Buyers Laud Creativity in Paris Men’s Shows

Hedi Slimane’s debut at Saint Laurent seen as the breakout star of the fall season.

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Men'sWeek issue 01/24/2013

PARIS — Headlined by Hedi Slimane’s controversial, grunge-fueled return to the fashion stage at Saint Laurent, men’s fashion week in Paris sizzled, retailers told WWD.

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“My overall impression of the Paris collections is that there is a tremendous amount of creativity and individuality, giving us lots of options for our customers,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of designer merchandising at Nordstrom Inc.

Echoing many other buyers, Kalinsky lauded the skinny, androgynous rocker look Slimane proposed: “Everything he does is influential.”

Retailers cited an upbeat mood in the French capital, with many planning to increase budgets by double digits thanks to youthful and newsy collections.

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“We are all unanimous in our feeling that there is something going on here and we want to invest in it,” said Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “This is clearly a very directional city and I think the market and men are ready; especially men in the United States. I think he’s going to be catching up with what’s been going on in Paris for a while.”

Statement outerwear of all varieties, skinny and wide-leg trousers, and printed and intarsia sweaters were among the strongest items, with quilting and contrasting fabrics among other interesting details.

Collections by Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Valentino and Dries Van Noten received wide praise.

Paula Reed, group fashion director of Harvey Nichols, said her budget is up by about 20 percent for men’s wear in Paris, on the back of 50 percent growth in the men’s sector over the past two years. “It’s not just London — our regional stores have evolved a strong regional clientele,” she noted.

Here’s more of what buyers had to say:

Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Barneys New York:
Sound off: “Paris was teeming with energy; the collections have their finger on the pulse of what young guys want. The most electric presentations were Saint Laurent Paris, Givenchy and Balmain; these three collections are razor sharp in their approach to getting sexy, young guys into these clothes.”
Trendspotting: “The key trends are geared for the urban dandy. The key elements are black leather, biker, skinny trousers and jeans, military coats — both oversize and slim. Among all this tough stuff, there is always an element of chic tailored clothing; always a sharp black or gray flannel suit, interpreted in a very young silhouette.”
On Saint Laurent: “The long-awaited return of Hedi Slimane has exceeded our expectations. He gave us a strong collection that is right for the times; a mood of authenticity blended with the urban sensibility that excites our clients.”

Tancrède de Lalun, merchandise manager for men’s and women’s wear, Printemps:
Sound off: “Our budgets are up as men’s wear continues to perform well for us. We are about to make additional renovations to our first floor to bring in some contemporary brands. However, we remain cautious in light of the difficult economic context.”
Trendspotting: “There was a dandified attitude in general. The silhouettes suggest a man is paying attention to his appearance, but there was a sense of comfort, too, with lowered shoulders on outerwear and oversize sweaters and shirts, though jackets remained quite narrow. The items we expect to do well are essentials like basic peacoats or duffle coats.”
On Saint Laurent: “He sent a very strong message that stood out from the rest, with a definite energy. Slimane sent out the type of skinny rock silhouettes we haven’t seen on the catwalks for several seasons. It was an assertive, edgy and energetic show.”

Gabrielle Gomez, designer men’s wear buyer at Le Bon Marché:
Sound off: “Paris is the capital of fashion, and the snow did not facilitate what is already a tight schedule. The Tranoï, Capsule and Man trade shows remain essential, each in their own way.”
Trendspotting: “Double-breasted jackets and coats, as well as oversize coats; shawl-collared jackets and coats; pleated pants, slightly shorter than last season with a 7/8 length; varsity, bomber and biker jackets; burgundy, camel, bottle green, khaki, bright red and mustard; chalk stripes, plaid and Prince of Wales check; patterned and Fair Isle ski sweaters.”
Favorite shows: Kenzo, Dries Van Noten and Lanvin.
On Saint Laurent: “I think Hedi Slimane should be judged over several seasons, and that he needs time to play with the codes of the Saint Laurent house, while blending them with his own vocabulary.”

Anita Barr, director of men’s wear, Selfridges:
Sound off: “Whereas Milan was somber, Paris is a lot more creative and edgy.”
Trendspotting: “There were very strong influences from sportswear, more so than in previous seasons, which led to a lot of layering. Sporty items were matched with a great coat or jacket. We saw contrast in fabrics; the colors centered on a variety of grays, burgundy, forest green, blue and orange; and there was a lot of protection going on — like an armor.”
Favorite collections: Maison Martin Margiela, Givenchy, Lanvin, Saint Laurent.

Matthew Singer, men’s fashion director, Neiman Marcus Group:
Sound off: “Paris took you on a ride from the always sophisticated palette of Berluti to the modern man of Valentino. Along the way, you had hits of rock star grunge from Saint Laurent and Balmain. The mixing and matching of pattern and print from Dries Van Noten was extraordinary. I am loving the biker jacket this season, on its own or as a layering piece, it’s always rock star chic.”

Jason Broderick, general merchandise manager for men’s wear and fine watches, Harrods:
Sound off: “In men’s wear, Milan has been considered the place to be, but as a store, we feel that Paris has evolved and certainly given the market its fair share.”
Trendspotting: “Very skinny-fit trousers, some cropped just above the ankle, were key. Overall, coats have been a very big punch from all the brands.”
Favorite collections: Valentino, Berluti, Louis Vuitton.
On Saint Laurent: “The new energy and excitement will definitely have an effect on the commercial side; we are very excited to see the collection in store next season; it was very close to Hedi Slimane’s DNA but with a stronger focus on outerwear.”

Griffin Chan, men’s wear buyer, Harvey Nichols Hong Kong Ltd.:
Sound off: “Designers delivered commercial-oriented collections this season. Since the luxury and experimental fabrications, prices have gone sky high, but the fall 2013 budget will remain the same as the previous season.”
Trendspotting: “Parka hybrids, duffle and cabans: The shapes are cocoon with volume. The luxe sweat top is replacing the shirt. Wide-cut is one of the key pants shapes. Colorwise, cobalt blue, cornflower and pink. Seeing lots of fur and luxury fabrics on the runway.”
Favorite collections: Valentino, Givenchy, Juun J.

Paula Reed, group fashion director, Harvey Nichols:
Sound off: “In Paris the artisanship and quality of men’s tailoring is impressive; there is a real love affair with technique and fabric going on.”
Trendspotting: “There was sportswear coming through but with a real refinement and elements of quilting.”
Favorite collections: Maison Martin Margiela, Mihara Yasuhiro, Lanvin, Raf Simons, Valentino.
On Saint Laurent: “It will be influential without a doubt. [Hedi Slimane] produces commercially strong pieces. I loved the leather jacket, tailored coats and bomber jacket, though it was much more casual than expected; he has really taken Saint Laurent to the streets, which has ruffled feathers.”

Cindy Ho, fashion director, 360 Style, Kuwait:
Sound off: “Overall, the Paris collections are still very strong in design compared with other cities. This season, the gentleman is in Milan and the bad boys are in Paris.”
Trendspotting: “Short coat, long jacket is an important category for both office and sports use. [In] knitwear, you can see all colors and styles with plenty of choices. Layering knitwear with slim pants is an amazing look.”
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten, Kolor, Lanvin.

Georgy Rostovshchikov, head of men’s fashion, Podium, Russia:
Trendspotting: “We believe that the most saleable trends will be fur coats, sport-chic, exotic leather, embroidery.…Men want to wear rare, limited couture items together with casual stuff.”
Favorite collections: Rick Owens, Maison Martin Margiela, Boris Bidjan Saberi, Balmain, Kris Van Assche, Smalto.
New finds: Boas Kristjanson from Iceland; A New Cross from Colombia.

Toby Bateman, buying director, Mr Porter:
Sound off: “The mood was more upbeat than last year. People overcame the weather conditions to make it to the shows — that lifted the spirit; we were really busy, it was a good trip.”
Trendspotting: “The key trends were double-breasted and full-length coats; we saw a continuing mountaineering theme, parkas and quite a few Aran knits, fluffy mohair and printed sweaters. There was a military theme in outerwear with lots of green and real army-style bomber jackets; in terms of patterns: lots of check and tartan.”
Favorite collections: Valentino, Ann Demeulemeester.
On Saint Laurent: “I think it will be controversial; it’s already dividing opinions in terms of his re-branding and the styling. It was a great show; there is a demand for the aesthetic he has created. There is still that guy out there who wants that skinny jean and skin-fit leather jacket, and he is delivering it, whether one likes it or not.”

Mei Chung, men’s senior buyer, Brown’s:
Sound off: “We feel a very positive atmosphere, more so than in Milan; about 70 percent of the designers reviewed the price point to fit into the economy, 30 percent remained superexpensive. I do feel a sense of continuity: Designers are especially focused on the new generation of 30- to 40-year-olds with stable jobs, which has made high fashion become cool and edgy. There is also more sensibility among designers to produce one special piece that will attract the wealthy student who gets the money from mom and dad — they should continue with that.”
Trendspotting: “It’s back to tailoring, but more relaxed and with a twist for the guy who wants to be taken seriously but not be restricted to a tie. Also the biker references were very strong.”
Favorite collections: Dries van Noten, Saint Laurent.
On Saint Laurent: “Welcome back, Hedi! His style is confident and daring. It raises your blood pressure in a good way.”

Shoji Uchiyama, men’s buyer, United Arrows:
Sound off: “It was definitely more exciting than last season, mainly due to Hedi Slimane’s return.”
Trendspotting: “I saw a ‘New Classic,’ which is a term I use to describe an established brand that has transformed itself to be accepted by today’s generation. I was specifically scouting for it and found it at Lanvin and Saint Laurent. As for color, black is very strong now and in a new and powerful way.”
Favorite collection: Saint Laurent

Stephen Chan, men’s wear buyer, The Swank, Hong Kong and China:
Trendspotting: Ultralong silhouettes, oval shoulders, kimono styles. “Sports influence is the trend for our market: hooded blazers, jersey jackets, wool flannel ribbed-hem jogging pants, silk hoodies.”
Business insight: “Fall 2013 business has [seen] a slight drop year-on-year due to the worldwide pessimistic economic situation. Customers are becoming more careful on spending, they spend more time comparing. Our men customers are more likely to spend only on [the] unique and strongest item. [This] allows us to build wider variety on the real fashion pieces.”
Favorite collections: Kris Van Assche, Kenzo, Thom Browne.
On Saint Laurent: “More funky, slimmer, younger and stronger character to Saint Laurent collection. Our jeans will get slim again!”


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