By  on January 18, 2012

Sturdy holiday sales gave men’s retailers an auspicious start to the New Year and lent buyers an upbeat attitude at the Capsule show in New York, which showcased 250 brands in a new location at 550 Washington Street earlier this week. Key trends included toggle coats, Fair Isle sweaters, tweed suits and sport coats, suede elbow patches, American heritage themes and military influences — particularly camouflage motifs on everything from shoes to neckwear.

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“Our holiday was superstrong, and we were up considerably over the last year,” said Jen Mankins, owner of Bird in Brooklyn. Accessories have been a particularly healthy business for Mankins, and she singled out Porter, the Japanese bag maker, and Forage, a tie brand from Philadelphia that specializes in ties made from deadstock fabrics, as highlights of the show.

Also on her shopping list was footwear at Above Tree Line, a new section of Capsule dedicated to outdoor brands. “Hiking boots are the new duck shoes,” quipped Mankins, who also picked up outerwear from Fjällräven in that section. Wood chips, tree stumps and the smell of pine set the rustic mood within the area.

Footwear was also a priority for Randy Brewer, co-owner of Convert in Berkeley, Calif., who is opening a nearby shoe store in March under the same name. Brewer picked up the Tretorn and Gram footwear lines, both from Sweden. “We focus on recycled and eco-friendly lines, and Swedish brands always fit into that mold,” said Brewer. “In apparel, I liked Field Scout, which had very clean lines, and Pendleton’s Portland collection, which had really beautiful outerwear and sweaters — and great umbrellas with the Pendleton print on them.”

Holiday sales at Convert were “amazing” said Brewer, with hats, scarves, underwear, socks and headphones driving sales. “People were spending more freely and picking up those extra items. There was more impulse buying. Something in the economy feels a bit more positive,” he observed.

Lucky Brand and Riviera Club debuted a collaboration for fall, encompassing 14 styles. The line includes three jeans ($195 to $215 at retail) in various washes, including a dark rinse in a chino body, and a light wash with paint splatter made in organic Italian selvage denim. Western shirts lined with jersey ($150), a field blazer in army green cotton ($285) and a soft, garment dyed hoodie ($125) emblazoned with “Jalama” — the name of a prime surfing beach north of Santa Barbara — rounded out the collection.

“We are both California brands and we wanted to fuse our heritage,” said Joshua Weiner, director of men’s merchandising at Lucky Brand, of the partnership with Riviera Club. Driving home the brand message, hangtags are printed with a California speeding ticket.

In the main Riviera Club collection, plaid shirts — the trend that won’t die — continued to sell well, and the motif also decorated a reversible down vest.

A counter aesthetic was on view at Number:Lab, which incorporated performance fabrics and athletic influences into its directional sportswear. Hooded jackets were fashioned from neoprene, blazers were coated with polyurethane and gym essentials melded sporty jersey with mesh and wicking fabrics. Even a classic duffle coat was given a modern edge with enameled metal clasps replacing the traditional horn toggles.

The American past came alive in the H.W. Carter & Sons collection of flannel shirts, ticking stripe thermals, painter pants and denim overalls inspired by the first half of the 20th century. Originally founded in 1849 but dormant in men’s wear for the past several decades, the brand is being revived in the category this year by designers Greg Chapman and Chris Grodzki, who have acquired the license. Core retail prices for the collection are $125 to $325, and the duo plans to open a retail store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on North Sixth Street in March.

Gloverall, a heritage brand from the other side of the Atlantic, showcased the iconic duffle coats the company has made since 1951. “We are repositioning the brand with new fits, styles and labeling,” said Mark Smith, sales director for the Northamptonshire, England-based brand. For fall, that included duffle coats in Harris tweed, Locharron tartan and a Seventies-style corduroy model with shearling interior ($500 to $700).

Another legacy British brand, Sunspel, founded in 1860, has also recently revamped and updated its line of high-end underwear. The label was acquired by Nicholas Brooke and Dominic Hazlehurst in 2005, but continues to make much of its product in its historic Long Eaton, England, factory. Its underwear, boxers, T-shirts and polo shirts ($48 to $130) are made from exceptionally soft and durable long-staple Egyptian cotton and loomed on lace machines. Boxers features Sunspel’s signature scoop seams, and long underwear comes in elegant merino wool styles.

While workwear and rugged outerwear was a common theme for many brands, Ovadia & Sons offered a counterpoint with its sophisticated tailoring and urbane sportswear. A “winter white” capsule in the line emphasized pale tones, such as white corduroy trousers with antelope suede trim, a pearl gray sport jacket, a camel sweater with suede elbow patches and a plush cream Fair Isle sweater.

Also on display were tweed suits, waffle cardigans, cashmere turtlenecks for layering, tassel loafers with Dainite soles for traction and a military group that included ties embellished with P-40 Warhawk “Flying Tigers” warplanes.

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