Furnishings Vendors Turn to Color

Bold hues will drive the market as consumers seek to brighten their moods.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 02/03/2009

The recession is bringing out color in men’s furnishings.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

People are introducing color any way they can because of the economy,” said Chanel Cohn, director of marketing at Swank Inc.

“When people buy a tie, they want something that will make them happy, said Larry Kniola, executive vice president of sales for the Phillips-Van Heusen neckwear group. In December, though, consumers bought basic colors — “colors that are safe,” he added.

In dress shirts, white is still the color of choice, but macro trends include modern, tapered silhouettes and no-iron features. Al Moretti, president of the PVH dress shirt group, said each of the brands in his group, which range from moderate to luxury, have their own trends.

For example, that modern fit, which is nearing 30 percent of the group’s sales, is much higher for DKNY, BCBG and MaxAzria than in Izod, Van Heusen and Arrow. In Arrow, it’s about 20 percent, while in BCBG, it’s 100 percent, he said. “Some of it’s geared to the younger guy, but fits are more tailored even for an older customer — not tight, but tailored.”

Stretch is a trend in lines like Kenneth Cole and BCBG, and Moretti said PVH will offer a stretch program in its new Tahari brand. “The younger, contemporary guy is not afraid of stretch,” he said.

French cuffs are doing well for some lines, including Sean John and the Donald Trump Collection. Collars, at 2 7/8 to 3 inches, are shorter this year than the traditional 3 1/8 to 3 1/4. The traditional button-down collar is losing ground.

Neckwear sales were good in December but not great, said PVH’s Kniola. Except for a general narrowing of ties over the past year, trends for 2009 vary with each of the company’s labels.

For example, Tommy Hilfiger has a new group of conversational ties and printed motifs, while BCBG offers a range of unusual dots in different sizes and ground textures. DKNY’s spring neckwear shows a white warp in the fabric.

Kenneth Cole will show neckwear with a dégradé look, using one color in a series of dark-to-light shades. The look makes a solid shirt pop, Kniola said.

Calvin Klein has added a Steel collection of stripes and geometrics with gray accents. Nautica is introducing a group of plaids and blue, nautically themed neckwear for spring. Plaids include checks and madras wovens. The Trump line has neckwear with a jaspe (or twisted) yarn accent for a heathered look.

Ted Baker has Seventies retro-style, colorful prints, and Ike Behar will show seasonal fabrics of wool and wool blends for fall, plaids, large-scale medallions and big paisley prints. The ground color emphasis is on purple and rust. Robert Graham neckwear, meanwhile, includes reversible ties and of subtle details.

Neckwear is now narrower because of a general slimming in men’s wear, including flat-front pants and more fitted suits, Kniola said. Most of the business now is 3 1/4 to 3 1/2; it was 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 a year ago.

Neckwear at Randa Accessories is all about plaids and slimmer silhouettes, said Richard Carroll, vice president and director of creative services. Overall, though, he said the uncertain times are bringing “a movement toward updated traditional neckwear. Familiar patterns like plaids and dots are updated with new textured grounds and weaving techniques. We like to refer to it as ‘twisted traditional.’”

In fact, variations of plaids are leading the pattern direction for fall, he continued. All of Randa’s brands have seen a reduction in the width of neckwear this past year. Carroll said this change is good for the market because it gives consumers a reason to buy.

Geoffrey Beene, Carroll said, focused on its roots of satin, shine and dimension for fall. Classic patterns are updated with rich satin grounds, allowing the color to pop. The brand has concentrated on shades of berry with a highlight of multiple shades of business blue.

Countess Mara will offer bright saturated colors contrasted with crisp white, lush grounds to exude confidence and sophistication.

At Swank, said Cohn, young men’s continues to do well with chains with crosses and charms, as well as ID necklaces in its Guess business. Trends at Guess also include dog tags and watchband bracelets. In Swank’s Kenneth Cole business, watchband bracelets have been strong. Cohn said Kenneth Cole will introduce a fire, water and earth theme in its Iconic Collection for fall using black enamel, genuine stones and hematite in cuff links, money clips, necklaces and bracelets. Reversible belts also continue to do well at Swank and tie bars are trending because of skinny ties.

Comfort, aesthetics and performance features, including stretch and moisture management, are important this year in men’s underwear, noted Adam Frantz, design director for Hanesbrands Inc. Underwear will have color this year, too. It’s one of the fashion elements that HBI is emphasizing. Others include prints, waistband details and higher performance benefits.