, C-Day has arrived. I had wanted to go to one of the Comme Des Garcons for H&M openings but alas, it clashed with an acupuncture appointment which I decided had to take priority. In the event, I found myself in Regent Street after lunch so popped my head in to see if anything was left. Despite all the hype and hysteria, I was greeted with a completely civilised scene. All the rails were fully stocked and an army of staff were visible tidying and folding. There was no frantic or undignified behaviour at all. Aside from some of the grumbles I’ve been reading along the lines of ‘where is the wacky stuff?’, I thought the collection was ‘spot’ on (if you’ll excuse the pun because if there was one key theme it was graphic polka dots). White shirts, perfect-cut trench coats, merino-wool knits, grey marl, polka dots, Peter-Pan collars, long-sleeve tees – these are the essence-of-Comme signatures that appeal to me, and the things that will sell in volume at H&M, not the crazy catwalk stuff that the average high-street customer can’t get their head around.

Although the polka dot scarves and bags were nowhere to be seen by the time I made my appearance, I was happy to see the classic round-neck polka dot cardigans in grey or dark red with white dots. I agonised over whether to get one or both but decided to play sensible and stick to a solitary grey one. I also eyed up the navy wool jersey long-sleeve tees (identical to the ‘real’ Comme ones I used to stockpile in my twenties) but £30 was a shade too dear for me, even if they are made in the CDG factory. In fact, overall from what I could see, the quality looks superb so I do think these prices are worth it, but for me one piece was enough and I couldn’t even be bothered to buy extra stuff to ‘flip’ on Ebay (although I did filch a commemorative Comme for H&M hanger…anyone wanna buy it?). Verdict: another phenomenal success for H&M.

KTZ for Kokon To Zai

Kokon To Zai is one of London’s well kept secrets that has been happily residing In Greek Street for years and is impossible to resist on a whizz or a stroll through Soho. There is always something new to see and last week had a whole lot more to look at as they held their press day for SS09. The shop is owned by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, he of the rude Disney graphics of many collections ago and a particularly decadent crystal encrusted minaudiere that I photographed for Tank magazine once and always coveted yet could never afford.

I was shown around by the gregarious but frankly bonkers Igor Pacemski (fellow Macedonian and BFF of Pejoski) who also designs the beautiful Yes Master lingerie range. I loved the print pyjamas from Pejoski’s own label – please can you scale them down to lady-sizes Mr P? – and the elaborate ruffled tops and blouses and pastel sequin frocks (pastels don’t work for me usually but they do if they’re zhuzhed up in sequins). My favourite discovery was the new KTZ range which will be sold in TopShop (is there any designer not being sold in TopShop at the mo?) next year. Trend alert: Check out these mental printed tights-cum-boots, or as Grazia would call them…’toots’!

What Are You Like?

I really must get myself along to the Dulwich Picture Gallery for this fabulously fun illustration exhibition. What Are You Like is taken from a Victorian game of describing yourself with pictures of your favourite things, like a self-portrait. So artists like Peter Blake, Quentin Blake, Jack Penate and many others have been invited to partake by illustrating 8 of their favourite things from a list of twelve, including their favourite animal, book, clothes, comfort, food, place, shoes, weather … you get the idea. The fun bit is that the artworks aren’t labelled so you have to guess who created which picture.

Even better, there is the chance to join in and make your own ‘What Are You Like’ self portrait and the winning effort gets displayed on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website and in the gallery itself! Ooh, fetch me my scrapbbooks! I feel a collage coming on…