“We are going to be a strong force in the global men’s wear business.”
This story first appeared in the July 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
So declared John Idol, chairman and chief executive officer of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.
On Tuesday, the company revealed that Mark Brashear, who resigned last month as chairman and ceo of Hugo Boss Americas, has been brought on board as global men’s wear president for the rapidly growing Kors brand. Brashear will spearhead a major expansion of the company’s men’s business, which will include the rollout of freestanding men’s stores starting next year as well as the extension into new categories, as Kors surges toward its goal of building a $1 billion men’s brand.
“We said two quarters ago that we were putting great emphasis on the men’s business,” Idol told WWD in an interview at the company’s offices during the spring collection preview. “We view men’s as a huge opportunity for us. We’ve been in the men’s business since 2002 and we’re very focused on it. We’re getting very nice traction in the U.S. and Europe and, as we look at our future as a lifestyle company, it’s time to put our focus on the men’s business.”
He said the “catalyst” for this men’s initiative was the decision to devote an entire floor in the company’s planned 22,000-square-foot store, which is opening this fall in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. “That really galvanized the company,” he said.
At the same time, Idol revealed in May, when the company reported double-digit percent gains in profits and sales during the fourth quarter, that it was planning to open freestanding men’s stores around the world. The first of those will open in the fall, Idol said Tuesday, and he is expecting to quickly open eight to 10 units as a test. “But then it could be 500 globally,” he said. He called the freestanding store initiative the “highest priority on our journey.”
Another big initiative is the fall launch of the company’s first men’s fragrance.
“It’s all coming together,” Idol said.
The ceo said of the $1 billion goal for men’s wear, one-third is expected to come from watches, which Idol called a “huge opportunity,” one-third from men’s apparel and one-third from leather goods. He declined to provide a figure for current men’s sales. “We’re nicely along,” he said.
“But to be successful and to reach our $1 billion goal, we needed a leader,” he continued. “We searched the globe for the right person and thought Mark had the right experience.” Brashear joined Hugo Boss to oversee the Americas in 2009. Before that, he was with Nordstrom for nearly 23 years, from 1985 to 2008, where he was executive vice president. From 2001 to 2007, he was ceo of Façonnable.
Idol called Nordstrom “one of the best retailers in the world,” and pointed to Brashear’s international experience at the France-based Façonnable as well as Germany’s Hugo Boss, which he characterized as “a pinnacle company to look at” in the men’s business. “His career and history are the perfect match for us.”
Brashear said he was “superexcited for the opportunity” to spearhead the Kors men’s business. “I’m a passionate student of the industry and I’m looking forward to building Michael Kors into the global men’s wear company we’re striving to achieve.”
Idol said men’s is carried in more than 450 doors in 35 countries, but is not yet in Asia, a region the company also sees as ripe for expansion.
Although the company’s leather goods have a large following in Asia as well as Europe, the apparel penetration is not as developed in those areas. Idol said there are fit issues that need to be addressed in order to better serve the local men’s customers. These include slimmer fits and different fabric choices in Europe.
“We’re putting the human and financial resources [behind building our men’s business,]” Idol said. “We’re excited about it. There are only five or six big players, but no one big has gotten into the business for quite a while.” These include Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
Kors’ laser focus on the men’s market extends to his newest scent, called — appropriately enough — Michael Kors for Men. “We didn’t knock ourselves out with the name,” the designer said.
But he feels the team did knock themselves out with the fragrance, which is meant to balance urban sophistication and rugged style for the man on the go. “It seems like men’s fragrances are either a citrus bomb or all patchouli,” said Kors of the new scent’s modern, woody oriental juice. “This is a hybrid. Hybrid is my favorite word.”
The fragrance, which Kors and Trudi Loren, senior vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., developed with Firmenich’s Harry Fremont, has top notes of bergamot, coriander, star anise, black pepper, thyme and elemi; a heart of incense, suede and sage, and a drydown of patchouli, sandalwood, sleek woods and musk. “It’s sexy, but unexpected,” said Kors.
Eaux de toilette in two sizes — 2.3 oz. for $62 and 4 oz. for $78 — will be offered, as will an aftershave splash, $45; an aftershave balm, $45, and a $32 hair and body wash.
In the U.S., the scent will be exclusive to Macy’s Inc., macys.com and Kors’ own boutiques and Web site beginning in September. A global rollout is planned for the spring.
Industry sources estimate that the scent will do upward of $30 million at retail globally in its first year on counter.
Kors turned animated as he spoke about the TV and print campaigns for the scent. “We wanted the commercial to feel like an action movie — it’s about speed, motion, action,” said Kors, explaining that he turned to Hollywood to pull that off. Amir Mokri, who has worked as director of photography for such films as “Fast & Furious” and “Man of Steel,” directed the spot, which features Benjamin Eidem and Karmen Pedaru. Eidem is seen tooling around in a helicopter and a seaplane — “boys’ toys,” said the designer — before meeting Pedaru on a private island.
The print campaign was shot by Mario Testino and features Eidem, and will break in September books. The film component, which will bow online before reaching network TV for the holidays, was shot in Miami and the Florida Keys, while the print campaign was photographed in California.
“Benjamin has this modern Steve McQueen vibe going on — it’s like dangerous glamour,” said Kors. “And of course we had to use the Rolling Stones as background music.” The song chosen was “Monkey Man.”
“Michael Kors for Men is really made for the man on the go,” said Kors. “He’s in a business meeting at nine, hopping on his private jet at noon and landing in St. Barth’s in time for a sexy beachside dinner. My new fragrance captures that feeling of escape and the exhilaration of the jet-set lifestyle — when you’re ready and eager to jump on a plane with a moment’s notice.”
That same sensibility shines through in the spring men’s collection, which the designer characterized as Amalfi Americano. “We’re big Amalfi and Capri fans,” he said.
Like the fragrance, the men’s wear also centers around hybrids this season. “I’m all about hybrids,” Kors said, pointing to the sweater-polos, the espadrille-sneakers and the Windbreaker-hoodie-swimsuit cover-ups.
The collection is designed to take the man from work in the city to the coast for the weekend in timeless style. Among the key pieces are bonded cotton anoraks, dressy denim suits, textured sweaters, nautical-inspired T-shirts and a new take on the pleated pant.
Kors several times referenced Dickie Greenleaf, the spoiled millionaire playboy character in the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Greenleaf could easily wear the designer’s new double-pleated pants and deep-cuffed stovepipe jeans, he said. “Dickie has to have something to get on the boat with his anorak.” And if the anorak doesn’t work, there’s always Kors’ “nasty take on an Admiral’s jacket.”
Many of the pieces are seasonless, especially the short-sleeve cable-knit sweaters designed to be layered under a jacket or coat during the cold months or worn as a stand-alone piece in warmer climates. A black peacoat in cotton linen canvas, for example, also appears heavy, but is actually lightweight.
“There are no seasons anymore,” Kors said. “The guy traveling the world wants things that are versatile.”