Gordon Gekko, the iconic bankster in the film Wall Street, had this to say to an up-and-comer dreaming of financial glory: “Buy a decent suit. You can’t come in here looking like this.”
This season, although the category has been hit hard by the economic crisis, European fashion brands seem to echo Gekko’s advice. Not that the Eighties-style power suit is making a comeback. But tailored clothing loomed large on the runways in Milan and Paris as labels from Dolce & Gabbana to Dior Homme strived for a more youthful, modern elegance, one that quietly conveys the confidence required to keep HR at bay in tough times.
“Collections have adopted a serious strategy to attract Wall Street to the runway,” says Tom Kalenderian, general merchandising manager for men’s wear at Barneys New York. “Designers are embracing the classic luxury, previously a world they may have ignored as too mature and classic.”
Even avant-garde labels are taking this tack. At the Pitti Uomo trade show in Florence, Comme des Garçons introduced its Homme Deux line of suits, dress shirts and ties, previously available only in Japan, to an international audience. In Paris, Raf Simons combined flawless tailoring with novelties such as a small refl ective shard in lieu of a pocket square. Junya Watanabe continued his collaboration with Brooks Brothers, morphing classic blazers into innovative reversible jackets—a nod to the growing versatility of tailored clothing.
“Suits are still appropriate for the office, but men are increasingly wearing them for several different occasions,” notes Stefano Gabbana, one of the major designers for whom suits represent big business. “Young men may own up to four or five suits, but depending on styling, they can adjust the same one according to their needs, or tone down a jacket with less formal pants, for example.”
Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche agrees. “The suit has become a place of intense creativity now that it’s divested itself of its heaviness and conformity,” he says. Dior Homme modernized suits for fall with sharp silhouettes and narrow lapels, targeting younger men whose shopping patterns “don’t necessarily conform to typical buying habits,” Van Assche adds.
But buying habits are changing. When it comes to tailored clothing, designers say, the consumer focus has shifted from replenishment suit purchases to individual pieces. “We have noticed that men are buying more separates,” says Paul Smith, whose fall collection includes a suit with a new shorter silhouette and a five-button jacket. “Hopefully my suits are seen as a special and unique purchase, so not necessarily about replenishing your wardrobe.” James Greenfield, senior vice president at Kenzo, also reports a trend toward separates, though the suit remains “the heart of the men’s assortment.”
Other see a return to classicism. “What we are witnessing, once more, is the classic tailored suit flexing its muscles and emerging as the last bastion of defense in times of vanishing consumer confidence,” says Umberto Angeloni, co-owner of Caruso, which manufactures men’s formalwear for such brands as Dior Homme, Lanvin and Ralph Lauren as well as its own Caruso label.
For the traditional tailored clothing brand, however, selling separates “goes against the concept of suit making,” according to Andrea Perrone, co-chief executive offi cer of Brioni. “We understand that it is a very tough moment, but we must be very careful or we can destroy the steps of what we have done for many years.”
Perrone sees “a war on market share” as designer labels step up their emphasis on suits. “Fashion brands have been hit very hard, so they try to redesign their business,” he says, adding, “At this moment quality, excellence and uniqueness are more valuable than fashion.”
Yet a growing number of leading European suit brands have begun to gravitate toward the fashion world. In recent years, Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna, Brioni and Canali have all left Pitti Uomo to present their collections in Milan.
“Milan is known worldwide as the fashion capital,” says Elisabetta Canali, global communications director at the family-run Canali, which unveiled its collection this season in Milan after 13 years as a Pitti Uomo mainstay. “We are a luxury fashion brand, and we want to let our different targets know that our company has a new appeal.” The 75-year-old company plans to open new commercial headquarters in Milan this year.
Still, the suit’s classic appeal seems almost timeless. Fashion houses and tailored clothing companies agree: Just as a suit signifi es power in an upswing, it offers a kind of refuge in a downturn, even if consumers are more cautious about buying one.
“Suits were pretty badly hit,” admits Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer of Ermenegildo Zegna, a brand that has successfully straddled the worlds of tailored clothing and designer fashion. Like other Italian suit makers, the company also markets sportswear and accessories, and its Z Zegna designer label has been a hit on the runways.
“Diversifying categories is what makes a difference in hard times, but the fact is, in a suit you feel more protected,” Zegna says. “The message you send out is that of safety and protection.”
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@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