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Colorful khakis, skinny-fit jeans, military influences and a whiff of Baja surf vibes permeated the men’s collections at the spring trade shows.

This story first appeared in the August 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


Oscar Feldenkreis, Perry Ellis International Inc.’s president and chief operating officer, said the show was “excellent” and singled out men’s wear as a stronger performer than other categories. “Retailers are looking for inventory,” he noted. “We don’t think the economy is as bad as people think.”

Key Trends: Military influences appeared on outerwear and cargo shorts, and plaid wovens remained a key item in many collections. Nondenim bottoms like khaki and corduroy added newness to denim lines and brands played with details on polo shirts, a staple of spring lines. Fedora hats were attention-grabbers for buyers seeking novelty.

Best in Show: Dockers made a play for upscale specialty stores with its line of fashion-forward, premium khakis that were abraded, tinted and sanded. Dockers has made its European styles available in the U.S. and, so far, American Rag and Nordstrom have picked up the higher-end product. In the denim realm, Lucky Brand showed more distressed styles in jeanswear and stepped out into cargo pants with drawstrings as well as cargo shorts and surplus jackets. DKNY Jeans models were more washed and “toned down” for spring, said Ken Fleishman, vice president of sales. The idea, he said, was to help men look “more polished.” Silver Jeans got the best results from its “clean finishes” in denim as well as its denim alternatives, such as carpenter styles, said Rick Carman, vice president of men’s sales. Junk Food epitomized the trend toward vintage T-shirts with its line of graphic shirts that focused on cultural icons such as Wheaties cereal or professional sports teams. Stetson saw increased interest from retailers for its fedoras — for both men and women. At Rocawear, utility denim, wool jackets with fireman’s toggles and checked and plaid shirts were key items. Rocawear offered large-scale R+ logos on its own designs at a $48 retail price point. “All the sizing has come down on our R+ premium line,” said Tanya Bryson, national sales manager at Rocawear. “We had an extremely productive show and wrote a ton of orders.”

Show Buzz: To promote its new line of motorcycle-inspired apparel, AKOO hooked up with Yamaha and presented hip-hop star T.I. with a customized cycle at its booth in the Street section of MAGIC. The presentation followed the Las Vegas premiere of the movie “Takers,” starring T.I. and Matt Dillon. Brean Murray, Carret & Co. analyst Eric Beder gave good marks to Andrew Marc and Sean John. “We visited the Andrew Marc and Sean John booths and were impressed with the level of fashion offerings and the attention to pricing and value in what is expected to be a period of higher prices,” he said in a research note.

— David Lipke and Jean E. Palmieri

Grass and pro shops haven’t been immune from the recessionary climate. Thousands of golf professionals showed up in Vegas to shop 200 brands of hard and soft goods at the PGA Fall Expo and attend educational seminars to help them figure out the best products and strategies to boost sales. The overflow crowd at the opening-day session on the State of Golf Retail by the Association of Golf Merchandisers heard that sales of soft goods is the biggest challenge for most stores.

Key Trends: Technical fabrics still dominate, but fashion has found its way into the golf market. From argyle sweaters and bouncy skirts to polo shirts that change color in the heat, the industry has embraced innovation for spring.

Best in Show: EvanGolf’s fashion-forward line of men’s and women’s wear is a “big departure from the mainstream,” said Jeehee Han, with its schoolboy-schoolgirl references that look deceptively unathletic. But every piece has technical attributes that make it wearable for 18 holes, then to the club and dinner. Knowing the mesh panels and skinny black ties may not be for everyone, Han said she’s taking “an adventurous risk,” but is hoping to appeal to those who “like to look unique.” Other top brands included Fairway & Greene, which channeled “Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in their 20s” for the “retro vibe” in its Palm Springs collection, said Andy Bell, president. The line also included sophisticated, preppy-inspired models, interesting trim details, vibrant colors and slimmer fits. “The golf customer is as discerning as they’ve ever been,” Bell said. “And they’re looking for more of a fashion spin.” Zero Restriction’s patterned windshirts with stretch attributes, Second Skin’s value-priced midlevel pullovers (retail $69), and Quagmire’s ColorFusion shirts that change color when the temperature goes above 72 degrees, were also standouts.

Show Buzz: Paul Azinger, captain of the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, presented a motivational keynote address, sharing the strategies that helped carry the U.S. team to victory over Europe two years ago.

— J.E.P.

“The question on everyone’s mind is whether the economy is accelerating or decelerating,” said Ari Hoffman, chief executive officer of Gant USA. Despite that uncertainty, vendors said retailers were ready to add more merchandise after a period of lean inventories, while still being cautious about taking too much risk with untested brands. “New brands have a difficult time ahead, as retailers are looking for safety,” said Pan Philippou, ceo of Ben Sherman. Sam Ku, design director at AG Adriano Goldschmied, said June and July sales were “tough,” but the trend has picked up in August and the company expects to post a record year.

Key Trends: Skinny jeans remained the key fit in denim, with variations on the style plentiful, such as looser fits toward the top, tapering to a skinny fit on the lower leg. Colored khakis and twill bottoms were abundant, as were nylon outerwear, deconstructed blazers and activewear influences.

Best in Show: Lacoste showed at Project for the first time and introduced its Lacoste Live label, which is aimed at a younger, trendier customer than core Lacoste product. “We have a segmentation strategy so that our department stores and specialty stores can buy different product,” said Steve Birkhold, ceo of Devanlay U.S. Inc., the Lacoste apparel and accessories licensee. “That strategy over the past six to seven months has really paid off, so business has stabilized and in some cases started to grow.” Nudie denim was doing well with its washed-down gray and black styles, along with dry finishes. Skinny fits remained the key driver of men’s sales, while the Swedish brand added some silk blends to its lineup for customers seeking a soft hand. AG Adriano Goldschmied introduced a pricy collection under the AG-ed Reserve name, with jeans featuring 10-karat gold button shanks and hand distressing and repairs. The jeans are limited to 200 to 250 pieces per style and retail for $495 to $600. A more democratic offering was showcased as well: a new AG basics T-shirt line designed by Joe and Jackie Krafka, previously the founders of T Los Angeles. Seven For All Mankind focused on providing nondenim alternatives, such as a 6.5-ounce corduroy jean and twill options in spring shades like cadet blue. Sportswear is becoming a bigger part of Seven men’s business, with that segment doubling in size this year, said Susan Kellogg, president of VF Corp.’s contemporary brands coalition. Original Penguin displayed a winning, colorful swimsuit lineup and the Perry Ellis International Inc.-owned brand has doubled the size of that category. The company will expand its denim offerings next year, as well, as it makes a play to become a full-scale lifestyle collection business. Original Penguin has reduced its reliance on knit tops to about 40 percent of its business, with wovens now at 30 percent and bottoms and other categories the remainder.

Show Buzz: Under the direction of new president Andrew Pollard, Project instituted new initiatives, including a breakfast seminar series, a social media salon and a showcase called Project 10 for emerging brands. Diesel highlighted its new Turbotech denim, a trademarked process by which jeans can be worn in from raw to a true vintage look by the wearer in 30 days.

— D.L. and J.E.P.

Hudson Jeans chief executive officer Peter Kim painted a gloomy picture of the retail environment, but noted that even difficult times offer opportunities. Hudson itself is on a growth trajectory and the company is focused on the fundamentals of product, deliveries and service to retailers.

Key Trends: Darker, cleaner denim in slim and straight fits was the key direction at Paige Premium Denim, as it was at many jeans brands. “We’re moving away from destruction and have things with soft hands and stretch,” said Jonathan Geller, men’s sales director at PPD and stepson of company founder Paige Adams-Geller. “We also lowered our entry price point to $170, down from $186. Department stores are asking for lower prices to move merchandise.”

Best in Show: At Woolrich John Rich & Bros., overdyed madras shirts, Japanese cotton-linen baseball jackets and a fleece bomber jacket were among the most popular offerings, along with a reversible short — khaki or plaid. A British military jacket and a Mackintosh coat in yellow or navy also drew fans, sales director Eric Hansen said. An updated color palette for its shirts, led by purples and mauves, received strong buyer response at What Goes Around Comes Around. The brand showed a selection of Americana-inspired styles, some in patchwork fabrics, others in seersucker, along with shorts, blazer-vest combinations and even a couple of true vintage pieces. Citizens of Humanity mixed it up for its bottoms collection, blending linen with denim for pants that draped beautifully and washed well. Other blends included linen and canvas, which provided denim characteristics to nondenim pants, said Jennifer Liss, brand manager. A slimmer-fit, 7-oz. chino was also a standout. Public School exaggerated the silhouette of several of the pieces in its dark, avant-garde collection. Designer Dao Yi Chow elongated a number of the cardigans, leather trenches and traditional baseball blouson jackets in the spring line. Cohesive & Co. showed shorts in a sweatshirt fabric with a drawstring closure. The brand used drawstrings for some of its denim as well as an indigo-dyed pullover. With wholesale price points of $52, Postage Denim shows it can still provide a premium experience without a premium price tag. Among the brand’s top sellers were the slim straight-leg model, a dropped crotch and a skinny, all in rigid denim.

Show Buzz: ENK moved back to the Wynn hotel from the Bellagio this season, putting it in closer proximity to the Capsule show, located at the neighboring Venetian hotel. Dutch brand No Excess is launching in the U.S. this year, after building businesses in 20 other countries. The youthful, trendy denim and sportswear brand is distributed here by Seal Beach, Calif.-based P2F Holdings. A key selling point for the collection is its accessible prices, with wovens retailing for $69, jackets for $100 and up, pants for $125 and outerwear for $200 and up.

— D.L. and J.E.P.

Guarded optimism prevailed among retailers and manufacturers at The Venetian. “The bloom of March, April and May is definitely off the rose,” said Wally Naymon, owner of Kilgore Trout in Cleveland. “Now it’s a catfight…there are a lot of great [product] pickers out there,” but that’s not all it takes to win. Instead, retailers must learn “how to be better businessmen” to survive the lingering downturn, he said.

Key Trends: Woven shirts with contrasting patterns, hybrid coats, deconstructed sport coats and colorful outerwear were among the top-selling items. Although suits were available, most vendors focused on dress-down casualwear.

Best in Show: Kroon was a standout with its value-priced garment-dyed washed jackets. Priced to retail for $395 or less, general manager Brent Kestin said stores have stopped complaining that his prices are too low. “We don’t have to talk them into it,” he said. “My coats are finally an accepted product in their stores. This is sportswear, not tailored clothing, for stores who want a soft coat with integrity.” The jackets are “washed, washed and washed,” he said, and feature extra pockets and zippers as updates. “These are an add-on business for specialty stores,” he said. Rufus’ sport shirts were also a cut above, with contrasting sleeves and neck patterns and more-youthful cuts. Owner April Singer Straten said the spring product was similar to the company’s former dress shirt offerings, but more casual and relaxed to reflect the times. Classic patterns are twisted in an unexpected way by adding contrasting cuffs, perpendicular buttonholes and other unusual tweaks. Barbour took eye-popping colors such as green or orange and used them on outerwear pieces that had all the technical bells and whistles, but were a far cry from the gray and black models offered by competitors. Other strong items included Aquascutum’s new luxury golf collection, khaki suits from Jack Victor and the reinvented Haspel collection. Gitman’s Blue collection offered 2 3/4-inch ties for younger customers in nontraditional fabrics such as cotton, linen and seersucker, and Allegri’s modern hybrid jackets that were “part blazer, part outerwear,” said sales rep Tom Tarricone. And Scott James, the collection by Scott Kuhlman and now under new ownership with the Hampshire Group, showed a collection of shirts designed to retail for less than $100, in patterns ranging from garment-dyed solids to ginghams.

Show Buzz: MRket’s format, with its newly designed Space-Age-style entryway and open-booth format, drew specialty store retailers to shop its 300-plus men’s lines that spanned 45,000 square feet, a 20 percent increase over the last edition in August. Additions included the HMX Group, Tommy Bahama and Saints + Sirens in its first trade show appearance. Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., said the redesign, which also included a selection of lounges and adjacencies to the company’s women’s shows, was intended to make attendees “feel energized when they walk onto the floor.”

— J.E.P.

Capsule Las Vegas is an opportunity to work with West Coast stores that may not trek to New York, said Rob Sanderson, a sales executive with John Varvatos Star USA, which showcased lightweight poplin shirts, high-gauge cotton knits and linen-cotton blend suit separates in modern, one-button silhouettes. Trovata designer John Whitledge celebrated his brand’s 10th anniversary with a collection of madras shorts, near-sheer shirts, canvas jeans and washed leather bombers.

Key Trends: Swimwear was a key category, with brands such as Onia and Orlebar Brown offering modern, sophisticated takes on trunks and volleys in subdued solids. For the fashion-forward Capsule crowd, bold colors and prints were available at labels like Monitaly, where paisley shorts and blazers hung next to ikat-print shirts, as well as Riviera Club, which showcased a Baja-inspired collection perfect for après-surf — such as serape hooded pullovers and double-layer gauze shirts.

Best in Show: With its second collection, New England Shirt Co. offered a line of dress and sport shirts manufactured in its own Fall River, Mass., factory. The label offered a range of shirts from solids to patterns, many fitted and washed with slim fits and narrow collars to appeal to contemporary customers. Retailers can customize their orders, as well, choosing fits, fabrics, collars and pocket treatments, with deliveries taking about a month. Gitman Vintage continued to offer the button-down oxfords and pinpoint shirts for which they’re known, but every season goes into the archives for authentic re-creations of past collections. For spring, creative director Chris Olberding revisited 1986 with a cotton madras grouping from old dish towels and a whole pastel story. Timo Weiland showed quirky designs like waffle-knit blazers with silk voile lapels, striped linen shirts with jersey sleeves and drapy, drop-needle cardigans. The New York-based designer also introduced his first bag collection — fashion-forward backpacks made of canvas, pony hair, lace and tweed. At Steven Alan, there were reversible shorts, each side sporting a different color and pocket treatments. While continuing to honor the importance of a finely crafted button-down oxford and the indispensable pinpoint, the design team at Gitman dusted off old line books to curate an authentic interpretation of the past by selectively appropriating their favorite fabrics and having them remade (spring 2010, for example, is re-created from spring 1984).

Show Buzz: Everything old is new again. Just ask the vintage firms exhibiting at Capsule for the first time, part of a partnership between the trade show and trend Web site Heller’s Cafe offered vintage leather bombers and woven shirts that have just as much appeal today. “There’s a difference between cool damaged and crap,” said president Larry McKaughan. “That’s the vision I’m marketing.” Other vintage firms included Orange Crush Exports, with a large collection of boots, sunglasses, belts, plaid and patterned shirts and leather and army jackets; Strongarm Clothing & Supply Co., and Irons & Duck.

— D.L. and J.E.P.

Most of the brands are new to the market and their enthusiasm was refreshingly unrestrained.

Key Trends: Graphic T-shirts continue to dominate, but some of the labels made the move into woven shirts, jumping on the plaid and chambray bandwagon.

Best in Show: Heavy Rotation, which got its start in graphic Ts, has branched out into woven shirts and hoodies, while Good Society introduced a skinny jean in raw denim that looked clean and fresh. Out of Print, which offers T-shirts emblazoned with book covers, sees an increased interest in the classics such as “Moby Dick” and “Death of a Salesman.” PalmerCash’s button-down wovens, fleeces and garment-dyed Ts reflected the brand’s free-spirited attitude, and River Up was finding success with its line of men’s fedoras under the Basiquenti label.

Show Buzz: Charity was an overriding theme at Pool, with many of the brands touting their do-good efforts. Good Society, for example, donates a quarter of its profits to charity; Out of Print provides one book for every shirt sold to Books for Africa, and many of the lines used only sustainable or organic materials.

— J.E.P.

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