LAS VEGAS — Relaxed and formal.
Those were the two key themes for fall at the men’s shows here this week as the ath-leisure trend continued to dominate while one of the most-promising opportunities is the continued blending of tailoring and casualwear, spurred on by the proliferation of performance fabrics and technology across all categories. Above all, the exhibitions proved male consumers, especially the younger ones, are now firmly into fashion.
“The male consumer is more self-confident in purchasing for himself,” said Patty Leto, senior vice president of merchandising for the Doneger Group. Tim Bess, the company’s men’s fashion trend analyst, said: “It’s all about ath-leisure.” This translated into textured knit tops, updated sweaters, layering pieces, joggers, knit blazers, dressed-up denim and performance outerwear for fall. “It’s everything from true active to street active,” he said.
Retailers agreed. “Ath-leisure and activewear are going to keep pushing the market for fall,” said Jack Matzer, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Stage Stores.
Jan Clevenger, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Belk, said the company had “an amazing year in sportswear” in 2014, driven in large part by activewear brands such as Under Armour and other labels that embraced the ath-leisure trend. “We sold every piece of fleece we had on the floor,” she said.
At the shows, the Belk team was looking for more joggers to bolster the assortment on the floor already, as well as updated looks in underwear, socks and sportswear.
Doug Ewert, chief executive officer of The Men’s Wearhouse, was similarly optimistic. “We like what we’re hearing from our customers,” he said. “They’re responding to newness: Joseph Abboud, made-in-America and better-quality goods.” He said the stores are experiencing “a nice increase in traffic,” and average unit transactions are up. “There are a lot of exciting trends in the business,” he said. “We’re upbeat about 2015 — we’ve got momentum.”
On the vendor side, Ronny Wurtzburger, president of Peerless Clothing, said the mood among his customers was good, and he was especially hopeful about the rise in interest in seasonal fabrics such as flannel for suits and lamb’s wool or corduroy for sport coats. “It forces a man to buy twice a year,” he said. “We need to get back to seasonal clothing.” Other key fall trends include olive as a must-have color, he said, as well as true overcoats with updated details such as faux leather trim, and navy tuxedos. “Sport coats are also on fire,” he said. “Men are dressing up more than ever before.”
Representing the more-casual end of the spectrum, Tommy Bahama reported strong holiday business and a solid start to spring. “We’re really happy with sales of men’s and women’s sportswear and swimwear,” said Doug Wood, president and chief operating officer. For spring, the brand is offering a “decidedly more upscale push,” added Rob Goldberg, senior vice president of marketing. “The economy is healthier and people are looking more for a point of view, not price,” Wood said. Among the new offerings from the brand are men’s pima cotton shirts, an updated footwear collection and a revamped women’s sportswear collection.