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Men'sWeek issue 01/19/2012

The heritage message continued to ring true in men’s collections for fall, as brands exhibiting at the Project show stuck to classic men’s wear silhouettes reinterpreted in a modern way.

This story first appeared in the January 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s like raiding your grandfather’s closet,” said Marylynn Piotrowski of Smith & Butler, who has had success selling authentic brands such as Barbour, Pendleton and Filson at her Brooklyn-based specialty store. “But it takes our generation to tweak it. I call it recycling,” she said, noting that she expects a more relaxed version of heritage to take hold by next fall.

Piotrowski was shopping the show for the latest sportswear looks from Pendleton and other related brands that could be sold at a reasonable price. A lot of her customers don’t have money for upscale designer collaborations, so she was seeking a more “approachable” price point. Brands that manufacture in the New York area, or at least in America, were also being given top priority. “If I can stay local,” she said, “I like to support that.”

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Many of the labels at the show produced their collections in the U.S. That includes Black Sweater, a line by documentarian Jamie Johnson based on the legend of a society hostess from Florida at the turn of the century who sent black cashmere sweaters to anyone she wished to banish from the social scene because of behavior she found indecent. Johnson’s collection reflects upper-class society at this time and offers “formalwear with a twist,” according to consultant Jake Post. All items use British fabrics such as tweeds and herringbones, and everything is produced in America, including the cashmere sweaters and Japanese-fabric shirts. Key items include a heavy hooded wool coat with a velvet stripe for $1,750; a wool and velvet sport coat for $1,487; a wool herringbone blazer with a gun pad for $1,525, and a silk stocking regimen coat for $1,550. Post said the company is also hoping to expand its sweater business.

One unique neckwear company was Title of Work, a collection by former women’s couture designer Jonathan Meizler, who jumped into men’s bespoke last year. The ties, which retail from $140 to $400, are inspired by the art world and feature “incongruent details.” The fall collection, for example, is based on taxidermy and offers porcupine claws, raccoon teeth and rubberized rooster feathers as details on the slim neckwear offering.

“When you’re in an oversaturated market,” Meizler said, “you have to be different.”

The brand is also offering tie bars with sterling silver chains, reversible cuff links and reversible scarves for fall.

Designer Todd Snyder set up a pop-up at the show, complete with brands that complement the collection’s updated Americana sensibility, including Bates hats, Tricker’s shoes and Maxx & Unicorn wallets. “We come from a retail background,” said David Bruno, director of merchandising and sales. “So give us an opportunity and we’ll make a shop.”

On the apparel side, Snyder showcased the company’s expanded collaboration with Southwick for a collection of men’s suits, dress shirts and neckwear for fall, all of which are manufactured in the U.S. Although the manufacturer has produced Snyder’s suits since his launch last year, the shirts and ties are additions for fall. Key styles include unlined sport coats in tweed or double-faced camel hair and wool that can be worn with jeans or chinos. The brand also offered an expanded outerwear collection, including a fully quilted melton wool coat with removable lining and silver fox hood for $2,695, and a hooded shearling coat for $3,995.

Denim also continued to be a key part of the show.

Denim pioneer Scott Morrison’s brand, 3×1, offered rare selvage denim and twills for fall. Finishes were raw and rinsed in mid- and heavy-weights. “We’re seeing retailers focus on quality and details over mass-market appeal, which is a very welcome change,” Morrison said. In addition to denim, Morrison also offered a selvage chino group with the M2 military fit especially popular.

Los Angeles-based Simon Miller, which has focused on denim for the past five years, launched a knitwear collection for fall. “We don’t want to be just a denim brand or a California brand,” said the company’s Jake Sargent. So in addition to the jeans in four washes, the booth showcased a lightweight alpaca-linen sweater for $330, as well as a beefy wool-angora-mohair blend in a modified honeycomb pattern, priced at $895. A felted shawl cardigan was $750, and all the sweaters were knit in the U.S. The brand also offered its interpretation of the five-pocket slack, using a fabric most often seen in outerwear. “It lends the five-pocket a sense of sophistication you don’t see in jeans,” Sargent said.

At Johnny Love, the brand offered men’s wear shapes for its outerwear that were familiar but sexier, such as trenches shaped to the body and wool coats with leather-trim collars. Retail prices averaged $550. There was also an innovative tubular cowl-knit scarf with a leather closure. And every jacket used nanotechnology, meaning they were wind- and water-resistant.

Ernest Alexander, a line rooted in accessories, showed its versatility with a sportswear collection that included waxed-canvas field jackets lined with Loro Piana wool; sweaters knit in Italy; organic jersey T-shirts; suiting vests; button-down slim-cut oxford shirts in Japanese pima cotton, and a cashmere blazer.

Delphine Germano, the New York liaison for Le Bon Marché in Paris, was most interested in the accessories she found at the show. “There are so many clothing lines in Europe, I need to bring something else, so I’m more focused on items that tell a story.” She singled out Dedegumo watches and Lexdray luggage. But she also singled out the 3×1 denim line and also sought “preppy sportswear you can wear in town,” while walking the show.

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