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Clothing Makers Get Modern

Younger shoppers are expected to spur sales this year, and tailored manufacturers are offering updated options to lure this customer.

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

Tailored clothing and outerwear promise fresh looks for fall as companies heading to MAGIC target younger customers who want contemporary styling and flattering, slim silhouettes.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


With the economy tanking and retailers hurting, tailored clothing makers are going after looks that will update a man’s dressy wardrobe, not give him more of the same. And, as Jim Petrino, brand manager for DKNY at Peerless Clothing, put it, “Business is being driven now by [the 25-to-35] age group. They have a sense of style. They grew up in a generation that paid attention to trends.”

Petrino said business is good and bookings are “excellent” for fall. “But we’re concerned about what will happen at the retail level,” he added.

Paul Diamond, president of Jack Victor USA, agreed. “It’s not going to be easy. Everybody is making cuts and doing what they have to do.”

At Schott NYC, which is placing its money on updated classics in outerwear for fall, Jason Schott, chief marketing officer and vice president of finance, said, “We have a very low expectation for this MAGIC. If the buyers come, they’re coming to foster relationships. Buyers will buy very, very tight [this year].” However, as a domestic manufacturer with a factory in New Jersey, Schott expects his company to have an advantage in-season, when retailers need to reorder outerwear.

As for the consumer, Schott added: “People will evaluate whether they need a new jacket or whether they’ll stay with their old one.”

Youthful looks are the direction at Ibiza this year, too, according to Larry Drew, vice president of sales, in both the Ibiza and licensed Sal Cesarani brands. “Years ago, the men’s clothing business was about replacement clothing. Those days are gone.” he said. “Today, a man wants something new and different to update his wardrobe. It’s about fabrics and new modeling.” Because of updated offerings, Ibiza hopes to increase business by 20 to 30 percent this year.

Drew said Ibiza is offering lighter-weight wools, Tencel-worsted wool blends and some stretch. “But it’s all about fit,” he stressed, “to accommodate the new suit wearer.” The slimmer jacket includes narrower lapels with more topstitching, side vents and beautiful linings. “It has to have hanger appeal,” Drew said. Ibiza also has added iPod pockets, as well as passport pockets with a security flap, to suit jackets.

Ibiza is making changes in sport coats, too, as mainstay fabrics, such as lamb’s wool and cashmere, have become a smaller percentage of both its Ibiza and Sal Cesarani businesses.

A major influence for DKNY sport jackets this fall is the military look with contemporary styling, according to Petrino. Made in a tailored construction, the jackets are available in cotton, cotton-polyester and all wool, and include epaulets, zip-front closures and zip pockets. Buyers also will find lightweight tweed sport coats with a vintage feel in slim silhouettes with narrow lapels.

DKNY suits are dark and dressy for fall and have a modern fit that’s slim but not overly slim, Petrino said. Black suits include subtle stripe and tonal stripe effects. Jackets are two button and side vented with narrower sleeves and higher armholes, and the trousers are flat fronts and have a shorter rise.

“The 25-to-35 age group has a different expectation of fit in a garment today,” Petrino explained. “They want the trimmer fit and a pant to fit like a pair of jeans.”

Jack Victor’s Prossimo brand is going forward with a little shorter jacket, more narrow lapels in the 2 3/4- to 3-inch range, and slim silhouette, said Paul Diamond, president. “It’s very hip looking for the young guy who wants a more fashion look.”

Both the Jack Victor and Prossimo brands, which use Italian piece goods, offer a soft lapel this year (canvas and not fused), as well as soft construction sport coats. In Jack Victor, which also offers tailored sport jackets, the coats can be worn with jeans and corduroy pants, as well as dressier flannel slacks. Prossimo sport coats are in different fabrics for fall, including microfiber and velvets.

Schott NYC’s Schott said consumers are getting back to comfort outerwear. “If there’s one absolute trend, it’s less flashy. People don’t want to be showy. And, if people are going to spend money on a jacket…in times like these, they want one that lasts.” For example, Schott’s vintage bomber jackets will have a plush lining and lots of inside pocket details for fall.

At MAGIC, Schott also will show a collection by Joe Faris, one of Schott’s designers. It’s his first since he was on Project Runway last year.

The big news for fall at Weatherproof is technical-inspired outerwear with features including stain and water resistance, as well as sun protection, according to Freddie Stollmack, president. Fall styling is slimmer and includes models in the three-quarter-length range. Coats and jackets include removable hoods and pockets for iPods and mobile phones. The top color is still black, Stollmack said.

Like Ibiza and DKNY, Weatherproof is targeting younger consumers in the 35-to-50 age range. That’s a change from Weatherproof’s former demographic of 50 to 70. “Obviously, the reason is we’re finding that more and more consumers in the age group of 35 to 50 are buying more of our products,” Stollmack explained.

Fall results encouraged Weatherproof to build a stronger fall collection. “We believe that, while the [outerwear market] pie isn’t getting bigger, our share of it is because of our price-to-value ratio,” Stollmack said. He added that Weatherproof’s new 32 Degrees ski division has gotten off to a strong start.

“We’re looking for a good year, given the economy we’re going to face.”