Retailers Give High Marks to the Paris Collections

Buyers hailed it as one of the most compelling and commercially solid seasons in some time — one strong on fashion, cohesive trends and great showcases.

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Men'sWeek issue 01/26/2012

PARIS — Rain and traffic jams failed to dampen buyers’ spirits during men’s Paris Fashion Week, with many hailing it as one of the most compelling and commercially solid seasons in some time — one strong on fashion, cohesive trends and great showcases.

This story first appeared in the January 26, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Paris looked the best it has in years for both its newness and commercial salability at retail, two very important factors that drive profitability,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, Canada.

“A new offer for a new man,” said Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager of men’s and women’s apparel at Printemps, Paris, speaking of the week’s interesting new players, “like Kenzo men’s, Carven men’s, Berluti, as well as AMI, which is evolving nicely.”

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Toby Bateman, director of buying for Mrporter.com, who found Paris to be a bit more daring than Milan, said: “We saw designers playing with proportion more, with oversize coats and knits as well as bringing in more daring fabrications such as leather.”

Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Lane Crawford, Hong Kong, which has seen strong growth in its men’s designer area over the last three to four seasons, said a new dialogue is opening up. “Refinement is key.…As we all know in men’s wear, it’s [about] detail, cut, finish and what the eye doesn’t automatically see first, and the time and consideration that goes into a piece. This is true modern luxury in men’s wear today.”

Grégoire Proffit, designer and casual men’s wear buyer, Galeries Lafayette, Paris, found it a “reassuring” season that celebrated discreet luxury — “just what was needed in the present economic climate.” Proffit said budgets were stable “as a form of caution.” Likewise, David Fung, merchandising manager, I.T Ltd., Hong Kong, said he was watching his budget following a slowdown last year. Sales over the November to December 2011 period rose by around 20 to 25 percent versus around 50 percent during the same period in 2010, he said.

“Outerwear was definitely a big message in the Paris collections. Whether we’re talking shearling, heavy wool or an oversize hooded parka, important coats were everywhere,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president, designer merchandising for Nordstrom. Sharp tailoring and cozy wintry knits are also expected to do well. “Knitwear will be very commercial with lots of roll necks again as well as comfy-looking mohair and angora fluffy blends in warm winter colors,” said Mrporter.com’s Bateman.

For Stephen Ayres, head of fashion buying at Liberty, the Paris collections brought “a refreshing punch of color and print,” after what he described as “a very monochrome Milan. Lanvin was simply stunning…the rich color palette of rustic tones combined with a silhouette of wide trousers and sharp tailoring looked really fresh and relevant.” On the downside, Ayres noted that price points continue to increase, “even on the more basic designs and fabrications, so with the use of so many luxurious fabrics for [fall 2012] this makes me a little nervous when trying to deliver a commercially aware selection.” Ayres also noted that fluctuations in seasonal temperatures influenced his buying decisions. “It would appear that with the warm winter we have just experienced people are cautious of heavy outerwear, so getting the balance right here is key,” he said.

David Walker-Smith, buying director for men’s wear, beauty and home at Selfridges, said: “There was something undeniably special about Dries Van Noten — the prints are stunning; I loved the artwork and the production of the show. For me, it was the most original collection.” The Louis Vuitton show was “definitely the best for the wow factor,” he continued, adding: “I always love seeing the Paris shows, there’s such a sense of drama and this season was no different.”

Walker-Smith noted that Selfridges is investing in footwear and expanding its denim offering, along with adding new contemporary labels such as Damir Doma, Versace, Carven, Rag & Bone, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Sacai. “In a challenging time for retail, our focus is on creating the most inspiring offering we possibly can — from the most covetable international brands such as Tom Ford, to the emerging designers we’ve scouted as part of our Bright Young Things program,” he said. “The Selfridges customer wants to come into store and see newness, breadth of product and something they’ve never seen before.”

Givenchy, Lanvin, Dior Homme, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten were widely cited among the season’s standouts. Other collections getting nods included: Rick Owens, Acne, Kenzo, AMI, Adam Kimmel, Carven, Balmain, Balenciaga, Paul Smith, Kenzo, Loewe and Mr. Start. “Alessandro Sartori’s attention to detail at Berluti was extraordinary,” said Matthew Singer, men’s fashion director, Neiman Marcus Stores, Neiman Marcus Direct and Bergdorf Goodman.

Sam Kershaw, men’s international designer buyer at Harvey Nichols, London, which just experienced its strongest season ever for the international designer category, praised Givenchy’s “fantastic” show. “Dior Homme had some great jackets, more directional, with taping at the sides and roping,” said Kershaw, for whom Adam Kimmel’s retro sci-fi-themed presentation was also among the week’s highlights, with “great theatrics. He’s definitely one to watch.”

Other trends mentioned by buyers included: the strong shoulder, leather, British tweeds, mixed media, military and utilitarian workwear references. And for colors, it was black, dark brown, beige, khaki, burgundy and bottle green, as well as pops of orange and red.

“There was a large presence of black and monochrome dressing. What was most intriguing was the strong tailoring in jackets and use of fabrics in outerwear. The undertone of punk gave everything a modern edge,” said Singer.

Walker-Smith pointed to accessories as a strong trend that emerged from the Paris collections. “My team and I loved the baseball caps at Dior Homme, which managed to fuse military and streetwear influences really cleverly, and the beautifully crafted, paneled bags at Dries,” he said.

Eric Jennings, vice president and fashion director for men’s wear, home, food and gifts, Saks Fifth Avenue, said: “The most salable trend for us will be items using mixed media; from outerwear and leather to sweaters and sport jackets, mixed media was everywhere. I also noticed many collections using materials with gloss, shine and sparkle that will do well at retail.”

Stacey Smith, men’s wear buyer, Matches, London, mentioned university colors, tweeds, British wools and wearable footwear as among the most salable trends she saw. Smith also said Matches is continuing with its aim to secure exclusives: “In times of a tough market and when shopping can be seen as sometimes an extravagance, there needs to be a point of difference and a reason to buy.”


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