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Macy’s Caters to the ‘Modern Man’

The department store is breaking fashion taboos by incorporating vivid colors into a guy’s wardrobe, or mixing prints and patterns in unpredictable ways.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 03/28/2013

Macy’s is a mainstream retailer with a lot of tradition. But don’t hold that against the company.

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

It’s catering to the “modern man” and breaking fashion taboos. Like incorporating vivid colors into a guy’s wardrobe, or mixing prints and patterns in unpredictable ways. And according to Durand Guion, Macy’s vice president and fashion director for men’s wear, purple suede driving moccasins, bright-blue slim chinos and unconstructed red blazers have been among the recent bestsellers. “Not so long ago, the mere suggestion of those very items may have potentially jeopardized the job of a fashion director,” said Guion.

Add slimmer suits, narrow neckwear, tie bars and pocket squares to the mix. “The redefined modern man associates a sexiness with looking sharp,” Guion said.

In his presentation on redefining the modern man and how Macy’s markets to the paradigm, Guion said that taboo-breaking fashion can come from evolving the familiar — like remaking plaids, which have been staples, to be larger and colorful, or taking floral prints seen in neckwear, also within the comfort zone for most men, and “spraying” them over slim-fit polos.

For inspiration, Macy’s has turned to pro basketball. “We love the revised guidelines regarding pre- and post-game attire for NBA players,” which have helped reenergize tailored clothing and dress furnishings, Guion said. “These classifications are no longer considered boring or stiff. Athletes — almost overnight — have broken taboos about colors and fit. We want to take this excitement and run with it. We continue to look toward celebrity icons, actors, musicians and athletes to break the taboos of what it is to be a modern man. Their influence has never been stronger on inspiring our customer to see himself differently.”

Guion also cited designers Tom Ford and Thom Browne for having a “seismic influence” on men’s wear. He credited “the street style phenomena” for driving fashion, and predicted the upcoming “Great Gatsby” movie remake will be a trend factor too.

“We believe at the heart of every modern man is a source of inspiration, not necessarily to be copied, but to awaken his inner confidence and link it to factors responsible for building the courage to represent himself in a stylish manner and begin breaking taboos,” Guion said.

With brands, those that display newness work the best, Guion said, though it’s more about creating a look rather than being logo-ed head-to-toe. He singled out Zara, the Spanish chain, for doing “a fantastic job distilling what is happening in the fashion world, getting it out there fast, and setting a benchmark on how to talk fashion to men and not make it scary.”

Guion also singled out outerwear, where he sees plenty of innovation and newness. “I am crazy about outerwear. We have been pushing to make sure we have interesting outerwear all of the time, from top coats to this bomber jacket thing, to the jean jacket. Guys are starting to build wardrobes for outerwear. He is really expressing himself through outerwear.”

Until recently, “the terms ‘modern’ and ‘men’ did not have a comfortable association with each other and there were so many taboos associated with identifying oneself with modern, especially as it related to fashion and style,” Guion said. “Fashion is still considered a taboo word for many men.”

Yet “the modern man,” he maintained, at least at Macy’s, gets redefined today “through the lens of color, print and pattern, tailoring and the Millennial generation.…One of the most effective ways to communicate our fashion message to the modern man is through color. Until recently, color was relegated to neckwear as the only acceptable way for a man to incorporate color into his wardrobe without any questions being asked. Today, our customer has started to expect, and anticipates, being introduced to the newest color trends. Each season we select a trend in color to highlight across all relevant categories through the men’s store and we reinforce it through marketing, in-store trend shops and omnichannel.”

There’s also a focus on the 13-to-30-year-old male demographic. “They do not want to conform,” Guion said. “Old rules don’t apply. This guy will be well informed on the trends.” In an omnichannel world, “He relies on self research and discovery more than ever. The possibility of being ‘Instagramed’ to stardom is very real. Even the guy in the background wants to look cool — because who knows who will see the posting. It is really about constant innovation.” Still, as Guion cautioned, don’t confuse modern with young.“Modern is a mind-set. We don’t necessarily think of modern as young.”