Clean Men’s Streetwear Seen at MAGIC

Vendors cope with the troubled economy.

LAS VEGAS — Men’s streetwear vendors emphasized cleaner styles, basics programs and denim, which continues to be a strong seller.

This story first appeared in the February 18, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Those trends were apparent at Company 81, the collegiate-oriented brand owned by Oved Apparel, which was also showing its Modern Culture and Mecca lines at MAGIC.

“The economy has impacted us in a lot of ways — it’s definitely not business as usual,” said Rob Perry, vice president of Company 81, which sells to major stores such as Macy’s, Dillard’s, Bon-Ton, Belk and Stage Stores. “It’s a challenge to even ship orders to some accounts, as factors have become much more cautious about approving credit.”

To boost business, the young men’s brand is emphasizing key items that can be sold at attractively low prices, including denim, T-shirts and fleece. “Denim is our most important category for fall,” Perry said. “We have a replenishment program with two fits and 10 washes, with jeans wholesaling for $13.75 and out the door at $24.99 to $29.99. We’ve had to adjust our business model to fit with the times. Everyone has to understand that department stores are going to be more promotional.”

The company has worked with its factories in Asia to manage costs and minimize the impact on its own margins, he said.

Denim was also the most important category at Artful Dodger, and the brand increased its jeans assortment for fall. “It’s been the most stable category for us,” said Fred Mazza, president of the brand, which is produced under license by Signature Apparel and sold to accounts including Macy’s, Dillard’s, Karmaloop.com and Downtown Locker Room.

In sportswear, Artful Dodger emphasized cleaner designs. “Some regions are still looking for embellished, such as certain sections of the Southeast and Midwest, but overall the trend is cleaned up — things that can be worn for more than one season and appeal to a larger customer base,” Mazza said.

Even the more fashion-forward streetwear brands in the S.LA.T.E. section were emphasizing cleaner, less flamboyant designs. “We’re trying to appeal to the contemporary market as well as the streetwear market,” said Emeka Obi, head of marketing at Brooklyn-based 10 Deep. “It expands our customer base and maybe some of the European buyers will trickle over.”

Dickies was one brand upbeat about the year. “Our brand has an inherent value and heritage that consumers are seeking in this economy,” said Tad Uchtman, senior vice president of marketing and merchandising at the Fort Worth-based company. “Specifically, we’re seeing a lot of interest in our slim-fit, low-rise pant, and our spring shorts bookings are up more than 200 percent over last year.”

At Stüssy, the watchwords are inventory management and customer service. “We’ve always had a cautious approach to our business in terms of not overordering and managing inventory closely,” said Scott Terpstra, chief operating officer and sales director at the Irvine, Calif.-based brand.