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LAS VEGAS Despite a lot of angst leading into the fall trade shows in Las Vegas earlier this month, the mood was light, the traffic strong and the overlap with New York Fashion Week turned out to be largely a nonissue.

Most men’s merchants were upbeat as they walked the aisles at Project, Liberty Fairs and Agenda. And while the 10-day shift ahead in dates by Project forced Liberty and Agenda to find another location downtown — about a 25-minute drive from Project’s home at Mandalay Bay — the situation is going to be markedly different at the next edition of the shows in August.

Not only will Liberty and Agenda be able to return to their longtime home at the Sands Convention Center, but Project and its sister shows — MAGIC Men, Pool, Stitch, Curve and others — will join WWD MAGIC and FN Platform at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion.

And Commotion, a two-day pop-up interactive shopping experience created by Zappos and trade show veteran Mike Sampson that drew several hundred consumers to its outdoor space in downtown Las Vegas, will not be returning to Vegas this summer. Commotion offered apparel, shoes and art along with entertainment and included 17 brands that ranged from Psycho Bunny and Nobis to Atelier & Repairs and Mavi Jeans. Sampson said he was pleased with the initial reaction, although the weather was quite cold at night, which cut down on visitors, but was considering a couple of East Coast cities for a second edition this summer.

While the locations may be changing, the business-to-business benefits of the shows remained a draw for the department and specialty retailers who attended this past edition.

Most were able to find a number of brands and trend-right merchandise to fill their floors for the upcoming season. They honed in on nostalgia-infused sportswear, technical overcoats and outdoor-inspired products in particular.

“Everybody is very positive,” said Thomas Burns, senior executive vice president of the Doneger Group. “They’re coming off a good 2018, traffic is strong and their inventory levels are in good shape, which is really important.”

While there was a bit of a lull for many stores at the end of the holiday season, Burns said overall the results were good and retailers are anticipating the momentum to continue through 2019. “It may not be as good as last year,” he said, “but they should see low-single-digit positive comps.”

Tim Bess, fashion trend analyst for Doneger, said there are a couple of key trends that will represent opportunities for retailers later this year. The first is retro vintage, which can span anything from the Sixties, with preppy/varsity influences, to the slouchy silhouettes and flashy colors of the Nineties. This will be especially important for back-to-school, Bess said, and will show up in rugby striped shirts, hoodies and joggers.

The second key trend, Bess said, is the outdoor lifestyle. That translates into carpenter pants from brands such as Carhartt and Dickies, and plush tops with lots of utilitarian details — what Bess referred to as “fashion workwear.”

Dana Katz, owner of Miltons the Store for Men, a two-unit specialty retailer in Massachusetts, said he posted “a nice increase over the prior year” in 2018. “We got aggressive in certain areas and it worked out nicely.” That included a renewed focus on the lucrative wedding business.

In Vegas, he was seeking out vendors and products that “I can get excited about.” He liked the knitwear he found that originated in Turkey because it offered good value, and was also tempted by some heritage brands such as Timberland that have experienced a resurgence. “They’re very relevant in New England and our boot business is great so it’s a category we’re building on,” he said.

Other items he liked included a Harris tweed quilted vest with coordinating pant from One Like No Other, a ponte knit dress pant from Liverpool, the interpretations of corduroy and brightly colored neckwear for weddings.

Ken Giddon, president of Rothman’s in New York, continues to embrace trade shows because they offer him the opportunity to scour the market in a few days in one central location. “I’m still really excited when I come to shows,” he said. “I’m very intrigued by the entrepreneurs I found this time. Growth requires people to be more creative and innovative so finding entrepreneurs from within and outside the industry provides a fresh perspective.”

He singled out Stantt as an example. The custom men’s shirt brand was founded by two former Johnson & Johnson executives with no apparel industry experience who developed a proprietary fit system.

The same for Beltology, Faherty and Nifty Genius, other brands Giddon found at the show.

Giddon also liked Toms Shoes because of the brand’s message of giving back. “We want to rededicate ourselves to being a better partner in our community,” he said, “so that’s why we like Toms. It’s important to me personally and to our customers.”

Giddon also liked White Sand’s pants, Molo Eleven sweaters and Camper shoes and was seeking out brands he could bring in as pop-ups for his stores, a strategy that has been paying dividends for him over the past couple of years.

Gary Dante, president of SuitMart, a three-unit Houston-based men’s and boys’ off-price tailored clothing chain, said in an effort to attract shoppers, the company picked up some women’s hats to add to its mix and hopefully spur sales. “We’re trying a lot of new things,” he said. He was also seeking vendors in tailored clothing and enhancing the focus on big and tall sizes and boys. “We came here to find newness in vendors and categories,” he said, adding that he’s expecting sales to continue to be strong this year especially in the February through June period with proms and Easter.

Here are a few of the highlights from the Project, Liberty and Agenda shows.

 

PROJECT

Brand: Bldwn

Designer: Joe Sadler

Backstory: The Los Angeles-based brand has moved well beyond its roots in premium denim and offers a full lifestyle collection of ready-to-wear for men and women. Bldwn, originally based in Kansas City, relocated to the West Coast to take advantage of the larger fashion industry talent pool, and brought former AG executive Johnathan Crocker on board as president a year ago to spearhead the revamp.

Key styles: For fall, Sadler looked to Sixties American workwear for inspiration. He reinterpreted traditional designs and patterns and infused the pieces with details and fabrics that would better speak to the modern man. Among the key pieces were a houndstooth bomber and a slightly oversize classic peacoat, both with shearling collars. The matching houndstooth trouser had a tapered leg, shorter inseam and stretch fabric, and garment-dyed nylon military jackets and windbreakers offered water- and wind-resistant properties.

Prices: Most outerwear retails from $220 to $598, wovens are $178 to $198 and denim is $178 to $228. 

 

Brand: Champion

Backstory: The brand is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it’s hotter than it’s ever been. Its reverse-weave sweatshirts have been seen on the backs of major celebrities and the brand has collaborated with everyone from Supreme and Kith to Timberland and Todd Snyder. At Project, Champion showcased an expanded assortment of accessories and footwear designed to complement its updated apparel collection.

Key styles: The brand offered up slides and sneakers in an array of fashion colors along with waistpacks and backpacks in a variety of sizes and patterns including a burgundy fanny pack with the brand name spelled out in Old English script for back-to-school. On the accessories as well as the apparel, Champion proudly shouted out its centennial through a variety of accent details and allover prints on hoodies, crews, fleeces, joggers and sweatshirts, some of which were offered in unexpected combinations such as fleece and corduroy.

Prices: Coaches jackets range in price from $50 to $80, Old English lettering products from $30 to $80, faux fur from $65 to $100 and reverse-weave plaids for $65 to $90. The footwear retails between $35 and $125 and the accessories from $10 to $80.   

 

Brand: WeSC

Creative director: Joseph Janus

Backstory: WeSC, which stands for We Are Superlative Conspiracy, has transitioned into a contemporary, genderless streetwear line that’s sold in retailers including Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Janus has started a strategy to ensure that newness is on the retail floor each month and divided the collections into capsules.

Key styles: The first drop is the Revolt collection, which is a punk-rock-inspired assortment with tartan sweaters, cardigans and joggers, plaid coach’s jackets and bleached novelty denim. The urban commuter line includes utility coats, cargo pants, a camo coach jacket, and utility vests. The anniversary collection features items with a collegiate and athletic vibe including color-blocked denim jackets, soccer jerseys and a varsity jacket created with Golden Bear.

Prices: The collection ranges from $48 for a T-shirt to $248 for a bomber.

 

Brand: Pendleton

Backstory: Pendleton is in the midst of trying to open up its collection to stores that target a younger consumer, but still maintain its base. The company is doing that with slimmer fits, incorporating stretch into its shirts and expanding its price point range with a cotton shirt program.

Key styles: Patterned wool shirts and sweaters, flannel shirts, denim jackets, wool coats with faux-fur collars and bomber jackets featuring Pendleton prints were among the fall highlights.

Prices: The collection starts at $80 and goes up to $429 for outerwear.

 

LIBERTY FAIRS

Brand: Descendant of Thieves

Creative director: Matteo Maniatty

Backstory: Descendant of Thieves was founded in 2009 as an independent men’s brand by Maniatty and Dres Ladro. Suwana Perry is also coowner. It manufactures in limited batches only and designs from the inside out, which translates into colorful interiors, concealed pockets and hidden messaging in a collection known for its slim fits. It opened its first retail store on New York’s Bleecker Street last summer and also shows its collection at New York Fashion Week: Men’s.

Key styles: The fall collection was inspired by the individuality of New Yorkers and called “Love thy neighbor, but dress like yourself.” For Maniatty, that was interpreted in oversize outerwear pieces that featured animal prints and faux fur combined with vintage military references from the 1800s. Jewel-toned blazers and sweaters, reversible bombers, Donegal sweatshirts and “grandpa” plaid pants rounded out the offering.

Prices: Shirts retail for $145; pants from $150 to $185; blazers from $285 to $385; knits for $145 to $200 and outerwear from $385 to $600.

 

Brand: Karrimor

Backstory: Launched in 1946, Karrimor, which derives from the phrase, “carry more,” is an outerwear brand based in the U.K. The brand is known for innovation in backpacks and coats within the mountaineering category. A firm acquired the Japanese license for the brand and created an elevated, more fashion-influenced line called Aspire, which was shown at Liberty for the first time.

Key styles: The collection consists of classic silhouettes updated with new fabrics. Duffle coats are made from a waterproof wool poly, and nylon parkas can be stored in a backpack that’s attached to the back. A line of jackets and pants are made from a medical fabric that doctors wear during surgery because it’s waterproof, stain-proof and features stretch. It’s usually white, but the designers dyed it navy or maroon. There are also classic utility coats made from waxed cotton.

Prices: Waterproof duffle coats retail for $880, while classic wool styles are priced at $800. Long packable parkas retail for $550, pants sell for $275 and jackets retail for around $400.

 

Brand: President’s

Backstory: This contemporary men’s wear brand was founded in 1957 by 7 Bell, a Tuscan atelier known for producing Italian denim. This season the collection, which is made in Italy, was influenced by Persian Mughal stories.

Key styles: Corduroy down jackets and shirts featured landscape scenes from the Mughal empire, T-shirts were covered in floral graphics and updated with hand-painted details. Jackets and pants came in wool corduroy and denim jackets featured fur collars.

Prices: The collection retails from $100 for a T-shirt to $800 for outerwear.

 

Brand: Native North

Designer: Morten Hvidtsted

Backstory: The Copenhagen-based brand was founded by Hvidtsted in 2014 and offers classic designs intended to speak to the active Scandinavian lifestyle and culture with high-quality craftsmanship and fabrics among its hallmarks. The Peregrine/Bloodworth showroom, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles, is handling the U.S. distribution of the collection.

Key styles: The line uses mainly Italian and Japanese fabrics in its collection of fall outerwear that offers technical details such as waterproofing, taping and seam sealing that are intended to safeguard the wearer from the cold Scandinavian weather. Among the most popular styles in the U.S. are waterproof shells with a bevy of pockets, a parka/car coat with a clean design and shirt jackets in wool herringbone and wide-wale corduroy.

Prices: The shirt jackets are $220, the shell is $370 and the parka/car coat is priced just under $600.

 

Brand: The GoodPeople

Backstory: The Netherlands-based brand has built a reputation in its home country as a label rooted in sustainability and inclusivity. Its cloud logo is intended to represent the “ultimate state of liberty” — a nod to the company’s quest to care for not only the environment but its customers as well. This is its first season trying to break into the U.S. market and it is represented by the Black Dog 8 showroom.

Key styles: The collection is produced entirely in Europe and the fall season features three separate drops centered around neighborhoods in New York. The first, the Bronx, is inspired by the Yankees and their iconic pinstripe that the brand used on hoodies, sweaters and unconstructed suits. The second drop is based on Brooklyn, notably Williamsburg and its art and fashion scene — military green car coats and polo shirts with contrasting collars — while the final collection is inspired by Manhattan and its sharply dressed businessmen.

Prices: A parka retails for $430, blazers are $500 and coordinated pants are $245. Shirt jackets are $275. 

 

AGENDA

Brand: Grmy

Creative directors: Pablo Moreno and Rafael Anguis

Backstory: Moreno and Anguis cofounded this men’s and women’s streetwear brand 12 years ago in a basement in the outskirts of Madrid. It began as a T-shirt brand but has grown to include men’s and women’s ready-to-wear. They’ve collaborated with brands including G-Shock and Dickies. In an attempt to open up distribution in the U.S., they decided to show at Agenda. They sell in Europe and Dubai.

Key styles: The collection was inspired by Sun Ra, the American jazz composer. That came through in the graphics placed on color-blocked corduroy hoodies and matching pants, nylon track sets covered with patches and emblems and reflective outerwear with mesh pockets.

Prices: Outerwear retails from $140 to $160, tops at around $70 and bottoms at around $50.

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