NEW YORK — It was the first full day of spring on Tuesday and leading executives, designers and other industry figures gathered at the One Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on the shores of the East River here for the annual WWD Men’s Wear Summit.
The day featured a breadth of speakers representing the industry, including one of the hottest online retailers around; a former New York Giant-turned-TV host; a major TV host-turned-designer; a leading pop star-turned-fashion entrepreneur; iconic American and French brands in the midst of turnarounds; America’s largest department store retailer, and an activewear brand pushing harder into fashion.
Here, some highlights from the day:
• Ulric Jerome, chief executive officer, Matchesfashion.com, said, “I hate the word omnichannel. At the end of the day, it’s all just commerce,” pointing out the company now gets 50 percent of its sales via mobile with an average basket size of $850. “We have the biggest average basket among multibrand retailers. We take an order every seven seconds.” The retailer recently took a single order online worth $120,000 — and the customer came into one of its stores the next day and bought more.
• Stacia Andersen, brand president, Abercrombie & Fitch, outlined the brand’s strategy: “We want to go back to the Nineties in the sense that we want to make this brand part of the culture again but want it to be part of the customer who is twentysomething. Our customer has grown up.”
• Aaron Levine, senior vice president, design, Abercrombie & Fitch, on his goals: “We want to be the best brand on the planet. We have the opportunity to be the only American casual accessible luxury brand.”
• Joelle Grunberg, president and chief executive officer, Lacoste North America, said, “The American market today is probably one of the toughest retail markets in the world. The customer is very digital in the U.S., doesn’t want to go into a store and going to the mall isn’t the ultimate experience it used to be. So we will improve innovation and invest more in our stores.”
• Michael Strahan‘s Hall of Fame football career as a member of the Giants allowed him to feel comfortable in front of the cameras — a skill he translated into a successful career as a talk show host and sports analyst. And his personal style in those high-profile roles led him to create a successful line of men’s wear with J.C. Penney that has expanded from suits and furnishings into ath-leisurewear and underwear. Next up? An expanded collection of formalwear.
• The fashion and retail market needs a new map. David J. Katz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Randa Accessories, and Jim Shea, chief commercial officer of analytics firm First Insight Inc., said during their presentation that the department store segment is suffering from underwhelming sameness. And much of it has to do with not offering shoppers a chance for “discovery and delight,” Katz said adding that today’s market also requires data-informed consumer insights. “You can’t navigate tomorrow’s landscape with yesterday’s maps,” Katz said. “We need new maps.”
• Tim Coppens, founder and creative director of his own brand and executive creative director of UAS, or Under Armour Sportswear, is naturally shy — “I’m Belgian, we’re very small, countries run all over us” — but as he matures as a designer he has realized it’s necessary to keep a higher profile. “I’ve learned to give a little bit of myself,” he said. So whether it’s the Tim Coppens collection or his new UAS sportswear line, he has learned that to “get some engagement with the brand, I have to communicate what I’m about.” The messaging works more slowly with the Tim Coppens line and more quickly with the commercial UAS collection, but in both cases, it’s about creating experiences that foster a sense of community among customers.
• Go direct, or go home. Forget that Aaron Levant, founder of Agenda and senior vice president and head of fashion at Reed Exhibitions, works for a trade show event organizer. Traditional trade shows — and malls for that matter — are dead, Levant told attendees. “The only metric that matters is energy,” Levant said. “And trade shows and malls have no energy.” Instead, Levant is finding success by going direct to consumers. His ComplexCon event was essentially a trade show for consumers where musicians, fans, foodies, techies and fashion influencers converged. “Fans paid $55 to go shopping,” Levant said of last year’s event, which generated $10 million in sales, on site, over a two-day period.
• TV/radio host Ryan Seacrest wasn’t always a style setter — he started out as a pudgy pre-teen with braces — but once he met Burberry’s creative director Christopher Bailey, his fashion sense changed. “I realize I wanted to create a uniform,” he said, adding that he ditched the professional stylists who had outfitted him in ill-fitting suits and questionable color palettes in favor of the brand’s suits. That eventually led to the creation of the Ryan Seacrest Distinction label that started out as tailored clothing and furnishings and this fall will expand into casual sportswear to complement the dressier looks. This new iteration of the line — and the addition of new creative director Matteo Gottardi — is intended to appeal to the modern man seeking comfortable yet sophisticated pieces for guys seeking alternatives to that tailored uniform that has served Seacrest so well over the course of his career.
• Experience is top of mind for Albin Johansson, the cofounder and chief executive officer for Axel Arigato, a men’s and women’s sneaker line that launched in 2014. For Johansson, who recently opened a shop in London, experiences translate to stores outfitted with Wi-Fi, charging stations, seating areas and beverages that can also second as community building spaces. On the product side, Johansson urged brands and retailers to also provide experiences with the way they distribute their product. Each pair of Axel Arigato shoes, which retail for around $215, come with a dust bag, matte gray shoe box and branded chopsticks — Arigato means “thank you” in Japanese. “There’s nothing today that says a high-end retail experience needs to cost a lot of money,” Johansson said. “People are spending their money on a meal at the latest restaurant or a trip to the Caribbean. Your brand can’t just be about the products you sell.”
• Karin Darmanin, Macy’s executive vice president of men’s and kids, said she’s been “impressed by this moment for fashion and for reinvention in the men’s industry. What an exciting time to be a men’s merchant.” Part of the reason for that is that men are showing a greater interest in fashion. Asked about the future of department stores, she admitted, “It’s incumbent on all of us to make more traffic.”
• The new celebrity endorsement: Fashion brands partnering with celebrities is no new concept, but because Millennial customers can easily sniff out in-authenticity, it’s important that these collaborations are executed in a meaningful way. That’s what pop star Jason Derulo and designer Antonio Brown are hoping to achieve with LVL XIII, a brand started by Brown. Derulo joined as an investor and ambassador last year, and while he’s dedicated to the line, he doesn’t want to force it on people. “I don’t want to be bigger than the brand,” Derulo said. “I want this to be something that can sustain without me.” But that doesn’t mean they aren’t leveraging Derulo’s fame. For his newest video, “Swalla,” which features Nicki Minaj, Derulo introduced new pieces from the collection and plans on holding pop-ups based on his tour schedule that will sell LVL XIII.