MAN LONDON - A Moment of Madness

Menswear Concept Store, Soho London

Store & clothing designs Dan King

Having sold School Stickers for £1.4m I was suddenly able to shop and buy lots of clothes…

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I bought a ton of clothes…

I was shopping so much I realised most of the brands for men were super long on my torso and t-shirts ended up looking a little like dresses.

I’m 5’8” so I’m pretty average height wise which meant in my world there were a lot of men out there buying t-shirts too long for them and that is an opportunity.

It’s now 2010 and I had sold SOLD millions of virtual garments on VizWoz and moderating a lot of chat which was all abbreviated LOL etc.


 

By now living in London I met a Fashion Agent, John Vuillo who educated me on the ins and outs of selling fashion collections and saw an opportunity to take my knowledge of what clothes sold well on VizWoz and translate that into a real world range - a capsule collection was born called 2BETHREE…

 
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I started work on a range, liaising with manufacturers in Hong Kong and China on samples and created a sample rail for the fashion agents office that could be shown to buyers from - Selfridge’s, Harvey Nichols and ASOS…

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It was almost effortless… my designs were sent to China and actual REAL samples returned which went onto a rail in the John’s (fashion agent) office which led to 1,400 orders from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and ASOS WOW.

 
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The buyers bought into the story and the range so we were all set for a range LOL, PMSL, OMG, *$ SUCKS, I’M IN MIAMI BITCH (most popular) t-shirts.

 
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I had orders in from Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and ASOS… 1,180 pieces @ £18 a piece, in the very first order!!!

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Costing me £13,459… fashion is not free - but I caught the bug…

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What they looked like in Harvey Nichols - impressive for a first time designer?

What they looked like in Harvey Nichols - impressive for a first time designer?

Here’s what they looked like on ASOS…

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The early success of the 2BETHREE capsule range spurred me on and walking past an empty shop on Old Compton Street Soho I had a moment of madness... do not do this - just saying.

 

MAN London, 25 Old Compton Street, London, W1D

MAN London, 25 Old Compton Street, London, W1D

 

I thought it would be a great idea to open a retail menswear store for men Too Old for Abercrombie.

I would design up the entire store worth of clothes and base it on designs Abercrombie meets Ralph Lauren.

What was I thinking???

Well MAN London was born, well it wasn’t called MAN London initially it was Fraternity of Man which I later shortened to MAN London because the shop signage would have been too long.

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The concept for the clothes and brand theme was to focus on MAN and I needed a polo logo so I settled for Plato’s definition of MAN - Greek symbols.

I never realise until I opened that everyone would love the name and want it on all the clothes, the brand was so strong.. it just looked like it had been around for much longer.

 
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My lofty goal was to create a range of menswear staples - having never created any before - for men around my height 5’8 - 5’11 - almost unbelievably the first person to walk into the store was Jeff Goldblum yes the 6’6” giant - I died…

 

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So I set about designing:

  • 23 Polo t-shirts - different colours

  • Hoodies

  • Cotton Joggers

  • Jogging shorts

  • Cargo Shorts

  • Vests

  • t-shirts

  • cutaway t-shirts (I heart MAN)

  • Man Bag

  • All the 2BeThree clothes too

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Yes you read it right - 23 polo colours… hmmmmm that’s 2,300 to sell from one shop! Crazy.

I worked with the same manufacturers as 2BeThree - John’s involvement sadly decreased BUT I soldiered on and flew to Hong Kong (I loved Hong Kong) and trained into China to build a relationship with the manufacturers and see the factories to make sure they weren’t sweat shops which they weren’t!

 
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Meanly I was designing bags, tissue paper, Frat Paddles, Signage, etc etc

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The hoodies were labelled Deus Ex Machina “god fo the machine”

The hoodies were labelled Deus Ex Machina “god fo the machine”

Liaising with builders and print shops to wrap the store during construction to raise awareness and interest - there were 2 peep holes in the door - people did have a peak!

This was the mock-up…

This was the mock-up…

This is the quality of the execution…

This is the quality of the execution…

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This is where the brand started so it featured on the store design and on the swing tags…

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I liked the concept of the Fraternity of MAN so I established that as the brand for the clothes.. although eventually everything would be branded MAN London because it was so strong.

 
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and naturally with Fraternity it leant itself to Greek symbols… and Plato’s definition of MAN - a two legged animal without feathers…

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There would be a lot of polo t-shirt colours in the first collection…

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and the swing tag would include a Frat Paddle - samples had now arrived from China - they can seriously make anything.

The vision…

The vision…

The execution…

The execution…

the execution by the manufacturers was incredible… and I added an order for MAN BAGS!

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The store itself was designed like a walk-in wardrobe using actual walk in wardrobe furniture which cost around £15,000 - which was a bargain considering it transformed the shop - literally and included a lot of draws but with so many stock options - everything in xs, s, m, l, xl and with a spare it was a logistical nightmare on Old Compton Street and hugely costly to manage.

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THE CLOTHES ARRIVE FROM CHINA

It’s hard to imagine a storage room full of clothes all in boxes… floor to ceiling, literally… barely enough room to swing a hamster let alone a cat!

As we opened the polo’s we soon realised that a high % had been made random sizes - way outside the margin of error +/- 25mm larges would be smaller than an XS and this compounded by a total lack of storage space and means to check 2,300 polos, all in sealed plastic bags! PANIC!

If you didn’t measure every one of them then the stock in the store which, was an hour away, would all be wrong!

I later found out that ASOS has the same problem in that they have no clue what’s in the plastic bags.

I tried to measure a few and it took ages to do… I mean ages there are 6 or 7 measurements that needed checking on every single polo…

I had a brainwave - I measured a few of each colour and sizes to find ones that were correct, I then weighed those and assumed that the weight was correct for that garment, in that colour, in that size and quickly established a clear way to use their weight to check them!

This was a million times faster and I found 1,500 polos were the wrong measurements!

The manager from the factory in China visited and they agreed to replace them all - unbelievable / amazing.

I tried to run a photoshoot but on a budget of £500… it wasn’t that great! I never used any of these images but include them here to give and idea of the scale of garments designed and ordered - over £100K worth.

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I designed an entire boutique store worth of clothes… that’s hoodies, polo’s, jogging, cargo shorts, jeans, jumpers, t-shirts, cut-aways, a MAN Bag - all with their own brands… and of course the store for them all to go in.

The store was designed like the inside of a walk-in wardrobe…

After the not so successful clothing photoshoot I decided to do the magazine advert myself… we were testing out the value of a magazine advert by selling white Egyptian Cotton sheets and we had a massive 6 people come in and ask for them!

We didn’t do any more magazine ads.

This is the actual ad… the logic was to test something new to see if magazine ads worked, so I sold the bedding MAN London sheets. We had 6 people come into store for the bedding and sold to 3 of them. We never did another magazine ad.

This is the actual ad… the logic was to test something new to see if magazine ads worked, so I sold the bedding MAN London sheets. We had 6 people come into store for the bedding and sold to 3 of them. We never did another magazine ad.

The future direction of the brand would be more gorilla marketing.

The future direction of the brand would be more gorilla marketing.

I USED LIVE WINDOWS AT WEEKENDS WHICH DREW IN HUGE CROWDS…

100’S OF PEOPLE WOULD WATCH SOMEONE IRNONG? GO FIGURE…

The store fronts Christmas window featured, albeit briefly, in Channel 4’s McQueen And I

MAN LONDON - FUTURE DESIGN conceptS

Ultimately if you want to produce high quality clothes, you have to go to China… if you make clothes in China you need to meet minimums of 100 pieces per design and to sell 100 pieces you need a big audience… so not one store 10 or now of course you can sell online - as long as you can handle the returns.

Clothie was born…