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.”
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty