MILAN — Designers and retailers continue to court male customers in both new and established markets, catering to their increasing thirst for looks that blend fashion trends and sartorial quality.
According to Bain & Co.’s latest study, the years 2011 and 2012 saw “a strong men-ization of the market,” and men’s wear sales worldwide are expected to increase 10 percent to reach 26 billion euros, or $34.3 billion, in 2012 compared with the previous year.
“We are pushing our men’s wear because we have encouraging results and it’s a business that has a lot of potential,” said Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive officer of the Roberto Cavalli group. “We have more than tripled our men’s square footage in stores and have seen a 50 percent increase in men’s sales in the January-November period of 2012.”
Gian Giacomo Ferraris, ceo of the Versace group, said the men’s division saw a 46 percent retail increase in 2012, mainly driven by Asia and the U.S., but also by Europe, albeit more moderately, and the executive expects this trend to continue in 2013.
Who, exactly, is this man that brands and retailers are wooing? Where and how often does he shop? What is he looking for and how fashion savvy is he?
In its study, Bain said tailored apparel rebounded in 2012, while casualwear held its own by expanding its customer base. Italian craftsmanship continued to be an asset, and made-to-measure was an additional draw for customers, especially in emerging markets.
“We are seeing the triumph of sartorial Made in Italy as the main choice of the more evolved consumer. To find his bearings, he does not look at the brand as synonymous with authenticity and quality, but he wants to explore themes such as heritage, process, provenance,” said Umberto Angeloni, ceo of Caruso. “I believe this is evolutionary and therefore permanent. Italian men, in particular, tend to buy with a method and with a functional purpose, rather than on impulse and guided by fashion. For this reason, they prefer to build a more continuous relation with a product, a store, a tailor or a retailer.”
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Angeloni highlighted two main trends: fashion brands working on expanding their tailoring component, and more classic and sartorial companies evolving by offering product with a trendy edge. “Sartorial quality and design are the salt and pepper of all brands that are trying to find the right recipe through the right mix,” said the executive. In 2013, Angeloni hopes to open Caruso’s first store, expected to be located in Milan, later followed by a unit in New York.
Versace’s Ferraris described the brand’s customers as “very attentive to trends” but generally loyal and looking for designs that best reflect the essence of the label. In particular, “Asian consumers are less formal and prefer outfits identified with Versace, while American customers are more fashion-forward. Europeans are more attentive to details, quality and sartorial elements of the outfit.”
Likewise, Stefano Cantino, director of communications and external relations at Prada, which counts 28 men’s stores globally, said men’s wear “significantly contributes to promote the innovative image of the brand through its runway shows and its more classic products, reinterpreted in a contemporary way in line with the codes of the brand.”
Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said the retailer’s men’s customer “is definitely more savvy than he was a year or two ago. He’s been going through a fashion renaissance so to speak and is much more comfortable with personal style, correct fit and accessorizing his look. After many seasons of heritage looks, he will be looking for something more modern and directional for fall 2013.”
Jennings anticipates tailored clothing will be strong next fall. “There is definitely a desire for more modern, even contemporary, tailored clothing for young men. These guys are not looking for suits to wear to the office, but for going out at night. Woven shirts are another strong category. For many guys, the woven shirt is their sport coat. So color, novelty and prints are becoming more and more important.”
“We’re not talking ridiculous peacock” with wild prints, for example, concurred Neil Barrett, but clothes that are special in quality and have a clear identity. Like Ferraris, he underscored the relevance of “garments that are visibly recognizable to a brand; they’re different and special without making it too extreme.”
Given the difficult economy and the price range of designer brands, customers “really have to give a good reason to shop nowadays. The rich are still rich, but people in the middle — and a lot of them are our customers — for them to spend, the product has to be really special,” the designer said. Indeed, the strongest pieces are the ones sold across the board, and Barrett is working on “extremely special outerwear, paying a lot of attention to garments that are interesting and textural — supercomplicated to make, but you can see the time that went into making them. We’re using a crazy span of materials,” such as ponyskins, finishings on napas and technically treated textural wools.
“Five years ago, our men’s wear division accounted for approximately 15 percent of our business, and over the last few years, this figure has substantially increased,” said Alessandro Cremonesi, ceo of Jil Sander. “For a brand like Jil Sander — whose DNA is based on quality, modernity and precise tailoring — values for which I believe the male consumers are particularly sensitive, I foresee great prospects of growth.”
Touting the return of the brand’s namesake designer, Cremonesi said he was “sure to be able to reaffirm the above-mentioned brand values. I strongly believe that through the preservation and communication of the Jil Sander brand, the company will consolidate its position and develop further in the men’s global luxury market.”
The executive believes that “as never before, the end customer is looking for a brand that is durable. Certainly fashion, by its nature, must change every season, but I believe that the success of a company lies in its ability to reinvent cyclically, while remaining true to its identity.” He said men particularly are drawn to “quality and excellence in manufacturing.”
To address this need, Jil Sander has reintroduced a program of “fully intelato — an expression of sartorial elegance with modern cuts, in the proportions and fit that offer an international flavor and refined tailoring to the highest level,” he said.
Massimo Giorgetti, MSGM creative director, hailed “a true revolution” in the men’s fashion business, as men “are showing that they want to play with clothes.” Giorgetti said the label, known for its bold and colorful prints, would have appealed a few years ago “only to young men in their 20s, but now a lot of more mature men, in their 40s and 50s,” rank among his best customers. Vincenzo Napolano, who oversees the men’s division at Italy’s La Rinascente department store chain, said “a hybrid between fashion and sartorial” is the main trend now, so that what was exclusively classic and sartorial is reinterpreted in a more fashionable way, with a touch of sportswear. For example, blazers are completely deconstructed, with softer shapes and more comfortable and warm materials, such as felt. Pleats, cuffs and slim cuts modify the shape of chinos, making them more up to date and trendy.
“The investment in men’s stores is surely functional to the market request. Male customers require an increasingly bigger update in shapes, colors and fabrics. As a consequence, especially in shops-in-shop or corners, the range of offer must be expanded, keeping in consideration both the basic ongoing segment, always required, and the seasonal news,” said Napolano. Accessories also showed a strong performance in 2012. “For this reason, we have created dedicated areas that would focus the attention, clarify the offer and simplify the purchase,” he said.
Ermanno Scervino, who this season is holding a runway show in Florence during Pitti Uomo, said the trend is toward a less formal look. “I propose a nonformal style with technical materials, but built in a sartorial way,” said the designer, who believes social media and fashion editorials contribute to sales but that brick-and-mortar stores remain the driving force compared with online purchases.
However, Paola Brandi, founder of Paris-based Brand Strategies and Content Development agency INKParis, underscored the role of the Internet, which “has accelerated the breaking down of cultural barriers, allowing men to investigate purchases that were previously considered too ‘feminine’ at ease — a phenomenon that is very evident in the male beauty industry, with products like self-tanning lotions or wrinkle creams selling fairly moderately in stores but doing extremely well in e-commerce.” Generally, men find shopping “a burden,” which, coupled with their love of technology, leads to “a concrete opportunity in mobile commerce.”
Keen to be “gently instructed” — and “more sensitive to how clothing can enhance their social standing — style must fit neatly within their lifestyle,” said Brandi. She credited the success of e-tailer Mr. Porter as it “educates men on what to wear and how to wear it,” providing clear instructions on the etiquette.
“Increasingly plagued with anxiety in an overcrowded digital environment, younger men are looking for trusted brands that can help them simplify their choices and increase their standing,” she explained.
Referring to the continued success of a number of long-standing men’s fragrances, Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s Aramis & Designer Fragrances division, said, “You really have to shout about a fragrance to get men’s attention, but if you sustain their support, you have a great chance to build a loyal customer.”
In fragrances, in comparison to a fashion brand, men “are attracted to the story behind the brand. A fabulous-looking bottle is less important than innovation, equity, aspirational value and the idea of ‘bettering myself.’ From an advertising point of view, it’s really this aspirational quality that matters. Men measure themselves through their achievements,” and through the idea of “becoming a greater man than you are today,” concluded Gabai-Pinsky.
Joanne Crewes, president of Procter & Gamble Co.’s Global Prestige division, said men look for advertising that allows for “role identification,” and are “much less interested in imaginative stories in the beauty category.” As their lifestyles change dynamics, men are overcoming their shyness in approaching skin care, too. However, one of the key barriers Crewes identified in this evolution is “the shopping environment itself. Many men are not comfortable shopping in a part of the store that looks or feels too feminine, so making this critical part of the purchasing process an enjoyable one for men is very important.” For this reason, men tend to use the Internet to get information on the brands.
Federico Marchetti, founder and ceo of Italy’s e-tailer Yoox Group, said that, “compared to women, men spend less time on the company’s Web site, they are more decisive, and they like to leaf through the pages less than women.” He defined the Yoox male shopper as style-conscious and interested in lifestyle, rather than in fashion per se. The group’s men’s business grew 30 percent in the first nine months of the year, compared with 2011.
“I think that the men’s business is particularly interesting for us for two main reasons. First of all, it is extremely connected to Italy: men’s fashion production is well grounded in our country, and we are based in Italy, so we have a competitive advantage,” said Marchetti. Also, men are less sensitive to markdowns than women.
Carlo Rivetti, Stone Island president and creative director, said the crisis has been changing people’s shopping habits so that customers buy less on impulse, looking for high-quality products, especially in men’s. “I think that the market is currently focused on two different kinds of customers: the real conscious shoppers and the metrosexual young men, who live with the family and invest a lot of money in their lifestyle,” said Rivetti, who is opening a Stone Island store in Florence during Pitti Uomo.
Jason Broderick, head of men’s wear buying at Harrods, said customers’ choices differ depending on where they live. Those from the Middle East frequently shop the retailer’s premium luxury brands, such as Stefano Ricci, Dolce & Gabbana and Brioni. “Our Chinese clients are predominantly attracted to our cornerstone brands, such as Zegna, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.” Broderick said Harrods’ local and European customers’ shopping habits have “pushed and guided the direction” of the store over the years, helping to establish a “strong tone of voice” in men’s wear.
In terms of more casual looks, 2013 will see the return of denim, according to Alberto Candiani, global manager at Italy-based Tessitura di Robecchetto Candiani SpA. “I think that, as always, there will be a division between a more clean-cut, basic look, and one that’s more vintage and aggressive,” said Candiani. “Both can be fashionable. Think of men’s stretch skinny jeans, or of the ‘destroyed’ washes, or even raw denim, which in the end, with its vintage soul and basic look, offers a kind of middle ground between two extremes. Comfort-stretch will be very strong, responding to the need for wearable and comfortable products.”
Rossi Biffi, owner of Milan’s Biffi Boutique, said men are looking for “very simple but sophisticated items. They don’t want to wear black anymore, opting for newer colors, from teal and walnut brown to titanium and deep blue.” Also, they are increasingly conscious that “accessories are fundamental to personalize their look,” mentioning scarves and footwear as the “most desirable men’s products to enhance different looks.”
Maurizio Purificato, owner of Antonia Uomo and creative director at Milan’s luxury department store Excelsior, said the retailer is seeing a significant growth in its footwear division, and a good performance in hats and scarves. Givenchy T-shirts, Kenzo sweaters and Christian Louboutin shoes are among the retailer’s bestsellers in men’s. These three brands are iconic, Purificato said, highlighting how “men want to recognize themselves in a number of specific labels.” Outerwear is also a top category for the store.