NEW YORK — Retailers at the men’s trade shows here this week had one primary category on their minds: sportswear.
Gone are the days when buyers scoured the fairs for new tailored clothing labels. As stores, particularly independents, continue to battle a disinterested consumer, macroeconomic factors and the growing power of Amazon, executives were mainly looking to pick up new casualwear brands to complement their existing offerings.
The good news is that the formula seems to be working: Most independents interviewed said business has picked up slightly and they’re keeping their fingers crossed the trend will continue.
Ken Giddon, president of New York’s Rothmans, noted that thanks to a successful pop-up with Psycho Bunny — “our best pop-up ever” — the store had “a really good June.”
“We’re flexible enough to keep bobbing and weaving,” he added.
For the men’s specialty store, that means de-emphasizing tailored clothing and keeping customers interested by featuring a rotating series of pop-up shops. “It’s part of our model now,” Giddon said. “It works to always have something fresh.”
He said “tailored clothing is becoming a smaller part of the business, but we’re growing other parts,” especially sportswear. He especially liked Stitch Note’s short-sleeve wovens, Benson and Rodd & Gunn’s sportswear, Blujacket updated tailored clothing and Res Ipsa’s embroidered footwear.
“And we thank the trade show gods that all the shows are in one location this time and we don’t have to go to Basketball City,” Giddon added, referring to Liberty Fairs’ and Capsule’s relocation to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center next to Project and MRket.
Dan Farrington, general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Mitchells Family of Stores, said the market looked good for spring although he was hoping to discover more newness and trends.
“We feel our sportswear mix has gotten stale, but we did see a lot of good knitwear,” he said. “We buy so much early in Europe, so for us, New York is more about finding items.”
Although no longer new, performance attributes such as stretch, temperature regulation and moisture-wicking “continue to infiltrate all of men’s wear,” he said, and that will be part of the mix at the company’s stores going forward.
Farrington said business has been decent of late and he’s hopeful it will continue. “We’ve had some positive months recently so I feel optimistic for fall,” he said. “We have a lot of new products and brands coming in, and a good plan. Business is still difficult, but it’s getting better, so hopefully we’ll go with that and ride it into fall.”
Trey Kraus, owner of Carltons in Rehoboth Beach, Del., also reported business was “pretty good.”
“I primarily deal with other small business owners and they’re feeling more upbeat about their business so they’re unloading a few more bucks,” he said. “So we’re putting five items in a bag instead of four.”
At the shows, he was also looking for sportswear, although he was leery of getting into ath-leisure too heavily. “If we do things too early, they flop,” he said. “We need to wait a season or two for it to trickle down.”
Nevertheless, he said he may test a little to gauge customer response.
Here, highlights from the shows:
Brand: Tee Ink
Designer: Pete de Gail
Backstory: After working in television and media communications, de Gail took a fashion course and decided to launch Tee Ink, an Australian brand with Nineties skate undertones that started as a graphic T-shirt line. De Gail, who introduced the brand in 2012, is now bringing the collection to the U.S. market. It’s sold in retailers including City Beach, an e-commerce site based in Australia, and SurfStitch.
Key pieces: De Gail said he wanted to encapsulate the highs and lows of life in the U.S. T-shirts featured messaging and graphics to relay the theme. Graphics included yin-yangs, ice cream cones and flamingos while messaging consisted of “hollyweed,” “bad habits” and “retired young.” The assortment also included Hawaiian shirts made from rayon and matching shorts constructed from a brushed poly. Cotton utility jackets, bombers and striped knits rounded out the line.
Prices: Everything in the collection retails under $100 with the exception of outerwear that’s priced around $150.
Brand: Deabreu Italy
Designer: Ruben De Abreu
Backstory: De Abreu worked in architecture, specifically within interior and furniture design, before introducing his men’s handbags line, which is designed in Miami and made in Italy. Retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue and Harvey Nichols carry the collection, which is four years old.
Key items: Architectural lines are a signature for Deabreu, and the designer incorporates them into his assortment, which ranges from laptop cases to duffel bags to backpacks that are decorated with exterior straps that are also functional. The bags come in black, dove gray, royal blue, tangerine and taupe.
Prices: From $400 to $1,100.
Brand: Thaddeus O’Neil
Designer: Thaddeus O’Neil
Backstory: Thaddeus O’Neil founded his namesake men’s wear label in 2013. The line, which is handmade in New York, merges après surf references with relaxed American luxury. O’Neil, who was a nominee for the 2015/16 Woolmark Award and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, plays with bright colors, bold prints and rich textures, while using fabrics sourced from Italy and Japan.
Key pieces: O’Neil titled his spring 2018 collection “Ordinary Eternal Machinery” and said he wanted to get back to his core, which is designing clothes with a resort slant. O’Neil focused on a few silhouettes — the short, the shirt jacket, the knit T-shirt, the boxy pullover and relaxed pants that came in a variety of textiles and prints. A jailbird suit was made from striped denim and styled with what O’Neil called bloomers, his take on jeans but with a lower crotch. His swim shorts came in a jacquard fabric or an ultrasuede.
Prices: T-shirts retail at $120, pants are priced at $550, shirt-jackets retail around $625 and swim shorts are priced from $275 to $395.
Designer: Joe Kudla
Backstory: Founder Joe Kudla grew up as an athlete in coastal California, playing mainly football and lacrosse. But his Nike and Under Armour wardrobe, while good for playing sports, was more geared to “kids aspiring to be the next Tom Brady,” he said. So three years ago, he launched Vuori for men seeking athletic performance products that are built to move and sweat in but whose West Coast aesthetic looks good outside the gym as well. Since then, the brand has expanded beyond Core Power Yoga and Equinox to all doors of REI and also has its own flagship store near San Diego, where it is based.
Key pieces: The Kore short has an elastic waist, Coolmax liner, four-way stretch and is designed for yoga, running and just lounging around. It’s available in a variety of patterns including camouflage, saltwater red and striped colorblocking. Other variations include the Banks short, which doesn’t have a liner so it’s suited for swimming and other water sports; the Stockton, which has a built-in compression liner that hangs out below the outer shell, and the Evolution, a model that is reminiscent of an old-school basketball short. The brand also offers updated sweatpants, technical T-shirts, hoodies and other jackets.
Prices: Shorts range in price from $68 for the Kore to $96 for an elevated Future model. Pants average $88 and jackets are around $112.
Designer: Christina Currey Chapman
Backstory: Chapman has a strong background in textiles, which shows in her new collection of men’s swimwear. The line, which is named after her stylish grandfather, Brownlee, offers a tailored swimwear collection with a Sixties Hamptons aesthetic. The idea is that instead of having to carry two pairs of shorts — one to swim in and the other for other athletic endeavors — these shorts are both stylish and functional.
Key pieces: The line offers an assortment of lined boxer briefs with a patterned shell, two-inch elastic waistband, contrast brass tipping on the ties, a jetted side-seam pocket, and two-way stretch that is designed to move and be comfortable. Chapman’s family connection continues in the choice of styles, which are all named after her cousins: Peter, Oliver, etc.
Prices: The line retails for $185 and is being sold on the brand’s e-commerce site.
Designer: Yoshiyuki Ogata
Backstory: The Tokyo-based casualwear brand was founded 13 years ago as a way to reinterpret and revitalize traditional Japanese apparel culture.
Key pieces: Ogata has taken such heritage staples as the Haori jacket, a half-coat that is a cross between a kimono and a martial arts uniform, and updated it with contemporary patterns and fabrics. Other key pieces include karate pants — a signature of the collection — in a wide silhouette that can double as relaxing resort pants, he said. They feature a cotton strap as a belt in a construction that has been made in Japan for more than 400 years. The pants, which are available in indigo dyed cotton, cotton linen and seersucker fabrics, are also available in shorts. Yoshiyuki offers traditional split-toe shoes, or Jika Tabi, as well, including in sneaker styles.
Prices: Jackets are $280 to $380, karate pants are $240, shorts retail for around $160 to $180 and the split-toe shoes are $380 to $480.
Designer: Takashi Akuzawa
Backstory: The Japanese brand is reminiscent of Eighties Pop art and uses colorful patterns, embroidery and colorblocking on a variety of oversize T-shirts, sweatshirts and bags. It launched in 2004 with a variety of messenger bags and backpacks and then expanded into hats. The next year, the brand introduced apparel and it is now carried in the U.S. and Canada as well as the Middle East. Urban Outfitters and its Free People division are among the retailers that carry the line in the States.
Key pieces: Much of the collection is unisex and some of the patterns are riffs on the California state seal. “Takashi loves California,” said the brand’s U.S. representative, Tak Miura, “and the brand has a relaxed L.A. style.” Its backpacks have become known for their embroidered tiger graphics and double pockets, a pattern that is also found on the apparel.
Prices: T-shirts retail for $60 to $80, sweatshirts are $130 to $190, shorts are $130 to $190 and backpacks are $200.
Designer: Koji Norihide
Backstory: For the past 17 years, the Japanese brand has offered its own take on vintage Army and workwear-inspired apparel. The inspiration hearkens back to the Forties and Old Hollywood with its updated raincoats, tropical-print shirts, regatta-striped jackets with brass buttons and oversize palazzo pants.
Key styles: While the designs may be based on men’s wear classics from yesteryear, the materials are very much of today and include waterproof fabrics in the raincoat, high-density twills in its oxford shirts and jersey wool for its pants. Among the retailers who carry the line in the U.S. are Unionmade and Mohawk General Store.
Prices: Retail prices in Europe range from 252 euros for a cotton herringbone jacket and 71 euros for a cotton shirt to 163 euros for a palazzo pant and 485 euros for a Ventile coat. When sold in the U.S., prices will undoubtedly be higher due to duties, the company said.
Brand: Necessity Sense
Designer: Steve Hsieh and James Zhan
Backstory: Brothers Steve, Michael and Richard Hsieh partnered with their cousin James Zhan to open Ne.Sense in Taipei three years ago. The shop sells luxury and streetwear brands including 424, Lanvin, Off-White and Maison Margiela. They decided to introduce their own line, which is now in its fourth season, to offer their customer more affordable options. The line is sold in retailers including Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford and American Rag.
Key pieces: Steve and Zhan, who have no formal design experience, create the collection together. This season, they used a trip to Thailand’s Red Light District as the starting point. The unisex line was broken up into three color stories — red for women, blue for men and a darker palette to represent both. They showed tailored pieces updated with interesting twists. Shirts were meant to resemble a tied package, while short-sleeve suit jackets were embroidered with athletic stripes on the arm. Silk shirts underscored the contrasting worlds the designers were attempting to create. One short-sleeve, cropped style was screen-printed with the working class in Taiwan and another was covered with a woman’s face under a red light. Other standouts included boxy knits with muscle sleeves and exaggerated collars in addition to the trousers, which came in a variety of iterations: cropped; long with a slight flare, and wide. This season they also introduced logo waist accessories such as key chains and d-rings.
Prices: The line ranges from around $120 for a T-shirt to $850 for outerwear.
Designer: Khalid Al Qasimi
Backstory: Qasimi was born in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and raised in the U.K. He studied Hispanic Studies and French literature at University College London, then architecture at the Architectural Association and then studied women’s wear at Central Saint Martins. This is his fifth Qasimi collection.
Key pieces: Qasimi’s line frequently merges Middle Eastern influences with a military aesthetic. This season, he focused on mixing pieces of the past with the future and riffed on classic silhouettes. A bomber jacket was updated with multiple utility pockets while a technical parka featured methodically placed ruching. Qasimi utilized military parachute fabrications and developed tunics, wide leg cargo pants and cagoules. The more structured part of the lineup included cotton trucker jackets, cotton twill trousers and poplin shirts.
Prices: Jersey tops range from around $100 to $250, shirting is priced from $300 to $350, outerwear retails from $480 to $1,200 and trousers are priced at $400.
Designer: Lee Dongki
Backstory: Based in Seoul, the collection was launched six years ago to reflect Dongki’s propensity for vintage American sportswear, particularly that from the Thirties. The collection reinterprets traditional sportswear and workwear with a few military references thrown in.
Key pieces: The collection ranges from overcoats with an abundance of pockets in cotton or cotton-nylon blends, to workwear-inspired trousers that can be worn alone or with a matching jacket. New this season, some of the trousers have wide legs, and the brand also offers a variety of button-down shirts, some of which feature embroidered details. There are also a variety of accessories.
Prices: Bandanas start at $29, shirts are $190 to $235, pants start at $245 and go up to $315, and jackets start around $255 and go up to $630 for a parka.
Brand: Léon Bara
Designers: Omar Afridi and Hugo Edwards
Backstory: Afridi, who owns the line, used to work in marketing and events before teaming with Edwards, a former buyer, to launch this brand.
Key pieces: Edwards described the line, which is in its fourth season, as a fashion collection with a conscious. The items are made from technical fabrics with performance or functional features ideal for urban environments. For spring 2018, they worked with a palette pulled from mid-20th century astronautical engineering — safety orange, white, olive, tan and gray — and updated classic tailored pieces with new proportions. Shirts were made from odor-resistant fabric, water-repellent utility trousers featured oversized pockets and a station coat was made with Cordura-treated Italian wool that prevents tears.
Prices: The line ranges from $185 to $665.