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Men'sWeek issue 07/03/2014

PARIS — Business and pleasure: Paris delivered both in equal measure, according to buyers, who praised the recent round of men’s shows here for combining high-level creativity with greater practicality — like the fact that recent spring seasons have been plagued by heavy rains in many regions.

This story first appeared in the July 3, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Paris is still the best place where creativity and commerce are linked together with a good balance. You can find established brands as well as young and small fashion projects,” said Carla Sozzani, founder and owner of 10 Corso Como, who said her open-to-buy was steady and skewed more toward new and upcoming brands.

Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said the retailer used to have one buyer assigned to Paris collections and now has four — one each for shoes, accessories, designer and contemporary.

“Men’s continues to deliver and so we are looking to ways of growing and expanding that business,” he said.

See the Paris Men’s Spring 2015 Collections Here >>

Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Barneys New York, said the retailer has been renovating all its men’s floors and will have put the finishing touches on its New York flagship by fall, while renovations of the Beverly Hills location are also under way.

“We came to Europe with plans to grow the men’s designer business. The Paris collections have exceeded our expectations,” he said. “There is an energy in the air that creates the foundation for creativity on an extreme level.”

Emmanuel de Bayser, owner and head buyer for The Corner in Berlin, summed up the shift taking place on the men’s front: “Fashion and lifestyle are moving closer and closer together. In previous seasons, it was either rock or athletic. Now designers are paying more attention to the streets and men’s active lifestyles, valuing comfort and practicality above all,” he said.

Accordingly, the concept of seasons is blurring.

“Many of the shows did not look particularly ‘springy,’ and we’ve noticed that for our designer customer, it is not about dressing for a specific season,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, vice president and designer fashion director at Nordstrom. “The designer customer will buy the best, most special pieces year-round regardless of when they deliver.”

Shows that garnered plaudits included Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Junya Watanabe, Rick Owens, Saint Laurent and Raf Simons.

Key trends for the season included fuller proportions and fluid shapes; lightweight outerwear; bomber jackets; pleated and wide-leg pants; Bermuda shorts; sneakers, and elements of athletic apparel.

“In terms of silhouettes, shirts are getting longer, pants shorter. The looks are fuller and there are stronger synergies between tailoring and sportswear, only now it’s becoming one complete look. Guys can mix and match more,” said Josh Peskowitz, men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s.

RELATED STORY: Men’s Spring 2015 Collections — A Blend of Trends >>

Stephen Ayres, head of fashion buying and merchandising at Liberty in London, said the more relaxed approach to dressing seen on the catwalks mirrors the way the store’s male customers are shopping.

“We planned our blazers and tailoring categories down and they have performed in line with this. For us, the bomber in smarter fabrics has replaced the blazer for a more casual sartorial aesthetic. We will take this approach again for next season and will be backing softer pieces across all categories,” he said.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, singled out collections by Van Noten, Watanabe and Alessandro Sartori at Berluti.

“The new sneaker collection he introduced showcased the artisanal details of their expertly crafted shoes and was the perfect match for the casual atmosphere of the collection,” Pask said of Berluti.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, was upbeat about Saint Laurent, Valentino, Berluti and newcomer Cifonelli. The key trends for him were summer trenches; a spice palette with saffron and dark sages; suede jackets, and pleated pants.

“Finally, footwear, footwear, footwear. Sneakers continue to be an explosive category, there is real growth opportunity there and designers feed into that. Sneakers had cleaner profiles this season and fewer embellishments. But we also loved the luxe version of espadrilles, in suede for instance,” he commented.

Adrian Ward-Rees, men’s wear gmm and fashion director for Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, said he increased his budgets for Paris and is excited about the emergence of new brands such as Song for the Mute and Devoa.

“There is an elegance to the underground in Paris, which is just not found in any other market,” Ward-Rees said, referring to emerging talent from Japan and brands beyond the runways. “The new talent gets represented in such an elevated way that it transforms the perception of what fashion should be about.”

Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente in Milan, singled out Gosha Rubchinskiy, an artist-skater — and Comme des Garçons protégé — with a polished, refined street-inspired look. Overall, the season was more about individuality of vision than trends, she noted.

“[There’s] an interesting ‘morphing’ of the technical into the tailored, the sporty into the military, the activewear into the sartorial,” Cardini said.

Karen Vernet, gmm of men’s apparel, homewares and private label at Printemps in Paris, said she would be stocking up on bomber jackets, sneakers, backpacks, T-shirts and Bermuda shorts. She noted that Jonathan Anderson’s first collection for Loewe was “something very new with its luxury androgynous silhouette.”

Jennifer Cuvillier, style director at Le Bon Marché in Paris, noted an abundance of style influences ranging from rock music to art, street style, surfing and homewares. “The pastel color palette and touches of blossom prints or appliqué bring a freshness into the collections. We feel very confident about this season,” she said.

Like many buyers, Darren Skey, buying and merchandising manager for men’s wear at Harvey Nichols in London, had high praise for Van Noten, the subject of a retrospective at Les Arts Décoratifs that has been extended until November.

“Dries Van Noten produced a stunning collection,” said Skey, who noted its “fluid, flowing shapes and beautifully embroidered jackets, including an amazing silk bomber embroidered with an eagle and rising sun on the back.

“The fuller silhouette we have been seeing in both Milan and Paris is looking very fresh and modern. Wooyoungmi had a beautiful show that encapsulated this very well,” said Steven Cook, senior vice president, buying and merchandising at Toronto-based Holt Renfrew. “The footwear category, and sneakers in particular, is looking very good,” he added, singling out Buscemi as a standout.

Cook also cited a wealth of “advanced sportswear. There was plenty to choose from in graphic sweatshirts, T-shirts, bomber jackets and sport-inspired trousers.”

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