It might be the dog days of summer, but that didn’t stop the retail community from traveling to New York City for the spring market last week.
While business is not exactly gangbusters — not unusual for this time of the year — their attitudes were nevertheless upbeat as they peered ahead to fall and holiday. At the shows, which included Project, Liberty Fairs and Man, retailers were most drawn to sportswear and accessories they felt offered something different.
Bob Mitchell, copresident of Mitchells Stores, said his cadre of stores is enjoying “low-single-digit growth, driven by sportswear, shoes and accessories.” As a result, he was walking the aisles and visiting the showrooms in town seeking new casual pieces, particularly knitwear. “A lot of guys who were wearing wovens will now move into knits,” he said.
In the tailored-clothing arena, Mitchell was seeking updated sport coats. “We have to keep pushing that, whether it’s softer construction or more tailored,” he said. “We have to offer guys something to differentiate themselves.”
And he was also seeking an answer to the neckwear conundrum. “The continued challenge is how we can reinvent the tie,” he said. But soft neckwear sales aside, Mitchell said other accessories along with footwear are “becoming a bigger part of the wardrobe” and helping boost overall business.
Looking ahead to fall, Mitchell said he has to be “realistic, but there are opportunities.” He pointed to the strength at both ends of the spectrum — luxury sportswear from Zegna, Cucinelli and Loro Piana as well as brands in the contemporary midzone price points — as reasons for optimism. And while made-to-measure continues to be strong, he was looking for brands that are “doing new things” in this category.
Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans, characterized business as “strangely good.” The store has taken to hosting a rotating series of pop-ups that have proven to be very successful. The most recent was with a men’s custom bracelet brand named Pig & Hen from Amsterdam that is just breaking into the U.S. market.
“It drew a lot of people into the store in the middle of July,” Giddon said. “But those kind of events are what it takes today. You have to give the customer something new. It’s not just about the latest trunk show with your tailored clothing vendor — that just doesn’t draw people anymore. You have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and make your store more fun than Amazon.”
At the shows, he especially liked M. Singer’s updated basics, Stitch Note’s short-sleeved wovens, Rodd & Gunn’s lifestyle collection that he called “very sellable,” as well as Trask, Relwen, Nifty Genius and Benibeca swimwear.
Dana Katz, owner of Miltons men’s stores in Chestnut Hill and Braintree, Mass., said his spring season was bolstered by a strong special-occasion business, buoyed by sales to wedding parties and guests. That helped replace some of the tailored business that has been lost to the more casual workplace.
He said he’s hopeful for a strong second half as he seeks to “augment the special-occasion business with wear-to-work clothes: cool bottoms and tops such as new woven shirts and pants that are comfortable with stretch. “And we’re excited about all the knit cut-and-sewns we saw,” he said. He pointed to Maceoo and Desoto’s printed shirts as standouts and also liked David Donahue; Hugo Boss, which he said offered the best tailored clothing he’d seen in a “long time”; Vince Camuto’s knit suits, and the updated Michael Kors suit silhouette.
Overall, he said, he’s looking for “brands that haven’t become mainstream yet to afford us some exclusivity.”
Kent Gushner, president of Boyds in Philadelphia, said business in the summer is generally soft and this year is no exception, but the store is still “running ahead of last year.” This comes despite the fact that the retailer is in the midst of a $10 million renovation that won’t be completed until November. The women’s department was the first one to be finished and Gushner said the response has been strong.
“We’re seeing nice growth and that’s spilling over to our men’s area as well, which is what we had hoped for,” he said. Men’s wear sales have been “decent to satisfactory,” the economy and stock market are performing well and that is leading to “guarded optimism going into fall.”
At the New York market, he said he didn’t find anything revolutionary but did see some “nice product” that he believes will be salable.
Vanessa Rosales, owner of the eight-month-old Nouba women’s boutique in Key Biscayne, Fla. described business as “fantastic” with the average shopper spending $1,000 on a few pieces. “It’s like Christmas time even though this is our slow season,” she said. As an interior designer, she said she approaches merchandising and editing as an art, offering indoor and outdoor seating to encourage shoppers to linger. “Everything has to be beautiful to make people want to come in. That’s what I’ve heard from my clients.”
An assortment of brands from all over the world has helped win over consumers. Easy casual pieces like all-silk ensembles are popular because they can be worn all-day and into the evening. Confident about fall sales, Rosales said she expects to busy all season, due partially to a base of travelers. “Clients love the store and want to be there all the time. I don’t see any problems trying to grow.” she said.
Here are some of the highlights from the New York trade shows.
Brand: Selected People
Designer: Henrik Busk
Backstory: The one-year-old Denmark-based label is the higher-priced sibling of Selected Homme and Femme. Owned by the fashion group Bestseller, Selected People is “trying to be as sustainable as possible,” Busk said. Materials are organic and/or recycled and include cotton, poplin, wool and other fibers such as Modal and Lyocell. The design is Nordic contemporary design with workwear details and eye-catching graphic designs in an assortment that is sleek and modern.
Key pieces: The spring collection offers streetwear references but in high-quality tailored construction. A unisex balloon-shaped pant, for example, has wide legs and a tapered bottom with lots of big pockets. Ditto for a chino in the same silhouette. A plaid raincoat in a recycled polyester fabric has an oversize fit with large pockets and there is an assortment of patterned shirts that were developed in partnership with Liberty of London. Even a classic suit sports workwear details that help the pieces look more contemporary.
Prices: Pants retail for $160, shirts for $150 and outerwear for around $350.
Designer: Stefano Chiassai Studio
Backstory: The label was launched in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in 2010 and specializes in trousers for men, women and now children. Three years ago, it brought Chiassai, who has worked with Fendi and other high-end brands, on board as the designer. It currently counts several high-end independent specialty stores as clients, including Harry Rosen and Butch Blum, and is seeking to expand its distribution in the U.S. It already has a strong business in Asia and Europe, according to Mattia D’Orlando, export manager.
Key pieces: The company’s “il fresco di lana,” or “new vintage wool” trousers offer natural stretch. Myths garment dyes and frosts some of the models for a vintage effect while others are offered in military wool, stripes and other patterns. One checked model had a drawstring waist that was similar to a jogging pant. The brand also offers an assortment that it calls “Grandpa’s Trousers,” which are wider legged with button-flys and in some cases, stripes. “It’s like a capsule,” D’Orlando said. “It’s the second season. The brand also has a wide assortment of solid and patterned Bermuda shorts.
Prices: The Grandpa’s Trousers retail for $325 in wool while the Bermuda shorts are $195.
Backstory: The firm has a long history manufacturing sandals in the Romagna region of Italy. Over the past 40 years, it has produced footwear for high-end brands including Armani, Versace and Marni, according to Daniele Polidori, the grandson of the founder. In 2003, the company launched Brador, which was named after Polidori’s Labrador Retriever, whose illustration is featured on the marketing materials for the label. Today, its men’s and women’s sandals are found in more than 370 retailers around the world.
Key pieces: Although Brador also offers a selection of sneakers — handmade from high-quality leather — the bulk of the business still revolves around sandals. Polidori said a key product is the stonewashed finish on some models. All told, Brador offers more than 200 styles, nearly all in leather but a few in nylon, which he said was inspired by the Japanese market. The top sellers, however, continue to be the classic slip-on leather sandals, which is where the brand got its start four decades ago.
Prices: Retail prices range from $150 to $250.
Brand: Victory Lap
Designer: Tavon Davis
Backstory: Davis is six collections in, but this is his first time showing Victory Lap at Project. He started the line in 2015 with the goal of offering men well-made sportswear that’s produced in the U.S. The brand plays off of sports uniforms and workwear. He’s built a following with athletes such as NBA player Carmelo Anthony and NFL player J.T. Thomas.
Key pieces: Titled “There’s a War Going on Outside,” Davis pulled from the political climate and wanted to represent the resiliency of immigrants and people of color by using durable fabrics. He used a Ripstop fabric, a Japanese nylon and a Japanese polyester to create a line of basic, utilitarian pieces including chore jackets, bomber jackets, camo shirts, pullovers with utility pockets and basketball shorts detailed with reflective material. Davis has also introduced small leather accessories this season with card cases and wallets that are handmade in New York.
Prices: Hoodies are priced at $400, shirts retail from $175 to $325, jerseys are $290, basketball shorts are $180 and shorts are $225.
Brand: Reyn Spooner
Designer: Doug Burkman
Backstory: Reyn Spooner, the 62-year-old Hawaiian shirt brand, has made some big changes over the past couple of years. The brand has relocated its headquarters from Hawaii to California, tapped Lynne Koplin, who previously served as president at J Brand, as chief executive officer, and Doug Burkman, of the Burkman Bros. men’s line, as creative director. The brand also recently collaborated with Sacai and Todd Snyder and currently has shop-in-shops at Bergdorf Goodman and Pilgrim Surf and Supply in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Key pieces: Burkman said the goal has been to help the brand appeal to a wider swath of customers while still maintaining its heritage. The collection consists of two fabrics: a 100 percent cotton that usually appeals to a younger customer and Spooner Kloth, a cotton poly that draws an older customer. Each shirt comes in a classic fit or a boxy fit and either is a popover or features a full placket. Burkman played with Reyn’s signature Lahaina print by reducing its scale and putting it on the bias. Other key prints include a bandana print, a scenic print with hints of camouflage and a variety of archival prints turned into a square motif. Burkman has also produced graphic T-shirts covered in art by Dietrich Varez and T-shirts with a printed panel. The swim category is now a fully realized venture for Reyn Spooner and the trunks come in prints that match the shirt collection.
Prices: Swim trunks retail for $88, shirts are priced from $88 to $98 and T-shirts are $44.
Brand: English Factory
Backstory: A four-year-old label that is a sister line to Endless Rose. Both are part of the Los Angeles-based 2.7 August Apparel Inc., which has five in-house brands. Geared more for daywear, English Factory offers brunch-friendly items such as dresses, oversize sweaters and sets. Half of the collection is made in the U.S. and the other half is made in China. A main in-house designer creates the collection with the help of two assistant designers. Don’t read too much into the name, the colors and patterns are more West Coast-inspired than British countryside. The brand is now sold in more than 800 stores in the U.S. including Nordstrom, Anthropologie and Shopbop.
Key pieces: Going into resort, mixed media designs, as well as go-to choices like ginghams and stripes are in demand. So are a sleeveless ruched rainbow dress, a hot pink crewneck sweater with “Saturday” stitched in red lettering and a red and white striped, three-tiered button down high-low top.
Prices: Tops range from $58 to $70, sweaters are in the $29 range and dresses start at $70.
Brand: Daily Day
Backstory: Owner Filipe Prata is the grandson of Manuel Prata, who started a tailoring business in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal, in 1954. His father Emanuel started LaGofra’s manufacturing in 1980. The youngest Prata started running the business six or seven years ago and developed the more youthful Daily Day label after discovering his grandfather’s workroom. It now creates a $2.3 million unisex collection available in specialty stores in the U.S., Europe and Portugal. With a factory behind the brand, Daily Day is able to be more flexible and adaptable regarding production and turnaround times. Immediate orders made at Project were being fulfilled in Portugal the day after they were placed. Expansion in Japan, Korea and possibly Australia and New Zealand is on the horizon, according to Prata. Daily Day’s name is meant to relay “that you have a good life every single day,” he said. “It’s not the idea of a luxury, or having a special moment. No, we all deserve a very good daily life.”
Key pieces: Technical water-resistant fabrics are essential, especially featherweight ones like the polyamide used for a plaid jacket. An oversized black raincoat made from waterproof paper and a bonded red hoodie were other standouts. While dresses and skirts are geared for women, all of the designs have a masculine overtone.
Prices: Most items — shirts, dresses, skirts and shorts — retail for $150, but jackets go up to $300.
Brand: Guadalupe Design
Backstory: Started in Miami seven years ago by Daniela Garces, a former Lehman Bros. executive, and Mary Escobar, Guadalupe Design is a line of textiles that have been printed, woven and dyed by artisans in other parts of the world. An assortment of handbags, shoes and accessories are also part of their offerings. Garces’ sister Moira is also part of the six-woman in-house team that also relies on a network of sales reps. Products are sourced from around the world including Colombia, South America, India, Turkey and Italy. There are 1,200 clients including The Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton and Omni Hotels & Resorts, Nordstrom, Anthropologie and smaller boutiques. Limiting styles to 100 units or less adds to the allure of the collection. “Once it’s over, we do something new — not everbody has it,” Daniela Garces said.
Key pieces: Hand-embroidered or block print tunics and caftans in cotton and silk are popular, as well as straw hats made by artisans in Colombia.
Prices: Dresses wholesale from $55 to $95.
Brand: Avanti Designs
Backstory: When it comes to Hawaiian shirts, Avanti is the real deal. The company is based on Waikiki in Honolulu and has been making traditional silk camp shirts inspired by vintage prints of the Thirties, Forties and Fifties for 27 years. Operations manager Vincent Hui is the son of the founders and has worked to modernize the brand by slimming up the fit and offering a cotton collection with a similar aesthetic to appeal to a younger customer. The line is carried in specialty stores including Ron Robinson and American Rag as well as an Avanti store in Waikiki.
Key pieces: The traditional silk shirts are designed to be “postcards from paradise” and are printed with images of hula girls, pineapples, surfers, historical Hawaiian hotels, tropical motifs and even King Kamehameha. Hui said many of the patterns have been retired for up to a decade before being revisited to keep them fresh. The cotton shirt collection is “more toned down,” Hui said, both in terms of color palette and pattern, but still complement the silk offering.
Prices: Shirts range from $69 to $75 for cotton and $89 to $110 for silks.
Designer: Anjara Garcia
Backstory: Now in its second season, the Spanish swimwear brand was created for men seeking a quality product at a reasonable price. The exclusive prints designed by Garcia are inspired by the cultures and colors of the Mediterranean and intended to appeal to a continental gentleman who travels and has a propensity for fashion and trends. They’re carried in department and specialty stores in Europe and Asia and are now moving into Asia.
Key pieces: The trunks are offered in three lengths ranging from short-shorts to a classic midlength. The collection is offered in a variety of solids and colorful patterns and each piece is packaged in a bag sporting the same print. The fabrics are “double waterproof” and quick-dry, according to cofounder David Villacorta, and have noncorrosive metal hardware details. The waistbands are either elasticized with a traditional pull-cord closure or a have a zipper. Every model also features a removable bag on the interior to hold valuables as well as netting on the inside.
Prices: Retail prices range from $90 to $105.
Designer: Terrence and Kevin Kim
Backstory: The Kims were born in New Jersey, but moved to Seoul about five years ago. Shortly after, they started Iise, which means second generation in Korean. The brand was initially focused on accessories and bags, but has since moved into apparel that merges contemporary and streetwear categories and features traditional Korean details. It’s sold in retailers including Extra Butter, American Rag and Kith.
Key pieces: The spring collection was influenced by the riots that were taking place outside of Iise’s headquarters in Seoul. This translated into apparel and accessories inspired by police uniforms including vests, belts with cargo pockets and raincoats with transparent, detachable hoods. Other highlights include tracksuits, printed shirts and plaid trousers with natural dye patches inspired by Korean customs.
Prices: Jackets retail from $180 to $400, T-shirts are priced at $120, pants retail for $120, shirts are priced at $180, track jackets are $200 and the matching pants are $150.
Brand: Bru Na Boinne
Designer: Naoko Tokuda and Masahiro Tsuji
Backstory: Tokuda and Tsuji started Bru Na Boinne, which is based in Osaka, Japan, in 1997. The line is known for mixing humor with interesting fabrics. This is the second time the brand has shown at U.S. trade shows and it’s looking to expand U.S. distribution. It’s currently sold at retailers including Beams and Merci.
Key pieces: The collection included seersucker shirts and matching trousers covered in a tropical print, T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies with Lucha libre graphics, shirts embroidered with crochet splatters, corduroy shorts and printed silk shirts.
Prices: T-shirts retail at $100, shirts at $200, knit tops for $300 and bottoms for $320.
Backstory: Dan Snyder started his business career as an independent contractor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Although he had to wear suits, he hated how they fit, so he taught himself how to sew and started making his own shirts in his New York City apartment. From that humble beginning sprung Corridor, a new American sportswear collection that blends Northeastern prep with New York City’s modern sensibility. The brand operates its own store in NoLIta and is carried in nearly 100 specialty stores in the U.S. and overseas. Snyder said the line appeals to guys looking for an alternative to the mall-based retail stores. “What do you do when you’re done with J. Crew,” he said.
Key pieces: The core collection is still heavily centered around short- and long-sleeved shirts for men in interesting fabrics and patterns. But the collection has expanded to include cotton sweaters in rinsed indigo or natural colors, striped linen/cotton trousers and even some outerwear, including a nylon taffeta Macintosh-style trench that is shorter and not so slim, a silhouette that he’s also using in shirts and pants. “There’s a loosening of men’s wear, so we’re doing longer, wider models that are not as fitted,” he said. The offering also includes the Sunshine Blues collection, a garment-dyed resortwear line of shirts, stretch cotton shorts and pants that was recently expanded to include T-shirts and retail for under $100.
Prices: The Corridor core collection offers shirts for $135 to $215, blazers for $350 and outerwear for $500.
Brand: Le Mont St Michel
Designer: Alexander Milan
Backstory: This 105-year-old company was founded as a workwear brand known for its moleskin work jackets. In 1998 Milan, who learned about knitwear from his parents, acquired the brand and has maintained its heritage but infused modern pieces into the assortment.
Key pieces: This season the brand has launched denim that’s made in France. The collection also included updated takes on its signature pieces including bright yellow work jackets, knits made from recycled and organic yarns and waffle knit polo. The company has also launched a line of knits based on archival designs.
Prices: Work jackets retail at $270, polo knits are $150, recycled knits are $325 and T-shirts are $100.