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Accessories Key for London Men’s Brands

Sales are booming, and brands are focusing on the category more than ever.

LONDON — Accessories frenzy is sweeping London, with designers and tailors of all stripes launching new collections, raising footwear to ever more luxurious heights and designing their apparel with a variety of rich embellishments — be they in leather, gold or textured matte fabrics.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Names ranging from A. Sauvage and Gieves & Hawkes to Burberry are all seeing demand for accessories soar, while Solange Azagury-Partridge has chosen the upcoming edition of London Collections: Men, which runs from June 15 to 17, to unveil her first men’s jewelry collection with a presentation and short film featuring Mark Ruffalo.

Accessories are growing as the British men’s wear market continues to flourish. According to Mintel, the market has grown by 12 percent in the past five years, and is worth 10.4 billion pounds, or $17.4 billion at current exchange. Mintel projects the market will grow 11 percent by 2017.

To capitalize on the momentum, Nicholas Kirkwood will be staging an on-schedule presentation for the first time during the week, while Harvey Nichols’ one-off collaboration with the DJ and art collective Been Trill will showcase shoes by Mr. Hare and eyewear by Linda Farrow, in addition to apparel.

“Accessories is a new category for men — and no longer an afterthought. Men are paying more attention to the detail of an outfit, and accessories bring a lot of personality — and versatility,” said Jason Basmajian, creative director of Gieves & Hawkes. “There is an e-commerce element to accessories, too, because they are a quick purchase.”

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Over the past year, Basmajian has ramped up the Savile Row brand’s offer of leather goods, cuff links, shoes and eyewear, all of which are designed and manufactured in-house.

In April, Burberry said accessories was its fastest growing category in the second half of the year ended March 31. Men’s accessories grew at a rate of 20 percent — twice that of women’s — during the six-month period. Briefcases and digital accessories such as iPod cases were among the hottest items, and Burberry described the men’s category overall as a “huge” growth opportunity.

Those brands are not alone in watching the category boom.

“You cannot deny the power of accessories; they are a large part of our business,” said John Ray, creative director at Dunhill, whose spring collection features suede driving shoes with soft soles, and an updated take on an old British Army kit bag, with a leather cross detail.

Anda Rowland, vice chairman of Anderson & Sheppard, which offers bespoke tailoring and ready-to-wear, said that one of the big trends she’s seeing is the return of the pocket square, “often worn without a tie.” She said matte pocket squares with texture are the most popular.

Azagury-Partridge, meanwhile, said her men’s collection, “Alpha,” has been in the works for a while. “People have asked me for ages to do men’s,” said the designer, adding the collection was inspired by “every different type of man” — including the alpha and the stud — and that it will be “ever-evolving.”

It features mainly gold that has been treated in a particular way, said Azagury-Partridge, and includes bracelets, pendants, cuff links, and a version of the designer’s Written ring, which can be customized with names or messages.

A. Sauvage, a London name that is rapidly becoming a red-carpet favorite, has turned its attention to footwear. Designed by Adrien Sauvage, the label is introducing sneakers made from materials such as cotton sateen, fish skin and woven silk, and is also adding to its eyewear collection.

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Richard Nicoll has collaborated with Bill Amberg on a capsule collection “of utilitarian bags that suit my DNA,” said the designer, adding that among his bestsellers by far is a baseball cap of his own design, done in leather or gabardine. In the fall, Nicoll said he will be launching an e-tail concept that will not only offer his collections, but encompass gifting and flash sales as well.

The accessories boom is part of an even bigger trend in London for more casual and versatile — but still tailored — dressing that also puts a focus on knitwear and tailored separates with an athletic twist. Labels up and down the London calendar, from the East End to Savile Row, say men are opting for shorter, more-fitted knitwear to wear under jackets and to pair with higher-waisted trousers.

“A lot of guys are wearing jackets with knits — wool or cashmere polos. The jackets have a softer shoulder — and it looks good,” said Thom Whiddett, cofounder of the Mayfair tailor Thom Sweeney. Both Anderson & Sheppard and Thom Sweeney said they are seeing some men lose their summer jackets altogether, replacing them with short, lightweight car coats.

Tailored separates are getting softer and more comfortable, say designers. Charlie Casely-Hayford said sportswear is a huge seller, as well as a big influence on more formalwear. “Men want to feel comfortable,” he said, adding that the brand’s formal suit with a drawstring trouser is among the bestsellers, as is a formal coat with Neoprene details.

Agi & Sam, the label designed by Agi Mdumulla and Sam Cotton that won the Emerging Men’s Wear Designer award at the 2013 British Fashion Awards, is adding a similar athletic dash to its tailored clothing. “We’re trying to make tailored and formal clothing more relevant to our generation, to minimize certain things and it make it more functional,” said Cotton. “It can be something as simple as using stretch in the wool for someone who rides his bike to and from work, or replacing the ticket pocket with one for a phone.”