PARIS — It was all about having a strong identity at the recent spring 2018 men’s trade shows here. Homespun, cultural references, vintage and surf styles and streetwear were selling well, with buyers seeking standout items and new discoveries to complement their core designer offering and differentiate themselves, rather than seeking out specific trends.
“Trends are hard to build a business around these days,” observed Chris Thomas, director of retail for Melbourne, Australia’s Service Denim Stores. “We’re looking for accessories to accentuate our core offer that have a point of uniqueness in the Australian market,” he said. “The ability to be unisex is important, too.”
Indeed, more and more brands were showing what they described as “unisex” collections as the trend for outsize gender-neutral garments continues to gain traction. Labels that tapped into heritage styles and techniques, especially from Japan and France, were also popular, as were new takes on performance wear.
Brands showing at Tranoï, Man and Capsule, held over the weekend during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, said foot traffic had been relatively slow, although key buyers had walked through, with a strong presence from Asian, especially Japan, and U.K.-based retailers.
Paul Craig, co-owner of The Bureau, a multibrand men’s store in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said business was strong at the moment, especially online. He cited workwear and Japanese styles as standout trends at Man, which had a new location on Place Vendôme that got mixed reviews. For some, the central location was seen as a draw, while others said it didn’t fit with the streetwise positioning of many of the brands present.
Among the labels showing at Man, Japan’s Souline, with its heritage styles that included pinstripe denim and kimono jackets averaging $250 at wholesale, and U.S.-based footwear brand Malibu, which offers Mexican-inspired woven surf sandals that are a cross between technical and fashion styles with retail prices ranging from $110 and $175, were standouts. Malibu, whose accounts include Le Bon Marché, was showcasing a collaboration with Missoni alongside its core offer.
David Weeks, buying director for Scottish chain Xile Clothing, praised French brands Arpenteur and Maison Labiche, both at Man, for their take on French classics. “There’s a lot of nice things coming out of France for men’s wear the past few seasons, which had not been the case for several years,” he observed.
Maison Labiche, founded in 2011, specializes in embroidered basics, and offers a personalization service. Its “Paris to the Moon” collection for spring 2018 features embroidered sailor tops, shirts and T-shirts, with retail prices averaging between 50 euros and 200 euros, or $57 to $228. The brand is stocked by around 250 retailers worldwide.
Arpenteur, which offers French workwear-inspired designs, was seeing strong demand for its indigo moleskin jacket, priced at 203 euros, or $231, wholesale, and a check broadcloth hooded top, at 119 euros, or $136.
Standout streetwear and performance items were also high on buyers’ wish lists. Italy-based Ahirain was showing its first men’s collection at Tranoï’s Carreau du Temple location, the show’s second time at the Marais venue. Aiming to offer high-tech performance wear for an urban audience, the brand’s wrinkled blue nylon waterproof and white “techno-rubber” jackets were highlights. Wholesale prices for the collection range from 109 euros to 330 euros, or $124 to $377.
At Resident Showroom, a trade-show-come-showroom hybrid near Bastille now in its second season, Japanese brand Curly, which launched internationally last year and has its own store in Tokyo, offered an innovative printed jacket in pure cotton jersey that is fully waterproof and breathable, priced at 128 euros, or $146, wholesale. Its checked, waffle-weave T-shirt made using a traditional Japanese dying technique, priced at 53 euros, or $60, was also selling strongly.
Another standout at Resident Showroom, according to buyers, was Pharrell Williams’ brand Billionaire Boys Club, produced under license for Europe by U.K.-based A Number of Names. The brand’s tie-dyed or embroidered sweatshirts and check flannel shirts had proved particularly popular with buyers, said account manager Ward Richards. They retail for an average of 145 pounds, or $188.
Other streetwear brands selling well included Los Angeles-based The Spiders From Arts. It was singled out by Paolo Molteni, buyer for Como, Italy-based Tessabit, as a standout.
Molteni said business has been tough this season for the retailer, which has several stores as well as e-commerce, because of unseasonable weather. “We have stable budgets despite the season, but we have to be careful about what we pick,” he said.
The Spiders From Arts’ distressed silicone wash T-shirts and hoodies with pop culture motifs — David Bowie is a strong inspiration — launched in January, and have seen a wave of demand since Paris Jackson was spotted wearing one of the designs.
Just months after the launch, the brand has been picked up by Maxfield, Neiman Marcus and Luisa Via Roma, said the brand’s chief executive officer and creative director Stefano D’Ambrosio.
At Tranoï, he said, “I’ve been surprised by the quality of the clients, I’ve seen a lot of good Italian and Japanese buyers.”
The brand’s T-shirts wholesale internationally for $85, while hoodies go for $120. At the top end, a black leather jacket, manufactured in Turkey, was hand-painted by a Malibu artist and was selling for $750.
At Capsule, showing at the Maison de la Mutualité on the Left Bank, South Korean newcomer Ajo Studio was one of five brands picked out by followers of Highsnobiety to exhibit. The brand’s secondary Ajo by Ajo label took outsized to new levels with its huge T-shirts, shirts and anoraks, including lumberjack shirts and striking black-and-white striped jackets, with prices ranging from $100 to $180 at retail in Korea.
Sweden’s PRLE (pronounced “parler,” meaning to talk in French) channeled a different aesthetic, with striking vintage Seventies styles, including a checked and riveted short-sleeved shirt that had been picked up by Beams, founder Andreas Daniel said. The brand’s prices range from 155 euros to 480 euros or $177 to $548.
Vintage elements were also strong at Man. U.S.-based Gitman Bros. Shirts, founded in 1932, was showcasing its collection of Hawaiian-style shirts reminiscent of many collections seen on the runways in Paris for spring 2018. The brand counts Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony among its accounts, and its shirts retail for between $160 and $195.
Japan’s Haversack, with its combination of performance fabrics and striking vintage styles, was another highlight.
At Tranoï, strong points included newcomer Insulaire, whose designer Zhikai Yang sources handwoven Chinese vintage fabrics and mixes them with modern textiles and undyed leather in striking combinations and shapes that mix homespun textures with futuristic cuts. Yang won this year’s prize for best men’s wear designer at the International Young Designers’ Festival in Dinan in April. His inaugural commercial collection, for spring, starts at 85 euros, or $97, for a T-shirt to 3,200 euros, or $3,651, for the leather jacket.
Italy’s Marc Point, which offers linen tailoring with a frayed, Charlie Chaplin-like charm, and French brand Kobja by Monika Jarosz, with its unusual accessories shaped from an invasive Australian toad species, were further standouts at Tranoï.