I’ve been talking to a number of wannabes—wannabes in the traditional men’s wear business who are itching to crash the contemporary market. And on the other side of the fence, wannabes in the premium business eager to expand their jeans, T-shirt and hoodies lines and break into full-blown collections. What’s behind this urge to surge into new areas? First, with the mainstream market flagging, department store vendors want to grab a piece of the explosive 18-to-35 market where there’s plenty of action. And they’re finally facing the fact that they have to think outside the box, reinvent themselves, and explore areas and products that were once taboo. At the same time, premium makers are taking their cue from the jeans customer who’s adding on to his wardrobe, and buying everything from suit separates to cashmere sweaters. As a result, both conventional manufacturers as well as cutting-edge denim companies are trying to connect with new partners for sourcing, manufacturing expertise and distribution.
The process used to be fairly simple for a veteran men’s wear company. If it had a strong label and wanted to invade a new category, it was as easy as contacting a licensing agent who knew the specialists and made the connection with a prospective licensee. Other options included doing the new category in-house or investing in or buying another company.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"