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Buyers Find Plenty to Like in Las Vegas

Newness and basics with a twist garnered attention at a host of trade shows.

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Men'sWeek issue 08/25/2011

LAS VEGAS — It’s all about the new — and the old.

That was the word from the Las Vegas shows here the last few days, where the common message was that the uncertain economy means opportunity for agile brands and retailers if they can offer innovative products. But they also have to maintain a lasers focus on basic principles, including inventory management, optimal merchandise allocations and effective replenishment programs.

“You have to keep trying new things and creating compelling new product,” said Jeff Lubell, chief executive officer of True Religion Apparel Inc.

However, the cascade of negative news about the economy is having an impact on the retail climate, said executives.

People are being cautious but I think it’s more a reaction to all the bad press about the economy than actual business,” pointed out Ari Hoffman, ceo of Gant USA. “I think people are anxious but there hasn’t been any panic.”

Steve Birkhold, ceo of Devanlay US Inc., the Lacoste apparel license holder, agreed, noting that sales at the newly renovated Lacoste flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue have been triple those of the former flagship space. Nevertheless, sales dipped during the weeks of the huge fluctuations in the stock market due to the downgrade of U.S. debt.

“In any down market there are people who want to spend money on clothing,” said Jeff Rudes, ceo of J Brand. “I’m focused on that and not so much on what’s going on beyond our four walls.”

Many brands said they were enjoying their best year of sales, such as AG Adriano Goldschmied, which is up 38 percent this year over 2010; G-Star which is up double digits this year in the U.S., and Hudson Jeans, which is up 50 percent over 2010.

“Let’s not use the economy as an excuse. This is an environment that you differentiate yourself in,” said Peter Kim, ceo of Hudson Jeans. “You have to focus on the basics: infrastructure, inventory, budgets and staffing. Sometimes in good times you can get sloppy but in this environment you can’t get lazy.”

“Business now can be difficult, spotty and challenging — but it can also be exciting,” said Arnold Zimberg, president of Arnold Zimberg. “There’s nothing wrong with a challenge. It keeps people on their toes. Retailers need to step out of their comfort zones, find newness and buy it — not just look at it. It’s actually easier to be a risk taker during harder times because you have no choice.”

“Retailers are slightly nervous but they’re still buying,” said Ronny Wurtzburger, president of Peerless Clothing USA. “They know if they don’t, they won’t be in business. It’s not the end of the world; the good brands will always sell.”

He said most retailers are “not gloomy. Even if business has slowed down a little, they’re still having a positive year, so they’re in a good mood.”

He did have one suggestion, however, for those hoping to jump-start sales with consumers who may be a tad reluctant to buy. “They don’t have enough slim fits in their inventory,” Wurtzburger said. “For most, it represents 10 to 15 percent, but they need to get it up to 30 percent.”

In addition to slim fits, military influences, ethnic prints and color in everything from jeans to dress shirts were among the trends garnering attention from stores at the show.

At Scoop, knits, tribal patterns, Henleys and polos are key spring buys, said Bryan Reynolds, divisional merchandise manager and director of planning for men’s. Brands that have been performing well at the specialty chain include Hartford, Sundek, AG Adriano Goldschmied and Tailor Vintage.

“We are constantly analyzing our assortments and vendor matrix and looking at what is working for us,” said Reynolds of the retail climate. “Rather than breadth of items, we are supporting deeply what we really believe in.”

Jonathan Greller, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Lord & Taylor, said he was “still very upbeat. The men’s business continues to do well. There’s nothing that indicates to me that will change. We’re feeling very positive and will continue to be aggressive where there’s no liability.”

He said he was also encouraged that customers have not pulled back as a result of the price increases that have hit the apparel industry this fall. “There’s no slowdown on brands that raised prices,” he said, speculating that since the increases are “across the board, it’s OK.”

Looking ahead to spring, Greller said the conversation continues to be about the price-value relationship: “We’re seeing more clean looks, less embellishments and embroideries.” He said he found some “great T-shirts at Project,” liked the “color expansion in shorts,” particularly flat-front models, and said the three-inch tie will “be the new standard for spring ’12.” In tailored clothing, “fit continues to be more important,” with customers leaning toward a leaner silhouette in both suits and shirts, he said.

MAGIC

From traditional men’s wear and updated sportswear to surf and skate brands, the flagship MAGIC show spotlighted a variety of categories and labels in its sprawling home on the second floor of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Weatherproof, a longtime MAGIC exhibitor, took the unusual step of unveiling a preview of fall at the show. “Following our contrarian way,” said Freddie Stollmack, president, “even though this is a spring show, our merchandise is fall ’12.”

The big focus was the company’s 32 Degree Heat collection of technological apparel that retains body heat. The line is being expanded into several new categories to build upon the base layers that have been its primary focus since it was introduced. At the show, Weatherproof showed puffers with Sherpa or fake fur linings, toggle coats with a puffer liner as well as footwear, hats and gloves. “We see 32 Degrees Heat becoming a wardrobe collection,” said Stollmack. Other new introductions for next year will include cardigans, pullovers, hoodies and polos.

Weatherproof is so keen on the 32 Degree Heat line that it has just signed a deal to open a pop-up store at 355 West Broadway between Broome and Grand Streets in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The 2,400-square-foot shop will operate from September through February and will seek to draw customers by hosting dating nights at the store every Thursday.

“We believe this is the new trend in retail,” said Stollmack. “Lululemon is a yoga-inspired store, this will be a casual, tech-inspired store where like-minded active people can come and hang out.”

He said if the shop is successful, Weatherproof will consider a summer pop-up in the Hamptons next year. “This is part of our marketing effort to raise the perception of the brand,” he said.

English Laundry launched the first collection of woven shirts produced by the Oxford Apparel Group, a new division of Li & Fung. According to John Delaney, director of sales, the idea was to “keep the DNA of the brand,” but “modernize it and make it contemporary. It was Sixties, Seventies Mod, but now it’s 2012.”

Prints were lively, collar and cuff treatments were innovative and prices were sharp, averaging $89 retail. “It’s novel,” Delaney said, “but still very salable.”

At Perry Ellis International, the core line offered a take on an American safari theme with a bleached and muted color palette and key items including a safari jacket that doubled as a blazer in a linen fabric. There was also a dressier, darker-toned component to the collection, which offered a modern take on men’s wear classics.

Levi’s stepped out of the box with its spring collection, offering more nondenim alternatives to complement its denim assortment, which was also updated.

“Denim as a whole is looking for a new voice,” said a spokesman. “It’s our birthright, but it’s gotten stale.”

Among the key items for spring were trousers in slim or traditional fits, flat-front shorts, five-pocket colored denim, jeans with a beeswax coating and yarn-dyed colored 562 jeans skewed to a more-urban customer with a looser top and a tapered bottom. “We’ve refined our look through color and fit,” the spokesman said.

The San Francisco-based brand also segmented its line to appeal to customers seeking looks for particular occasions. Its recently introduced Commuter collection, specifically designed for customers who choose to cycle rather than drive, features stretch fabric, a higher rise, reinforced crotch, reflectivity and anti-odor properties. That collection is being expanded for spring.

The Water<Less collection, which reduces the amount of water used in the manufacturing process by an average of 28 percent, also continues to be a big corporate initiative for the brand for spring and beyond.

“A lot of companies today are playing it safe,” the spokesman said. “Companies that are doing something new stand out.”

One addition at MAGIC was the Launch Pad, a tight collection of newly introduced labels. Among the brands showing there was Dovetail, a Christian-inspired apparel line whose products feature prayers inscribed on the insides of the pockets or waistbands. Moneta Collection, targeted to a man 30 to 45 years old, offered linen jeans, polos, V-neck pullovers and jackets and hangtags made out of seeds that can be planted.

Divine Blessings, a line of yoga-inspired, eco-friendly apparel for men and women, is working to share life-transforming messages throughout the world and its apparel featured the mantras of Breathe, Love, I Am & Joy and Om.

International Citizen offered men’s and women’s wear with a vintage military aesthetic in Ts, thermals, hoodies, polos, harem pants and a cadet band jacket.

Perhaps the most innovative of the brands in this area was Go Go Gear, a line of protective bike riding apparel for men and women featuring outerwear with contemporary styling but with padded rubber inserts that protect the wearer in case of an accident. “You don’t want to be ugly on a bike,” said Arlene Battishill, president and ceo.

PROJECT

Energetic color dominated assortments in both tops and bottoms at Project, with primary, pastel and sherbert hues finding their way into jeans, chinos, shorts and shirts.

“This color thing has really taken hold in men’s,” said Barry Miguel, president of Seven For All Mankind. The VF Corp.-owned brand did its own take on the color trend with jeans in brick red, sand and brown. Resin coatings, gold-and-maroon selvage details and a new boot fit were other key elements in the spring collection.

The company relaunched its replenishment program for spring with new styles in its “never out of stock” assortments. “I’m going to be focused on growing sportswear. We have to continue to have compelling new product,” said Miguel, who noted the company’s own retail stores have posted double-digit same-store sales gains year to date.

A clothesline full of sherbert-hued EC1 chinos and shorts, from sky blue to cantaloupe orange, greeted visitors to the Ben Sherman booth, where the second season of the upscale Plectrum line was on view. A capsule collection of Gingham Factory shirts in the classic mini-checkerboard motif was part of the company’s renewed focus on wovens.

“We are revitalizing the brand by becoming more modern rather than caught up in nostalgia,” explained Pan Philippou, chief executive officer of the London-based brand. “We’ve been too retrospective and too cliché British. Instead of the Queen and tea we need to be about Damien Hirst, Plan B and the Mini Cooper. We were looking backwards too much. The Beatles and The Who — people don’t really listen to that music.”

That point may be debatable, but Philippou is pushing the brand towards the future with a new concept store that will open on Carnaby Street in London in September. He is aiming to open up to 40 new stores in the U.S. over the next four years, adding to the five units now open here.

Fabric blends incorporating Tencel or Lyocell have become increasingly significant at AG Adriano Goldschmied, where they now account for about half of the offerings, said Sam Ku, men’s design director. “It’s both eco-friendly and it creates a very soft hand, which is very important now in men’s. Guys don’t want stiff denim,” he explained.

The company recently made a big purchase of laser machines that can create vintage effects on denim in place of traditional washing machines. Hand treatments are often used in conjunction with the laser treatments to create a more authentic look.

After lots of talk about increased raw material prices, costs are headed back down for 2012, noted Stuart Millar, executive vice president for the Americas at Dutch brand G-Star. The company resisted raising prices this year in order to avoid fluctuations at retail that could alienate shoppers. “We absorbed the costs because we knew it was a temporary issue and that costs would come back down,” explained Millar. “We didn’t want to do a knee-jerk reaction.”

The company is focused on offering core styles in a replenishment program that encompasses 950,000 pieces in warehouses in Amsterdam and New Jersey. “We can have four- to five-day turnaround when retailers order,” said Millar. “Retailers are a little uncertain so they need to work with responsive partners.”

In July, Lacoste upped the price of its iconic L1212 polo to $89.50 from $79.50, leapfrogging Ralph Lauren’s signature polo, which recently raised its price to $85. “We always want to have that distinction,” explained Steve Birkhold, ceo of Devanlay USA Inc., which holds the Lacoste apparel and accessories licenses. “The increase has had no negative impact with customers at our major partners, which include Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.”

Lacoste showcased its Live collection of trendy, trimmer designs at Project, with polos adorned with fishing patches and knit jackets jazzed up with extra-large crocodile logos.

Plackets with rip-stop trim differentiated the $95 polos at Victorinox, as did stretch fabrics used for the woven shirts. A brigade of brightly colored nylon jackets greeted buyers as they entered the booth and the bold hues continued in the outdoor brand’s signature Explorer sailing jacket, which came in orange, navy or khaki for $395.

The company will have opened five stores in the U.S. by yearend, including a new Wooster Street unit in New York that opens in October and replaces a shuttered store on Prince Street. A Boston store opens Friday and a Bloor Street store bows in Toronto in the spring.

Also focusing on retail is Original Penguin, which will open eight stores over the next three months. The Perry Ellis International Inc.-owned brand currently operates seven full-price stores and four outlets in the U.S. Globally, there are 40 Original Penguin stores. About two months ago, the company hired Bob Ross, previously of Kellwood Co., as president of retail and commerce to oversee the store expansion.

For spring, Original Penguin was focused on expanding its bottoms business, with garment-dyed chinos in pink, lime green and blue, in an effort to bring it up to speed with the much larger tops business. A dusty rose blazer and cheery orange toggle raincoat were part of the upscale Abbot Pederson collection, a fashion-forward range named after the brand’s founder.

Men’s is on track to grow to 20 percent of the Joe’s Jeans business this year, up from 10 percent last year. “Men’s is growing as there isn’t as much competition as in women’s,” said Joe Dahan, creative director of the company.

Joe’s Jeans has added an athletic fit to its lineup aimed at guys with meaty thighs, while slimmer fits were fashioned from canvas blends and corduroy. Color options abounded, with 13 shades, including cobblestone, tawny port, lagoon and spruce green, in the denim lineup.

Joe’s Jeans will open a new store in Kuwait next week, a New York store on Mercer Street on Sept. 6 and Brazil stores with a local partner next year. The New York store will be the brand’s fifth U.S. store, in addition to 16 outlet locations.

A plethora of shorts were among the expansive assortments at Scotch & Soda, the Dutch brand acquired last month by Kellwood Co. The shorts came in various lengths, with some fashioned from lightweight shirting fabric and others in bold geometric prints. Some sport shirts, with military details, came with three-quarter length sleeves.

“It’s unexpected things like that — adding innovation to a classic silhouette — that make something relevant in today’s marketplace,” said Yossi Capland, U.S. sales manager at Scotch & Soda.

The movie “Jaws” inspired designer Donwan Harrell of Prps and its spring line of camouflage fishing vests, denim fishing jackets and vintage-look riffs on the classic M65 jacket.

Peerless International brought its two-year-old Tallia Orange tailored clothing and shirt brand to Project for the first time. “This is our test tube baby,” said Ronny Wurtzburger, president of Peerless Clothing USA. Tallia Orange is the company’s only owned label with Peerless’ core business consisting of licensed suit brands like Calvin Klein, Lauren Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Michael Kors and Joseph Abboud.

Tallia Orange’s youthful, modern suit jackets sell for $150 to $250 and feature lively paisley linings, with the quality and pricing benefiting from Canada-based Peerless’ purchasing power and sourcing heft in China. The brand is sold at Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Rothman’s and Boyds.

Gant brought its younger Rugger line to the show, along with its throwback Yale Co-op shirts, which emphasized banker stripes, madras and a group of lightweight Oxford cloths in pastel shades. Plaids remained prominent in the Rugger lineup. “People say the trend is over but plaid still sells,” reasoned Ari Hoffman, ceo of Gant USA.

While Hoffman characterized retailers as cautious due to the gloomy economic forecasts in the news, he noted that sales have been strong — including a three-piece suit that sold out after just a couple of weeks on the new Park & Bond Web site, despite a price tag over $1,000.

“Everyone has their ear to the ground but stores have not cut their receipts at all for fall,” noted Hoffman.

ENK VEGAS

Great product and proactive service in stores remain the fundamental elements of weathering the current retail climate, said ENK Vegas attendees.

“I’ve heard from retailers that it’s been a touch-and-go summer due to the economy and the stock market,” said Jeff Shafer, founder and designer of Agave. “It’s been a struggle to get people into stores. The stores that are doing well are those that are staying close to customers, calling them about new merchandise, doing events and not just waiting for customers to come in.”

To combat those difficulties, Agave focused on styles that offered a point of differentiation from plain dark jeans. Lightweight denim, stretch fabrics, linen blends and colors like brown and olive were strong sellers for the brand, whose core price points are between $175 and $225, said Shafer. Twill jeans have also been a key category, but rather than garment dyeing them like many other brands do, Agave offers yarn-dye models. Yarn-dyed twill can exhibit the same appealing dimensionality of denim when washed and abraded, unlike the flat color of garment-dyed jeans, pointed out Shafer.

Habitual showed its new men’s line, relaunched after several years away from the market, following a 2008 bankruptcy and the acquisition of the brand by new owners Bobby and Teal Ahn. “This the perfect climate to introduce a new line because there’s been a lot of fallout in men’s denim with so many brands gone,” said Jennifer Wojinski, design director at the Los Angeles-based brand. The collection emphasizes clean washes and a modern look, with the brand’s signature Maltese cross motif adding a rock ’n’ roll element to some back pockets and front coin pockets.

The jeans retail from $175 to $195 for basic washes, $225 for jeans with slight abrasion and $325 for a selvage style. Slim straight and straight legs have been the best sellers for the brands, which has been picked up by Scoop, American Rag and LASC. A relaxed boot fit was offered for markets like Texas, the Midwest, Arizona and San Diego.

Paige Adams-Geller introduced a new visual identity and branding scheme for her brand, streamlining the name to Paige from the previous PPD Jeans moniker in men’s. Both men’s and women’s will now have the same Paige logo and branding elements, which incorporate a clean, modern look that was designed by New York advertising and branding firm A/R.

The new labeling adorned a spring collection rife with colors, including 10 vivid shades in a range of cotton twill jeans in its Normandie slim straight-leg fit, including burnt orange, aqua blue, mustard yellow and lawn green. Muted earth tones were available in the Doheny straight-leg fit.

“There’s been so much interest in women’s in colored denim, and that’s now on the men’s side also,” said Adams-Geller. “The reaction has been amazing.”

The company is focused on growing in international markets, which now account for 25 percent of sales, and Adams-Geller has traveled to London, Paris, Belgium and Canada in recent months to strengthen relationships there.

Paige only offers bottoms in its assortments and will introduce sportswear only when the time is right, said Adams-Geller. “We want to be the best bottoms business we can be. We’ve watched other brands stumble when they expand to new categories. Right now, we’re being more careful than ever with inventory management and making sure our retailers have the proper product and are selling the brand the way it should be sold.”

Colored jeans in orange, mustard and white were also among the bestsellers at Citizens of Humanity. “It’s vibrant and playful,” said Jennifer Liss, vice president of men’s at the Los Angeles-based brand. Jeans fashioned from unwashed chino fabric at $178 had a military crispness and sheen to them, while another jean model made from chambray, $192, was a novel twist on the fabric usually reserved for shirts.

The company introduced a capsule collection of men’s shirts for the first time, including denim styles blended with Tencel.

Hudson rolled out its new Turbotek jean, which uses quick-aging denim from Turkish mill ISKO that goes from raw to a vintage look in 90 days of regular wearing. Each pair comes with a booklet explaining the aging process and encourages buyers to create their own wash via bathtub soaking and line drying. Lightweight 7-ounce denim offered a super comfortable option for warmer summer months, as did range of shorts, in denim and twill versions in colors like gray and periwinkle blue.

Men’s wear veteran Jerry Kaye, a former creative director at Perry Ellis, showed his latest line, FVF by Jerry Kaye, a refined collection of sportswear with subtle details including buttonholes to hold headphones and a proprietary finishing process that results in soft, comfortable and eco-friendly items. The line, short for Form Versus Function, includes stretch five-pocket jeans, washed cashmere sweaters and linen shirts, bamboo Henleys and lightweight denim jackets. Kaye said the line features a youthful but not skinny fit, and its design is based on a “modern sensibility” that derives from 20th century architecture. He said FVF, which launched for fall, is also planning to open a flagship next year.

The wildly colorful prints of Ibiza and Saint-Tropez were the inspiration for Arnold Zimberg’s collection of shirts in fine-gauge, whisper-weight cotton. “It feels like air,” said Zimberg of the line, which is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Andrisen Morton, Kilgore Trout and Theodore.

“Men never buy what they already have,” added Zimberg of his quest for constantly changing patterns, such as batiks with underlying watermarks. The company will launch a casual pants business for fall 2012, a project Zimberg has been working on for the past 16 months.

MRKET

Classics with a twist was the overriding theme at the MRket show at The Venetian.

From Hawaiian-print woven shirts to slim-fitting suits, vendors stayed true to their roots, but pushed the envelope a bit for spring in their quest to attract specialty stores on the hunt for something updated.

“There’s got to be a reason for people to part with the money,” said Tim Leamy, operating partner of Sebastian’s Closet in Dallas. “Most already have too much stuff in their closets.” So he was searching for something to entice them to buy. “We’re always looking for a gem under a rock.”

Danny Marsh of Sy Devore in West Hollywood, said he was looking for something “innovative, fresh, colorful and young — a reason to drive a client to the store. We’re always trying to push a little bit forward.”

Paul Barlar of McPherson’s Men’s Shop in Nashville, said business this year has been a roller coaster, but overall he’s up for the year. His open-to-buy budget for spring is about the same as last year, he said.

Over the past several years, McPherson’s has moved more toward custom and special-order merchandise, a segment that now accounts for nearly 25 percent of the business. “And that keeps us from carrying too much inventory,” he said.

Nevertheless, he was walking the show to see what was new from historically strong performers such as Nat Nast and Tori Richards and to find complementary brands. “We need to look for new things,” he said.

At Tori Richards, the company embraced its roots that date back to 1956 in Honolulu by showcasing both nostalgic Hawaiian print shirts, shorts and swimwear, as well as a vintage group revisiting patterns from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. The label also offered its 56 line, which was “trimmer and younger in attitude,” according to sales rep Richard Rothschild. The collection featured smaller collars and narrower plackets and was “a little more jean-friendly.”

Reyn Spooner, another venerable Hawaiian brand from the Fifties, also offers traditional patterns in both a contemporary collection with floral printed shirts in 100 percent cotton and a narrower fit to the fuller-cut classic collection, which offered polyester/cotton fabrics.

Although Cockpit focuses mainly on military-inspired pieces — the spring collection was rife with camouflage prints in everything from duffel bags to swimwear — the brand also offered Hawaiian-print woven shirts. Some cotton aviator jackets sported tropical-print liners.

Nat Nast offered more color this season and updated most of the collars on its woven shirts to two-pieces rather than camp collars so they could be worn more easily with a sport coat. Solids with embroidery and the brand’s signature pick-stitching provided a more sophisticated air to the spring offering.

Haspel showed softly constructed lightweight cotton seersuckers and linens which were “new, lighter and easier to wear,” according to Jeffrey Ammeen, creative director. “We’ve done really well with the patchwork madras,” he said.

At sister brand Kroon, which Ammeen called “the king of soft coats,” the brand offered washed seersuckers and club checks. “Kroon has really found its place in terms of palette, fit and fashion that is understandable and accessible,” Ammeen said.

One more-contemporary offering at the show was Pvblic, a brand that got its start in 2002 and was relaunched in 2007. The spring collection was influenced by Mesoamerica and included T-shirts, sweatpants and shorts with prints inspired by the Incas and Mayans.

According to men’s designer Jayme Thaler, the printed sweatpants, which retail for around $118, are among the most popular items with retailers. The T-shirts, whose prints are cured so that the wearer can’t feel the ink, have also found fans.

CAPSULE

Ethnic prints ranging from Aztec to floral Hawaiian abounded at the Capsule show, as did shorts of varying length and a big emphasis on fashion swimsuits. “Designers can get away with more fun in shorts and swim than on pants,” noted Chris Corrado, sales director at the BPMW showroom, which reps brands like Mark McNairy New Amsterdam, Penfield, Clae and Reyn Spooner. BPMW is also the founder and operator of the Capsule show.

“We really target a small sector of the market — we’re a niche show — and these brands are not looking to be over-distributed so we’re not as affected as more commercial shows,” added Corrado of the retail climate.

Still, the economic environment weighed on some attendees, particularly the impact of rising production costs and shrinking margins for small vendors.

“It’s still so tough to be a young brand and perfecting the manufacturing aspect is very challenging,” said Luis Fernandez, co-founder of Number:Lab. “Production costs and minimums are rising. There’s a magic and mystery of how all these brands in this room exist.”

Fernandez is looking for ways to move some production to the U.S., due to the rising costs in China. “With the import duties, all the FedEx bills and everything that’s lost in translation working with Chinese manufacturers, the U.S. could be competitive — although it’s still hard to find the right facilities here,” he noted.

The spring Number:Lab line included its signature activewear-inspired designs, like ventilation panels on T-shirts and mesh linings inside blazers. An eye-catching trio of blazer, jacket and swim trunk was created from a kaleidoscopic graphic print by artist Joseph Lapiana meant to evoke water.

“Retailers have been asking for more trunk shows and personal appearances, but it’s a big-time commitment,” said Jamie Rupp, founder and president of Columbus, Ohio-based Relwen, of the pressure on specialty stores to draw in cautious customers. Relwen sells to over 100 U.S. doors, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Steven Alan and Ron Herman.

Production challenges are increasing in China because many factories there now prefer to focus on producing for the booming domestic market rather than deal with the headaches of working with export brands, added Rupp.

Jersey City-based Billykirk, which produces its bags and leather goods in Pennsylvania Dutch country, incorporated denim into a big group of totes, carryalls and flight bags, which retail from $250 to $320. The line is carried by directional specialty stores like Opening Ceremony, Blackbird, Union Made and Need Supply Co.

New York-based bag maker Ernest Alexander offered its first collection of nylon styles, with totes at $180 and a briefcase with leather trim at $225. The company also unveiled its first shirts in plaids and chambrays, ranging from $135 to $165, as well as its first jacket, a canvas field design at $565.

CPT by Cockpit USA also showcased chambray shirts, along with printed Hawaiian tropical prints and a sporty A2 jacket with knit bottom, epaulets and flat pockets.

Brooklyn-based eyewear brand Contego (which is Latin for “to shelter”) launched earlier this year with chic, sophisticated acetate frames priced to retail for $112 to $130. “You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for great glasses,” said Mikol Stambaugh, who founded the line with partner Aaron Hansen. The duo are also founders of the four-year-old contemporary streetwear brand Amongst Friends.

For each pair of sunglasses bought from Contego, the company contributes funds to pay for one pair of prescription glasses for those in need, via the nonprofit Restoringvision.org.

PGA EXPO

Fashion is making its mark in the men’s golf market for spring. Colorful, technologically advanced collections were in abundance at the spring golfwear show at The Venetian.

Industry legend John Ashworth, founder of the Adidas-owned Ashworth line, created a buzz with his appearance at the show to introduce his newest collection, Linksoul. The tight line of cotton-based sportswear can be worn on or off the course and includes interlock knit shirts with shoulder stitching and button-down collars; cotton-spandex jackets; crewneck cashmere sweaters, and even yoga-style pants and hoodies.

“We’re making stuff I want to wear,” Ashworth said. “Most of the golf market today is either young, bright and polyester-based or double-mercerized, big and boxy. This falls in the middle.”

Saying he still has a “huge passion for this industry,” Ashworth said Linksoul is designed to “infuse some heart and soul into golf.”

IJP Design, a collection designed by golfer Ian Poulter, fuses function with fashion in a line that offers fashion-forward shirts, sweaters, pants, shorts and jackets. The core of the line centers around tartan slacks and shorts and complementary knitwear.

“The Poulter consumer is interested in creating outfits,” said Jon Linton, Southwest sales rep for the line. “So the trousers, vests and shirts are all coordinated.”

Poulter designs the slacks first, since golf “leads with the legs,” and the rest of the line derives from that, Linton said. It also includes leather belts with detachable buckles. And although the collection is based in London, the sizing is more generous for the American customer.

Greg Norman Collection offered an extensive line of technologically inspired fashion items including its Sorbtek moisture-management wicking pieces. Other offerings included Dri-release, which has a cottonlike feel but performance attributes. Introduced first in women’s, it has now expanded into men’s.

Among the bestsellers, according to a spokeswoman, is the Epic outerwear, a collection of jackets, pants and chinos that are waterproof and breathable. A Windsweater, lined and available in a variety of fits, was also popular.

Travis Mathew, a Southern California-based line that is inspired by fashion, sports, music and art, offered designs that are as appropriate on the course as at a restaurant. Its color palette of black, white and gray is designed to be the antithesis of most golfwear, which tends to be bright and colorful, according to co-founder Travis Brasher.

The line is endorsed by golfer Bubba Watson. “Our motto is look good, feel good, play good,” Brasher said.

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