Good for new designers, but still needing more major names.
That remains the general industry consensus on New York Fashion Week: Men’s, which last week wrapped its third iteration. While the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Joseph Abboud and John Varvatos participated, buyers generally felt that the week is more about discovering young designers than it is seeing the significant brands that generate serious business at retail.
“I believe there’s a place for NYFW: Men’s and the talents that show the great diversity in New York,” said Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus. “But what’s missing is the marquee names to take it to the next level. It’s become more about social media and street style than focusing on the talent at the presentations.”
He said the shows were filled with “urban urchins” who do nothing to advance the industry, only their own social media standing.
“In these times, filling the room with urban urchins is not where we need to be. At the end of the day, we’re a business and we’re a business in turmoil. We need to focus on the designers and bringing their brands forward.”
That being said, Downing did find some worthwhile brands and trends at the shows. “I loved Michael Kors,” he said. “It was one-on-one and felt very old-school. It’s great that he actually engages with the audience. There was a big David Hockney moment in New York and he translated it well.”
He also thought John Varvatos’ show to close the week was strong. “I like the grit he brings,” Downing said, pointing to the “fantastic suede jackets and linen pieces” he showed. “Suede is now seasonless,” he said. “I also liked the new neutrals and the camos, which are becoming the leopard print of women’s ready-to-wear for men.”
And the “punk moment” that started in Milan and Paris also started “brewing” in New York, he said. “I’m curious to see where it will go for fall.”
Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Barneys New York, said comparing New York to Europe is apples to oranges. “Europe is still all about big brands with an established network of distribution; New York has a much greater focus on developing designers.”
He liked the linen and silk seen in a lot of the collections, he said, “especially in interesting blends. This is definitely inspiring a new lighter and bohemian silhouette that makes sense with the way men are seeking ways to look unique and sophisticated.”
Kalenderian singled out Varvatos’ show as “a great way to cap off the week. Sophisticated colors and fabrics mixing soft tailoring with sportswear speaks to the way men really want to dress. With the casual trend in the workplace, John Varvatos is providing an alternative to the serious formal suits that previously dominated the corporate landscape.” Other highlights of the week were Eidos, John Elliott, Ovadia & Sons, Orley and Stampd.
Kalenderian said keeping men’s shows on a calendar that works for retailers is important. “I do think it’s valuable to keep the men’s shows immediately following the European schedule, giving buyers a chance to evaluate all the possibilities before they finalize their orders. Showing later just to be aligned with women’s is perfunctory; the buys are all done before then.”
That raises a key issue for next season and beyond, especially in Europe, as brands from Burberry to Gucci, Tom Ford to Public School, shift their show dates or combine their men’s and women’s shows into one, mostly showing during the women’s season rather than the men’s.
Kevin Harter, vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s, said that although there was “a great deal of energy and excitement around the week … I think New York is at a disadvantage as we are at the end of a show cycle that began over a month ago. But I do passionately believe that we have the city that really showcases and nurtures many talented up-and-coming designers: John Elliott, Stampd, Second/Layer, Siki Im are the new guard — all of them had fantastic shows and presentations and I guarantee the industry will still be talking about all these guys a decade from now. We do still need the commitment from more established designers to make more of an effort during the week. There are certainly opportunities to make the week more compelling but I’m confident that the week will continue to evolve.”
Harter also singled out Antonio Ciongoli for Eidos, who had his “best presentation to date,” and Varvatos and Todd Snyder, who “continue to remain true to their brands while still providing us a great deal of innovation and newness on their runway.”
He said the trends in New York continued those in Europe, including “more of a play on fits and proportions. Soft tailoring continues to become more directional as these proportions continue to evolve.”
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman, said, “I think NYFWM is a valid and successful undertaking featuring a good variety of compelling lines and product. There will be, by definition, distinct differences between the shows in each fashion capital and I do think New York City holds its own. America is the true home of modern sportswear, it’s where the casual fashion expression originated, and I think the designers here exhibited a great range of original, relaxed ready-to-wear, ath-leisure if you will, that is such a burgeoning category in men’s wear.”
He singled out John Elliott’s “expertise and originality in the casual sportswear realm,” including the nylon color-blocked anoraks and Windbreakers, terry cloth hoodies and shorts as highlights.
The swimwear from Thorsun — “in one of the most Instagrammed shows of the week” — as well as Orlebar Brown were favorites, he said, as was Orley, which showed its “wildly graphic and colorful knitwear that has become such a signature.”
Josh Peskowitz, owner of Magasin in Los Angeles, said his favorite shows were John Elliott, Second/Layer, Tim Coppens and Robert Geller. He was also impressed with Palmiers Du Mal’s second effort, “They are ones to watch.”
He said John Elliott and Second/Layer in particular showed a “uniquely American take” on the “more casual and relaxed” sensibility running through the men’s industry. “There is something of a ‘New York’ look emerging, and I think that is good for the city’s place in the show continuum. It’s an edgy, metropolitan, utilitarian-tinged thing and has both performance and romantic aspects. Brands like the above-mentioned and Public School embody that, and it feels like how many people in the world want to dress.”
Nick Wooster, men’s fashion director for Forty Five Ten in Dallas, said: “After London, Florence, Milan and Paris, I truly believe that New York Fashion Week: Men’s provides the punctuation to the run-on sentence of ideas being hurled at us throughout the season. Here we have the opportunity to digest and clarify those stories that we want to develop. For Forty Five Ten, our season is put to bed here. Standout shows for us were John Elliott and Second/Layer … and I love what Chapter and Plac are doing as well.”
Nelson Mui, vice president, men’s fashion director for Hudson’s Bay Co., thought the New York shows had “a good energy and the key players were in support. I’m not sure it’s fair to compare the week to Europe, however,” he said. “There, you’ve got major luxury and designer houses showing, backed with ad budgets and directly owned stores, and a history to the brands as well as the fashion weeks.
“That said, comparing the New York shows against prior seasons, the absence of some of the more established designers — Public School, Billy Reid, etc., — was palpable and missed. They represent some of the strongest points of view for American men’s wear.” Mui did like Linder, John Elliott, N. Hoolywood and Gypsy Sport.
“There is talent here that needs a platform and the credibility that comes from being part of a broader mix of designer talent,” he said. “I like that London and Paris both have international designers showing during their men’s fashion weeks and New York could benefit from that interplay. But as retailers we could also be better at figuring out ways to take a chance on emerging brands.”