le Pont lounge2018-06-08T15:10:01+00:00

Your backstage pass to industry insight, news and new job listings,
take a seat and let us support you in your new job search….

The le Pont lounge which is our latest addition to our business here is our space to keep you updated on the latest industry news, interviews with some of the market’s most successful retailers as well as tips and even gossip! It’s about keeping you informed with all the significant and fun moments in “retail and brand”

Wellness in the Workplace Forum 

Our recent event, hosted at the Institute of Directors focused on the extremely relevant issue of Well-being in the Workplace. We were delighted to introduce our guest speaker, Nerina Ramlakhan a renowned physiologist and sleep therapist who is author of several successful publications including Tired But Wired and appears regularly on This Morning.

Nerina spoke to our guests about how to best manage stress which effects us both in our working & personal life. This involved several examples of day-to-day coping mechanisms and an open debate on the issues induced buy stressed which seem to re-occur and how these can be best managed within the workplace.

It was a brilliant opportunity for our clients to network and discuss such an important topic, we look forward to inviting your business to our next topical event.

Post-BREXIT HR Forum

Our follow-up Post-BREXIT HR & Recruitment event proved to be as equally a hot topic and over-subscribed as the Equal Opportunity forum earlier in the year.

It was an inspiring morning together at Morton’s Club and our panel of experts (Henrik Mansson – HRD Moet Hennessy Europe, Alex Snelling – Global HR Director Cath Kidston and Richard Evans – Director of Talent and Learning McDonalds)  and audience together discussed the current issues that the HR and Recruitment industry are facing and left encouraged and inspired to face the future!

Design Breakfast Forum 

Our recent  Breakfast held for Design Directors and Heads of Design from some of the UK’s  most influential brands was held at le Pont towers in Old St  and focused on the impact of Brexit on the Fashion Industry. An informal and animated discussion ensued highlighting the issues Design teams are facing –  from changes in supply base to the real implications of cost to the consumer. With an honest debate over the UK’s  future design talent, post Brexit  – our forum gave real insight into their experiences working in Europe and the US and what it could mean for retaining some of our most talented people.

Some insightful shares and a great opportunity to network with peers, we look forward to the next Design and Creative event!

Business Breakfast – Equal Opportunity

Our recent business breakfast hosted at the Lansdowne Club, Mayfair discussed a topic of ‘Equal Opportunity’ .  This subject generated lots of interest and we enjoyed a  dynamic  discussion with a handpicked audience of HR professionals from our industry.

Our pre-coffee reception allowed our guests to meet up with people with whom they already knew and the opportunity to make introductions to new brands.  Our speakers (Henrik Mansson, HRD Moet Hennessy Europe and Alex Snelling, Global HR Director Cath Kidston) were on top form – each complimenting each other so well and we had an impressive attendance!

Building a Brand Internationally Event

Our subject hosted at the Conde Nast College of Fashion & Design, generated lots of interest and we enjoyed interesting discussions with a handpicked audience of world leading brands.

Our panel of experts; Aude Appolinaire – Retail Project Director for Chanel, Carmela Acampora – CEO of Roksanda, James Hammersley – Author and founder of Good Growth, Paula Reed – Brand Strategy Director of Boutique1 were on top form and really engaged our guests, who were robust in their participation. We had an impressive attendance from Louis Vuitton and Hermes to the fantastic Moet Hennessy, Conran, Kit & Ace as examples. The venue was superbly cool and mixed with our pre drinks, quite a party– it worked beautifully.

What is the Future of the UK’s Busiest Shopping Season?

Unsurprisingly, the holiday season is the UK’s most lucrative time of year and 2015 is no exception. Christmas can’t come early enough for the retail sector as traditional Boxing Day promotions have jumped forward to as early as November.

This leap is in partial response to the introduction of Black Friday and Cyber Monday by American retailers such as Amazon and Walmart/Asda. Following the United States’ Thanksgiving holiday, this long weekend typically yields the biggest retail profits of the year.  These sales have since ventured across the pond driving an unprecedented surge in UK retailer profits.

UK Christmas Season
Primark High Street

In 2014, Black Friday prompted the highest sales growth during the UK Christmas season in over 26 years. John Lewis boasted massive profits and House of Fraser achieved its most profitable week ever. Despite Primark’s lack of promotions, the extended commercial period saw increased footfall and a 15% rise in shares. Unfortunately, Black Friday didn’t benefit all UK retailers. While 13.5 million users logged on Argos.com, profits remained flat compared to a 2% rise in sales projections. Consumers also spent money earlier on the web thanks to Cyber Monday, which has become online’s most profitable trading day.

Despite sales growth in January 2015, trading fell when compared to December 2014, suggesting a consumer shift in shopping habits. Looking at this past Black Friday, sales surpassed the £1 billion sales mark to over £3 billion. Additionally, online sales were up 36%, and John Lewis reportedly received 4.9 orders per second between 9 and 10 am.

So what’s in store for the UK retail industry during the holiday season? Considering heavy discounting combined with the commercial success of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these factors will continue to push widespread spending into November, further encouraging retailers to jump on the bandwagon.

Net-A-Porter Shopping Bags
& Other Stories Transgender Campaign

Neutral Ground: The Emergence of Gender-Fluid Fashion

This year, Selfridges launched Agender, a movement and curated collection of apparel, accessory and grooming brands, all brought together to remove gender parameters from the equation. Touted as “a celebration of fashion without definition,” Selfridges’ newest concept removes the divide of menswear and womenswear while further encouraging gender neutrality on a larger retail scale. In the light of wider liberation seen by the industry the past few years, le Pont takes a moment to dive into gender-neutral fashion and what it means for the future of retail.

The idea of blurring boy-meets-girl style is not a new concept. Fashion iconoclasts such as Katharine Hepburn, David Bowie, and Grace Jones shattered these boundaries long before there was term defining the movement. Hepburn had a decidedly “masculine” wardrobe for her time and even purchased her shirts at a female-only counter at Brooks Brothers. More recently, celebrities like Tilda Swinton, Kayne West and Orange Is the New Black star Ruby Rose, among many others, have proven gender-neutral style is now the new normal.

Selfridges Agender Campaign
Acne Studios AW 15 Campaign

Thanks in part to the industry, there is now a different way to dress where individuals don’t have to adhere to traditional gender norms. Last year, while backstage at the Prada collection, Miuccia Prada affirmed the dissolution of gender distinction declaring, “I think to people, not to gender.” At the same time, more gender-neutral websites are popping up such as “You Do You” pioneered by fashion creatives Kristiina Wilson, Logan Jackson, and Casey Geren. The platform “serves both the producers and consumers of genderless fashion by bringing them together in one place.” Wilson, YDY’s Editor-in-Chief was recently part of Refinery29’s speaker series “Peopleswear: The Changing State of Gender in Fashion,” all part of their larger initiative “F*ck The Fashion Rules“.  Wilson stated “I think the fashion system has been in a really rigid binary for so long that it’s only now we’ve sort of started to push that…and it doesn’t have to be such a big deal what any of us are wearing.”

Over the past year, topics of gender identity have gained much more mainstream attention, in part to Caitlyn Jenner’s much-documented transition, as well as brands embracing non-traditional models. While these initiatives barely scratch the surface on the larger discussion of gender identity, they do note small positive shifts happening within popular culture. Transgender model Andreja Pejić has covered the pages of Vogue, Elle, and i-D and headlined ad campaigns for Marc by Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier and Make Up For Ever. This season alone, & Other Stories launched a collection fronted by five transgender creatives while Acne’s advertisements directly confront gender-fluid fashion. The campaign features creative director Jonny Johansson’s 11-year-old son, Frasse making his modelling debut in pieces from the womenswear collection. Johansson stated that he had “seen this new generation’s attitude to fashion.” The design outcome focuses on “the cut, the shape and the character of the garment…rather than seeking approval from society or to follow set norms.”

The fashion industry still has a long way to go despite a handful of brands creating a space where one can experience aesthetic freedom. It’s time to push these small liberations forward, where gender identity issues can gain momentous traction and create a positive impact within society as a whole.

Join the conversation with le Pont and Selfridges #AGENDER

Selfridges Agender Windows

Are festivals the new fashion
capitals of the music scene?

The recent release of statistics detailing the extent of nightclub closures in the UK in the last decade has led some to hypothesise that nightclubs are declining in popularity, and are in fact being replaced by bigger, one-off events such as festivals. This week, LP explores this from a fashion perspective, examining the environment and freedom of the festival “scene” and what this means for festival goers in terms of aesthetic self-expression.

In terms of fashion at UK festivals, there are a number of visible style patterns and clear inspirations. Festivals as we know them began in the sixties, and this period remains a fundamental influence upon festival style today: shapes, prints and fabrics strongly reminiscent of the hippie movement and contemporary references to psychedelia abound. Also permeating the style of the festival scene is the idea of a circus or carnival environment: catsuits, top hats, masks, ringmaster-style jackets and vintage tailoring. Vintage clothing has a huge part to play in the festival scene – there is an exhibitionist emphasis on completely unique pieces, unorthodox in style, texture and era.

Festival style is in general characterised by its cumulative nature – haphazard and heaped blends of influences, textures and genders. There is a culture of standing out and of expecting other people’s eyes to be drawn by individuals’ ensembles –achieved by metallics, sequins, loud patterned suits and unorthodox style choices and combinations.

All accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of glitter. A triviality at first glance, perhaps, given the bombastic nature of some festival regalia, but even an everyday look can be made “festive” by the application of glitter in such large amounts – where else in life would a person get the chance to wear so much? As far as the festival scene is concerned, less is never more – unless, of course, we’re talking about nudity: the indubitable fashion coup of the festival environment.

The hippie influence brings with it a vague flavour of general Americana – the most unfortunate upshot, it must be mentioned, being the prevalence of Native American style headgear in festival fashion worldwide.  This is something that needs to be addressed (most probably and effectively in the media and in festival marketing) – an example of when the carefree aesthetic environment of festivals can become careless, and in fact insensitive. 

The “anything-goes”, exhibitionist aura of festival fashion is strongly reminiscent of the nineties Club Kid scene – notably the tendency to seek out unorthodox clothing and makeup and combine clothing, or in fact items not necessarily classed as clothing, in “weird” and provocative ways.

There is a positive outlook on the provocative, on the unusual, and fundamentally on appearing as different as possible from the majority of people outside of the festival environment.

Dressing for festivals is an enormous part of attending them, arguably to a greater extent than in club culture – in festivals there is a definite and huge culture of aesthetic self-expression. This emphasis on self-expression and the freedom to self-express to such an extent is undoubtedly part of the pull of festivals over other forms of music-centred social gathering.

This freedom of self-expression comes from the freedom of the environment in general. At festivals there are huge amounts of space, generally a casual and sometimes family atmosphere and a number of pursuits to engage in on top of catching musical acts. The scale of some festival sites in general enables festival goers to really get lost in a new environment. The fact that people often camp, effectively moving in to that new environment for a number of days, renders the festival experience a true escape.

People are given the opportunity to remove themselves completely from their everyday lives – and this is reflected in many of their style choices. Vast numbers of people at festivals don’t look anything like people in any other situation or environment in the UK, and it’s this idea of escaping, removing oneself from the pedestrian and stepping outside of the pedestrian self, that makes the festival environment so attractive. 

And so, with festivals in full flow and their attraction in terms of fashion obvious, should retailers’ investment be reallocated? There is already a very commercial aspect to the fashion of festivals – most big festivals are home to numerous vintage traders, all attempting to capitalise upon the desire for unique and statement pieces with history. Festivals, and therefore their fashion, are on the up – in these unique forums where music meets other branches of culture and all have such huge roles to play, there is undoubtedly money to be made.

For statistics and a more musical analysis of the decline in nightclubs in the UK, see:

For Native American headdresses in festival fashion, see:

This week, LP is examining the concept of “brand personality”.
Does your brand have what it takes to get along with people?

First of all, what is “brand personality”?

Brand personality is, as the phrase suggests, the character of a brand effectively conveyed to the customer. To be more specific, a distinct brand personality consists of brand aesthetic, product, marketing, the environment of the platform of sale (be that instore or online) and the general impression given to the customer of the people behind the brand and what they stand for. The customer attributes to the brand the kind of human qualities they are led to imagine in its architects. An example of strong and effective brand personality would be that of IKEA: From the store and product aesthetic to the ease of shopping experience, the IKEA “personality” is clear:  the brand is relaxed, fun, accommodating and stylish.

In a fashion context, store aesthetic and atmosphere, product style and quality and the online experience can all be used as vehicles for brand personality.  What, then, makes a brand’s personality particularly effective and cohesive?

In terms of store aesthetic, we can look at a number of examples – first of all, Ted Baker. Ted’s product is of a high quality, and characterised by a combination of sharp tailoring and bold, flamboyant prints and palettes. Upon entering the store, the customer is appropriately greeted by an environment that is sharp and flamboyant in equal measure. Bold strips of heavily patterned wallpaper are combined with a unique array of ornaments: old books, retro-look lamps, hotchpotch furniture, cut glass decanters, and in some cases taxidermy. The store creates an atmosphere evocative of the brash graphics and furniture combinations of the sixties (itself an iconic style period), tempered by a crispness of style and flavour of the urban intelligentsia.  Ted Baker’s personality? Sophisticated but fun – laughing in the face of all that is dull. 

Another brand that we can look at here is Superdry. Wall after wall of explosive colour is meticulously curated against a backdrop of exposed brickwork and wood panelling. Reminiscent of Abercrombie (though definitely more navigable), darkness is cleverly used to make the customer feel as though they are entering a world different from the one outside, and items of clothing are softly spot lit which, despite the large size of many of its stores, creates a more intimate shopping experience. A summery playlist of electro-pop adds youth and levity to the atmosphere which reflects the product itself: carefree with strong elements of surf culture. The personality conveyed here is one of youth, summer and statement, yet with a strong feeling of exclusivity.

But, in addition to all this tangibility, how can the “personality” of a store be effectively translated to an online platform?

There are a number of brands which do this well – particularly Cos’ little sister, & Other Stories. Both store and product are minimalist yet delicate, and give the impression of a brand that is truly artistic. This idea of art is strongly reflected online – the interface is structured very much like a blog, and is filled with large images curated around a central “story”. The customer feels as if they are interacting with a slice of contemporary, digital creativity – the online experience is made up of art and shopping in equal parts. When it comes to & Other Stories, the online experience is so memorable that the physical store aesthetic and the website actually inform each other in terms of brand personality.

The advantages of having a comprehensive and effectively executed brand personality abound. As is true in the case of the above examples, it plays a crucial role in connecting with the customer, and in creating for the customer an environment and character that they themselves can step into every time they buy, and subsequently wear, a little piece of it. The consistency of personality across product, store and website combined creates a holy trinity, both of creativity and of commerciality.

Useful Links

Ted Baker: www.tedbaker.com

Superdry: www.superdry.com

& Other Stories: www.stories.com

LCM: SS16 –
The Standout British Brands this season.

This week London saw five days of exquisite menswear walked across the catwalks of The Old Sorting Office, WCI and Victoria House. At this juncture we can examine a handpicked selection of some of the British contributors as they exhibit on their own turf, many of whom are producing dynamic, progressive and aggressive collections to maintain the edge of British fashion and further its global presence (and one or two who, sadly, are not).

To begin our exploration of innovation, let us turn to a relatively (and appropriately) new brand – Agi and Sam (designers Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton). The collection emanated naivety, and showed a strong and consistent commitment to this aesthetic. A combination of pyjama co-ords in tea-towel ticking and shiny, squeaky plastics created an aura of childish innocence and nostalgic fun. The addition of patches of black with stencilled stars on the models’ faces may have been a touch whimsical, but in conjunction with the aforementioned naivety managed to evoke Peter Pan, lovingly painted nursery murals and the kind of charming grubbiness that so often accompanies mischievous littluns. A considerably evocative display, and a consistent and committed thematic delivery made this collection, in my opinion, a great success.

Now to move from the refreshingly original to the disappointingly unoriginal. I refer, perhaps obviously, to Alfred Dunhill. The collection was almost reflective of a privileged “gentleman’s” lifestyle trajectory, beginning with public school – evoked by morning suits and top hats (although I hasten to add that top hats are no longer worn at Eton, their emblematic value indubitably remains).

Boaters, blazers and club ties merge this aesthetic with that of the summery Oxbridge idyll.  Now we appear to have graduated: classic suits paired with briefcases see the young professionals entering into the old-fashioned conceptualised “businessman” aesthetic, and as they go through their career we see the introduction of a rather serious looking mackintosh-style coat. Finally, with countrified casuals in cosy tones and checked shirts, we are brought to mind of stately retirement. (An unfortunate aside: throughout the collection the combination of whites, navies and pinks, the hackneyed triumvirate of the preppy palette, occasionally rears its ugly head). The theme chosen appears to me to be that of privilege. Art is art is sacred, as we all appreciate – but I do question the brand’s decision to base their collection around a theme that is inaccessible, un-relatable and hearkening to an aesthetic fundamentally celebratory of the status of the privileged few without including any dynamism or twist. Whether you question the morality of the collection or not (it would be very interesting to hear your views), its originality and conceptualisation are absolutely lacking.

For contrast see Hardy Amies. A similar long-established titan of British tailoring, we see Mehmet Ali cleverly reaching back into the brand’s tradition in order to bring us something new,  intelligent and truly artistic. The inspiration for the collection was Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, on which Hardy Amies himself worked as a costume designer. Consequentially Ali takes us on a journey of contemporary space-travel, pairing technological, lightweight fabrics with sharp, starship-uniform tailoring and gridline prints. The palette is generally muted, which makes the addition of a soft green and bright orange all the more vibrant. As has been cleverly remarked in WWD, the collection is full of deep blues, evocative of the night sky. I would go further, and say that it is a truly intelligent decision to use a blue to evoke the romanticism of deep-space exploration as opposed to a heavy reliance on lonely blacks, which may have emphasised the desolate nature and incomprehensible depth of space. This is an example of a diligent and caring adherence to a true inspiration, and Hardy Amies has drawn on tradition and used it to show us British creativity as opposed to Dunhill’s unfortunately stagnant take on Britishness.

I’m going to go right ahead and announce, with suitably carefree obnoxiousness, that it was Sibling that stole the show for me. Drawing on American football, cheerleading and jock aesthetic, the brand presented a collection which not only committed to its theme but thrust it full frontally along the catwalk. A triumph of butch camp enacted with an appropriate level of theatre and pompoms, garish colour-ways of neon orange vs. navy, aqua and bright yellows pursued the theme with further aggression. The sporting aesthetic was created particularly by the use of a “lace up” effect – seen on trousers, jackets, parkas (complete with pompom hood fringing) and crotches all over the place, in addition to corsets and what I can frankly only describe as a breastplate. This lace up, criss-cross woven effect is in itself hugely reminiscent of the thick stitching found along the edges of an American football. Sticking with the game, shoulder pads were also included in a number of guises, at times plainly and exaggeratedly (as in the case of the aforementioned breastplate) but also woven more subtly into the shape of some items. What particularly fascinated me about this collection was the blending of genders – taking forms and imagery associated with something as archetypically masculine as American football, most notably the broad silhouette, and combining it with the traditionally feminine forms and textures of pompoms, corset shapes and glittery fabric. In a stroke of genius, Sibling’s corset was modelled by one of the meatier gentlemen of the afternoon, and this decision was implemented elsewhere in the collection, too: a bold juxtaposition to further emphasise the amalgamation of genders, or in fact a wonderfully brazen disregard of their confines, and just perhaps a little dig at the uncompromising masculinity of the sporting world. A composite collection, and a true statement.

Hopefully you have found this brief foray into a few of the more interesting collections shown at LCM this week enjoyable. Please comment and let us know what you loved (or of course hated) about any of these collections or any of the others from the week.

Paris approaches – until then!

le Pont Talk Digital Trends With The
Di Bridges Partnership At Harvey Nichols

On Thursday the 23rd April the Di Bridges Partnership and le Pont in collaboration with Harvey Nichols hosted our next BIG industry breakfast event. This month we brought “Digital Trends” to the fifth floor at Harvey Nichols.

With a high profile panel of guests including, Dolly Jones, Digital Strategy Director from Conde Nast, Sandrine Deveaux, Multi Channel Director at Harvey Nichols and Martin Newman CEO from Practicology it was a breakfast attended by a vast and impressive attendees list including brands such Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, John Lewis, Tiffany and Kit & Ace to name just a few!

Our impressive panel discussed the challenges that face brands and retail as they successfully respond to evolving consumer behaviour. Great conversation and at a perfect location!

We would love to thank everyone who attended and can’t wait to hear all your feedback on what we thought was a fantastic and indeed, emotive subject.

As always both the partnership and le Pont continue to bring the most insightful and most meaningful subjects from “board room to lounge” and we can’t wait for our next event later in the year.

This month in the le Pont lounge we speak to Emma Bradshaw Global VP of Proenza Schouler and Kat Maconie, owner and founder of Kat Maconie…

Celebs who have been seen in a pair of Kat Maconie shoes include Jessie J, Pixie Lott  and Millie Mackintosh. To shop online visit www.katmaconie.com

When did you first discover your love of footwear?

I have always loved shoes and accessories, My Mum had constant battles with me from the age of 10 as all  I wanted to do was spend all my pocket money on heels! I remember buying a pair of black suede and napa heeled loathers when I was 11, I never took them off!

Asia has been a big push for your brand recently.
How has the market responded to your shoes?

My designs are very bold and bright and in that I think very much suit the Asian aesthetic. Women there have a very confident and individual sense of style and expect a lot quality wise and I think the Kat Maconie brand and look suits this really well.

What would you say the highlight of your career is so far?

My first stand alone store is opening in Shanghai in a couple of weeks and I am flying out for the grand opening. Seeing a store with my name on it is something I have always dreamt about and it will be very surreal to see it filled with my designs!

How big is your shoe collection at home?
You must have a separate room surely?

It’s actually surprisingly manageable! I pick three or four  my favourite styles each season and add them to my collection. We have only been going six years so there is still a little space left! I no longer own any other brand of shoes apart from my own and 1 pair of Nike trainers for wearing at the gym!

Which pair could you not live without?

My favourite changes every season, I get really excited when a new heel or style is introduced. Right now I absolutely adore my pointed black Stella ankle boots that I have barely taken off since AW14 arrived, they work with everything and are super comfortable.

Have you any favourite designers in the industry who influence your personal style?

This season I am actually really loving House of Holland’s dresses, love the way he has  clashed electric pink (my favourite colour) and red with sequins and silk.  I always buy a view pieces from Sandro every season.

The Kat Maconie brand and you personally have been recognised hugely for your designs and product, what advice would you give anyone launching their own fashion or footwear label?

I have to say it is VERY VERY hard work, full of ups and downs but my advice is to not give up and stick to your vision! If you have a good team, good designs and a thick skin you won’t give up at the obstacles along the way ( and there are many, many obstacles along the way!). You will never please everyone with your designs so don’t try to, know your customer and focus on her.

What’s next for you and the brand in 2015?  

As I mentioned above the first stand alone Kat Maconie store is opening in a matter of weeks with a further 10 shops and concessions opening by the end of the year in China, my partners goal is to open 100 Shop in shops and stand alone stores by end of 2016 – to its going be be a CRAZY busy but exciting few years ahead.

Emma has an impressive career to date within Product Merchandising and Planning from brands such as Mulberry, Reiss, Armani & most recently Global VP of Merchandising at  Proenza Schouler New York. Here she tells us more….

What made you enter the crazy world of fashion Emma? 

I actually studied a BA in Social Sciences, but always had the passion for fashion. In fact my grandma, who would make beautiful clothes for me and my cousins, got me into it… I started as an allocator and just worked my way up.

With all the products you have had the opportunity of working across, have you any firm favourites?

I love handbags!!! It’s a much more simple science….

Have you any fashion staples that you can’t live without?

My Mulberry Piccadilly in tan, I’ve had it for years, and goes everywhere with me when I travel. It’s travelled all over the world ; )

What would your advice be to your younger self at the beginning of your career?

I would say start from the bottom and work your way up….Hands on experience is the most valuable gift. If at all possible get an entry position with an “Arcadia” type company, they will offer you the best start, and training!!

Have you any favourite designers in the industry who influence your personal style? 

Proenza Schouler… They are at the forefront of fabric and print technique… Mixing soft with cooler more downtown vibes.

Proenza Schoule