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Men’s Wear Firms Seek Classic Fabrics

So what’s the sizzling swatch of the Spring-summer 2010 season?

Shirt Tales, Milano Unica

So what’s the sizzling swatch of the spring-summer 2010 season? Buyers are shopping for texture, luxurious hues and linen, keeping Italy’s finest flax-man, Vittorio Solbiati, in business. The color of the moment, blue, is a sign that the current economic mantra of keeping classic is true to form, even when it comes to fine fabric.

This story first appeared in the January 29, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.



BOGOSSE
Patrick Tardieu, president and chief executive officer Fabrice Tardieu, creative director

SHOWS: “We attend Première Vision because it is well-organized and has most of our vendors under one roof. We also go to Texworld to see a few good print companies from Turkey,” said Fabrice Tardieu.

SOURCING: Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Brazil

TRAVEL:
The duo is not cutting back on anything that will sacrifice the quality of their shirts, including travel.

SPECS:
“We are looking for new jacquards, rich poplins in all different colors and prints, along with rich, new fabrics that feel like second skin,” said Fabrice.

ECONOMY:
Patrick and Fabrice are loading shirts with elegant details to give consumers more bang for their buck, hoping that instead of buying several shirts, consumers will purchase two or three special ones. “At the end of the day we say to ourselves, ‘The economy is bad, but guys are looking for new jobs. Guess what is the first thing they buy for interviews? It’s a shirt,’” said Fabrice.

CHARLES TYRWHITT
Nicholas Reed, head of buying

SHOWS: The Charles Tyrwhitt team divides and conquers, with half attending Milano Unica, and the balance shopping Première Vision.

SOURCING: Italy, India, China and Peru.

TRAVEL:
“We are smarter on booking travel earlier. We would also love suppliers to visit us at the moment. We’re making fewer trips across all areas, yet I somehow feel we are adding to the recession in this way.”

SPECS:
“I’m keen on knowing how fabric and garments are made from fiber to button. We want to tell a story through our clothes,” said Reed. Focused on casual luxury, the team is fixated on finding soft, lighter weights in semi plain, textures, double-warped effects and prints. Fabrics fitting for extremes in weather are also important.

ECONOMY:
“Innovation will see us through on this recession. Give the customer a reason to buy.”

MICHAEL BASTIAN
Michael Bastian, creative director

SHOWS:
“Milano Unica, it’s the only one I go to.”

SOURCING:
Ninety percent of Bastian’s fabrics are from Italy, with the remainder sourced from England, Japan, Greece and Portugal

TRAVEL: “I really maximize my time at one show, and it is the only one I do. You can’t cut back much more than that.”

SPECS:
“I am specifically looking for interesting blends of cotton-linen and cotton-silk that make classic patterns and stripes feel fresh again,” said Bastian. “I am also looking for fabrics that feel handwoven and a little more textural, with slubs and variations. I particularly like it when these are contrasted with a more technical fabric, like a compact nylon.”

ECONOMY:
Bastian has stepped up research to find better prices on pure basics including blue/white stripes and oxfords.

ORLANDO CARRERAS
Orlando Carreras, president and creative director

SHOWS: Carreras attends every show in New York, with the most time logged at Première Vision Preview and Kingpins. “I may be projecting this, but I am feeling that mills are anticipating fewer American buyers traveling,” said Carreras. “Because of that, I am hoping they will have more new selections shown in New York.”

SOURCING:
Portugal, Spain, Italy, China and Korea

TRAVEL:
All non-essential travel has been cut, with the exception of a possible trip to Première Vision. “If I can get someone to come to me, I do that,” he said.

SPECS:
“Fabrics are always an important part of my collections and as such, need to be innovative. If we are to collectively get the consumer to open his or her wallet with enthusiasm, it will be for something that is truly special, now more than ever.”

ECONOMY:
“This is a time keep expenses as tight as possible without sacrificing design integrity. I completely appreciate the value of face-to-face conversation, but it is a somewhat invisible cost to the consumer,” said Carreras. “This is not a good time to be passing that on when everyone from top to bottom is cost conscious. Right now it seems as though the only thing we can control is our…account expenses.”

PHILLIPS-VAN HEUSEN
Ellen Constantinides, president and chief operating officer, dress shirt group

SHOWS:
“Première Vision and Milano Unica are the most informative and trend-forward shows.”

SOURCING: PVH sources globally.

TRAVEL: “We are cutting back on the number of people traveling, but not on our historical itinerary,” Constantinides said.

SPECS:
“In dress shirts, fabric is 75 percent of the marketing agenda,” she said. “The colors, styles and construction become the individual signature of the brand.”

ECONOMY: “We need to be responsive to the realities of today’s economy,” Constantinides said. Her team goes to shows with an open agenda, seeking what is new and exciting.


RAG & BONE

Marcus Wainwright, head designer Jennie McCormick, product development manager Lauren Bucquet, men’s wear associate designer

SHOWS: The team will only attend Première Vision Preview this season because the Paris installation of PV and label’s fall 2009 show coincide.

SOURCING:
Rag & Bone supports buying globally, with many fabrics coming from Japan, Italy and Korea.

TRAVEL:
The buying team prefers to stay local, rather than traveling to see fabrics.

SPECS:
There will be the usual mix of traditional tailoring and workwear, with hints of modern and technical elements. Interesting takes on classic shirtings are also a focus with heavier weights that have body and are durable, yet still wearable and relaxed.

ECONOMY:
Purchasing decisions are being scrutinized when it comes to fabrics and trim.

UNITED BAMBOO
Thuy Pham, designer

SHOWS: Première Vision

SOURCING:
Italy, Japan and Europe.

TRAVEL: “This year Première Vision is scheduled right before New York Fashion Week, so unfortunately we will not attend,” said Pham. “Although it costs more to travel to a show like Première Vision, I still go because it saves time to choose all your fabrics at once rather than to make separate showroom appointments.”

SPECS: “For men’s shirtings, we usually stick to the classics including white, stripes and plaids. Sometimes we throw in an odd color if it works with the rest of the collection. For spring/summer we may use some brights or pastels.”

ECONOMY: Pham will likely cut back on luxury and novelty textiles, concentrating more on classic, versatile fabrics.

ZACHARY PRELL
Zachary Prell, founder and designer

SHOWS:
“I have been to Première Vision. It was a very overwhelming experience,” said Prell, who prefers instead to visit mill sales agents in New York City. “It’s less hectic and you are seeing the same collection, just in a different venue.”

SOURCING: “Italy has beautiful fabrics. I’m a big fan of Japan. China is competitive in some fabrics they produce,” he said. As far as specific mills, he’s sweet on Cotonificio Albini, Shikibo and Luthai.

TRAVEL: International travel for the label is being scaled back. “I’m an entrepreneur and trying to be cost conscious.”
SPECS: “Consumers are looking for a better-made button down shirt,” said Prell. So for spring, he’s focusing on slim, athletic cuts in rich and luxurious hues. “I know we’ll have blue. Stripes have always been core for us,” said the Wall Street veteran-turned-designer. “We’re increasing texture and including jacquard, satin stripes and unique patterns that can be worn to the office or for after-hours.”

ECONOMY: To conserve cash, Prell is cutting back on the number of samples he orders. “We’re trying to be smart with the dollars,” he said.