Mr Armani’s New London Emporium

London Fashion Week is in full swing with all the key events taking place at the Store Studios on The Strand. And last night, (September 17), things reached fever pitch as Giorgio Armani moved his Emporio Armani catwalk show to London for the very first time. The headlining show, which received rave reviews, was designed to coincide with the opening of the newly refurbished Emporio Armani Bond Street store, which despite a soft launch earlier this month, officially opens today.

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I’ve been given a sneak preview of the new-look boutique, which feels radically different to the store that existed before, though the address is still the same of course. Spanning over two floors and measuring 905 square metres, it feels bright and airy thanks in part to the two colossal street level windows. They drench the entranceway in natural light, which seems to carry you down the wide glass staircase to the womenswear department on the lower ground floor. This then leads to something rather rare in central London – leafy outdoor space. I’m told that Mr Armani personally saw to every design detail throughout the store, working closely with his team of architects. And it shows.

Both men’s and womenswear in the current A/W 2017 collections are arranged on racks in carefully edited, easy to read groupings, showing more than one way to wear an outfit. London’s experimental fashion style has also been taken into consideration and there’s a less formal feel to the current window display. As one assistant tells me in sotto voce, Mr Armani rarely puts jeans in the windows. Here though, they are styled with a beautiful cashmere coat – something you wouldn’t see in more conservative cities such as Milan. Pieces made with eco-friendly leather and faux fur are also given pride of place in this London flagship. Meanwhile, gadgets such as skateboards, Polaroid cameras and segways emblazoned with the distinctive EA logo, are clearly aimed at a hip, London male.

From today, the store will be selling a capsule collection called ‘New Bond’. It consists of three pieces designed by British fashion students and handpicked by Mr Armani as part of a competition organised with the British Fashion Council and some of the U.K’s leading fashion schools. As part of the design brief, students were asked to “bring the essence of British style” to three iconic Emporio Armani pieces. The winners, Boyeong Lim, Kameel Shahjhan and Dmitry Gotsfrid created a bag, a pair of shoes and a bomber jacket respectively. The winning pieces (shown here), will also go on sale at Emporio Armani stores in Manchester and Glasgow as well as the Armani.com website.

Armani has long supported emerging talents fresh out of fashion school. The 83-year old designer says: “British design schools are among the most interesting in today’s arena. They produce unique talents, by encouraging the originality and individuality of each student. I believe that to be successful in fashion, creativity must go hand in hand with a pragmatic and realistic approach; I would like to use this initiative to encourage a dialogue between these two elements, giving the winners a useful opportunity to succeed and move forward in their careers.’  Bravo!

Emporio Armani, 51-52 New Bond Street.

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SHOP TACTICS WITH BORA AKSU

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Bora Aksu, the Turkish born, London-based fashion designer is a regular fixture at London Fashion Week. His eclectic womenswear has been gracing the runways here since February 2003.

“London Fashion Week is best known for launching new and exciting talents,” says Bora. “London is fortunate to have incredibly powerful fashion colleges, which also play an important part in this. In my case, Central Saint Martin’s helped shape me and find the perfect balance in my design philosophy.”

Bora’s designs fuse traditional elements with the new to create a whimsical beauty. For his S/S 2018 collection, the self-confessed romantic takes inspiration from the 19th Century Turkish painter, Mihri Müşfik Hanım. This extraordinary woman, a true Bohemian, is said to have given up a privileged life to pursue her passion for art.

Meanwhile the Bora Aksu brand is surging ahead. In addition to the 13-flagship stores spread across the Asia Pacific region, another two– one in Singapore’s Marina Bay, the other in Korea – will open in early 2018. To keep an eye on his expanding business, Bora now flits between East London and Hong Kong’s Harbour district, where he has offices and a design studio in both places.

“Hong Kong has such a lively fast speed style on the surface, but if you go underneath it’s possible to discover a serenity and calmness. I do love it when I’m there but I also miss London, which is my home.”

Looking further ahead, Bora is putting the finishing touches on a new capsule collection for children, simply named; ‘Bora Aksu Kids’. A selection of pieces from the ready-to-wear collection will be produced in mini sizes, launching in Bora Aksu stores next year.

It’s a wonder the busy designer has the energy for anything else but he will always find time to paint. “I find painting is the best way to recharge my batteries in a ‘non-fashion’ way.” Not one to sit and watch the oil paint dry, you are more likely to find Bora at the following hotspots:

The Cafe at Sotheby’s 34-35 New Bond Street

In the busy entrance lobby of this famous auction house this discreet cafe is perhaps hidden from eyes and not a very obvious choice for Mayfair. The space is small but stylish. Decorated with iconic black and white photographs it really is an amazing place to come and relax in a calming environment.

Charbonnel et Walker, One The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street

I have always had a sweet tooth and Charbonnel et Walker fulfil all those chocolate cravings. Even when I’m not really in the mood for chocolate, I’ll still go there and treat myself to something from the wonderful display of confectionary in the window.

Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street

Whenever I am in the Bond Street area I like to wander down to the Royal Arcade. With its beautiful architecture and quirky shops, it feels like you are stepping back in time, straight onto the pages of a Charles Dickens novel.

Wild Things flowers, 47 Davies Street

Flowers have always been an amazing source of inspiration to me. For my S/S 2017 runway show, we covered the entire backdrop with real ivy from Wild Things. Another season, all the models wore fresh flower crowns made to order by this beautiful florists. Wild Things always has such incredible displays, which often spill out onto the pavement.

Erskine Hall & Coe, 15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street

Ceramics always fascinate me and Erskine Hall & Coe is the perfect spot to drop in and see the latest in contemporary design. It specialises in contemporary and 20th Century ceramics work and often showcases up- and-coming British artists.

The Rise of the Gucci Superfan

It is the first day of September and under a cloudless blue sky, Bond Street is buzzing with lunchtime shoppers. With new season pieces being dropped into stores at regular intervals, there appears to more of a heightened sense of retail fervour than usual. Such is the case at the Gucci flagship boutique where a steady stream of chauffeur driven Jaguars come and go, dispatching shoppers directly to the front door.

For several months, stanchions have become a common fixture outside this busy Bond Street address. More likely to be seen at red carpet events, the cordons are there to enforce ‘crowd control’ as ever growing numbers of Gucci aficionados flock here from all four corners of the globe.

The rise of the ‘superfan’ – affluent twenty somethings mostly, still living at home – are enthusiastic followers of fashion. Their loyalty lies with their leader, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. Since taking up the post in January 2015, the Renaissance man has turned the Florentine fashion house on its head, by introducing a wide range of covetable items at accessible price points. In doing so, he has re-ignited the brand’s cult status and attracted great swathes of millennials, hungry for news.

With big hits such as the Ace sneaker, double G buckle belts and signature florals, snake and butterfly motifs, each new piece is instantly propelled into the Gucci fanosphere via the power of social media. Today, some 17.2 million devotees follow the Gucci Instagram feed. Meanwhile, Gucci sales have seen a rise of 43 per cent in the first six months of this year alone.

Curious to know what makes this celebrated luxury brand so successful right now, we asked this trio of diehard fans to show us their purchases and tell us why they ‘heart’ Gucci so much.

Name: Lachlan Dix

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Age: 18

Occupation: Student – business marketing.

Lives: London

I am the first to admit to being a Gucci ‘superfan’. The Gucci brand has risen up under Alessandro Michele. He has made it cool again and introduced a whole new series of must-have products to the mix. There is so much diversity in the Gucci men’s collections now. The clothes are no longer beige. Instead they are bright and colourful. I came here looking to buy a white suit jacket to wear to a dinner party tonight. I couldn’t afford anything from Gucci until recently and now I own so many pieces including the Ace sneakers, track pants, and my most treasured item, a Gucci double G silver necklace. I am prepared to wait for the latest pieces. I waited two months for a shell suit hoodie from the S/S 2017 collection to arrive in store and have already chosen some pieces from the online A/W 2017 lookbook. I subscribed to the website and that’s where I get all the latest Gucci news. Then there is Instagram of course. Alessandro’s use of ‘memes’- images of animated GIFs, often with text splashed across them and then shared on social media – makes Gucci completely different to any other brands currently out there. He is a genius!

 

Nicole Jeary

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Age: 23

Occupation: Content writer at the Investment Observer

Lives: London  

My mother is Italian and has always been a fan of Gucci and its Italian heritage, so I grew up admiring her Gucci bags and boots. Gucci today is very contemporary, eclectic and fun – I really like their new direction, it’s a fresh, youthful spin on the classic style of the house. I just got a promotion at work so I came to buy myself a card holder to celebrate. I’d already done a bit of research before coming here today and knew for a while that I wanted this particular design. The blush pink colour is a nice change from black, which I would usually have opted for. It is actually my first Gucci piece, so I’m really excited about it. For a luxury goods brand, the accessories are at a good price point and are something special that you’ll have with you for a long time. Alessandro Michele has really revitalised the brand in recent years. I like the fact that he is not afraid of colour. And I reckon I’ve probably liked every one of Gucci’s Instagram posts.

 

Name: Selina Lalin

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Age: 21

Occupation:  Student – business management

Lives: Thailand

I make sure I come to London every month for shopping. Bond Street is where all the big brands are located in one convenient place. I love Gucci. It is one of my favourite luxury brands. I came to the store today to buy a hat for my next beach holiday. It is packed in a really beautiful box, which they then put in this enormous shopping bag. I really like Gucci’s use of embroidery throughout the women’s collections. Everyone is wearing the Gucci Ace sneakers – I like the ones which have a bee motif embroidered on the side. Alessandro Michele has really taken the brand in a new direction over the past few seasons. What I like about Gucci now, is that it still carries the classic Gucci pieces such as the double G logo bags but Alessandro has made sure it is really fashion-forward by adding really modern pieces such as shoes, sunglasses and T-Shirts. When everybody tends to look the same these days, Gucci really makes you stand out from the crowd.

Mulberry Mini Amberley Satchel

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As the schools go back and the leaves begin to turn, what better time to invest in some new season kit of your own? Take Mulberry’s decidedly grown-up Mini Amberley Satchel (£475) for instance. Designed by creative director, Johnny Coca, this compact little number might be the baby in Mulberry’s Amberley bag family but it has all the features and functionality of its larger counterparts.

The bijoux satchel style also features Mulberry’s new signature hardware, the Rider’s Lock, reminiscent of the metal you see on horse bits and bridles. Crafted from soft croc print leather in a deep amethyst hue, the Mini Amberley deserves to go straight to the top of the class.

Mulberry, 50 New Bond Street

Bond’s Best – Hermès Cavale Medium Seat Jumping Saddle

Ever since founder Thierry Hermès first began producing some of the finest harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade in Paris, comfort has reigned supreme in the brand’s equestrian collections.

For it’s latest piece, the Cavale saddle priced at £5,500, the French luxury brand asked champion show jumper Simon Delestre to help with the ergonomics. Meanwhile, a single craftsman works to the exact measurements of both horse and rider to ensure the perfect fit.

And don’t worry if you and your trusty steed are not quite showground ready. This seamless calfskin seat also makes an excellent general-purpose saddle. To choose, test and fit yours, contact one of the Hermès specialists in store.

Hermès, 155 New Bond Street

SHOP TACTICS WITH SAMUEL BAIL AND ABEL SAMET

Samuel Bail and Abel Samet are the creative duo behind London-based leather goods label, Troubadour. They first met whilst working at Mayfair financial advisory firm, Lazard, where, after lamenting about the lack of durable business bags, they decided to embark on a journey to create their own. Today, to the delight of globetrotters everywhere, their exquisite handcrafted designs are sold around the world. And for those shopping on Bond Street, a selection of pieces can also be found at Thom Sweeney on Bruton Place.

Vegetable-tanned leather, derived from the finest tanneries in the Italian region of Tuscany, underpins each unique piece. As Abel notes: “This tanning method is an all-natural process that creates exceptional leather, so that our products wear beautifully, last for years, and actually look better with age. We work with highly skilled artisans, whose leather-working techniques have been around for generations and therefore stand the test of time.” Samuel is also quick to note a blend of old-meets-new. “By combining these techniques with many modern innovations, each piece is more functional and technical than the bags our grandfathers once carried,” he adds.

Meanwhile, several of Troubadour’s existing products have proven to be much more popular with women than initially expected. This pleasant surprise inspired Samuel and Abel to develop a line of women’s bags, which will launch this summer.

Work aside, this sporty pair are gluttons for long distance races – running, swimming and cycling – and have both completed Ironman triathlons. Samuel, who just happens to be a former professional Canadian cyclist, also swam the English Channel last year. Here, they take a breather and share some of their favourite Mayfair addresses:

Raw Press at Wolf & Badger, 32 Dover Street

This is the place for mouth watering and healthy breakfast bowls. Make them yourself with soaked oats, coconut yoghurt, fresh berries, quinoa cereal and lots of toppings. The coffee is great as well. We suggest adding some coconut yoghurt and almond butter on top.

Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle Street

Brown’s is ideal for a morning meeting. We especially like the comfortable chairs and its relaxed, quiet setting. The tea is always good and is served beautifully.

Rapha, 85 Brewer Street

We have a very active team and enjoy a morning ride around Richmond Park and a weekend ride into Kent. Rapha, though not in Mayfair, is where we pick up most of our cycling kit. The clothing is thoughtfully designed, comfortable, wears well and looks good.

28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen, Maddox Street

Many of the early Troubadour discussions were held over dinners here. It provides consistently great food and great wine in a casual setting.

Thom Sweeney, 33a Bruton Place

This is one of our favourite tailors in London. It boasts a great team and a super strong ready-to-wear collection, featuring everything from suits and sweaters, to ties and a selection of our latest Troubadour bags.

 

THE Q&A: Harvy Santos, milliner

Harvy Santos pink pom pom hat £930 exclusive to Fenwick Bond Street

No doubt visitors to the Fenwick hat department will have been tickled pink by the latest offering from London-based milliner, Harvy Santos. In particular, his aptly named ‘Fizzy Pop’ collection features raffia boaters, netted pillboxes and wide-brimmed Audrey Hepburn styles. But it is his playful use of colourful baubles, ruched silks and fluffy pompoms, which makes them so memorable.

“I probably drank too many fizzy drinks as a child and probably still do, since I can never say ‘no’ to champagne,” says Harvy. “There’s a certain crazy joy that comes from a sugar rush. I think most of us can remember that feeling, the thrill of which I wanted to capture in the form of a hat.” Indeed, his latest collection has both a graphic and comic sensibility mixed with a sense of childlike fun – hence the pompoms suspended on wires.

Photo courtesy of Harvy Santos

Born in the Philippines, Harvy started out as a ballet dancer in Hong Kong before going on to study millinery in London. Prior to launching his own label, he created hats for The Royal Opera House and worked with top British hatter, Stephen Jones. Today, Harvy fuses traditional millinery techniques with new materials in couture and hat collections from an atelier in North London.

Harvy Santos in his North London studio

With the British summer season nearly upon us, we ask the merry milliner who for the second year running is part of the Fenwick/Royal Ascot Millinery Collective, to share his tips on how best to impress at the most prestigious events on the social calendar. Here’s what he said:

BSN: How would you advise someone buying a special occasion hat for the first time?

H.S: Firstly, try on as many hats as you can. If you are matching a hat with a dress or another accessory (bag or shoes) bring them with you. In terms of face shape, if you have an oval and/or heart-shaped face, you could wear almost anything. If you have a round face, avoid wearing wide-brimmed hats on a horizontal, tilt it if you can – it’s usually flattering. Lastly, depending on what event you are wearing your hat to, I would suggest you think comfort. If you’re going to Royal Ascot, you will be there all day. You wouldn’t want to fumble and worry about your hat — you are there to have fun so comfort is key.

BSN: How important is hair and make-up when wearing a statement headpiece?

H.S: Hair and make-up also complete the entire look. I suggest getting a good hairdresser involved, especially if you have opted for a headpiece that has fiddly headbands or wires. The hairdresser can make those disappear, which would make your hat float on your head magically.

BSN: Britain is renowned for its hat-wearing culture. How does this influence your work?

H.S: A lot! I think the fact that the UK has a hat wearing culture inspires me more to create a new way of wearing tradition. In the UK, a lot of women dare to be different and some are naturally quirky and a bit eccentric and I love that. This then makes me push the boundaries a little without losing being stylish and elegant.

BSN: If you had to pick any fashion brands on Bond Street that would compliment your hats – what would they be?

H.S: A MaxMara jumpsuit would dress-up my ‘Nicole’ coolie hat. If you choose to wear a dress from Prada, then my ‘Sabrina’ beret would look fun and elegant and suit any special/formal occasion. Anything from the ‘Fizzy Pop’ collection would look fun paired with a trouser suit from La Perla, or even with their lingerie/nightdresses if you are going for the underwear-as-outerwear look of course!