Year 13 of Christian MacLeod belts. Something major. Big change. Big surprise. Big decision. 2020 always had a good ring to it! I’m working on a masterpiece and I haven’t quite finished it yet. It takes a long time to master a craft and whilst I feel like I am mastering it, there is still more to master, there is still more to add to it, more pieces of the puzzle.
I started CM when I was 16 years old with one mission in mind, to take control of the belt game. My dream in reality was to make belts an accessory that was looked upon on the same level of importance as shoes, watches or handbags. The truth is; belts are still not on that level, yet! No matter how good the belt design, customers will always put shoes, watches and handbags first on their accessory list – I watched this myself this year; my own results told me the exact same when I launched my first handbag in 2019 incorporated around my belts.
2020 is my time to find the next pieces of the puzzle, adapting my belt business to reach every single person with my vision. Why do the ordinary I guess? In the 1920s, belts won a decisive victory in the battle over what, exactly, should hold up our pants. Suspenders had been a popular choice for centuries, but as military uniforms inspired people to take more functional approaches to their apparel, shoulder straps fell victim to an unforgivable comfort crime — wedgies. And as the general arc of fashion started bending towards lower pant waists, belts were simply the intuitive solution.
Cultural trends aside, the knockout punch was delivered by a single Great Man of history. The Duke of Windsor, a forward-thinking trendsetter who would later become King Edward VII, favoured the more casual, American look of belts. He showed his off at parties, giving the sartorial middle finger to his suspender-wearing predecessors. The trend went viral amongst the Duke’s followers (long before Instagram was a thing), belts gained all the momentum, and we the belt-wearers have never really looked back.
Over time, however, we’ve taken the belt for granted, pigeonholing it with a purely utilitarian and often uninteresting existence. People have evolved. Fashion has evolved along with us. But in many ways, we’ve latched the belt to the wrong side of history. We wear our belts wrong, giving them little to no attention. We wear our belts out, making them the fashion equivalent of a blown-out tire. Sometimes, we even neglect to wear our belts at all. Belts have become the forgotten accessory, and it’s time to give them the spotlight.
My vision for the belt’s future lies partially in its past. Cowboys made the switch from suspenders to belts in part because they enabled them to display a buckle, which signified rodeo victories. In wrestling, karate, and boxing, belts are a similar symbol of forward progress. This points to an idea much bigger than belts. Over the course of human history, people have used fashion for much more than function. We’ve used our clothing to communicate something about ourselves to the world.
Belts aren’t going anywhere, and that’s the perfect reason for us to make them more expressive. We’ve seen many accessories get second winds as accent pieces; such as ties, socks, and gloves being just a few success stories. Now it’s the belt’s turn to help define our looks. The question is: What message do you want your belt to convey? That you’re boring and forgettable or that you’re full of personality?
My new concept is better price control. I needed to find a way to get the same quality of belt production, but to come out with a lower selling cost for the consumers, lowering the price of high-end belts. If you want to know why I feel this is important, its because my belts on average over the last 12 years sold for £150; with all the middle costs within the retail business they physically cannot sell any lower than that. But my problem is we are only £100 at the most away from the luxury brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. Where if a consumer feels like they want one good belt, they will always go for the more well-known fashion house – which is completely fair! I want to bring belts to a price where you buys lots, like shoes, it’s a fashion accessory, rather than wear the same belt 7 days a week and the only way I can get into that sector of accessory importance is better price control.
After hard research and endless meetings in 2019, the only way I can get the price point where I want it and the quality still the same; I have to remove middle parts of my business that take high commission on sales and point of sale space, that’s mainly concession retail stores that sell my belts. For 2020 onwards, my belts will only be available direct from my online store – christianmacleod.com; and selected retails stores, allowing me to fully control the price and deliver a belt cost that is reachable for literally everyone.
I study my customer and market amnesty, let me give you a short description for another reason why there is a piece missing to my puzzle. When someone buys a belt, from me, from Gucci, from Louis Vuttion, from any high end product designer – that now gets known as their ‘good belt’, that belt they save for the weekend, their good occasion belt, their going out belt, that belt you don’t want to ruin because it cost you so much more money that you would usually spend on a belt. But, you still need that belt for during the week right? That everyday belt, you want that black everyday belt, also a brown everyday belt, oh and a tan everyday belt, but you know they will get more worn and since you are wearing them everyday you don’t mind them getting damaged and worn out so much; so you pop along to a Zara or stores alike, pick up a belt for £30-£50 for your everyday wear. That everyday belt is the market I want, but doing it to the design level I am. Keeping my interchangeable system, that makes price even more reachable for that everyday belt market where you can continue to buy straps and buckles separately, ensuring a unique and personalised belt adapted to each individual taste. I am here to change the belt game; for everyday, not just for the weekends.
My new concept launches from right now. 2020 always did have a good ring to it.