NEW YORK — New year, bright outlook.That sums up the mood of specialty stores shopping the men's trade shows here. A strong end to 2017, a soaring stock market and some tempting merchandise options for fall all combined to boost retailers' spirits."Holiday was great," said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans, which operates three men's stores in New York. "There have been some weather difficulties in January but that's OK. We had a surprisingly strong fall so inventories are not what we had expected. My mood is good — it's an exciting time to be a retailer."He said he has been working more with his suppliers to create partnerships that benefit both. "Every conversation is not: 'What are you selling and how much is it?' But it's, 'How can we work together.' That's what it's going to take to make the wholesale model work today and I actually enjoy making deals almost more than I enjoy looking at merchandise."That said, Giddon did manage to find several brands that he liked at the shows. "I'm surprised at how many great Scandinavian brands there are," he said, pointing to the Scandinavian Man section at Project. He especially liked Hestra gloves and Cords trousers.In addition to the Scandinavians, Giddon found a lot of strong outerwear choices from Gimos and Sailors & Brides, along with Ted Baker sport shirts, Digel sport coats, Evolvg Gloves and Alps & Meters outdoor-inspired sportswear.Stuart Segel, co-owner of Mr. Sid in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass., was also coming off a strong 2017, when the store celebrated its 50th anniversary and opened a branch downtown. "We had a good Christmas season, which was surprising because we were up against good numbers from last year," he said. "And the new store did well. People were definitely out spending."He expects the strong trend to continue. "As long as we don't go to war or something else drastic happens, I'm feeling good about 2018. The economy is strong, our customer is making money and has a positive outlook."At the shows, Segel found some "unusual casualwear" that he liked, including the collection from M. Singer, which he described as "sophisticated ath-leisure, which we're seeing as a trend. Our customer is wearing that." He also found some good shoe brands, including Paraboot and Alden."We look for items at the shows because we do a lot of showroom shopping for collections, but the shows had nice energy this time," he said.Kent Gushner, president of Boyds in Philadelphia, was equally upbeat. "We had a good holiday season even though we're undergoing a major renovation. So I can't complain." The store, which is best known for its men's wear, is undergoing a $10 million revamp, moving women's and accessories to the main floor and mezzanine and remodeling the rest of the Center City location."We're very optimistic for the long term, and mildly optimistic in the short term," he said. "We're selling luxury goods to wealthy people, so based on the performance of the stock market, that puts them in [a buying mood]."At the shows, he found a lot of new vendors and desirable merchandise, particularly in outerwear. "We saw a lot more transitional weights in outerwear and saw more color and colorblocking in sweaters and sport shirts," he said. "There was a lot of patchwork and loftier fabrics — boucles, tweeds, Donegals — that looked more seasonal and fresh."And now that slimmer silhouettes have become mainstream and fashion brands are showing oversize cuts, he said he may "dabble" a bit in that — but just a bit. "And there were some Japanese and Scandinavian brands that looked saleable and fresh, too," Gushner said.Here, some highlights from Project, MRket, Liberty Fairs, Capsule and MAN. Project/MRketBrand: WranglerBackstory: The company’s 70th anniversary last year opened up a whole new avenue of growth for the venerable denim brand. While Western wear remains its mainstay, Wrangle reached into the archives and reinterpreted looks from the Seventies for a special anniversary collection, including a rainbow logo from 1972 that was popular around the world and wound up on the backs of many celebrities.Key pieces: For fall, the celebration continues with a blue and yellow heritage capsule of graphic T-shirts, hoodies and jeans, many of which include a vintage-inspired illustration of a bucking bronco. There are also updated raw selvage denim jackets and jeans with the brand’s trademark patch and archival logo. Utility shirts, cut-and-sew hoodies, overshirts, logo Ts and jeans in a variety of silhouettes and washes round out the assortment.Prices: Higher than the core mass market and Western assortment, the heritage line offers jeans at $99 and up, jackets for $129, hoodies for $89 and a denim shirt with a Western yoke for $79. Brand: VinceDesigner: Patrik ErvellBackstory: Ervell, who is well-known for his namesake men’s wear line, joined Vince in September as the vice president of men’s design. He’s relocated the design studio to Los Angeles and merged his roots — technical fabrics and punk nostalgia — with Vince’s aesthetic. This hire came shortly after company founders Rea Laccone and Christopher LaPolice left the brand for a second time.Key pieces: Ervell elevated Vince’s basics with the use of technical fabrics, silhouettes and color. He showed velour rugby shirts, kelly green cashmere sweaters, a quilted cardigan, a double-faced cashmere coat and a shearling-lined corduroy jacket. Pants were mostly athletic and included track pants and joggers.Prices: Vince has lowered its price points to better compete with other men’s contemporary brands. The entry price for outerwear has decreased from $595 to $395 and cashmere sweaters have dropped from $335 to $295. Knits range from $55 to $155; sweaters range from $245 to $300, and bottoms are priced from $195 to $245. Brand: Selected HommeBackstory: After 20 years of distributing its collection throughout Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Latin America, Australia and India, Selected Homme entered the U.S. market last year. The line includes Black Label, a tailored collection that makes up most of its business globally; White Label, a more contemporary and casual line that’s doing well in the U.S., and a new, mostly sustainable, assortment called Selected People. The brand will introduce a lifestyle pop-up at Rothmans in April and its footwear has been picked up by Nordstrom for spring.Key pieces: Within the Black collection, the design team presented floral-printed shirts, brown check suits, and track jackets styled with overcoats. The White label featured a Seventies-inspired color palette of mustard and cinnamon along with raw selvage denim jackets, shearling and leather coats and cropped plaid trousers.Prices: Shirts are priced from $95 to $125; sweaters retail from $85 to $195; leather and shearling outerwear ranges from $495 to $995; knits range from $50 to $118, and denim is priced from $120 to $175. Suits retail from $400 to $800. Liberty FairsBrand: MeagratiaDesigner: Takafumi SekineBackstory: This Japanese label, which launched in 2011, is starting to focus more on the U.S. market. Sekine previously worked at Nowhere, a popular Japanese streetwear brand that was founded by Jun Takahashi and Nigo.Key pieces: The fall collection was influenced by the Quay brothers, identical twins who are known for their work in stop-motion animation and the eerie toys they create. The collection includes a plaid three-piece suit, an update on a navy and white pinstriped suit, baggy corduroy pants and a gray wool overcoat.Prices: The collection ranges from $100 to $420. Brand: Ben Sherman x House of HollandDesigner: Henry HollandBackstory: Growing up in the U.K., Henry Holland was a fan of Ben Sherman so when the opportunity arose for the designer to collaborate with the company on a capsule collection for fall, it was a no-brainer. Holland, who has partnered with a variety of companies including Levi Strauss and Le Specs since starting his own brand in 2007, believes that collaborations are a way “to keep the customer engaged with your brand.” After two years of discussions, he created a 29-piece capsule that embraces Ben Sherman’s rich history but updated with his own take. “It’s fun to twist the heritage a bit,” he said.Key pieces: Holland has reinterpreted some key branding elements, such as the Ben Sherman logo, which he splashed onto sweaters, shirts and track suits. The offering includes T-shirts and denim. He also used black-and-white photographs from Brian Cannon’s Northern Soul project that he lasered onto button-down shirts and denim. By working closely with Ben Sherman’s creative director Mark Williams, he used some of the prints from the brand’s core collection and exploded them onto shirts for the capsule. “It’s much more obnoxious, like me,” Holland said.Retail prices: The line ranges from $89 for T-shirts and $133 to $178 for wovens to $400 for a printed Harrington jacket. Brand: TwentyDesigner: Founder David Helwani with a Montreal-based teamBackstory: Helwani is a major sports fan and a proud Canadian. And that shows in every fiber of the brand he founded in 2010. He grew up in the textile and fashion industry — his father has owned one of the finest knitting mills in North America for over three decades. When he wasn’t at the ballpark watching the Montreal Expos play as a kid, Helwani was involved in the family business. He started Twenty to fill what he saw as a void for luxurious and sexy knitwear for women, launching with a range of T-shirts that quickly caught the attention of retailers such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. He branched out into men’s wear two years ago.Key pieces: Twenty is completely vertical and the brand creates the fabrics and designs and manufactures the collection in Montreal. As a result, the line is able to offer a premium product at a contemporary price point, Helwani said. Twenty’s design takes its “cues from the street,” he said, with a focus on knitwear. The Olympic mesh track suit in French terry, a fleece hoodie with slim-cut joggers and a range of elongated T-shirts are among the standouts. The pieces are all named for sports stars from Helwani’s youth, including the Dawson long-sleeve tee (outfielder Andre Dawson), the Raines cotton slub top (left fielder Tim Raines) and the Maddux plush fleece joggers (pitcher Greg Maddux).Retail prices: T-shirts retail for $68 to $88, sweats are $155 to $195 and outerwear is $350 to $450. CapsuleBrand: Wax LondonDesigner: Steffy NecevaBackstory: The contemporary men’s wear label was created by two native Londoners and Neceva, who hails from Sweden, with the British partners focusing on the business end of the brand and Neceva spearheading the design. They set out to create an affordable, quality collection with a goal of bringing back the manufacture of traditional British outerwear to the U.K. They have succeeded and the line now offers a full collection that also includes jerseys, knits and shirts manufactured in Portugal and Italy. Although the line homes in on classic British designs, because of Neceva’s roots, the collection has a Scandinavian aesthetic as well.Key pieces: For fall — only the second wholesale season — the company turned to Danish architect Arne Jacobsen and his 1956 design of the Royal Hotel Copenhagen as inspiration for its collection. Even so, the hero piece of the collection continues to be a waxed Macintosh coat that has become a staple of the collection since its launch. Other key looks include a statement oversize houndstooth coat and another in a black wool check. A large wale corduroy coat or a brown mohair version are other standouts, while shirts are offered in bold, rich colors and heavy weaves and retro silhouettes.Retail prices: Outerwear retails for $250 to $400, shirts are $110 to $140, bottoms are $130 and jerseys sell for $60 to $130. Brand: M PressDesigner: Morgane PressBackstory: Press’ collection is only a year old, but she’s quickly formed an identity by pulling from her British roots — she was born in Paris and raised in London — and current streetwear references. Kendall Henderson, who has worked with brands including Public School and DKNY, designs the graphics for the collection.Key pieces: For the fall collection, Press looked to her father, who grew up in Balham, a neighborhood south of London, whose wardrobe was influenced by the Teddy Boy era, a British youth movement that started in the early Fifties — men wore styles popularized by dandies in the Edwardian period. This came through in knit polo shirts, drainpipe jeans and trousers, and elongated overcoats. Press also culled soccer — or football — references from the film “Green Street Hooligans.” She showed Windbreakers with quilted details, soccer jerseys and track suits. Graphics ranged from various iterations of the label’s name to Cockney rhyming slang such as “Two and Eights” and “Trouble and Strife.” She also updated a Barbour jacket with belt strapping and a zipper pocket to accommodate a smartphone.Prices: $100 to $455 MANBrand: ManastashDesigner: Takehiro Fujitsuka, who is better known as Fuji.Backstory: The outdoor brand was introduced in Seattle in 1993, but was acquired by the Japanese distribution and production company called Ueno-Shokai Co. Ltd. in 2010. The now Tokyo-based company continues to produce outdoor pieces that work for various scenarios, whether that’s hiking or skateboarding. Once the business was acquired, the team focused on the Japanese market, but now they are pushing more into the U.S. The line is carried at Urban Outfitters.Key pieces: The brand is known for its windproof fleece jackets that are also lined in fleece and its puffer coats made from down produced by the Japanese sleeping bag company Nanga. They also showed cotton thermal sweaters, knits with rugby stripes, fleece pants, chino bottoms that come with a blue bandana in the back pocket, and a selection of beanies that are made in Japan.Prices: Outerwear ranges from $330 to $780; fleece jackets retail at $180; knits are priced at $75, and thermal sweaters are priced at $125. The Made in Japan beanies retail for $45. Brand: PorterBackstory: This Japanese luggage and accessories firm was launched in 1962. The company, which has collaborated with brands ranging from Supreme to Converse and manufactures everything in Japan, recently brought all of its sales and distribution back in-house after being distributed by another company in the U.S.Key pieces: Porter always presents its core collection of luggage and small accessories along with more seasonal pieces. For fall, the brand is showing a fanny pack, mesh duffel bags and backpacks, cotton and nylon backpacks, and larger backpacks that include a breathable back material that’s mostly used in the medical field.Prices: The collection ranges from around $50 for small accessories to $500 for luggage. Celebrity SightingThe Project floors were buzzing when actor Blair Underwood strode into the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to introduce his new line of footwear with Right Bank Shoe Co.Designed in partnership with footwear veteran Donald Pliner, the Right Bank Shoe Co. for Blair Underwood collection will make its debut for fall.The Emmy- and Grammy Award-winning actor met the shoe designer in Las Vegas last August and they immediately hit it off. Underwood had been looking for a partner to launch a footwear collection and was “enamored with [Pliner’s] history in the shoe business,” he said. They worked together to create the collection with Underwood rolling up his sleeves to immerse himself in the entire production project.“I was bitten by the bug,” he said. So much so that he has become a partner in the Right Bank Shoe Co.The Blair Underwood capsule consists of 22 styles of casual and dress styles including slip-ons, lace-ups, boots, and — Underwood’s favorite — a burgundy velvet loafer that sports his family’s crest, which was designed by his brother for his 1994 wedding. Other styles offer elaborate beading in tapestry, leather or crystal designs that take more than 40 hours of handwork to complete.The collection will retail from $395 for a double monk strap slip-on to $850 for a crystal embellished loafer — slightly higher priced than Right Bank’s core collection. “We want to get in as many stores as possible,” Underwood said, including department and specialty retailers and e-commerce sites.
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