By Jean E. Palmieri
with contributions from Aria Hughes
 on July 28, 2015

NEW YORK — Loose suit silhouettes, culottes, jumpsuits and lace shirts — key styles from the runways for spring — may be a bit of a stretch for most independent American men’s retailers, but they still found plenty of other trends to buy at last week’s trade shows in New York.

Buoyed by an uptick in business at the end of spring and encouraged by early fall sales, merchants were upbeat about the rest of the year. For them, spring will be all about soft sport coats, updated knitwear, pajama pants and casual sport shirts.

“Generally our business is good,” said Craig DeLongy, owner of the seven-unit John Craig chain in Florida. “Summer is our slowest time, but sales are up and we have a lot of exciting new product coming in, so we think there’s a financial opportunity.”

He said markdowns are under control and his key focus going forward is “to increase initial markups.”

At the shows, DeLongy saw “a lot of great bottoms from Hiltl, Gardeur, Zanella and Riviera.” He picked up Luciano Barbera sport coats and shirts to try as well.

He said although designers are starting to loosen up their clothing silhouettes, it’s not impacting his buy. “We never got real tight and I don’t see us getting looser for a while. Everything is still a little trimmer and that’s a flattering silhouette for older men. Everything moves in cycles,” DeLongy said.

Ken Giddon, president of New York-based Rothmans, agreed that it’s going to take time for the slow-moving men’s market to adapt to another change in silhouette. “I love creativity. I just hope the real world doesn’t get in the way.”

Instead, he was shopping for updated camouflage shorts at Benson, shorts at Taylor Vintage, neckwear from Paolo Albizzati, unconstructed jackets from Jkts, sport shirts from Borgo, suits from Cardinal and outerwear from Save the Duck. “That’s a line to watch,” he said of the latter.

Other top brands for his spring buy included Hook & Albert accessories, Barbour, Culturata sport shirts, Zachary Prell, Quinn, Victorinox shorts, Onia and Surfside Supply Co.

Dan Farrington, general merchandise manager of Mitchells, said after a tough spring, he was being conservative in his buy for spring 2016. The team began its buying in Italy and was filling in at the New York trade shows. “The market is full of salable goods,” he said, “but there aren’t a lot of trends, so we’re looking for items.”

He said with knitwear and sport shirts were tops of the list. Farrington was steering clear of the runway-inspired loose tailored clothing silhouette, though. “We’re a little ways away from that,” he said.

Nelson Mui, men’s fashion director of Hudson’s Bay Co., was more amenable to the updated looks on the runway. “I like the relaxed silhouettes: the trousers, the carrot pants, the pleated pants with a drawstring or elasticized waist. It’s pajama dressing that feels relevant today.”

But the androgyny trend is going to be a hard sell, he believes — at least right now. “I don’t know if people are going to wear the full look,” he said. “But the trend stretches the eye and then, at some point, it becomes more acceptable.”

Mario Bisio, owner of Mario’s in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, said, “Customers are already reacting to early fall, especially from [Brunello] Cucinelli and [Ermenegildo] Zegna.” He was shopping for soft lightweight jackets, “great footwear,” polos and light-colored jeans.

Ted Silver of Weiss & Goldring in Alexandria, La., said business is “OK,” and he was shopping for clothing, denim and five-pocket pants, and pieces in technical fabrics. But no runway collections. “That may be a little fast for Louisiana,” he said.

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