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Attention to Detail

Extra touches give men’s sportswear added value for fall.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 02/03/2009

Men’s sportswear designers are going big for fall, with bold textures and jacquards, added detail and embroidery and luxe accents such as suede and leather.


Coming out of lackluster fall and holiday seasons, sportswear designers expect retailers to be cautious about their purchases for fall 2009. Many recognize that their core customers will continue to buy their products if they are well made and look different from what’s already in their closet. However, consumers want to spend the same or less for updated looks, so designers are concentrating on offering more bang for the buck.

“The market right now is so price-driven that many vendors are designing their lines around the price,” said Reunion’s Michael Black. “But the problem is that every store in every mall is carrying the same thing. Stores have to excite the customer in order to make the sale.”

Reunion’s take on sportswear for fall includes details “with an artisan’s touch,” Black said, noting that this season’s striped button-front shirts with overdyed prints and slub yarn wovens — which wholesale for $15 to $17.50 — include handcrafted details and additional artwork.

The line also is emphasizing better-quality fabrics and finishing. “The products have a handcrafted look that runs through the entire collection,” Black said.

Other brands, such as the Michael Brandon Collection, a contemporary sportswear line in its third season, also are focusing on the details. The line, which distinguishes itself from the more established Michael Brandon brand by its gray label, is featuring button-front shirts in fabrics that combine jacquard and ombré stripes, dobby pin dots on jacquards and embellishments like embroidery for fall. The line also is paying close attention to jackets ($75 to $125), launching an innovative collar shape, the Carnaby, as well as shorter-length jackets.

“We have to offer something that will make a customer say, ‘That’s what I need’ or ‘That’s what I want to buy,’” said Dat Tran, Michael Brandon’s design director.

For fall, the line also will be updating wardrobe staples such as sweaters. This season Michael Brandon is putting a spotlight on the cardigan, with several different styles on tap, including a mock-neck full button-front and zip-up versions, which wholesale for $32.50 to $48.50.

The brand also is featuring woven vests and sweater vests for fall, in pullover and button-front versions. They wholesale for $24.50.

Sweaters also play an important role in the fall collections of various brands owned by Lord Daniel Sportswear, which include Cotton Traders and Woodland Trail. “We had a pretty decent sweater year and I attribute that to a lot of variety in our sweater line,” said company president Ron Loschiavo. “Now it’s a part of the line that is growing, in the number of styles and silhouettes.”

The Lord Daniel brands’ fall sweaters will have an eye toward European styling, with wool-blend crewnecks, V-necks and full-front cardigans.

Sticking with a strategy that has worked for it in recent seasons, Alex Cannon is featuring a number of new and novelty items in its fall collection, according to Eric Anderson, the brand’s vice president of marketing.

“Both at the specialty and department store level the consumer is looking for newness and novelty items,” Anderson said. “We always put great emphasis on this every season so we don’t lose the customer’s interest.”

Some highlights of the fall collection, which wholesales for $38 to $53, include Donegal button-neck wool sweaters, novelty intarsia argyle sweaters, quarter-zip cotton cable sweaters with suede accents, dobby weave wovens, layering vests and suede-accented wool pants.

Similarly, Burma Bibas will feature novelty in the form of brocade and panel detailing in its woven shirts, wholesaling for $32.50 to $35, and cashmere-silk sweaters in updated silhouettes, $39.50 to $42.50.

“We have made our fall 2009 collection more focused and concise, taking the design components that have proven to retail well for our accounts,” said George Camacho, vice president of sales at Burma Bibas Inc. “Being cognizant of our present economic environment, we feel the need to offer our best products at the best possible price. We can’t control the wave, all we can do is ride it.”

Tori Richard is broadening its collection of embellished shirts for fall, adding embroidered detailing and expanding the use of cotton lawn, its proprietary fabric. The result is a “name brand and fabric that shoppers know and trust,” in different styles and textures for fall, explained the company’s president, Josh Feldman.

“In this environment, you have to make sure that you maintain the items that do sell, while offering newness and new reasons for the consumer to buy the product,” he said.

Tori Richard also has overhauled its stock bottoms program for fall, revamping the styling of its pants and introducing a slimmer silhouette, while staying true to the brand’s mature core customer. Bottoms wholesale for $41 to $50, and shirts are $34 to $56.

Undeterred by the economy, Ryan Michael, a brand based around the Western snap shirt, is unveiling a denim line for fall, as well as sophisticated dress shirts and new styles of the brand’s classic shirt, made of cotton, silk and linen blends, which wholesale for $55 to $75.

“We believe our customer values the uniqueness of Ryan Michael and our attention to detail,” said Tucker Neighbors, chief of operations.

But although this month’s MAGIC show is a chance for designers to introduce their fall lines to buyers, some brands, such as Siegfried & Co., are planning to show their spring 2009 collections as well. The line, known for its short-sleeved striped piqué shirts, has always sold brightly colored piqués, which wholesale for $10 to $16, year round.

“We are selling short-sleeved shirts 12 months a year, all across the country,” said Sam Mahan, Siegfried’s sales manager. “Our European and South American customers will be coming to MAGIC to book fall 2009,

but all our domestic customers are coming for deliveries for March through the end of July.”