Buyers Upbeat at New York Shows

Nondenim bottoms, Fair Isle knits and military themes materialize as key fall trends.

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Men'sWeek issue 01/20/2011

Traffic was strong, the mood was upbeat and more than 250 brands were packed into the ENKNYC show. “People are really positive. Retailers are looking for new brands and aren’t as price sensitive,” said Vince Gonzales, owner of a showroom that sells the lines Café Bleu, The Stronghold denim and a licensed Steve McQueen T-shirt and sportswear collection.

This story first appeared in the January 20, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Key trends at the show included nondenim bottoms, lots of knitwear with details such as toggle closures and outerwear with military details.

“Our price points are in a real sweet spot,” said Matteo Maniatty, director of sales at Original Penguin, showcasing a lamb’s wool sweater program in 12 colors that retails for $79.

Wool outerwear was the strongest seller at CPT by Cockpit USA, where a gray peacoat for $298 was the season’s hot item.

Scott James’ first collection under the brand’s new owners, Hampshire Group, offered an edited selection targeted to the more fashion-forward stores that tend to shop ENKNYC. Soft sport coats with elbow patches, chunky Nordic sweaters, woven shirts and lightweight outerwear were designed to bridge the gap between formal and casualwear.

Victorinox highlighted ripstop vests with a new earth-friendly PrimaLoft Eco fill, along with down-filled bomber jackets and performance knits. At Citizens of Humanity, a new denim with no starch offered the deep, dark look of raw denim with the softness and drape of washed fabrics. Also selling well at the jeansmaker were corduroys, twills and chinos. Over at 4 Stroke, canvas selvage jeans in a variety of colors were standouts, and the brand has a special program of higher-end denim launching at Bergdorf Goodman.

On the accessories end, designer Maor Cohen of M. Cohen has attracted celebrity buzz with his line of “earthy, urban and beachy” leather and silver jewelry for men. The company will open its first store on Third Street in Los Angeles next month.

The revamped Project show had a new upscale format, and though traffic was light at times, Project president Andrew Pollard called this season the start of a rebuilding stage for the once-dominant New York show.

“This is a collections-focused show and buyers can really sit and buy a line here,” said David Bruno, director of sales at Spurr, which previously showed at Capsule. Spurr, which is priced 30 to 40 percent lower than designer Simon Spurr’s collection label, showed officer’s coats, shearling jackets and Harris Tweed sport coats, along with its bread-and-butter line of clean, dark denim, which retails from $195 to $275.

The Brooklyn Circus was another standout at the show, with re-imagined varsity jackets, herringbone tweed cargo pants and retro newsboy caps. At Aether, seam-sealed, PrimaLoft-filled jackets with a minimalist aesthetic were ideal for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an elegant solution to staying warm and dry.

Ben Sherman introduced its new upscale Plectrum label, which features high-end fabrics, a discreet guitar-pick logo and prices 40 percent higher than the core collection. The company also pushed its new EC1 chino program (named after its London postal code), which included 12 colors.

Plain Jane Homme — known for its stripper-with-dropped-panties logo — showcased a streetwear line inspired by the colorful Holi festival of India, while Sweden’s WeSC emphasized a bigger push into outerwear, along with strong sales in its sharply priced denim line, which retails for $75 to $125. James Jeans relaunched its men’s business for fall after dropping the collection for a few seasons, with a clean lineup of classic five-pockets and twills and cords. Promising younger brands at the show included Feltraiger and General Assembly, both of which are based in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

The energy and attitude at the Javits Center was decidedly upbeat as retailers relished the return of customers to their stores last year after a dismal 2009. David Rubenstein of Rubenstein’s in New Orleans was looking for items to attract a younger customer. “The real goal of retailers today is to build the next generation of customers. Kids are dressing up again,” he said.

Bob Mitchell, co-president of Mitchells Family of Stores, said the biggest surprise he has seen is the “resurgence of the luxury customer.” That sentiment was echoed by Howard Vogt of Rodes in Louisville, Ky. All the retailers at the show noted that, while business is not back to its peak, the trend is positive and they’re expecting a solid 2011.

Key trends included military influences, weathered and washed fabrics, Fair Isle knits and the ubiquitous Henley.

Margaritaville, a new sportswear collection licensed from Jimmy Buffett, lived up to its tag line — “washed in the ocean, dried in the sun” — with its line of tropical-weight shirts, pants and shorts designed to appeal to the customer looking for something younger than Tommy Bahama but older than the traditional surf brands, according to Clark Williams, designer. For outerwear, Andrew and Suzanne Schwartz, formerly of Andrew Marc, showed their first full collection of men’s jackets, offering styles ranging from resin-coated cottons and motocross jackets to a range of high-end leathers with removable fur collars.

Tallia Orange, the contemporary collection from Peerless Clothing, also introduced outerwear at the show, offering authentic military wool coats and an array of fashion-forward styles in overcoats and trenches.

Trendy, youthful and progressive brands found a lively, well-attended showcase in the Capsule trade show, which featured 160 brands. “Stores really seem to be willing to take more chances and are looking for interesting brands and pieces,” said Audrey Gingras, owner of the Archetype Showroom. “This show was very busy for us and business has been better than last season.”

Paris-based Iro, which operates eight stores in France, launched its men’s wear in the U.S. this year, focusing on sharply tailored jackets, shearling motorcycle jackets and high-quality T-shirts in Japanese fabrics, all with an understated European sensibility. Copenhagen-based Won Hundred also featured clean tailoring and wearably chic sportswear, but at an accessible price point.

London’s YMC highlighted collegiate sweaters and a duffle coat made in collaboration with classic brand Gloverall, while Korea’s Kai-aakmann offered up more fashion-forward styles such as drop-crotch pants and dramatically draped necklines on tops.

Prps brought its top-end Prps Japan collection, which boasts advanced techniques such as four-panel selvage denim, fabric-covered rivets and finished seams, even inside the pockets. British retailer Topman provided a preview of its collaborations with designers like Dusty and Daniel Jackson, which it wholesales to about 15 U.S. accounts. Norway’s Johnny Love exhibited appealing outerwear such as plaid officer’s coats that retail from $395 to $650. The latter brand was co-founded by Mikkel Eriksen, whose other job is record producing: He currently has four songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World.”

Designer Forum
The show’s long-time venue at the Warwick Hotel in Midtown Manhattan makes for an intimate shopping experience for retailers. Most brands rent suites at the hotel and/or share larger rooms with other exhibitors, allowing stores to shop comfortably and, for the most part, privately.

The show’s association with the Custom Tailors & Designers Association mean the vendors who exhibit here are heavy on tradition. Lots of custom shirts and suits, ties and cuff links are on display, along with some high-end cashmeres and a bevy of silk scarves.

Colorful accessories from The Belted Cow, Bird Dog Bay and Castaway Nantucket Island provided a blast of fun. Castaway, the wholesale arm of Murray’s Toggery Shop on Nantucket, showed its classic resort-themed sportswear line, complete with its signature embroidered Woodie car print. Giovanni Vasta brought his Biella Collezioni of luxury cashmere sweaters, unconstructed knit blazers and scarves, and used the show to debut a new outerwear collection including shearlings, aviators, classic duffles and vintage-inspired leathers. Carrot & Gibbs, the bow tie aficionado, was offering 400 to 500 choices of fabric in both bow and long ties, as well as cummerbunds, vest, scarves and pocket squares.

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