After a solid 2022 marked by strong holiday traffic, men’s specialty stores are hopeful that the momentum will continue in 2023. But with layoffs hitting some sectors and a potential recession looming, they’re keeping a close watch on their open-to-buys for later this year.
Men’s independents were in New York last week visiting showrooms and the numerous trade shows scattered around the city. Although they would have preferred if the shows were all in one concentrated location, they still managed to navigate their way around town to get a good feel for the trends in the market and to check out the offerings from new and established brands.
Later this week many of these same stores will be headed to Chicago for the Collective to finish their buy for the season. Among the items that have whet their appetites so far are hybrid tailored clothing options, sophisticated knitwear and updated heritage brands.
“We had a good year in 2022 and we’re cautiously optimistic for 2023,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans. “There are definitely layoffs happening, but we haven’t seen our customer impacted by the so-called ‘oncoming recession’ yet.”
Giddon said the lessons learned during the pandemic will serve him and his specialty store colleagues well if business goes south later this year.
“If we can handle being shut for six months for COVID[-19], we should be able to handle a downturn in business,” he said. “We’re being cautious in our buy, but we learned during the pandemic to manage unexpected changes in our business and be more flexible.”
Giddon, who is a huge proponent of trade shows, visited both Project and Society last week. “We love the efficiency of trade shows,” he said. “We can spend three hours and see 25 vendors and hope to find a glittering star in a sky full of stars.”
Among the glittering stars he discovered this time were Serge Blanco, John Carl Yates, Selected Homme, Fly 3, Alpha Industries, Goodlife and a revitalized G.H. Bass. “And it was fun to see Agnes B back,” he said.
Also shopping New York last week was Kurtis Williams, the new owner of the Claymore Shop in Birmingham, Michigan. Williams said that following the death of the former owner, the store went through some tough times before he acquired it in 2021. Once the deal was finalized, all the former inventory was liquidated and he started from scratch, restocking the store to focus on high-end merchandise that is not widely distributed.
Customers were quick to return, he said, and the store had a strong 2022 with “chunky sweaters” and outerwear among the best sellers despite the warmer-than-usual weather. “People just want to buy,” he said.
They were drawn to the mix, which centers around brands “you don’t find everywhere,” he said, but are focused on craftsmanship and quality. In New York, Williams was looking for sophisticated sportswear brands that would fit into that mold and liked what he found at 100Hands, Ring Jacket and Drakes, he said.
He’s keeping a positive attitude about this year. “My business partner is with UBS and he’s giving the thumbs-up for this year,” he said. “We’ve been increasing the price points in the store and we’re not seeing a ceiling. If it’s unique, it sells.”
Dean Harrison of Hiltons in Princeton, New Jersey, said the holidays were not as robust as they used to be because so many gifts are now purchased online. “But given that, we’re not setting the world on fire, but we’re doing OK.”
In New York, he visited some of the store’s existing vendors including Hickey Freeman and Eton shirts as well several of the trade shows. Because everything was so spread around the city, he wasn’t able to see as many vendors as he would have liked, but he was able to check out some new lines and get a good read on the trends for the fall season.
But Harrison is not expecting this year to set any records. “There was a bump when everything opened up and special events came back,” he said. “But the bloom is going to be off that rose. We’re projecting a slowdown, so our open-to-buy will be lower than last year.”
Here are some of the highlights from the New York shows.
Designer: Mark McNairy
Backstory: The designer has had a long career in fashion, working with everyone from J.Press and Southwick to The Gap, Woolrich and Engineered Garments on contemporary American sportswear. For years he also had his own brands, Mark McNairy New Amsterdam as well as New Republic by Mark McNairy, that developed a cult following. After moving to Los Angeles and taking a break from fashion — “I laid low for a while,” he said — he reemerged last November with a new collection under the mcnairy&co. moniker, a line that blends streetwear with traditional American sportswear.
Key pieces: When the brand launched last fall, McNairy said it centered primarily around graphic T-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants. The fall collection has been expanded to include an assortment of shirts with allover prints; a travel/hiking short in plaid with a daisy print; a hybrid oxford trucker shirt; a wool and poly-rayon stretch travel suit with jogger pants; colorblocked “Mother Trucker” hats, and an assortment of bags.
Retail prices: Graphic Ts retail for $38 to $58, hoodies are $164, the hybrid oxford shirt is $228, the travel suit is $248 for the jacket and $188 for the pants, and the bags are $128 to $150.
Designer: Geonwoo Kim
Backstory: South Korean men’s brand Pottery takes its inspiration from white porcelain and traditional Korean pottery, looking to the art form’s sleek and minimal aesthetic to create a line of suits and other work-appropriate attire. The brand focuses on creating modern and simple styles that straddle classic and modern. Since its 2017 launch the brand has grown its retail presence in South Korea by partnering with regional retailers and opening its own stand-alone store in 2020. Outside of South Korea, Pottery is available at Ssense. In 2022, the brand experienced 128 percent year-over-year growth.
Key pieces: Pottery’s business suits are among its key pieces, with the brand offering slim fits in navy and black. The brand is also introducing more casual styles, like varsity jackets and denim jackets.
Retail prices: Pottery’s pieces range from $270 to $1,080.
Brand: De Bonne Facture
Designer: Déborah Sitbon Neuberg
Backstory: After a design stint at Hermès, designer and founder Déborah Sitbon Neuberg launched De Bonne Facture in 2013 to create well-crafted menswear pieces made in collaboration with local farmers, mills and manufacturers in France. Neuberg uses fabrics in their natural form, incorporating undyed cotton and wool to create a neutral color palette and timeless basics. Each season the brand focuses on updating its silhouettes to continue making them sleek and modern. For fall, De Bonne Facture is teaming with Scottish coat brand Gloverall, creating a line of coats that were made with a Scottish mill.
Key pieces: De Bonne Facture’s “Granddad Coat” is one of its consistent bestsellers. Neuberg was inspired to make the oversize, herringbone-style jacket based off a friend’s vintage jacket that belonged to their grandfather.
Retail prices: Prices range from $175 to $200 for T-shirts, $300 to $500 for knitwear and coats go up to $1,395.
Brand: Maxime Simoens
Designer: Maxime Simoens
Backstory: The French designer created his brand in 2009 and was soon embraced by the fashion industry as a young Yves Saint Laurent. He also attracted the attention of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which took a minority stake in the brand in 2013. Shortly after, however, Simoens hit a few roadblocks. LVMH walked away two years later, the same year he shuttered his women’s label. But he has persevered, serving as the artistic director of Loris Azzaro as well as Paula Ka. His current collection, which has been in production since 2016, offers a unisex offering of limited-edition pieces featuring exclusive prints.
Key pieces: Several of the oversize bomber jackets and silk shirts feature allover prints based on French artwork while other patterns speak to Simoens’ love of nature and the creation of the world. There was also a reversible bi-color bathrobe coat in wool twill and cashmere and merino wool sweaters are offered in everything from fitted turtlenecks to cardigans.
Retail prices: Retail prices weren’t set but wholesale prices include $142 for the printed oversize shirts, $506 for the bombers and $376 for the bathrobe coat.
Brand: Á Wet New York
Designer: Áwet Woldegebriel
Backstory: Áwet Woldegebriel started his genderless label at the beginning of the pandemic with the mission of helping garment workers who had lost their jobs, donating his proceeds to his employees after his November 2020 launch. Now that the brand is in its third year of production, Woldegebriel is continuing to support garment workers while developing his label to offer “live-wear,” which he defines as pieces you can’t live without. The brand started with luxury hoodies and has now expanded to outerwear, separates, accessories and more high-end pieces. Tailoring is a major focus for the brand, as Woldegebriel’s father worked as a tailor for 30 years.
Key pieces: For fall 2023, Á Wet New York is introducing suede and leather pieces the designer added a modern twist to, such as a suede jacket that’s designed with satin paneling. The fall collection also offers several rich hues fit for the season, such as burnt orange and olive green.
Retail prices: The brand’s average price is $315.
Designer: Keeler Near
Backstory: Philanthropy has been at the core of Krost’s business since its launch in 2019, with the brand giving back to organizations like March For Our Lives, New York Restoration Project, Team No Kid Hungry and others. This year Krost is focusing on climate change, donating proceeds from its fall 2023 collection to Eden Reforestation Projects. For pre-fall, Krost has teamed with Nautica for a collection of outerwear pieces that support Oceana, an ocean conservation organization that’s been a long-term partner of the brand. Krost is also the marque genderless brand at Urban Outfitters and is entering five Nordstrom locations this year.
Key pieces: Krost is expanding into different categories for fall, releasing outerwear, knitwear, cotton canvas pants and sherpa fleeces.
Retail prices: Prices start at $50 for the brand’s basics and extend to $395 for its reversible puffer jackets.
Designer: Elisa Lorenzoni
Backstory: The luxury sweater brand traces its history to 1969 when Egidio Lorenzoni and his wife Liliana began creating artisanal knitwear in their home country of Italy under the corporate name of Maglificio Liliana. Today, the company is run by their children: Elisa, who oversees design; Monica, who handles production, and Andrea, who is responsible for sales. It offers some 200 styles in three collections — Lorenzoni, Impulso and Montechiaro — at varying price points. The high-end Lorenzoni brand, which showed at Pitti Uomo before heading to the States with its contemporary and sophisticated offering, is created from the highest-quality yarns such as cashmere and extra-fine merino wool. The Impulso collection is focused on performance and the Montechiaro line offers basics and fancies in a variety of styles.
Key pieces: The Lorenzini collection offers a variety of silhouettes — from cable knits, argyles and shawl-collared sweaters to hoodies in the finest cashmere, merino wool and silks. Among the most popular pieces are crewnecks or turtlenecks in cashmere or high-gauge merino as well as some garment-dyed zip cardigans — many of which sport subtle ribbing, braiding or diamond details. The Impulso line offers windbreakers and Teflon-treated sweaters to withstand the elements, and the Montechiaro collection includes sweaters created from a triple twisted yarn called Triplefilo created with Zegna as well as an assortment of styles with cotton on the inside and wool on the outside to guard against scratching.
Retail prices: The Montechiaro collection retails from $229 to $299, the Impulso line from $299 to $349 and the Lorenzino line for $499 to $699 and up.