There were glimmers of optimism at the Capsule trade show last month, with vendors and retailers saying sales have been more vigorous than expected.
The show focuses on independent and emerging men's designers with progressive aesthetics, and that niche aspect of their businesses has turned out to be a boon for some in the anemic retail climate.
"My brands are very specific in taste and for an informed customer, and that's really helped my business. We are up over last year," said Lindsay Smith, owner of the L.A.-based Atlas showroom, who was showing four lines at Capsule: Denim & Thread, LnA, Vanishing Elephant and Creep. "What's happened is the easy, sort-of-dumb business has gone away, and it's the retailers with real vision, taste and loyal customers who are succeeding. And it's those kind of stores that still need to bring in fresh, interesting product, because that's what their customer base expects."
Sam Parker, co-owner of the specialty men's store Context in Madison, Wis., echoed those thoughts, noting his shop offers an edited assortment of directional denim and related sportswear to a clientele that is still shopping. Context's holiday sales were up over the previous year, and Parker has increased his 2009 buy over last year's budget. "There's a certain demographic that is still shopping despite the economy. I think really specialized shops like ours have done well, while the more wide-open shops have been more negatively impacted by the economy," he explained.
Context has also benefited from its e-commerce site, which accounts for about 65 percent of total company sales. "We have a big international business, and that's helped offset any weakness domestically," noted Parker.
At Kidrobot, sales are trending up over last year, according to Jennifer Getlan, vice president of sales. "I don't feel the recession. We saw more people than we did last year and opened up six new accounts," she said of the brand, which is currently sold in about 70 U.S. stores, including Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Riccardi and Fred Segal Fun.
However, in a nod to the economy, Kidrobot lowered prices on its apparel, with almost every item priced to retail for $150 or less, down from highs of $195 previously. Getlan added that buyers are waiting longer to "leave paper," or place actual orders. "I have to get my first orders in by Feb. 12, so I'm buying extra units of our bestsellers in anticipation of late orders coming in as the season progresses," she said.
Public School, the contemporary men's brand founded by Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow (who is also creative director and vice president of marketing at Sean John), also made a price-point play with a new label called Black Apple that is launching exclusively at Urban Outfitters this fall, followed by other retailers in subsequent seasons. The outerwear-focused line will retail for $150 to $180 and takes Public School's haute streetwear aesthetic that is heavy on buttery leathers and reinterprets it in affordable pleather.
London-based eyewear maker Cutler and Gross showed an array of sunglasses and ophthalmic frames, with classic men's and women's styles reissued this year in eye-catching shades of raspberry, black glitter and even a potato motif, in honor of the brand's 40th anniversary. The company is still owned by founders Graham Cutler and Tony Gross, and sells into about 30 U.S. stockists, including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Maxfield and Cry Wolf.
In total, Capsule, which ran Jan. 19 and 20, showcased about 70 brands at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, a former synagogue on the Lower East Side.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)