PARIS — Any anxiety linked to the industry’s shape-shifting times faded into the background at the recent round of men’s apparel trade shows here. Contributing to the good vibes was the robust health of the sector, and fall being a stronger season in general for stores.
“I feel a very good energy. Much better than two or three seasons ago,” said Pascaline Smets, buying and creative director of Luxembourg-based, family-owned concept store chain Smets, while at Tranoi Week. The showroom/trade show hybrid exhibited some 20 brands for its second edition in partnership with London Show Rooms.
“It’s also a winter season, so it’s easier. The length of the season is longer, so it’s nice. For sure, our men’s business is going at a much faster rate than the women’s,” she added.
The fall-winter period is “kind of our cash-raking season, if you will,” said Han Lee, cofounder and brand manager for the concept store Sanlipop in Beijing. “So I will probably take more risks buying more down parkas or heavier coats, using heavier gauge cotton or wools.”
Along with the mood, attendance was up at the shows, where buyers peeled through the season’s array of increasingly researched — and equally pricier — outerwear in mixed materials. Silhouettes leaned heavily in the direction of the oversized, chunky sneaker trend, while touching on themes of adventure and freedom.
And despite a bit of turbulence in recent years for some of the trade shows experimenting with new strategies, including downsizing and diversifying events in response to changing demands, things seemed to be perking up.
Attendance jumped 14 percent at Tranoi, which increased the size of its women’s show at the Bourse location to about 100 brands, and slightly decreased the men’s exhibitors to 86 brands, down from 99 last year. The move was part of a “more clear, more selective, better segmented offering that reflects the market,” said Tranoi director David Hadida. The number of Asian visitors reached 30 percent, equaling that of the French.
Tranoi Week was “sharper, more curated, with more space and more creativity,” agreed Smets. In May, the retailer will open a flagship in Chengdu, China, dubbed “Smets by Kerry,” in reference to Kerry Du, the 24-year-old co-owner of the Chinese venture, who is from Chengdu.
“I would love to do a Chinese Colette,” said Du, who noted a lack of independent retailers in China. “I want to do a young store, very dynamic, bring all the stuff to the kids, introduce all the young designers, to give the market in Chengdu a little bit of freshness,” she added.
The duo joined a stream of shoppers buzzing around the collection of British designer Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, winner of the Emerging Menswear Designer of the Year prize at the 2017 British Fashion Awards.
“I really liked all the art and graffiti inspiration and all the different moods you can find in it. The art connection is very strong. It’s really pieces you’re not used to seeing anywhere else,” said Smets, who also discovered Stefan Cooke, winner of the 2017 H&M Design Award, at the show.
For trends, she noticed “a return of the blazer, tailoring, but in a street, young version, very light, casual. Oversize shearling, loose pants combined with strong knits. A lot of checks. Oversize parkas.”
Arnaud Poupart, owner of French multibrand store Revolt, said he was struck by how much smaller the men’s edition at Le Carreau du Temple in the Marais was compared to his last visit three years ago. But the tighter selection meant “we were less rushed, and it gives me more time to go to other shows. We like this concentrated version,” he said.
Poupart lauded IOU’s collection for its sustainable approach and the “association of more traditional, beautiful materials with modernized forms.” Wattine Paris, Giles Kennedy and Agnelle were some of his other favorites at Tranoi.
Hideya Nogawa, men’s buyer for the 12-store Japanese chain Via Bus Stop, said 2017 saw better sales for the men’s division. “That’s why we can be positive for this year,” he said. Though his budget was up, “the economic climate is not good [in Japan], but we cannot miss Paris. It is still the center of fashion,” added Nogawa, who was looking for tartans and decorative knitwear.
Visitors noticed stronger streetwear this season, and “everything that’s coming from the ugly sneaker trend, brought into apparel,” commented a buying manager for an online luxury retailer, speaking off the record. “It’s hard to find something that’s really tailored, and not just another brand. On the other side, there’s more plain and casual tailoring for men,” added the buyer. She was disappointed by the marked hike in prices on collections that were better researched. “I’d say the quality is higher, but the prices are too,” she said.
Details drawn from workwear, such as seatbelt-inspired belts and embellishments, were also prevalent. Layered pieces that can be worn in several ways gave retailers multiple products in one. A coat by emerging label Milano 140 at the Man show could be removed and strapped to the back like a backpack, or a shirt zipped into a functional bag by Léon Bara at Tranoi Week.
Quilted fabrics and wide-wale corduroys in rich cinnamon, mustard and brick versions added warmth to more subdued shades. Color schemes included black, gray and blue, military green, earth tones like brick and mustard yellows, with touches of electric blue, neon yellow or bright orange.
Several retailers raved about the Paris Man show, which, they said, has managed to create a culture and community of its own. They praised the show’s selection of “authentic” contemporary brands.
“I think that today, for this sector, it’s the number-one trade show in Europe,” said Ilan Pinto, owner of the Piils multibrand store in Paris. “It’s the effervescence of all these people. The fact that everyone comes together. The atmosphere. It’s a little family, actually. We meet up every season, we all know each other, and it gives hope for creativity, business, fashion, all that.”
Pinto liked the Korean brand Eastlogue (as did several other buyers) and Japanese label F/CE. The selection of brands is “less mass-marketing focused, and not as well-known image-wise, but a lot more interesting in terms of material, style and products that are a little more stylish,” he said. “We like street, but with great materials, technical. Cool.”
“Simply put, [Man] is a great show. It is always a must-see,” echoed Khiry Sullivan, owner of Gentlemen’s Sanctum, the men’s wear e-commerce and physical store in Brooklyn. “For me, it’s not about selecting certain brands that I like, it’s just as a whole they put a real show together. It’s a show for people to buy, and not just observe.”
“The brands that present [at Man] are more closely tied with what I would like to show,” agreed Sanlipop’s Lee. An example? The Japanese brand Nanamica, with designer Eiichiro Homma, “who is just a master in creating sportswear, outdoorwear that is just really functional, and at the same time, it’s beautiful.”
Capsule moved to a smaller venue this season, returning to its roots in the Marais, where it hosted 40 brands versus 100 last year. “I think it was a great opportunity to make this space feel curated and have the right brand mix, which I really like,” said Katelyn Cervini, the show’s sales manager. “I think it’s really important, especially in Paris, where buyers are extremely busy with the shows and all the other showroom appointments.”
Capsule does “seem a little bit more intimate, which could be a good thing,” said Sohail Rehman, men’s wear buyer for Zoo Fashions, the London designer men’s boutique. “You really get to interact with the brands, compared to last time. It was almost like a shopping mall before,” he added.
Rehman said business is strong for Zoo Fashions. “We’ve got a good foundation, so now we’re able to do things out of romance, and for love, rather than having things just to make money and pay bills,” he said. “Since the credit crunch, things were tough for everybody and we’ve come a long way since then. But the development of the business — and the accompaniment of the web site as well, enabling us to reach a global scale — allows us to be more adventurous. We’re not just catering for the immediate locale.”
Rehman loved the Christopher Raeburn collection at Capsule, which he’d seen during London Fashion Week. “I have great admiration for his work. The use of reclaimed fabrics and his ingenuity and his ideas are incredible,” he said.
Present at the stand, the designer shared some words on his direction. “The whole focus [of the collection] is around remade, recycled and reduced. It’s really interesting, because season upon season, slowly the consumer is also becoming more and more aware about sustainable thinking. I’ve been in business almost 10 years, and I’ve really seen that shift,” he said.
A sustainable luxury brand called Rozenbroek showed its second collection at Tranoi, based on creations meant to last. “We offer a repair service throughout the garment’s life cycle, and at the end of the product’s lifecycle, we’ll repair it, or reuse the trimmings or recycle the fabrics,” said designer Jade Rozenbroek, who started the line after feeling disillusioned with the amount of waste and the quality of production at large luxury houses, where she worked in the past.
Meanwhile, others were hoping for more to choose from at Capsule and the Tranoi men’s edition. Tranoi “has scaled down, and I expected a little more,” said Thomas Hong, managing director of King of Greene Street. The designer’s men’s store opened in Seoul a year ago, in a brick building designed in typical New York SoHo architectural style, and has since become a landmark in the area.
“It used to be more diverse. I feel a little bit hungry. There are also tons of showrooms, so we have to hit them. So between the two, that’ll satisfy our appetite,” added Hong, whose favorite Tranoi collections included Officine Creative and Marc Point. At Capsule, he spotted Devold’s new subbrand, Devold of Norway 1853, as well as the fun graphics by Korean label We Not Fat.
“We see fashion as a very tactile, very personal experience. That’s why we’re very selective in our choices. I believe we’re on the cusp of a transition in Korea, where shopping was driven by brands before and now people are looking for a unique look and a personal identity. So it’s been fun,” he said.
The store spends an average of 90 minutes to two hours with each customer and it is paying off. “We get to know them, and over 90 percent of our customers are repeat customers. So we’re doing something right.”
Highlights from the shows:
Brand: Milano 140
Designers: Stefano Ghidotti, Michele Canziani
Inspiration: For their label’s third collection, titled Find Your Own Space, camping and the search for open space were central themes. Traditional materials made in Italy were juxtaposed with shiny nylon and PVC, and embellished with technical details, for a colorful, deconstructed and layered result. The artist Giuliano Sale collaborated to create patchwork patterns and decorations on T-shirts, shirts and hoodies. The designers recently won the second Herno Award, earning them the opportunity to design a concept collection for the brand.
Key styles: Wide bands of smooth nylon were used to accent the natural materials, creating a double hem on pant ankles, waists, the bottom of shirt jackets, or as jacket linings on pieces best worn inside-out. Nylon hoodie inserts covered the neck and torso, providing a shimmering pop of modernity and color to a loose tailored jacket in natural materials. Sweaters came with detachable sleeves. Drawstring ropes redefined silhouettes, and contrast stitching created abstract graphic touches. Natural shades of burgundy, navy, rust and mustard were popped with bright yellow, orange and royal blue.
Retail prices: Reversible wool jacket, 648 euros; double hem cotton trousers, 270 euros; nylon hood, 81 euros.
Designer: Eiichiro Homma
Inspiration: Harsh weather and the beauty of seascapes.
Key styles: From the outside, pieces appear somewhat classic, but are made with “supertechnology” using the latest in functional materials that are comfortable and natural-looking. Most materials are made of polyester for durability, stretch and water impermeability. Silhouettes were wider and longer for this collection, with an Americana edge, and more reversible tops. Pieces are meant to be layered using the same fabrics, in a reference to a matching suit. The “inner down” vest of a coat can be worn as a reversible cardigan.
Retail prices: Insulation jacket, 500 euros; Insulation pants, 280 euros; Coolmax vest, 290 euros; CPO shirt, 250 euros.
Designer: Lee Dongki
Inspiration: The collection interweaves modernized versions of traditional sportswear (hunting, fishing, camping, exploring), with U.S. military and sturdy workwear undercurrents.
Key styles: A down armor vest referencing the U.S. military can be worn closer to the body, to fit under a loose tailored jacket or coat. Velcro side fasteners on the vest adapt to individual shapes. The goose down jacket is adorned with three-dimensional puffed pockets, and includes a technical outer shell. Detachable sleeves make it into a T-shirt, rather than the expected vest. Silhouettes are larger, along with pant legs. Colors are mostly beige, brown, olive and black. Wide-wale cotton corduroys in earth tones complement the technical outerwear.
Retail prices: Vest, $336; military jacket/vest, $415; wool, traditional loose tailored jacket, $435.
At Tranoi and Tranoi Week:
Brand: Léon Bara
Designers: Hayate Ichimori and Omar Afridi
Inspiration: The postwar Japan era and the Yakuza Japanese mafia, Western counterculture and the U.S. occupation of Japan inspired this contemporary collection, which combines modern utility with Western tailoring and Japanese ceremonial dress.
Key styles: Several items in the collection were multifunctional and transformable, like the heavily pocketed nylon fisherman’s vest that zips into a tote bag, or a single shirt that can be dressed down by covering the busy Yakuza tattoo print on the torso with a “bib” that swings from back to front and ties. The “spy coat,” a long luxury wool coat, can hold an umbrella inside the front flap without causing water damage. One side of the coat can be fastened to stay against the body, while the other side is left to hang open if desired. Most of the progressive fabrics are water-repellent. Outerwear is light, with traditional detailing, like hidden pockets to keep hands free. The packable parka can be tucked into a small bag. The Happi Jacket is an adaptation of the uniforms worn during Japanese festivals, with added pleats and rounded shoulders. Jackets can have a closer fit using adjustable seatbelt straps around the waist.
Prices: 200 British pounds to 1,200 British pounds.
Designer: Kavita Parmar
Inspiration: The From Clay to Cloud collection aims to “rescue fabrics that were disappearing,” said designer Kavita Parmar. “It’s fundamental that the love of craft doesn’t die, because that’s what makes us human.” Parmar works with handloom artisans, and each garment comes with a QR code that shows who wove the fabric and who made the piece in Europe. Parmar has an atelier in Madrid, and started the wholesale brand in 2015. Telling the artisan’s story “is one way to give authorship back to these wonderful craftspeople,” said Parmar, “because today all young people want to be designers, but nobody wants to be a craftsman. But to me [craftsmen] are pretty cool.” Traditional techniques are used to ensure durability, and only natural materials are used.
The collection has a nomadic, soft tailored, urban fashion sense. Garments fall casually, tailored to flatter the body. Whenever possible, one-size-fits-all is used to help retailers.
Key styles: The Zheng He Padded Silk Parka is padded with wool wadding, and its exterior is “Mud silk,” which is created using a 700-year-old artisanal fabric referred to as “mud/cloud/tea silk” from southern China. It is first vegetable-dyed with yam and then painted with clay from the riverbed, dried in the sun, and washed. The process is repeated seven or eight times to achieve a unique leatherlike, natural finish that ages well, is featherlight and very warm. The W H Murray Tweed Mandarin Collar Shirt Jacket, lined with silk, is handwoven from Harris Tweed to last, by artisan Donald Mackay in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It has a loosely tailored, relaxed fit. Details from traditional tailoring were adopted for the collection, like making shirt bottoms longer so that a person stays covered when sitting.
Retail prices: Zheng He Padded Silk Parka, 890 euros; WH Murray Tweed Mandarin Collar Shirt Jacket, 520 euros.
Brand: Edi. Z Lingfeng
Designer: Lingfeng Zhu
Inspiration: Homelessness inspired the second season collection for this emerging brand, which used tent and sleeping bag materials. “When people wear it, I want them to feel warm and at home. To feel good,” said designer Lingfeng Zhu.
Key styles: Transformable pieces that could be worn differently, dramatically changing a silhouette, as with a nylon jumpsuit that can be worn as pants, or to completely enclose the body, leaving only the head uncovered. The bright orange, blue and gray floor-length sleeping bag-inspired statement coat has a sense of grandeur to it. The extralong sleeves can be removed, too.
Prices: Long Joint Wadding Coat, 1,380 British pounds; Wadding Jacket, 735 British pounds.
Brand: 8iGB Community Clothing
Designer: Ruben Bissoli
Inspiration: The skate, pop and vintage sportswear collection, titled “Enclothes,” is inspired by the idea of escaping society. The Italian-born, Paris-based designer launched the label in 2016. Graphic parodies and double meanings in slogans ironically comment on consumerism, and can also have sexual references. Recycled materials like Evian water bottles are used to create trompe l’oeil packages for T-shirts. The brand’s name refers to what locals call the low-income housing project where the designer lives in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. “It’s a place where we come together. My neighbors are from all over, and we’re all friends — even best friends,” said Bissoli. “I wanted the brand to have that joyful spirit, while being ironic.”
Key styles: Some basic shapes are sometimes transformed, like the spider hoodie, which has four sleeves, and the cape-shirt, a sweatshirt cut on the sides and the sleeves. The Paranoia print on sweatshirts and other items is written in the familiar graphic style of the Patagonia brand.
Prices: Average price 210 euros.
Brand: Devold of Norway 1853
Designer: Emil Corsillo
Inspiration: This is the inaugural collection for a new, permanent sub-brand by the Norwegian sweater maker Devold. Better known of late for its fine merino wool hiking and sports knitwear, the historic brand was also the inventor of the Norwegian sweater, which became an American staple. The new sub-brand is inspired by Devold’s original designs.
Key styles: The collection is a contemporary take on Devold’s archives, with new colors, fun color-blocking and modernized styling. The sweaters are made from Norwegian wool and produced in Devold’s Lithuanian factory. The original Nordsjø sweater had heavier external branding and was busier. For this brand launch, the design was simplified and branding removed.
Retail prices: 170 to 225 euros.
Brand: Stationary Denim
Designers: Jay Pabon, Gaetan Ghionda
Inspiration: For their second collection, titled “Something Greater,” the designers, who are based in the Bronx, explored the themes of the American Depression and crack epidemic. “Growing up, I still remember the crack epidemic and being from Gunhill Road,” said Jay Pabon. “We used to play games in the playground, where we popped crack vials that were scattered all over the floor, with basketballs. It’s still vivid.” Gaetan Ghionda grew up in West Africa and then moved to the U.S. and was “shocked to see such poverty,” because unlike what he’d observed in Africa, “you cannot live in the U.S. if you have nothing.” The brand’s designs comment on sex, drugs, religion and violence, and their graphics can often be disturbingly controversial and difficult to look at. Images from real crime scenes were used in the latest collection, as well as the iconic picture of the man falling from a tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. References to the Eighties and Nineties are also recurring themes. The brand started designing with raw selvage denim, but then decided to expand to other materials.
Key styles: The large, white Sherpa statement coat is handmade in France, with 100 percent boiled wool on the inside, and a blend of cotton, wool and acrylic on the outside. Graphics on T-shirts included old U.S. flags and images from real crime scenes.
Prices: Sherpa coat, $2,290; T-shirts, $85.