LONDON — The grassroots movement in fashion has taken hold in London, with retailers coming up with a host of clever ways to speak to the celebrity-loving, social-media trawling consumer who wants nothing more than to spend, spend, spend.
London Collections: Men opens today in an overall market that is proving increasingly dynamic, especially on the contemporary end.
Daylong Instagram feeds from designers and stores, coupled with the social selling power of soccer players and musicians such as Kanye West, Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky, and the English artist and musician Skepta, are all fueling customers’ spending in a city that’s now just as famous for its cultish streetwear brands as it is for Savile Row tailoring.
Globally, men’s apparel sales are set to reach $480 billion by 2019 according to the latest Euromonitor figures, while the U.K. market has seen sales rise by 22 percent in the last five years to reach 13.5 billion pounds, or $19.77 billion, in 2014.
Retailers here are fast tapping into the tribal vibe around labels such as Cottweiler, Nasir Mazhar, Off White and Hood by Air, and are watching closely how designers and consumers are engaging so they can better tailor their offer.
“Social media is making stores more adventurous,” said Nana Suzuki, owner of the strategic fashion sales agency that bears her name. “It’s gotten to the point where boutiques are checking the number of social media followers that a brand has before they buy them. Then they collaborate as much as they can on social media with the designers they carry.”
The male consumer’s tastes, habits and designer fixations have become so important to Stavros Karelis, founder and buying director of Machine-A, the independent store in London’s Soho that specializes in contemporary labels, that he’s asked them to appear in an online series of interviews.
Today he will launch “Point of View,” an online film with Show Studio that features customers talking about the designers and labels they love — in venues special to the designers.
One will feature a customer called Felix Spooner talking about Cottweiler and its designers Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty at a Buddhist temple in Wimbledon.
“When these customers buy into a brand they buy into the whole world of the brand. They want to be a part of the designer’s world,” said Karelis, adding that his customers also shop in a very specific way.
“The kids know their fashion, they’re buying by key item, and looking to show they’re part of a community that goes to the same clubs, and listens to the same music. They’re looking at Skepta, who wears Cottweiler and Nasir Mazhar, and they want anything that Raf Simons is doing. His following is massive,” said Karelis.
Dean Cook, the new buying manager for men’s wear at Browns, now owned by Farfetch.com, said his customers have a similar mentality.
“We see 15-, 16-year-old kids coming in asking for Saint Laurent, Off White, Hood by Air, or what they’ve seen on footballers and Justin Bieber or Kanye West. They’re locals; they’re tourists; they’re English, Asian, Middle Eastern.”
Stores are accommodating the ever-more-demanding, plugged-in consumer in other ways, too, shaping their shop floors to be more in tune with the season, and offering increasing numbers of buy-now, wear-now collections.
Karelis of Machine-A is taking the buy-now, wear-now concept to a whole new level this season via an exclusive collaboration with the London designer Liam Hodges. “Customers can buy it even before they see it on the runway. It launches on Friday, and the show isn’t until Monday,” he said.
The bigger stores, too, are tailoring their offer to the needs of the end consumer.
This month, Selfridges is unveiling a special Canada Goose pop-up collection on its men’s wear floor at a time when shoppers can actually use a winter coat rather than, say, a spring wool suit. The pop-up will run from Saturday to Jan. 29.
The collection features some of the brand’s key products in specially selected colors, including the Foxe bomber in navy; the Lodge down vest in slate; and the Moraine Shell in pacific blue. The space will be transformed with an Arctic theme and display content from the latest brand campaign film, “Out There.”
The footage focuses on one of the brand’s “Goose People,” Laurie Skreslet, the first Canadian to summit Mount Everest. Customers will be able to explore his story in depth using interactive digital installations.
Harrods is also increasingly tailoring its offer to the different seasons.
“Increasingly, our customers are looking for ‘buy now, wear now’ items and we have to respond to that,” said Jason Broderick, the store’s director of men’s wear, sports and fine watches.
“It is great to see that designers are recognizing this need, too, and are working trans-seasonal styles into each season for this very purpose. But one of the ways our shop floor responds to this is through our visual merchandising and mannequin styling, which are changed daily.”
Scott Tepper, fashion buying and merchandising director at Liberty, said the store has been seeing “a very distinct change in our customers’ shopping patterns” and therefore decided to take some calculated risks for the early spring buys to reflect them.
“It’s no longer viable to offer the customer nothing but lightweight fabrications in December, January, and February. We’ve learned there is a substantial customer block that wants newness in everything from overcoats to chunky knits to cold weather accessories when the weather warrants them — and not before — but he’s bored by carryover fall styles,” said Tepper.
He said the store has had success so far with new season fall weight wool and cashmere coats from brands across various price points including Margiela, Acne, A.P.C., Paul Smith and McQueen. Other brands doing well with heavier weight styles include Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, Balenciaga, APC, Lanvin, and Folk.
“We’ve even brought in a new outerwear brand last December, Stutterheim, which has been a great success — in the past we would have waited until next fall to launch a brand like this,” said Tepper.
“As we buy pre-fall across both the men’s and ladies fashion floors, we’ve been focusing our edit on buy-now wear-now styling and fabrications, and leaving the true fall pieces until later in the delivery cycle, with exceptions for the strongest fashion and trend pieces, which always sell as soon as they hit the floor.”
Tepper said Liberty expects the strategy to lift early fall sales by as much as 30 percent, and has raised its open-to-buy accordingly for brands that have adjusted to the “new reality” of the seasonal shift.