Slim silhouettes, heritage brands, knitwear and outerwear were key draws for retailers in town to shop the New York market shows this week.
This story first appeared in the January 24, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But with these trends popular for the past several seasons, stores were forced to scour the aisles at Project, MRket, Capsule and the other trade shows for their latest incarnations.
“There’s not a lot of trend this season,” said Dan Farrington, general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Mitchells Family of Stores. “There’s still some room to grow with the fit change, but that’s leveling out now.”
As a result, he was searching for “special items, add-on luxury pieces to round out our offering.” Sweaters, outerwear and soft jersey jackets, along with “cool denim,” were the most intriguing, he said. “But there’s a lot of sameness. Everybody has zip sweaters and soft jackets, so for us, it’s about the details.” Accessories also are an area of opportunity, Farrington said, pointing to caps, scarves and leather goods.
He noted that his company benefited from a blast of business at the end of the holiday season, and he’s expecting single-digit growth for this year. “If we’re smart and have good product, that’s what we’re looking at,” said Farrington.
Craig DeLongy of the John Craig men’s stores in Winter Park, Fla., said he was “blown away by the creative courage” of European men and hopes to bring a bit of that to his customer. “We have to teach men how to dress,” he said.
At the shows, he was looking for “new lines — icing on the cake” in sportswear, as well as outerwear. Although his stores are in Florida, he had success last fall with outerwear from men traveling to colder climes, so he spent some open-to-buy on overcoats from Sand and other vendors in New York.
“We had a good year in 2012 and if we keep doing everything right, we’re hoping for a 7 to 9 percent increase this year,” he said.
Luke Abner of The Rogue in Jackson, Miss., said that after a slow start, sales picked up at the end of the year. “The world stopped around the election, but after Nov. 15, people came in,” he said. As a result, he trimmed inventories back and is focusing more on the inherent value of the garments he carries.
“We’re trying to find the right soft coat that fits, denim is outstanding and we’re also looking for the right shoes to go with everything,” he said. Abner singled out David Donahue shirts, Joseph Abboud and Jack Victor suits, the True Grit collection and Ibiza cotton corduroy jackets as standouts. “But the days of having 70 vendors on the floor is over,” he said. “Now, we have 10 and we think we can make our mark that way.”
Jeff Glass, co-owner of Boyds in Philadelphia, was more upbeat on the retail climate. “Our business has continued to grow since ’09 and we are more and more bullish,” he noted. “If anything, we have the confidence to try more things in different areas. We are being more aggressive. As a single store and as an independent, you have to have a reason for being — a personality that is singular and different than all the others. People want to go shopping and have fun.”
Project showed off its new look and location under the direction of president Tommy Fazio. The move to Pier 92 and the addition of former ENK International men’s vendors — Project’s parent, Advanstar Fashion Group, recently purchased the competing show and merged its men’s brands into Project — allowed for about 300 brands to showcase their wares. Fazio said he “merchandised the show like I was putting together a retail store.”
The entryway featured Todd Snyder’s new collaboration with Champion, followed by a Warby Parker pop-up. Inside the main hall, the show opened with contemporary sportswear brands, followed by denim and youth-culture vendors. “We’re elevating the service and the experience,” he said.
There will be even more striking changes in Las Vegas next month when all the men’s brands will be brought together under the Project banner. Designer brands such as Billy Reid and Michael Bastian will be housed at the Tents at Project in the parking lot at Mandalay Bay and youth brands will be showcased in a Project Mvmnt section. “Our mission going forward is to create a really compelling men’s wear show,” said Fazio. “That’s our legacy.”
Knitwear, lightweight jackets, and coated and printed fabrics were key trends at the show. Woven shirts took a backseat to lush sweaters and novelty knits as a directional focus in sportswear. Prints in classic men’s themes like Prince of Wales and glen plaid added interest to cotton trousers and airy, unconstructed blazers.
“Everybody is really focusing on cardigan sweaters, in updated ways, with pops of color on the trim, shawl collars or unique knitting up the sides,” said Jeff Glass, co-owner of Boyds in Philadelphia, singling out Autumn Cashmere, Christopher Fischer and Vince as standouts. “Wovens were a bit lackluster. The excitement is coming from knitwear. Even with the warm weather, we had the best sweater season we’ve had in years.”
Glass picked up a new belt resource in Brave Leather and added new categories from Benson, a New York-based sportswear brand. “Benson is very value-friendly and they are really broadening their offerings, from pants to sweaters, and adding more luxurious fabrics,” said Glass.
The Todd Snyder x Champion capsule collection, set to launch at retail this fall, included gym-inspired pieces like sweatshirts and thermals in high-end Japanese fabrics, with a retro bent accentuated by vintage flat-lock stitching. A sophisticated element was added via varsity jackets in wool flannel, and even hoodies were adorned with luxe details like fabric-covered buttons.
“I think there’s a movement toward men becoming more gentlemanly. We’re moving away from the Red Wings and beard look and starting to clean things up a bit more,” said Snyder. “People are looking for more tailoring and more refinement. I’ve really moved in that direction in my own collection for fall.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jeff Shafer, chief executive officer of Agave Denim. “Men’s is becoming more tailored, with smaller lapels, higher armholes — it’s cleaner and sexier. Guys are tucking in their shirts and pants are narrower, which shows off footwear,” he observed.
At Agave, that meant tapered fits and jean-trouser hybrids were key silhouettes for fall, as well as herringbone weaves, cavalry corduroy and black denim. “Everything is slimmer this season, with 14- to 16-inch leg openings,” said Shafer.
Looking at the retail landscape, the growing influence of e-commerce is the most significant issue impacting retail, added Shafer. “There’s such a major transition to online and it’s a battle out there with Zappos, Amazon and sites like nordstrom.com. We are mostly in better specialty boutiques, and specialty stores have to become more special — because all the basics are being bought online,” he noted.
There was an abundance of that special product at youthful brand Del Toro Shoes, where chukka, sneaker, wing tip and slipper styles were displayed in a profusion of materials like burlap, quilted leather, tie-dyed canvas, Neoprene, stingray and ostrich. “We’re looking at using sustainable materials like perch and salmon skin also,” said the Miami-based brand’s designer and founder, Matthew Chevallard.
Del Toro is now sold in about 75 stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Scoop, Harvey Nichols and Five Story. In December, the company opened its first Del Toro boutique in the Wynwood Building in Miami.
Silver foil sneakers were appropriately top sellers at Adidas SLVR, the German megabrand’s contemporary fashion label designed by Dirk Schoenberger. Pleated track pants, sweatshirts with Neoprene sleeves and coated French terry sweatshirts amped up the fashion quotient on conceptual gym-inspired pieces.
New York-based Number:Lab expressed a similarly high-style approach to active design in its shorts, which were pieced together from quick-dry mesh and supple jersey. Designer Luis Fernandez reimagined the classic M65 jacket in a titanium powder-coated polyurethane fabric that was shimmery and whisper weight.
Lightweight fabrics were also central to a new tailored line from Alessandro Cantarelli, the scion of Italy’s Cantarelli family, which owns the vertically integrated tailored clothing firm in Arezzo, Italy. The younger line emphasizes unstructured, easy-to-wear blazers that are polished but relaxed, explained Katie Liu, cofounder of the Black Dog 8 showroom in New York that represents the line here.
In the designer arena, Versace Collection made its debut at Project and showcased its iconic printed silk shirts based on vintage patterns from its archives. Zipper details were in evidence throughout the offering in everything from leather jackets and woven shirts to a zipper-trimmed topcoat. As expected, the collection popped with color, notably teal, gold and magenta.
“We brought the collection here to generate interest and perhaps open different avenues of business,” said Libbey Dorko, senior account executive for men’s collections.
Denim was well represented at Project by brands like Paper Denim & Cloth, Robin’s Jeans, The Stronghold, Mavi and True Religion. “I think the cycle is really coming back to denim, after having so much twill and nondenim in the market,” said Scott Morrison, founder of 3×1. “How many colored stretch bottoms can you have?”
After launching his brand with a SoHo store that also serves as a production facility, Morrison is rapidly expanding the business into wholesale. The brand is now sold at Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Mario’s — and the growth has meant production will transition from the New York headquarters to Los Angeles facilities with greater capacity.
“We used the store as an incubator and we were able to perfect the fits and the concept before really getting into wholesale,” explained Morrison. “Fabrics are 100 percent selvage, and the washes range from dark and sophisticated, to distressed and damaged this season.”
A newcomer to the show was Raleigh denim, which produces its handcrafted jeans on vintage looms in North Carolina. The jeans, which retail for $225 to $330, are offered in five fits and are either raw or rinsed, according to John Webb, sales rep. The company also showed pleated jean trousers, woven shirts, unconstructed jackets and even a small selection of suits, along with a co-branded peacoat and a CPO jacket with Gerald & Stewart in merino wools with updated fits.
For nondenim looks, Los Angeles-based Opnmkt from former Mek Denim founder Kevin Chen showcased clean, slim-fit jeans in Italian twill or Japanese moleskin, which retail for $158 to $218. “It’s elegant, high-end fabrics in understated silhouettes,” explained Chen of his latest venture, which is based out of a historic 92,000-square-foot building he acquired in the art district. Triple stitch details, fleece linings and an artistic rendering of the building on leather back patches signal the sophisticated ambitions of the brand.
Ted Baker showed a fall collection that was “less urban woodsman and more country gentleman,” according to Patrick Heitkam, executive vice president of wholesale. The brand showed off fine-gauge merino sweaters with geometric patterns, quilted lightweight jackets that could be worn at the office or outside and jersey cardigans with contrast herringbone forearm details. The Tight Lines collection, designed to appeal to a fly-fishing enthusiast, showcased traditional English fabrics with whimsical silk linings priced to retail for $595. The main Ted Baker collection centered around the hobbyist, Heitkam said, and offered blazers in “heritage fabrics with dressy touches” such as velvet accents. The jackets, which retail from $475 to $525, also have built-in pocket squares that coordinate with the linings of the coats, which themselves were inspired by vintage magazines.
One booth that drew a crowd was Jachs, which started five years ago as Just a Cheap Shirt, and has now expanded into an “American heritage-inspired collection,” according to sales manager Allen Dushi. “But wovens are still our bread and butter,” he said. This season, they are offered in a flannel color-blocked model, double-faced prints dipped in indigo, washed cottons with polka dot patterns and subdued plaids with corduroy undercollars. Retail prices for the shirts are $59 to $89. Nondenim bottoms were offered at $79 to $89, patterned sweaters for $89 and newly introduced casual, unconstructed blazers were $139.
MRket continued to pump up its fashion quotient by offering a variety of noteworthy newcomers at its latest edition. But even the more-traditional vendors stepped out of the box this time, offering updated classics designed to appeal to specialty retailers seeking pieces that will lure shoppers to their stores. The Made in Italy section of the show grew 34 percent over last January, and a U.K. Design section appealed to merchants looking to jump on the popularity of the current Anglo fashion trend. Britton Jones, president of Business Journals Inc., which owns MRket, said there were 88 new brands on the floor, which led to a 5 percent jump in buyer attendance.
James Seaman brought an assortment of sweaters, sportswear and outerwear from England and Scotland to the Kuehnert booth, including the first showing of the venerable Mackintosh line at the MRket show. The brand showed off a quilted cashmere jacket and some of its iconic raincoats, as well as a double-breasted Monkton coat in a Loro Piana Storm System wool fabric. “It’s a very trendy brand and unique in its own way,” Seaman said.
He also pointed to a collection of Harley sweaters from Scotland as popular with retailers. The beefy wool Shetland sweaters, while steeped in tradition, are new to many of today’s customers, he said. Scott & Charters’ lamb’s wool and Fair Isle sweaters, now available in a contemporary, slimmer cut, were offered, along with Begg & Co. cashmere scarves and colorful Corgi socks.
Circle of Gentlemen, a Netherlands-based brand, chose MRket for its New York launch. Inspired this season by new worlds, the collection of updated sport coats and dress shirts offered contemporary styling such as an eyeglass cleaner pocket and mismatched buttons on the jackets and coconut buttons and patterned undercollars and plackets on the shirts. Retail prices are $600 to $800 for the blazers and $225 to $275 for the shirts.
Loft 604, a Canadian brand inspired by the European lifestyle, has bounced around the trade show circuit but settled on MRket this time. “Our line is more mature and contemporary, so we thought we’d be better off here,” said designer Willie Fung. He showed a variety of heavy-gauge sweaters in Australian merino wool including one in a honeycomb pattern with toggle buttons and another cable cardigan. The color palette included ivory, camel, navy and charcoal. He also showcased a new Italian cashmere model in a cable knit with a shawl collar and toggle buttons, priced to retail at $720.
“Sweaters are happening again,” said designer Lenor Romano, noting that it is affecting the dress shirt market as retailers “take money out of wovens” to invest in interestingly patterned knitwear. They’re also searching for “smaller patterns” in shirts to coordinate with the sweaters,” she added.
At outerwear brand Rainforest, the company is focusing on its Black Label collection, “which features a more fitted cut with metro styling, for our emerging relatively fashion-forward consumers,” said president Jack Wu. A key trend of the season, he said, are lightweight quilted jackets, which the company is now offering in four models. Top models include a quilted blazer with removable bib with a knit collar, grosgrain details at the cuff and hem, burnt horn buttons and elbow patches in pigment-dyed nylon. A double-breasted waxed nylon jacket with contrasting collar and a quilted lining, as well as the “moto hipster” jacket, which features seven exterior pockets, a lamb-leather trimmed chest, bellowed sleeve pockets, metal logo eyelet snaps and a bi-swing back for enhanced mobility, also connected with retailers, Wu said. Retail prices for the Black Label coats range from $395 to $500.
At casual sportswear brand, Johnnie-O, bright neon polo shirts augmented the brand’s classic offering in colors ranging from pink to teal. High V-neck sweaters in cotton cashmere blends with elbow patches and the brand’s surfer boy logo on the back, an unconstructed blazer in cotton poplin, patterned boxers and lounge pants, and a new line of woven shirts in plaids and tattersalls rounded out the offering.
On the accessories front, Spivey showed a high-end assortment of cuff links, pendants and bracelets created from unique materials including fossilized mastodon bones and shark’s teeth, ancient sea fossils, lava rock and water buffalo horn. Designer Megan Spivey has traveled around the world touring temples, museums and forests in search of materials for her jewelry collection. Retail prices for the line, which includes patterns ranging from skulls with sapphire eyes to necklaces with the “om” symbol from different cultures, retail for $100 to over $3,600 for a sea fossil cuff link in 18-karat gold and diamonds.
Across town from Project and MRket, more than 200 brands packed the Capsule show at the Basketball City venue on the East River. The site was home base to mostly independent directional brands and heritage names like Shipley & Halmos, Etiquette Clothiers, Gloverall and Penfield — as well as established players seeking a piece of this burgeoning market, such as Timberland, New Balance and Gant Rugger.
“Retail is getting more and more specialized now, as retailers look for innovative ways to keep their stores unique and set them apart from the rest,” said Edina Sultanik Silver, a cofounder of Capsule. “Consumers are looking for experiences at retail and store owners need to work harder than ever to infuse their shops with creative differences — from an amazing assortment of brands, to creating a private label, to creating compelling editorial on the store’s Web site or as a print magazine, and filling their shops with cool lifestyle items and vintage pieces.”
Capsule showcased the booming outdoor sector with its Above Tree Line section, with 28 brands such as Barbour, Jansport and Smartwool. The trend towards technical performance could be seen throughout the show as brands aimed to marry advances in materials with fashion appeal.
“Traditional meets technical as we see men’s wear fabrications and silhouettes updated with performance details and fabrications,” explained Silver, singling out brands like Pedal Ed, Remi Relief, Camo, Norse Projects, Rocky Mountain Featherbed and Arc’teryx Veilance. “The look can be layered — mixing a tweed blazer over a quilted nylon gilet, for example, or fabrications can be mixed in a single garment.”
At Jardine, the recently launched label from Rag & Bone cofounder Nathan Bogle, the look was lush and quietly modern, particularly in knitwear. Sweaters in alpaca bouclé were softly enveloping while varsity jackets took an elegant turn in monotone cashmere and wool blends. A riff on the peacoat featured a stately abbreviated funnel neck. The new label launches exclusively at Louis Boston this spring and will expand to additional specialty stores in the fall, said Bogle.
The Americana vibe was evident at Burkman Bros. in sweatshirts patterned with Navajo patterns, as well as paisley and geometric patterns. Designer Doug Burkman — one of three brothers involved in the company — visited Utah and the Rocky Mountains when working on the collection.
Heritage brand Filson, founded in 1897, introduced a number of offerings, including its popular rugged twill bags in a navy color scheme and luggage redesigned with pockets and padding designed for laptops and tablet computers.
While Project featured a retail Warby Parker booth, Capsule showcased a cash-and-carry pop-up market featuring vintage dealers, including Brooklyn’s Black Gold Records and Modern Anthology furniture.