Last week I blogged about the heritage of Dr Martens. This week, the heritage baton gets passed to Levi’s. I was treated to a pre-opening store tour of the refurbed Regent Street flagship a couple of weeks ago and the main message seems to be… Levi’s is keepin’ it real.
From its industrial factory-replica refit to its new name for its denim experts – ‘drapers’ and ‘artisans’, Levi’s has realised that its customers respect its roots and is capitalising on that. OK, the ‘artisans’ moniker is a wee bit pretentious but I’m prepared to let that go. For a while, Levi’s was guilty of trying too hard to compete with the Diesels of this world but – guess what? – Levi’s isn’t about ‘sexy’, it’s about utilitarianism and authenticity. Thankfully, it is now properly embracing its workwear heritage and amen to that. A particular highlight of the flagship store (along with the visible warehouse dedicated to 501s) is a 90-something-year-old pair of Levi’s on display in the basement. Unearthed from a mine in the Mojave Desert, I ask you, how many other denim brands can boast one of these?
When I previewed the SS10 collection six months ago, I was overjoyed to see so many old favourites. Hello classic denim jacket sans faux-faded patches! Hello western plaid shirt! Hello straight-out-of-CBGBs leather biker jacket! The Guardian recently reported that Levi’s will never be cool again but I disagree. Acne may be popular with fashionistas and Uniqlo with the downtown hipster set but Levi’s has its incredible heritage and that makes it relevant again (BTW, ‘relevance’, like ‘heritage’ is a key word being bandied about right now). Its latest campaign is also a bit of a looker. As a lifelong supporter I may be biased, but I think Levi’s is ready to have it’s moment once more.
The 501s-only warehouse visible from the shop floor
Heritage is the watchword of the moment, so how timely that Dr Martens should invite me on a trip to their super-dooper factory last week. The British workwear boot company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and has, ooh, millions of projects on the go to celebrate. On arrival at the HQ in Northamptonshire, our first stop was the showroom (more…)
Despite my not-so-subtle hints, Bicester Village has sadly not fallen for my self-serving genius idea of a pop-up shop in London. I shouldn’t cry too hard though as it has gone for something else, even cleverer.
Last Wednesday saw the launch of the British Designer Collective, a Bicester Village pop-up shop (open 31 Mar – 7 May) to celebrate emerging British design talent and expose it to the quality-conscious customer who loves original design but would like it not to be super-expensive. The beauty of Bicester Village is that its collections are two seasons old. So if you’re buying in April 10, you’ll be buying April 09’s collection. For young British designers like Erdem, Emma Cook and Atlanta Weller, it’s a way to make money on the pieces that didn’t sell while giving customers a second chance to buy from a past collection.
Like a sample sale then? God no! Unlike a sample sale, the merchandise is beautifully presented in a boutique setting. There are fitting rooms! They take credit cards! You can return it if you change your mind! Yes, it’s exactly like a proper shop, except the prices are generously reduced. In the current still-cautious climate, these value-conscious initiatives are more than welcome. For online customers there is Brand Alley, Gilt Groupe, Vente-Privee, The Outnet and Ebay’s new ‘flash fashion’ sales. For those who like shopping in shops, there’s Bicester Village. And for those who favour Maria Francesca Pepe over Marni, there’s the British Designer Collective.
When I requested a sample of the new (and only) Maison Martin Margiela fragrance, I expected a bottle of scent and a press release, possibly packaged in an anonymous white box. I didn’t expect this… The bottle of scent was present and the packaging was suitable Margiela – white utilitarian drawstring pochette and white linen carrier bag. But also present was a big white accordion file containing all sorts of geek-friendly ephemera. A technical drawing of the bottle (well it was designed by Fabien Baron), a joint interview with Baron and Maison Martin Margiela, God knows how many CVs, photos and explanatory notes on Maison Martin Margiela and my favourite – some silver foil discs that are destined for the drawer marked ‘Interesting Collage-y Stuff For Scrapbook’.
The bottle, as expected, is a work of pure, minimalist art. A nice weighty clear glass affair with a faux stopper and string tie for an added utilitarian touch (and you just know there would have been fifty meetings to discuss the string alone). And the fragrance itself? Clean and green…and quite addictive. PS, boys can wear it too…