Mancunian brand Bench, is one of those brands that when mentioned, people have a tendency to utter, “ahh yeah, Bench, I remember Bench”, its a casualwear label that people tend to hold in esteem and with fondness. So when I got an email asking me if I want to take a little jaunt up to the wonderful city of Manchester to take a look at Bench’s new concept store ? I thought, “ahh yeah, Bench, I remember Bench”.

Images of the NQ BENCH Concept Store

Images of the NQ BENCH Concept Store

So off I went up to SUNNY Manchester, OK it was pouring down but I hate to be predictable, off into an area called The Northern Quarter, which I remember as Oldham Street, famed nowadays for its gritty realism, I prefer to recall it for Afflecks Palace and Dry Bar, but hey each to their own. Nestled on the corner parallel to where Eastern Block records USED to be, is the BENCH Concept Store. I have to be honest I was completely bowled over by the store, but more the thinking behind it. Nick Barber, Head of Design, explained to me, that the launch of the NQ (Northern Quarter) concept store seeks to give something back to the city and community that nurtured and gave life to Bench, almost 25 years ago !!! (just to make you feel old).

The store will tie in with the Self Made campaign, championing the cultural innovators and launched through , the campaign offers successful applicants an opportunity to showcase and further their creative skills with prize funding and exposure through the Bench brandbook, website and social media channels. Serving as a basis to house and present the exceptional talents of the competition winners.

As well as being a place to see first hand the talent rising up through the help of the campaign, exclusive product previously unavailable in the UK will feature in store along with a range of limited edition lines and collaboration products. The store will also provide a multi-purpose, gallery style space. The basement gallery will serve as a busy hub for Manchester’s creative minds, of which there are plenty by the way,  to meet and mingle. The basement will also provide a platform for emerging young talent to showcase their ideas and skills with live music, performance, artist workshops, photography, film screenings and exhibitions.

Nick, then took me through the collection for this coming season, which took its inspiration on a nostalgic look at the 90’s, rather apt as I spent much of the earlier 90’s hanging out in drinking dens and somewhat trendy clothes shops, just a stones throw away. The range sees a return to street wear, combining influences from urban tribes and music culture, for which Manchester is renowned as a mecca for. Bench is a branch, that has evolved and developed over its near 25 years, had its ups and downs and at times lost sight of its roots but its definitely one which is well worth revisiting.

Examples from the Bench SS13 Collection





The jack spade store on Brewer Street in London.

Jack Spade is still a relatively unknown brand within the European market, unlike the US where its unique take on menswear, gadgets and general object d’art entice men into its stores in droves. Known for its accessories, bags and clothing ranges, it now adds denim to its expanding empire. The denim in question is produced exclusively in the USA by Cone Denim’s White Oak Mill in Greensboro, North Carolina, in fact nothing could be finer. They use a handcrafted waterless technique which makes for a very sturdy yet soft fabric and adding to its eco-credantials,  the white wash style is actually partially constructed with recycled beer bottles. With everything the brand signs up to, it always has to be mindful of the company moto;

“Good design solves a problem with straightforward solutions, using timeless and durable materials”.


Eighteen years ago Jean Paul Gaultier, the legendary French fashion designer, unleashed a fragrance upon us which was to go on and be as recognisable and synonymous as his trademark breton tops, a fondness for wearing kilts and suicide blond hair. “Le Male” irreversibly shook up the world of scents by introducing an unprecedented masculine archetype: the sensual sailor with a soft heart, to accompany this launch came an Ad campaign which equally shook up the world and is still remembered with fondness today, see above.

Time doesn’t stand still and Gaultier who is known for his forward thinking nature too has evolved Le Male into LE BEAU MALE ! Gaultier returned to the original creator of the fragrance, Francis Kurkdjian and challenged him to recompose a new fragrance to fit in with third millennium.

I really wanted to reclaim ownership of the formula. With hindsight, some things were obvious. Preserving the original structure and unfolding of accords while stretching the note to the maximum,” Kurkdjian explained.

The scent is an unconventional mix of an excessive dose of mint which gives off an unusually intense freshness, this is then rubbed with Mugwort, used in ancient times as a talisman against poisoning and sunburn, also sometimes known as ‘felon herb’, releases an aura close to that of rtemisia absinthium, it’s deadly botanical cousin. Lavender maintains its role as the backbone of the fragrance. Orange blossom and clary sage accents give the fragrance a boost of bursting energy. The palpable sensual qualities of the musky base creates a freshness that makes men hot, not in an unpleasant way, but in a primeval way. Phew !





(Sorry Loyal and trusted reader, this was meant to be Friday’s post, but due to Yahoo mail being, crap, it’s been delayed to today, sorry for the inconvenience).

Love it or Loathe it, there’s no escaping the fact that next week, in fact February 14th to be exact, is St Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year that you have no excuses and by golly you better not forget that Romance isn’t dead. Mrs Mc is exceptionally lucky in the sense that being married to my good self, everyday is like Valentine’s Day, or so I tell I keep her. But don’t worry if your still feeling the pinch from Christmas and in the words of Simply Mick, “Money’s to tight to mention”, we, as always, have searched far and wide for great ideas for the your loved one. Now don’t get me wrong, if you can afford it, whisk her away to Venice on the Orient Express for a romantic weekend or purchase her a pair of diamond earrings, think less Elizabeth Duke and more Chopard and you will literally be drowning in brownie points. BUT, as nice and as much as we may like to be able to offer this gesture, reality can often get in our way. So, here are a selection of great gift suggestions, that will get or keep you in the good books;


The Diamond Scented candle is guaranteed to excite, delight and fingers crossed surprise, as inside every fiftieth candle is a real sparkling spanking diamond !!!! by Paulina Leonor at Selfridges.


Paula Rowan Gloves not only come only in the finest leather but in a multitude of colours, not only RED, but it is Valentine’s Day.


You treat your good lady to these day of the week underwear by Stella McCartney and she’ll love you 24/7, now thats a promise.


It might seem cliche to us, but trust me the ladies love Mulberry and this Heart purse ticks all the boxes, nuff said.


As always M&S have the answer to your prayers all wrapped up. Send that special someone an extra special Valentine’s gift; this red rose hamper includes a magnificent pot of red Kordana roses, a bag of love heart chocolates and Italian sparkling rosé wine for an all-inclusive gift to someone you love, chocolates, booze and flowers, you know her so well.


I know I’ve gone on about these before, but this is what Mrs Mc will be getting as a little gift for Valentine’s Day. These Eley Kishimoto X Clarks, see not so sensible now are they. Another unlikely collaboration that works so well, will be earning me get out of jail cards !


Give her the gift of time this Valentine’s Day, this Rotary Ladies verbier watch looks so much more then its price tag. Only thing is you can’t be late ever again !


As the release for Boss Nuit Pour Femme, says, “This will be your night.” There are lots of great fragrances around at the moment. But word to the wise and check what kind of perfumes your good lady currently wears and go with one from the same family, so if she likes Musky scents DON’T go for a lil Floral number, trust me.


You can’t go wrong with jewellery and big isn’t always better. The ladies do like nice delicate, tasteful pieces like this bumblebee from Ted Baker


One last gift idea and normally I would recommend staying clear of gift vouchers, but these are no ordinary vouchers. Like everything Liberty do, these have a distinct individuality about them that any lady would find hard to say NO to.



Michael Mol, Co-Founder of SXC

Michael Mol, Co-Founder of SXC


Some time last year The Space Expedition Corp (SXC) contacted Jason Denham of the Dutch based denim brand, DenhamScreen Shot 2013-02-01 at 09.49.35 regarding the opportunity of developing an official training kit for their future astronauts on board their commercial flights.  The brief was to develop an integrated training kit expanding on concepts which had already made appearances in their past collections, where Denham had worked with ideas regarding future-utility and their concepts to fuse historical research with progression and invention.

Now the result of this partnership is an integrated capsule collection including the Bernal Type 3 jacket, the Liner Type 3 insulator and the D-SXC pant. Participants in SXC’s space program receive the set exclusively in the company’s signature blue. The designs are also part of Denham’s F12 collection in classic black and slate grey.

Denham is not the only exciting partnership SXC has forged for this year, in collaboration with the Unilever grooming brand Lynx/Axe have  launched a global partnership, where winners of a competition can become part of their global Lynx or Axe Apollo Space Academy. This is where entrants will be prepared for the ULTIMATE challenge of actually travelling into space, resulting in 22 lucky winners boarding a Lynx suborbital spacecraft sometime in 2014 on a SXC mission into space !!!!!

The Denham/SXC Astronaut Training Kit