Even though the design of the iconic Salvatore Ferragamo tote changes little from season to season, the s/s 2007 Sella Satchel seems to be something special. Showing a new mood of minimalism in handbags, its only concessions to detail are wood-effect clasps and Gancini buckles and it is produced in the softest calfskin imaginable.
Three years ago it was Roppongi Hills with its sprawling branches of Estnation and Tsutaya, last year it was Omotesando Hills with its lean Tadao Ando lines and branches of Delfonics and Amadana. By the end of March it will be all about Tokyo Midtown. While the former were brought to market by mega-developers Mori, the latest development is a creation of Mitsui Fudosan.
Where too many developers are content with taking a predictable mix of high paying tenants and brand names, Mitsui has worked overtime to line up a unique mix of brands that have never been seen in Japan. Having had a test drive over the Galleria’s bamboo floors, Monocle is keen to see the first freestanding branch of Agronatura (see Inventory), Dogdays, new Beams and Richard James.
New menswear label Clerk & Teller has fun with the sartorial style of the City banker out of office hours. Clothes are wrapped in Financial Times-printed tissue paper while British banknotes are enclosed in the swing tags. Currently sold in the UK and Japan, the mix of trad English tailoring, luxury fabrics and contemporary stylish design make for a great (in)vestment.
You can count the number of fashion brands that still manufacture in the UK on one hand. One firm that still delivers outstanding quality and believes in “Made in Britain” is Sunspel. We’ve long been fond of the company’s ventilated briefs but we’ve also developed a fondness for the pyjamas – particularly the cropped variety.
Japanese retail giant Muji has announced plans to take part in the redevelopment of Tokyo Midtown, with a Muji flagship expected to be the crowning glory of its “lifestyle museum”. The 660 sq m store will debut over 190 homeware products and will be the first store in Japan to take the name Muji, as opposed to the native Mujirushi.
Italy’s fashion industry is preoccupied with all things eastern – cheap shoes from Vietnam, low manufacturing costs in Sri Lanka, knock-offs from China are an all-out assault on Italy’s manufacturing base. Quietly, some major brands are also keeping an eye on an emerging brand from the near east – of Italy. Venice-based Golden Goose feels a bit like old-school Helmut Lang without the rigid frame. The collection is turning up on the most prominent rails in the world’s best retailers. Men and women are both welcome to browse.
Tokyo’s retailers have a knack for developing a solid collaboration and one of the most interesting hitting shopfloors is the United Arrows tie-in with Vans. Sporting a chic tan band between the sole and upper, the UAV (as we’ve dubbed it) will work perfectly with suits, a good pair of UA’s Japan denims and will slide off easily at tedious airport X-ray checks.
The US has proved to be the graveyard for some of Britain’s best retailers. Abercrombie & Fitch, the American pioneer of the frat-boy (and girl) look, will be hoping that the reverse does not also prove true. The group has just opened on Savile Row in London, its first shop outside North America. Abercrombie’s long-awaited move to the UK looks like the start of a trend for mid-market retailers. Banana Republic, Gap’s upmarket cousin, has revealed that it too is going to London. The chain has signed a lease on a store in Regent Street, which will open in early 2008.
Analysts believe the hiatus that followed the arrival of big names Gap and more upmarket brands such as Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, is over, despite the fact that the dollar exchange rate remains as unfavourable as ever. Jeff Klinefelter, retailing analyst at Piper Jaffray, believes other chains such as American Eagle Outfitters are also eyeing the UK. He warns that if they are to ensure their brands can travel they need to make sure the economics of European expansion work.
“Most US retailers want to control their operations as opposed to go down the franchising or licensing route. It is very difficult to find property in the UK. They then have to determine whether they can hit their economic model for those four walls,” says Klinefelter. One reason why Abercrombie took so long to take the plunge was because it did its homework. Its website showed heavy demand in London, suggesting a store network will work.
One retail analyst believes the secret to success is a strong brand heritage, something the 115-year-old Abercrombie has in spades. “If you don’t already know the brand then you’re just going to walk straight past it,” he says.
Long favoured by British schoolchildren in summertime and men over a certain age, heritage brand Aertex is revamping its trademark cellular cotton clothing for the more style-conscious modern consumer. Designer Ellis Franks is behind the relaunch, believing that as well as being a British icon that has stood the test of time, the unique Aertex fabric is as revolutionary today as it was in 1888. We predict seeing its sharp polos and utilitarian shirts teamed with APC jeans and Tretorn trainers.