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Las Vegas Preview: Winning Hands

A number of men's labels are launching or relaunching at the upcoming trade shows this month. Here, a sextet of collections vying for attention.

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Men'sWeek issue 08/11/2011

HABITUAL

After several years without a men’s line, Los Angeles-based Habitual will relaunch men’s denim for spring, showing at ENK Vegas. The collection emphasizes clean, modern looks in black, gray, dark indigo and medium indigo shades.

“It’s a very tailored and sophisticated look with a European aesthetic,” said Jennifer Wojinski, design director for both men’s and women’s at Habitual. “It’s more of a city look than the vintage look a lot of other brands are going for these days.”

Retail prices will range from $175 to $195 for basic washes to $225 for jeans with slight abrasion and $325 for a selvage style. Jean jackets are $275, with a jazzed-up version with leather sleeves at $575. All the product is made in Habitual’s own factory in Los Angeles from European-sourced fabrics, including some stretch blends.

The men’s jeans come in a skinny fit, slim straight, regular straight and relaxed boot. Black-and-white details adorn the collection, such as a white bar tack on the rear center belt loop and a black leather back patch with white stitching on the sides. Habitual has just started showing the men’s line to retailers and it has so far been picked up by American Rag and LASC.

Habitual was originally founded by Michael and Nicole Colovos but went bankrupt in 2008. Current owners Bobby and Teal Ahn acquired the brand from Pacific Marketing Works and brought on Wojinski as the new design director this past January.

DUCK HEAD

Ask any self-respecting Southerner to name their favorite khaki slacks and the name Duck Head is sure to be mentioned. The brand traces its history back to 1865 when two Nashville brothers, George and Joe O’Bryan, turned duck, heavy canvas surplus used for Army tents, into sturdy work pants and overalls. The company’s pants with their mallard duck logo became a wardrobe staple and the company changed hands several times over the years until being sold to Goody’s, a Southern retailer, in 2003. Goody’s itself fell on hard times and went out of business in 2009. The Duck Head name was auctioned off and purchased by a group headed by Virginia investor Ross Sternheimer. He brought on board Bill Reese, who worked for the brand for 22 years, to serve as president of Duck Head Apparel Co., and moved the headquarters back to Nashville.

For spring, Duck Head will return to the market, offering an updated lifestyle collection that is rooted in khaki pants and shorts, augmented by polos, woven shirts, tees, caps, accessories and footwear. The line will be shown at MAGIC.

“We started from scratch,” said Scott McFadden, executive vice president of Duck Head. “It needed to be updated. Goody’s was putting a duck on anything and everything, and we wanted to make a quality product.”

The initial focus will be on basics, with pleated or flat-front pants in multiple colors for $49 retail. Shorts average $43 and will be offered in seersucker, plaids and other updated patterns. Polos are $38 to $45 and T-shirts are $20 to $22.

McFadden said Duck Head is expecting its first push to Southern retailers and is targeting stores such as Belk, J.C. Penney and Stage Stores, which purchased the Goody’s name.

AIREDALE

Named for the breed of dog — the largest in the terrier family — Airedale is a new brand launching for spring at the Project show. The company was founded by Los Angeles-based custom tailor Waraire Boswell, who is known for outfitting a slew of top NBA players. One such player, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a silent financial backer of Boswell’s new collection of preppy-tinged, casual sportswear.

Boswell has tapped two industry veterans who now run their own consulting firm, Eric Sorensen and Todd Katz, to head up the merchandising and planning of Airedale, which is based in New York. Sorensen spent a good portion of his career at Mossimo, both before and after it was licensed to Target, while Katz is an alumnus of The North Face and the New Balance apparel line.

Airedale emphasizes classic styles in high-quality fabrics, with precise details like bias-taped finishing on pants and French seams on shirts. Standout items in the first spring collection include a double-layer, gauze-weight Japanese cotton shirt in a vivid plaid; chinos in a crisp, non-sanded cotton with a straight leg; a waxed cotton cagoul jacket, and a half-zip, seersucker pullover with terry cloth lining — perfect for après-swim.

Retail prices are $160 to $200 for shirts, $110 to $140 for shorts, $150 to $200 for pants, $150 to $180 for cotton-cashmere sweaters and $200 to $300 for jackets. Swimwear comes in four styles in various color options and ranges from $140 to $175.

As Boswell himself is 6 feet, 7 inches tall — and that unnamed NBA star is a backer of the line — Airedale offers everything in two fits: a regular fit and a “royal” one, which is cut for taller customers but keeps the lean silhouette.

“In the marketplace now, it’s difficult to find fashionable product for tall guys as the trend has been to cut small for these types of brands. Our royal fit is meant for that tall, athletic guy who still wants to look fashionable,” said Katz.

MR. KIM

New York-based milliner Eugenia Kim will relaunch her men’s collection for spring at the Workroom show (an offshoot of Project) under the Mr. Kim brand. For the revamped line, she’s tapped new creative director Gordon Hull, co-founder of the hip design collective Surface to Air. The line was formerly sold under the Eugenia Kim name, but Kim decided to create a separate, more masculine identity for the men’s collection — including a new e-commerce site at Mrkimnewyork.com that will launch in January.

For spring, the collection encompasses fedoras in hemp or straw with contrast silk ribbon details, newsboys in eye-catching ikat patterns, driving caps in waxed linen or brushed cotton, and basic baseball styles with faded “Cuba” logos. The collection was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” noted Kim.

“Gordon has a huge personal collection of hats and he has a really interesting point of view as he’s such a hat guy,” said Kim of her new partnership with Hull.

Wholesale prices range from $35 for the baseball caps to $105 for a fedora with twisted jute cord details and embellished with feathers and charms. Kim lowered prices by about 30 percent from her previous men’s collection under the Eugenia Kim name.

Kim is an accomplished milliner, first launching her label in 1998 out of her East Village apartment and growing it to stores like Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Net-a-Porter and Saks Fifth Avenue, in addition to more than 200 specialty boutiques worldwide. She won the CFDA Perry Ellis award for accessories design in 2004 and her hats have been used on runway shows for Ralph Lauren, Catherine Malandrino, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan and Michael Kors. Kim has also collaborated with Coach, Opening Ceremony, Urban Outfitters and Target on hat lines.

ARNIE

Tiger Woods isn’t the only legendary golfer on the comeback trail. Thanks to a newly inked license with Quagmire Golf, Arnold Palmer will also be making a return for spring — on store shelves at least.

A new apparel collection, which will be marketed under the Arnie name, will make its debut at the PGA Expo. It will have a vintage feel and is inspired by what Palmer wore in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. In fact, according to Quagmire co-founder Geoff Tait, the design team literally took a pair of Sixties-era pants from Palmer’s closet and re-created them. The only difference is that the fabrics are contemporary and offer performance attributes that didn’t exist then.

Tait said Palmer was quite involved in the design of the collection, which had been absent from the American market for more than a year after the former license was dissolved. Quagmire even added a cotton/polyester blend sweater and a polo with a semihard collar after specific requests from the legendary golfer.

“We showed the designs to Mr. Palmer and his camp and they were pleased,” he said. “His daughter was with us step-by-step to make sure the collection met the integrity of her father.”

The first delivery will be Fifties-inspired, with short plackets, small collars and shorter sleeves; pants will be fitted. The Sixties-era collection will have wider legs and collars, while the Seventies collection will have a more modern sensibility.

Polos will range from $59 to $79, bottoms will retail for $79 to $89 and sweaters will be $99 to $109, Tait said. All the products will feature Palmer’s signature umbrella logo with the Arnie name. The collection will initially be targeted to better green grass retailers and high-end golf shops, but Tait said the plan is to “build the brand,” and eventually it may be offered to large golf-specific retailers as well.

DEFIANCE USA

Christopher Wicks is a rock ’n’ roll guy. The founder of Defiance USA has created a business combining his passion for music with his apparel industry prowess. The London-born entrepreneur, who considers himself a child of the Sixties, started out as a designer of men’s formal shirts at the age of 22. Over the years, he steered more toward sportswear and eventually launched English Laundry, whose motto is “The Crossroads of fashion, rock and all things English.”

He has acquired the license for both Fender and Jimi Hendrix apparel as well as Designs Inspired by the Art of John Lennon, a collection derived from the artwork and personal style of the former Beatle.

“A day without music is a day without inspiration,” Wicks said. “My obsessions with music and fashion go hand in hand, and a clothing line exemplifying the aura and artwork of the brilliant John Lennon is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Both as a life-long fan and a designer, I have great respect for his music, art, style and his message.”

Defiance also has the rights for English Heroes, featuring lyrics from Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Lena Hermansson, design director of Defiance USA, said the John Lennon line for spring will skew heavily toward printed T-shirts with about 20 percent of the mix devoted to classic woven shirts. “Everything is based on his art,” she said. “And it was all looked at and approved by Yoko [Ono]. It’s very much a tribute to John.”

The spring offerings will feature reverse and all-over prints, classic pinstripes and collar-less shirts. The T-shirts retail in the $40 range while the wovens range from $89 to $112.

The Lennon/McCartney collection is also primarily statement T-shirts, such as “All You Need Is Love.” Hermansson said: “That’s really all you need to say.”

The Defiance booth at MAGIC will also offer a new brand called Vintage Concert Ts and the relaunch of the DaVinci lifestyle brand.

 

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