Retailers Seek Unique, Repurposed Items at Capsule

The trade show provided a no-frills, indie alternative to the mammoth MAGIC and Project shows, showcasing about 180 brands this season.

Baldwin Denim
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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 02/16/2012

Capsule provided a no-frills, indie alternative to the mammoth MAGIC and Project shows, showcasing about 180 brands this season. “People are looking for a twist, things you can’t buy at Uniqlo,” said Timothy Heenan, who owns an eponymous multibrand showroom in New York.

This story first appeared in the February 16, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That meant whimsical shirts embroidered with roses or Navajo patterns at the Vanishing Elephant line, and repurposed military fabrics fashioned into jackets, quilted vests and thermal tops at WAAR. The latter brand’s L.A.-based designers Michael Quinones and Matt Davis took parachute materials and used them for shirts, and even created swim trunks with them.

“We really position ourselves as an affordable resource, and we have easy price points to get into,” added Heenan of the retail climate. “I think there’s a price threshold for buyers these days.” Case in point? The General Assembly line out of Brooklyn, which offered low-key cotton blazers for $145 at retail and an on-trend corduroy, double-breasted jacket for $165.

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This season, Capsule moved out of its traditional ornate ballroom in the Sands Expo into an industrial-looking space dotted with concrete pillars on a lower level of the convention center. The move suited the show’s directional aesthetic, but Capsule will be back to a carpeted ballroom in August, due to a scheduling conflict with another trade show.

“Every show we’ve done this season has had its best retail attendance,” said Deirdre Maloney, a co-founder of Capsule, which staged shows in New York, Berlin and Paris prior to the Las Vegas edition. “Buyers are ordering in advance like they used to, and not just in-season, which is a positive sign.

Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club introduced a new collaboration with designer Mark McNairy under the Bee Line by Billionaire Boys Club name. Inspired by the royal emblem favored by Napoléon Bonaparte, oversize bee logos adorned the collection’s chunky Scotland-made sweaters, as well as plaid shirts, made in the U.S. Blinged-out varsity jackets with golden sleeves ($775) popped on the racks, while down vests made by Seattle-based Crescent Down Works played into the outdoor theme that dominated Capsule. Pharrell’s Ice Cream brand, meanwhile, is being revamped into an action-sports line, noted Phillip Leeds, who oversees sales for the musician’s various labels.

John Varvatos USA showcased its new Luxe range, which emphasizes a dressier, polished side of the label. Soft constructed sport jackets retailed for $398 to $498, pants for $188 to $248 and outerwear for $498 to $698, with looks suitable for the office as well as evening. Sweaters had leather elbow patches, a popular detail on knits this season, and woven shirts were in stretch fabrics with sheen. Each piece has the Luxe label affixed below the John Varvatos USA label, but prices are in line with the core collection, despite the dressier stance.

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Designer Billy Reid showcased his higher-priced Heirloom collection, a line that is priced around 20 to 30 percent steeper than the core line. Heirloom, which launched with limited distribution at retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Odin, has expanded into a full collection, according to Spencer Singer, wholesale sales manager. Among the key pieces were a parka with shaved nutria linings, a resin-leather bomber jacket with a quilted lining, a resin-cotton raincoat with leather trim made from Arctic perch and beefy hand-knit sweaters. The collection also included a Billy Reid Tailored component of hand-tailored suits for $2,200 to $2,500. “This adds a real luxe element to the line,” Singer said.

In denim, Baldwin Denim highlighted classic five-pockets in dry finishes for $179 to $220, with subtle signatures like a triple-stitched yoke and white rivets. The Kansas City-based brand was founded in 2009 by Matt Baldwin, who also operates the two Standard Style boutiques in Kansas City, Mo., and neighboring Leawood, Kan. Baldwin Denim is stocked by about 30 wholesale accounts, including Steven Alan, Stel’s, Stag and American Rag.

Wm. J. Mills & Co., a 131-year-old sailmaker from Greenport, N.Y., that is owned and operated by the fifth generation of the founding family, brought its collection of handcrafted bags to the show. The bags use the same fabrics and stitching techniques as the marine products and employ double-needle stitching and rolled and finished seams to make them weather resistant. Waxed-canvas weekend bags and waxed-twill duffels sported antique brass hardware and were available in a variety of colors.

St. James, another brand rich in heritage, showed its classic striped nautical boatneck pullovers, which come in 28 different colors. Founded in 1889 in France, the brand is updating for fall by adding slimmer fits — the original cut is quite boxy — and adding softer merino wool to its lineup of sweaters, which are usually in virgin wool, which is warm but a bit itchy.

Gitman Vintage went back in time for its fall line of oxford, chambray, poplin and hopsack shirts, some of which were created from fabrics first designed in 1979. The Individualized Apparel Group-owned brand makes its shirts in factories in Ashland, Penn., that date back to 1932. Other styles were inspired by vintage Boy Scout uniforms, which sales manager Ryan Metauro dubbed “bro-scout” shirts.