Brands to discover at Project New York, Liberty, MRket and Capsule.
This story first appeared in the July 18, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Mixing their passions for action sports, street art and hip-hop music, Alberto Leoni and Andrea Torella launched men’s wear label Iuter in 2002, when they were in their early 20s.
Born as a collection of T-shirts printed with the label’s logo and worn by professional skaters and snowboarders, in the span of four years, Iuter became an established brand in the Italian streetwear segment.
“Compared to other international labels with Iuter’s same background, I think that the evolution from a start-up linked with the action-sports world to a real brand operating in the fashion business has been deeply influenced by the fact that we are based in Italy, where fashion has a huge importance,” said Leoni, creative director.
Iuter’s collections, which are entirely produced in Italy with high-quality fabrics, are targeted to customers from 18 to 25 seeking “an inquisitive approach to the world around them, from fashion to music,” Leoni said.
Counting Italy as the main market, with 200 points of sale, followed by Russia, where the label is sold in about 30 multibrand stores, Iuter is planning to open a flagship in Milan in the next few months.
The company, which in 2012 posted revenues of 1.5 million euros, or about $2 million at average exchange, also has an e-commerce site that, according to the company’s commercial director, Torella, is “performing very well in the U.S.”
At Capsule, Iuter will present the spring collection, named “On top of the food chain.”
“The name of the collection is inspired by a quote of Alantez Fox,” explained Leoni, noting that the brand, like the young American middleweight boxer, is eager to soar in its segment. Key looks include paisley motifs on T-shirts and sweatshirts that pay homage to hip-hop.
More concrete references to the food chain are also present, ranging from the camouflage pattern on the lining of a nylon blazer that is reminiscent of a hunter’s outfit to the digital prints of fruits, resembling still-life paintings, that enrich a white cotton T-shirt paired with matching nylon mesh pants.
T-shirts retail from 35 euros, or $46 at current exchange, to 100 euros, or $131, and sweatshirts from 74 euros, or $97, to 149 euros, or $196. Outerwear is priced at between 99 euros, or $130, and 260 euros, or $342.
At Capsule, the company will also present its Uppercut brand, positioned in the higher segment of the streetwear offer, and the first collection of the revamped label Vanguard, which was launched in 2004 by Uppercut creative director Giorgio Di Salvo.
— ALESSANDRA TURRA
MODEL: SANDER KINK AT ELITE; GROOMING BY ELENA PIVETTA AT GREEN APPLE
Ask men of “a certain age” if they recall the brand Sansabelt. Chances are the answer is yes.
That’s the reason men’s wear veteran Peter Schwadel jumped at the chance to acquire the license for the brand from Authentic Brands Group in February.
“It was still doing $1.5 million,” said Schwadel of the brand, whose name became synonymous with beltless trousers starting in the late Fifties. In its heyday, Sansabelt produced more than 500 million pairs of pants a year, he said.
“We commissioned a survey and found that 51.8 percent of men 50 to 70 had heard of the name and 33 percent expressed interest in buying it,” he said.
But while its label may be well known, it was in desperate need of updating. Under the auspices of the former Hartmarx Corp., whose predecessor, HMX Group, was sold to Authentic Brands at the end of last year, Schwadel said, the label had floundered. “It’s a great label, but they didn’t keep up with it,” he said. “They were using the same fabrics from 20 years ago.”
Since acquiring the license, Schwadel has worked to update the fabric and the fit. All the pants will offer polyester or poly/wool fabrics with stretch — a hallmark of the brand — but patterns will be modern and will range from Bengaline silk to sharkskin in a palette ranging from traditional navys and grays to mulberry and sage. The line will be produced in China, and Schwadel is projecting first-year sales revenue of around $5 million.
“We’ve also introduced a slim fit,” he said, noting that this model will feature a streamlined silhouette and Sansabelt’s signature two-and-a-half-inch webbed waistband that keeps the pants up. Other models will include the classic and a golf version. Shorts will also be available, along with big and tall sizes. “We go up to size 70,” he said. Retail prices will remain under $100 and the target distribution is men’s specialty stores.
“We’re trying to revive it and bring it back to what it was,” Schwadel said. But in addition to the over-50 consumer, he also hopes to attract a younger man. “We realize that that’s where the recognition is, but as time goes by, we’re also hoping to attract men in their 30s and 40s.”
Sansabelt had a small relaunch for fall, but the meat of the collection is being offered for spring and will be shown at the MRket show in New York this week.
— JEAN E. PALMIERI
Jeff Rose is a firm believer in the unique craftsmanship available from American manufacturing. And so when he conceived the idea for his label Mother Freedom, it never entered his mind not to produce the line exclusively in the U.S.
Rose, a third-generation apparel manufacturer whose pedigree includes Eagle Shirtmakers, Lacoste, Gant and his own Jeff Rose brand, created Mother Freedom last year, and the first thing he did was build a 12,000-square-foot factory in New Bedford, Mass., to produce his line of heritage-inspired men’s sportswear. “I researched where to put it and decided on New Bedford because it’s one of the only places in the Northeast that still has skilled artisans,” he said. Rose said his factory is located on the same street as the JA Apparel tailored clothing factory. New Bedford is renowned as a fishing village and the birthplace of American textile manufacturing.
Rose said he came up with the idea for Mother Freedom while he was on hiatus from the apparel industry. “It’s either feast or famine in this industry,” he said. “I was taking a break, bought a motorcycle, and my wife and I were at a rally in Lake George with 40,000 other people.” He soon tired of the crowd and continued on to Lake Placid, N.Y., where he climbed Whiteface Mountain and stared down at the lakes and villages. “I said I want to live here and make ski apparel. That was the start of Mother Freedom.”
He soon dropped the idea of manufacturing ski apparel, opting instead for more classic outerwear pieces. Rose, a self-proclaimed “gear head,” works to produce “pieces with purpose,” inspired by the New England landscape.
Offerings in the collection, which will be shown at Project, include a reversible barn jacket, field jacket, shooting jacket, reversible duffle coat, wool and cashmere zippered vest, waxed cotton Mackintosh and duster coats and cashmere fleece. A trucker vest in indigo knitted plaid, an Eisenhower-inspired jacket in canvas, linen, cotton or wool and a navy pique sport jacket are key pieces for spring.
The brand’s aesthetic, according to its brand sheet, is “sustainability, rugged individualism, nonchalant elegance and timeless style.” Rose describes them as “real American experiences that we’ve sewn into our product.”
As a result, prices are not low, with vests selling for $300 to $1,000, and a cashmere knit overshirt retailing for $2,500.
But to Rose, the craftsmanship justifies the price.
“They’re iconic American models that we’re updating with interesting, luxury textiles and unique detailing. We’re doing soft jackets that are as pretty on the inside as they are on the outside,” Rose said. “There are no raw edges.”
Distribution is upscale specialty stores such as Union Made, Beecroft & Bull and Freemans Sporting Club — retailers who are “interested in neoclassics,” Rose said. Made-to-measure shirts and raincoats are also available.
DENIM & LEATHERS BY ANDREW MARC
Denim & Leathers by Andrew Marc is ready to spread its wings.
The Andrew Marc brand, which built a reputation on leather outerwear, was purchased by G-III Apparel Group Ltd. in 2008. However, plans to create a meaningful lifestyle collection never materialized. In an attempt to change that, the company brought Stephen Budd on board as president this spring. One of the first moves made by the former BCBG and Elie Tahari veteran was to hire designer Richard Chai to oversee design for the core Andrew Marc collection. Budd also oversaw the revamping of the company’s Denim & Leathers line.
The collection of luxury denim and sportswear launched at Saks Fifth Avenue for fall and going forward, Andrew Marc hopes to expand its distribution to other department stores, as well as independent specialty retailers. It will be shown at Project.
Denim & Leathers continues to embrace its motorcycle roots with a line of high-quality leather jackets and workwear-inspired jeans. Both are offered in their raw form, washed and aged. The line creates unique finishes by employing rare tumble machines and oils and waxes to achieve vintage-inspired styles. “We are treating leather as if it were denim and experimenting with denim finishes as if it were leather,” the company said.
Jeans will be offered in slim straight and straight legs, according to sales manager Wesley Busroe, in raw selvage fabrics. Jackets continue to be motorcycle-inspired but will also include soft suedes.
For spring, the collection as a whole is being called the Nomad. It is inspired by the roving East African people, and is employing original safari art and textures in a palette of stone, sage and khaki with accents of twilight and cognac. The lightweight leathers and faded denims will also offer military and technical details for casual everyday wear. Price points range from $160 to $200 for jeans and $450 to $750 for leather jackets. An assortment of graphic Ts will also be offered and these will retail for $48, Busroe said, noting that they are all designed and handpainted by Denim & Leathers’ in-house design team and feature a “super soft” hand and allover placement prints.
There may be an Ammeen at the helm, but that’s the only parallel with the former Neema Clothing Co.
Jeffrey Ammeen, who had served as executive vice president of Neema and is the son of Neema’s president and chief executive officer, James Ammeen, stressed that before Neema wound down operations in 2012, he created Blue Lion Apparel LLC to handle the sales and merchandising for Neema’s former owned and licensed brands. Neema, which produced both branded and private-label men’s wear, sold certain inventory to the Samsung Group in late 2012, following the sale of its private-label assets to Haggar Clothing Co.
“I left and started a fresh new company,” Jeffrey Ammeen explained. “It has nothing to do with Neema.” Back-end support, however, is run by Samsung, which is reportedly also providing the financing for Blue Lion.
Since creating the company, Ammeen has cobbled together a collection of labels it will show at MRket. These include Kroon, Palm Beach, Lambretta, Paul Costelloe, Henry Grethel and Boston Traders.
According to Ammeen, Kroon was the pioneer of the tailored soft coat but it has built on that foundation by offering “sportswear with a tailored sensibility.” For spring, the label will offer vests, soft suits, woven shirts and chinos, in addition to soft coats, and it will also branch out for the first time into jeans and garment-dyed coats and pants.
“The collection remains true to what Kroon is, but has a younger feel,” Ammeen said. “It’s even lighter in weight, and is more colorful and bright. And it leans even more towards true sportswear.”
Price points will include soft coats for $295 to $495; suits for $425 to $695; garment-dyed jackets for $225; vests for $125 to $175; shirts for $125, and jeans and chinos for $95 to $165. Target distribution is better department and specialty stores.
Although Blue Lion only recently finalized the acquisition of the Palm Beach license, Ammeen had been negotiating for months, allowing Blue Lion to come to MRket with a line for spring that capitalizes on the brand’s venerable history as a seasonal suit resource. “It’s an American heritage brand that is over 100 years old,” he said.
For spring, offerings will include suits, suit separates, sport coats, vests and trousers in summer-weight cottons, seersuckers, linen and lightweight wool. Suits will retail for $295 to $595, sport coats from $195 to $395, vests for $85 to $125 and trousers from $75 to $125, and distribution is targeted to department and specialty stores.
Ammeen said the Blue Lion roster will also include “young, modern clothing” from Lambretta, a streetwear-inspired label designed in London that offers slim-fit suits along with modern dress shirts and narrow ties. It is targeted to the 18- to 35-year-old man who “is into clothing and wants to look cool,” Ammeen said. Prices range from $225 to $325 for suits and $35 to $50 for shirts.
Blue Lion is also acting as the distributor for Paul Costelloe, a venerable U.K.-based label that is offering “classic clothing with a modern sensibility,” he said. Trim suits will retail for $495 to $695, dress shirts for $125 to $145 and ties for $95.
The Miami-based brand Del Toro has come a long way since it whipped up its first pair of velvet slippers in 2005.
It has since expanded its assortment into wing tips, chukkas, sneakers, drivers and espadrilles, all of which are handmade on the Adriatic Coast from napa leathers, suedes and velvets. Del Toro, which offers a “fresh take on classic silhouettes,” has become popular with “grown-up sneaker heads,” according to president and creative director Matthew Chevallard. The shoes draw their inspiration from Chevallard’s Italian heritage — he was born in Torino, Italy — blended with a Palm Beach prep aesthetic and edgy New York and Japanese street style.
At Project, the company will be showing holiday and spring shoes in raffia, bandana-print leather and jersey. It will also unveil its new line of accessories, a collection that will include weekenders, backpacks, dopp kits, belts and other items. Like the footwear, the accessories will also be handmade in Italy from high-quality Italian leather and suede.
Prices for the shoes are $295 to $350, while the weekender and backpacks will retail for around $1,000.
The Mollusk Surf Shop opened in 2005 in San Francisco, near Ocean Beach. The store sells hand-shaped surfboards and hosts regular cultural events, including small concerts. After offering a smattering of T-shirts and boardshorts, Mollusk launched a full range of swim and sportswear this past spring, including wholesale.
“Japanese buyers used to come in and buy a big pile of clothes. We realized that we should get organized and start wholesaling,” said John McCambridge, founder of Mollusk.
The line’s ethos is low-key and classic with offerings like sweatshirts, walk shorts and Windbreakers. T-shirts and hoodies are decorated with quaint drawings of an octopus, a whale or a diver’s set of flippers.
There are plaid shirts made in India and yarn-dyed striped shirts made in Peru. Surf trunks come in horizontal stripes or solid colors with a small pennant logo.
This season Mollusk, which is showing at the Capsule show, added an elastic waist style to its swim lineup and a Baja style to its walking short range.
The palette encompasses bright colors that have been sun-faded. “We want the garments to look like you just took them on a long surfing trip to Mexico,” explained McCambridge, who was a graphic artist and commercial animator prior to founding Mollusk. “The fit is pretty tailored, nothing too baggy. And we try to avoid a lot of branding.”
Swimsuits retail for $60 to $66, T-shirts for $32 to $60, hoodies for $72, beach flannel shirts for $88, twill pants for $88, walking shorts for $72 and a Windbreaker for $143.
The line is currently wholesaled to about 60 accounts, including Steven Alan, Madewell and Urban Research in Japan.
“It’s more of a community center and hangout spot,” said McCambridge of his Ocean Beach store, which was joined by a second unit in Venice Beach, Calif., in 2007. “San Francisco is pretty unique surf scene. It’s not the typical burnouts. The surfers here usually have other stuff going on.”
Last year, McCambridge sold a majority share in Mollusk to Bedrock Manufacturing Co., the investment and brand management firm controlled by Tom Kartsotis, the founder and former chairman of Fossil Inc. McCambridge retained a sizeable minority share and retailer Steven Alan also holds a stake.
“We have a classic surf aesthetic but it’s also modern. We have our own take on things,” said McCambridge.
— DAVID LIPKE
Prps offers three distinct lines, demarcated by price, place of manufacture and philosophy. This season, the New York-based denim maker will underscore that segmentation by showing its higher-priced Noir line at Project and its core Goods & Co. range at Liberty. Its Japan line, which sits between the two, will be present at both shows.
“We want to separate them so that people understand the difference between them,” said Donwan Harrell, founder and creative director of Prps.
Goods & Co. offers both denim and a corresponding sportswear collection, designed mostly around different outdoor themes like fishing, camping and hiking each season. This season, the guiding leitmotif is “Ernest Hemingway in Africa.”
The line is manufactured in China and Europe and comprises about 70 percent of total Prps sales. Jeans in the Goods line retail for $175 to $400.
The Japan line — signified with a rising sun graphic on hangtags — offers jeans made in Japan from non-selvage denim, while the Noir line is made in Japan from selvage denim. The jeans are knife cut by hand, two at a time, rather than the multiple layers of denim fabric cut by jigsaw in most jean manufacturing.
Jeans in the Japan line are $400 to $600 and in Noir they are $600 and up. Each label accounts for about 15 percent of total Prps sales.
The Goods & Co. collection for spring includes directional prints, like a leaf print camouflage used on khakis and a stylized leopard print for outerwear. “There is a real prints phenomenon in men’s right now,” said Harrell.
In denim, Prps is using a laser finishing technique to give jeans a diagonal twill effect. “It’s an incredible effect. It’s a jean that looks like a wool twill,” said Harrell.
Two new jeans fits were added to the Goods & Co. assortments this season: the Gremlin, which is a skinny stretch, and the fashion-forward Aspen, which is a carrot fit with a slight drop crotch and tight at the ankles. “It’s very European,” explained Harrell.
In tops, there are dip-dyed fleece crewnecks and garment-dyed raglan T-shirts with three-quarter-length sleeves in a wide range of colors. “We realized last season that whenever we did a knit program that was table-worthy [for presentation in stores], buyers would jump on it,” said Harrell of the expanded color variety.
Look for more intense washes and heavy craftsmanship in the Japan line, with fashion details like leather appliqués. “We heard from stores that they want to see more value in the product,” said Harrell.
The Noir line is centered on replications of decades-old vintage jeans, oftentimes discovered deep within mines in Colorado or Arkansas and sold to specialized vintage dealers. “It’s a very authentic, genuine jean we create. We try to exactly replicate these very special, historic items,” said Harrell of the painstaking process.
Prps is currently sold in about 200 doors domestically and 200 doors internationally. Key partners include Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Ron Herman, American Rag and Atrium. Most accounts buy either the Goods & Co., Japan or Noir ranges, depending on the store’s core price positioning.
Within a few weeks, Prps will launch its first e-commerce site at prpsgoods.com.
RISING SUN & CO.
“Tailor-made indigo goods and workwear capturing the optimistic spirit of America’s golden age of craftsmanship” reads the motto of Rising Sun & Co, which is showing at Liberty. Founder Mike Hodis has long been enamored of the machinery and production processes of the first half of the 20th century, and he’s done his best to re-create that era in his workroom-cum-retail store in Eagle Rock, Calif., on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
“We’re a bit off the beaten trail,” said Hodis of the expansive space fronted by garage doors that are kept open on most days. “It’s like walking into one of the coolest garages you’ve ever been into.”
The space houses Rising Sun’s manufacturing facility, where jeans are sewn up on vintage machinery that dates back to the Twenties. Two massive, antique tables, burnished from decades of use, are used to cut denim fabric. Customers can relax in timeworn leather club chairs and ogle Hodis’ classic Indian motorcycles among the racks of jeans and sportswear for sale.
“They are Singers and Union Special, the workhorses that build the denim industry back in the day,” said Hodis of his collection of vintage sewing machines.
About 30 percent of Rising Sun’s denim and wovens manufacturing is done on the premises. The rest is done in nearby manufacturing facilities that have been instructed in Hodis’s exacting standards — and have sometimes been lent his vintage machinery.
First runs of product are invariably done in-house in order to perfect the technique. Knitwear, however, is produced off-site, as it requires different machinery.
Apart from jeans, the Rising Sun lineup includes chambray shirts, selvage chinos, fleece sweaters, collegiate shawl collar cardigans and tailored travel jackets.
In denim, Rising Sun has seven fits, including the Blacksmith, a traditional turn-of-the-century style with a cinch back. Other styles include classic five-pockets familiar to contemporary consumers.
The core five-pocket basic styles retail for $275 to $375. New this season is a raw selvage denim at $180 that requires some breaking in by the wearer. Rising Sun jeans are stitched together with a thinner-than-usual thread, with a stitch count of 12 per inch, rather than the industry norm of eight to 10, for an improved aesthetic, pointed out Hodis.
Rising Sun emphasize broken-in washes, rather than clean ones. “We put a lot of effort to create very realistic and natural washes,” said Hodis, who was previously design director at Lucky Brand and JNCO Jeans prior to founding Rising Sun in 2006.
Wide-legged chinos have been a hit with buyers so far this season. “I think it’s a reaction to all the skinny fits that are everywhere. This is something new,” surmised Hodis.
A signature rear pocket features an accordion gusset that allows the pocket to expand outwards when a wallet or cell phone is inserted.
Apart from its own store, Rising Sun is sold in about 60 U.S. and international accounts, including Barneys New York, Atrium, AB Fits and Stag.
BETTER IN BLUE
The creation of Better in Blue has been an international affair for its Chinese manufacturer and owner, its Turkey-based designer and the company’s New York-based director of brand development.
“There’s a lot of Skyping,” said Vince Gonzales, a denim industry veteran who is heading up the U.S. operations for the new jeans brand, which is launching at retail this holiday.
The line is designed by Lian Kohener, who is based in Istanbul, and is produced by a major vertical manufacturer in Guangzhou, China. This is the Chinese company’s first foray into its own branded venture in the U.S.
The debut collection from Better in Blue, which is showing at Liberty, encompasses three fits and 11 washes for men, as well as three fits and 13 washes for women. “Coating is a big part of the styles for women. Our coating makes the jeans look like leather,” said Gonzales.
The initial launch is with a limited assortment that will later expand into a full range for spring.
“Overall it’s a rocker look. Music is a big influence on the brand,” said Gonzales. “The focus isn’t really on the wash, it’s on the details of the jeans. There’s hand whiskering but it’s very light. In our selvage jeans, we use three chemically treated washes that soften the denim but still make it appear raw.”
The back leather patch changes with the color of the denim, such as black, navy and white. Every jean is accessorized with a bandana and a braided leather wallet chain attached to the belt loops.
The men’s jeans will retail primarily from $175 to $195, with most styles containing some stretch. The women’s offerings include coated white denim and washed camouflage fabrics, with some styles embellished with studding and appliqués down the leg. “We know we can’t come into the market with just a basic five-pocket jean,” explained Gonzales.
Better in Blue is launching with advertisements in Nylon and Flaunt and will sponsor the official Liberty show bag.