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Who could have known in those long-ago months of January and February what men would be spending the spring, summer — and it looks like fall — wearing?

As designers in New York, London, Milan and Paris leaned heavily into updated tailoring, dress shoes and boots and cozy knits, the pandemic was hitting China and would soon spread worldwide. As lockdowns mushroomed across the continents, in the West those who could worked from home, with men ditching their “work clothes” of suits, jackets and — when required — ties for sweat pants, slippers and T-shirts. Unless, that is, they had a Zoom call with the office, when they might temporarily don a dress shirt or at least a sweater — and hopefully pants, but who would know?

Now, as businesses across Europe and the U.S. begin to reopen, the question is raging as to whether those men going back to their offices are prepared to return to their dress wardrobe and ditch the casual look. Meanwhile, the fall collections shown nine months ago — seemingly ancient history — are just hitting stores.

Here, a look at what retailers see as the key trends for fall, shown in those pre-pandemic days.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman:

“The world has changed a lot since we saw the fall 2020 men’s wear collections in January. We’ve seen a seismic shift in the landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines that have shifted the fashion focus to things more comfortable and relaxed. At Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, we will have this category well represented both in-store and online.

“Comfort footwear will continue to be key, with sneakers continuing to have importance, and new introductions from brands like Dior, McQueen, Louboutin and others driving excitement. Relaxed, flexible loafers and slip-ons from Zegna, Ferragamo and Loro Piana are well suited to this more relaxed work/work from home environment. We also saw a great range of biker and equestrian inspired statement boots on the runways from Prada, Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Dior that offer great fashion and function.

“We’ve seen classic pieces like the cardigan sweater in all of its iterations take on new importance as a comfortable, versatile jacket option that gives polish to a more casual look. Knitwear, especially fine-gauge crewnecks, polos and turtlenecks as well as quarter-zips are going to be very important as layering pieces for relaxed tailoring and outerwear, helping our customer find the perfect balance between looking polished and feeling comfortable. Corduroy, especially when seen in pinwale unconstructed sport jackets, chore jackets and five-pocket pants, is a perfect fabric for this season, one that gets softer and more lived in with every wash and wear. We saw this fabrication in many collections, from Brunello Cucinelli, Massimo Alba and Ermenegildo Zegna to Officine Générale. Winter white and all shades of brown were really important color stories, especially in the luxe sportswear market.

“On the runway we saw a lot of designers really dressing up their collections, offering an elevated point of view and incorporating more sartorial influences. Brands such as Dior, Valentino, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Fendi and Off-White showed a predominance of tailoring and elegant looks. The Fear of God x Ermenegildo Zegna collaboration is also a great example of this direction, a partnership between a historic Italian sartorial brand and Jerry Lorenzo’s California-based designer sportswear collection that resulted in really elegant, proportion-driven looks with beautifully tailored coats and suits as the foundation for the line.

“I am optimistic that we will all be able to come safely together again, maybe even sooner than we may think, that we will be able to gather and reunite. It will be quite an occasion, a celebration, and we will want to be dressed for that.”

Roopal Patel, fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue:

“No one could have predicted we were about to embark on a global crisis in January, when much of the fall collections were focused on tailoring and the new suit for the everyday working man. We’re seeing men are excited about updating their wardrobes for fall but leaning into pieces focused on quality, design and function.

“Saks is seeing luxurious knits, from cable knit to cashmere, head-to-toe corduroy dressing and outerwear as top trends for fall. As we’re spending more time at home, what a man wears as he heads out the door becomes a key piece and we’re seeing the puffer as a mainstay this season. There was no shortage of great footwear that marched down the runways in Milan and Paris and the modern boot was key this fall. Lug soles, hiking boots and updated Chelsea boots are key silhouettes along with the basketball sneaker, a perfect addition to his sneaker collection.”

Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director, Bloomingdale’s:

“Two of the most prominent trends we’ll be showcasing at Bloomingdale’s this fall are luxury comfort and ‘great outdoors’ dressing.

“In luxury comfort, we’re looking at elevated casual dressing — that means the omnipresent sweatsuit, but also shirt jackets, soft jackets, easy pants and cozy materials like cashmere. These casual and comfortable essentials get a sophisticated twist from designers like Ermenegildo Zegna, which we are launching at Bloomingdale’s this fall, in a palette of neutrals like camel, brown, burgundy, white and ecru, paired with a navy or charcoal. Vince also continues to deliver contemporary elevated basics. At Bloomingdale’s, designer sneakers, like Saint Laurent court sneakers, will continue to be big for fall, as men lean into sneakers, but still want a polished luxury feel.

“People are spending more leisure time outdoors, and we expect that to continue into fall. Bloomingdale’s will dress our customer for the great outdoors with technical and active apparel — items with a strong functional foundation like waterproof outerwear or down jackets — fused with modern Americana elements like shearling, overshirts and cargo pants that elevate the look. Highlights include outerwear from Moncler and Yves Salomon, along with sportswear from Stone Island. Finish it all with a lug sole boot from Prada, Alexander McQueen or Diemme, and you have a perfect fall look.”

Sam Kershaw, buying director, Mr Porter:

“After months of casual dressing reigning supreme, we’re currently witnessing an appetite for classic men’s wear, with tailoring being a key trend for the fall season. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Dries Van Noten, Loro Piana, The Row and Kingsman are leading voices in this space, offering more considered propositions and classically relaxed styles in response to our customers’ enthusiasm to dress up a bit, but in a wearable, everyday way. Think suits in warm, earthy colors, soft shoulders and even softer silhouettes.

“On top of this, we can also expect a season of men’s wear filled with fun, colorful and brilliantly wearable clothes: loud and proud shirts, chunky knitwear, colored leathers, interesting trousers, boxy coats and a color palette of neutrals that is more nuanced than muted.”

Federico Barassi, vice president of men’s wear buying, Ssense:

“People are yearning to get dressed up again, so we’ll see an increased focus on tailored and timeless pieces. Fall 2020 will showcase suiting that is influenced by the traditional silhouettes of slim tailoring and double-breasted blazers, which have always been embedded within houses like Burberry, Bottega Veneta and Maison Margiela. We’re also seeing a resurgence in biker-inspired leather silhouettes like 1017 Alyx 9SM’s leather overalls or coordinating leather trousers and biker jackets from Rick Owens.

“Another fall 2020 trend we’re betting on are puffer jackets. It’s a staple in everyone’s wardrobe and we’re seeing new shapes and patterns from Dries Van Noten and Maison Margiela with interesting techniques and applications.”

Chris Kyvetos, buying director of men’s wear, Mytheresa:

“We have really seen a trend in ‘non-sneaker’ footwear, with loafers, lace-ups and slip-ons. This shift toward modern styles of more traditional footwear is becoming integral to the current men’s wear silhouette, especially within the luxury sphere. Notable examples include Bottega Veneta slippers and Loro Piana loafers, both of which are effortlessly relaxed for everyday looks.”

Laure Hériard Dubreuil, creative director and founder, The Webster:

“This fall, we are going bold and daring with our trends for men. With a strong representation of animal prints from brands such as Saint Laurent and Loewe, bold denim from Dries Van Noten and Dior, oversize tailoring from Zegna x Fear of God and Balenciaga, and silk shirts from Casa Blanca and Amiri. Making a statement is our focus for the season’s direction, prompting vibes of playfulness and creativity.”

Damien Paul, head of men’s wear, Matchesfashion:

“Firstly I have to say that our fall season is very different to how we imagined when we saw the original shows and had the appointments. We have been working very closely with our brands and partners in different ways including delivery phasing, understanding and supporting production challenges. In some cases, designers have moved part of fall 2020 to a pre-spring 2021 delivery, which should help their production. It was inevitable that some designers had to reduce their collections, but the new season continues to connect well with our customers who are ready for newness and responding well as our upload build up the season.

“For spring 2021, we saw designers build on and elevate their house codes, and elements of this will come through in autumn — expect attention to detail and luxurious fabrication.

“This autumn expect a foundation of core pieces that will build most men’s wardrobes with items that they can wear season after season. This in itself is a trend — elevated items in brilliant fabrications that will live in your wardrobe for years are a real focus. Paying close attention to fabric and fit will ensure that whatever our customer buys will work with several different looks in his wardrobe: a key to investment dressing.

“Jewelry is another category we have seen double since lockdown, and anticipate this trend to continue into the fall 2020 season. We are seeing men experiment with their jewelry, matching different pieces with different outfits or layering several pieces together at once. He is comfortable expressing his style though these finishing touches.

“We are continuing to support our young designer partners. As a business, we are keen to look at how we help future-proof our designer businesses. We have just launched our Innovators Programme for 2020, which was created to support young designers and to flag emerging talent to our customer. This has now become a more formal program with a yearlong commitment to 12 designers, providing them with preferential financial commitment, substantial marketing support and one-to-one mentorship where they most need it. Supporting young designers has always been at the heart of our business so I am delighted that we are launching this in September with designers including Kevin Germanier, Michael Halpern, Art School, Grace Wales Bonner and Priya Ahluwalia.”

Sam Lobban, senior vice president, designer and new concepts, Nordstrom:

“The fall runway shows seem like a world away now and so much has changed since then. Interestingly enough, a lot of trends we’d been seeing still feel relevant for the men’s space though; a move on from out and out streetwear into a cleaner, more refined but still casual and comfortable aesthetic. There were a lot of great pants in easy shapes, intricate knitwear and easy jackets in different textures to create an elevated and smart overall outfit without ever feeling as stiff as a formal suit — from brands across the spectrum such as Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Brunello Cucinelli.

“This kind of dressing makes a lot of sense for our customers, especially when thinking about how guys are dressing for ‘work’ nowadays — if indeed the sweatpant phase has passed — and if it hasn’t, then we have sweats covered, too. On the other side of this, we’re also seeing a strong return of a more-fashion focused guy who wants something with a stronger aesthetic: brands such as Dior, Off-White and Amiri all showed excellent collections, which felt like a real move-on for their customer and are resonating very well across all categories.”

Read more from WWD: 

Can Tailored Clothing Rebound From Pandemic Downturn?

Updated Essentials Seen as New Return-to-Work Wardrobe

Independent Retailers May Benefit From Big Store Bankruptcies

WATCH: Inside the Fall 2020 Louis Vuitton Men’s Show

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