The sun is shining on European men’s wear.
This story first appeared in the June 10, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Brands and designers are upbeat about business for spring 2016, and in particular, the rapid growth of categories such as knitwear and luxury separates with a casual twist. The stronger dollar and weaker euro are working their magic, too, making European goods cheaper and drumming up increasing business from the U.S.
The spring show season opens on June 12 with London Collections: Men, which runs until June 15, followed by Pitti Immagine Uomo, which takes place from June 16 to 19.
Jason Basmajian, chief creative officer at Gieves & Hawkes in London, said separates — sport coats, jackets, knitwear and jersey pieces — are flourishing on the shop floor.
“Separates give a guy options, and we see men buying jersey and knitwear as an alternative to the dress shirt and tie. Our customers want to dress down a bit and come here expecting sophisticated options,” he said.
Accessories are a growing category, too. For spring, Gieves has put its own spin on trainers — launching crocodile, suede and leather shoes that reflect the season’s sunbaked Cuban palette of dark green, tobacco and parchment.
Christopher Raeburn, the designer known for using unconventional and recycled materials, is witnessing a similar trend.
“We are seeing a lot of growth in sweaters, in knitwear, and we’ve focused on lightweight knitwear for spring. It’s a lot more about layering and trans-seasonal dressing. That’s the way the customer is really shopping now,” said the designer, adding that for spring, he’s working with everything from air-break canopies that slow down fast jets, to cork and lightweight cotton.
“Pretty much everything that you wouldn’t see on a normal catwalk,” he said.
Patrick Grant, who owns and designs the E. Tautz ready-to-wear label, said the trend is “all about separates, and mixing contemporary and traditional elements. Customers will be wearing a pair of very expensive, hand-burnished shoes with denim, or a technical anorak with beautiful tailored trousers. Men are no longer wedded to the idea of ‘just formal’ or ‘just casual.’ The boundaries have broken down.”
Jason Broderick, fashion director of men’s wear at Harrods, said customers love a bit of dressed-down elegance. “Tom Ford’s new premium casualwear has been a phenomenal success, and denim is rising through the ranks, too,” he said.
Brunello Cucinelli, who built a luxury empire on knitwear and separates, said the jacket remains a key piece, and there is a return of soft-colored hues. “But in the end, it’s how you combine everything that matters,” he said, adding that men are increasingly ready to experiment, to combine patterns and looks.
He said he’s looking forward to a solid year for the brand, based on the fall orders and the sellout for summer. Last month, Cucinelli said he expected double-digit increases in profitability and revenues for the remainder of the year.
Luigi Lardini, creative director of the Italian tailored clothing label Lardini, said he believes it’s the small details that woo the end consumer. “The length of a sleeve on a jacket, the hem on the pant, a belt or small accessories. The clothes alone are not enough to be elegant.”
Henry Holland was already selling casual, unisex pieces from his women’s collection when he decided to branch into men’s wear. His new contemporary-priced collection is based on how he’d dress himself, and he said the aesthetic is “a casual take on tailoring.”
Holland will launch the collection with stores including Selfridges, Colette, Galeries Lafayette and Opening Ceremony in New York and L.A. Retail prices will range from 90 pounds, or $138, for a T-shirt to 1,000 pounds, or $1,532, for a leather jacket or tailored coat.
Holland said there were a number of reasons he wanted to break into men’s wear, not the least of which was the power of London Collections: Men. The showcase has seen its designer numbers grow by nearly 70 percent since the first full season in June 2012. According to Mintel, sales in the U.K. men’s market are set to grow by 27 percent to 16.4 billion pounds, or $25.1 billion, between 2013 and 2018.
Business is flourishing across Europe: Stefano Martinetto, whose Tomorrow showroom has units in London, Milan, Paris and New York, said for spring 2016 he’s dedicating two floors of the Paris showroom to men’s — rather than the usual one. He said the strong dollar is encouraging American stores to take risks on younger designers and to have a little more fun on the shop floor, while the lower euro is making exporting easier for European brands.
Macro-economic trends are also working in favor of the brands. The weak euro is supporting tourism in the euro zone, especially from China and the U.S., while Italy is showing some signs of recovery, and Milan is getting a boost from the Expo this year.
Pitti is set to attract 30,000 visitors, with 1,150 companies from more than 30 countries, and the Italians are banking on the euro boosting business. For example, Furla is showing its expanded product offer at Pitti, with new categories such as men’s eyewear and textiles, in addition to bags and shoes.
The brand’s chief executive officer Eraldo Poletto has just returned from a trip to Japan, and said he’s confident about the potential for premium men’s wear in Asia, especially in Japan and Korea. “There is great attention to fashion and innovation there,” he said.
Andrea Lardini, president of Lardini, said the brand’s capsule collections with street style maven Nick Wooster have helped boost sales in the American market, and added that Korea, Japan, Sweden and the Scandinavian countries are thriving markets for the brand.
Martinetto, whose showroom represents labels including Raeburn, Marni and Andrea Pompilio, said he believes buyers are moving away from the streetwear aesthetic that has dominated men’s wear in the past seasons to a more polished, casual look.
“For the first time in the past few years, I’ve heard the word ‘quality’ mentioned — quality, authenticity and value for money. Men are looking for easy pieces and are wearing nicer fabrics in a more casual way. While streetwear will stay, the trend is for more genteel, sophisticated dressing,” he predicted.