PARIS — If the Paris men’s wear shows proved anything, it’s that the sportswear trend is set to run and run — pardon the pun. Tracksuits, sneakers, hoodies, graphic T-shirts, anoraks, zip-up jackets and even surf gear were among the key trends that energized buyers at the spring collections.
“The well-tailored formal attire has been retired to the back of the closet, only to be replaced by a plethora of athletic apparel,” said Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president, general merchandise manager of men’s and Chelsea Passage at Barneys New York. “Call it what you will: ‘street’ or ‘active’ — regardless, it is becoming standard issue for every man’s wardrobe.”
Despite a heat wave on the first two days of the collections, retailers felt an upbeat vibe in the French capital, and many were happy to loosen the purse strings. Footwear was especially strong, they noted.
“The footwear trend of the moment is the runner, often built on a ‘sock’ construction and in amazing color combinations reminiscent of rich Indonesian patterns in a pop color palette,” said Kalenderian.
“We feel really energized by what we’ve seen here in Paris,” said Dean Cook, men’s wear buying manager at Brownsfashion.com. “There’s a lot of creativity here and that has produced some of the most interesting collections we’ve seen in Paris for a while now. There have been some stellar shows.”
As a result, he said his budgets were up. “We’ve had a great spring season and we’re committed to growing our offering for spring 2018, and our increased budgets reflect that commitment. French brands have performed very well for us, so we will be increasing our budgets for next season,” Cook reported.
In terms of trends, he cited ath-leisure and surf-inspired styles as key. “Logo-splashed goods were everywhere, from Balenciaga to Dior Homme, but what’s interesting about the latest incarnation of this trend is that we’re seeing new riffs on the branding from some of the most established houses,” Cook said.
Buyers singled out collections by Balenciaga, Valentino, Berluti, Ami Alexandre Mattiussi, Louis Vuitton, Dries Van Noten and Junya Watanabe as highlights of the week. They also gave props to Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons for staging memorable spectacles.
Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus, called Paris “very strong, with a lot of excitement,” citing Hawaiian-print shirts and Fifties-style bowling shirts on the runways and the “return of the spectacle of the fashion show,” as seen at Balmain.
He was among those that praised Owens’ outdoor display at the Palais de Tokyo. “He brought Paris to its knees. The show will be one of those moments that will live long in your imagination and heart. It was everything you want Paris to be,” Downing said.
He saw a strong Eighties trend with all of the “beautiful blushes and interesting pinks” and a punk, New Wave feel to the silhouettes. The Nineties were strong, too, with hip-hop and rap continuing to fuel the athleticism on the runways.
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, also found plenty to like off the runway.
“Trade shows like Capsule, Man and Tranoï were especially strong for scouting. I was impressed by the presence of young American designers presenting collections here in showrooms, especially John Elliott, Aimé Leon Dore and Stampd. They showed thoughtful, concise assortments and were effectively presented,” he said.
Overall, he found, “fluid fabrications and oversized slouchy volumes continue to trend this season, with the full pant a key piece. Outerwear was surprisingly trending, especially in lightweight trenches and toppers, and was often paired with the ubiquitous short-shorts on the runway.”
Bosse Myhr, men’s wear director at Selfridges, said Paris remains the capital of men’s fashion, with the big trends including “sports mixed with tailoring, tracksuits and color across the board, and wide trousers.” In terms of standout items, he pointed to sneakers and outerwear, in particular Balenciaga’s offer.
Among his favorite shows were Comme des Garçons, “for being fresh, upbeat and with the best soundtrack, and color.” He also nodded to Balenciaga’s “great, desirable pieces and strange narrative” and to Yohji Yamamoto’s “dynamic textile development.”
The influence of Demna Gvasalia, creative director at Balenciaga and Vetements, on the men’s sector is unmistakable, according to Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director at Nordstrom. “There’s a lot of energy around streetwear-inspired clothing. I don’t feel the same energy around tailoring,” he said.
“The graphics at Balenciaga — I just saw dollar signs for us. Vetements was worth the trip to Paris alone. When I can feel like that at an appointment, that’s why I do what I do. And you don’t feel that way at every appointment,” he added.
While several buyers were surprised by the abundance of outerwear for spring, Kalinsky didn’t think it was a problem. “I don’t think that there’s a store, at least in America, that can’t sell about a million fleece hoodies. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees out, I think they’re going to sell,” he predicted.
The cold weather gear was good news for Mario Grauso, president of Holt Renfrew. “Being a Canadian retailer, we appreciated all of the outerwear for spring,” he said. “Due to ship dates, these pieces become ‘wear-now’ for us.”
Grauso, whose favorite collections were Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Berluti, praised the elevated streetwear that dominated the runway. “These looks appeal to all ages and fit into most lifestyles,” he commented.
Nick Wooster, fashion director for Forty Five Ten in Dallas, said the Paris shows were the high point of the season.
“Paris was action-packed, with many new ideas and excitement. But there were also mixed messages and confusing elements, reflecting a tough business climate. There are no more ‘trends’ but so many divergent ideas happening,” he said.
Wooster said color was the biggest story to emerge, and in particular rust. “It’s the color of the season and is looking very interesting to me,” he said, pointing to the runways’ dusty, desert tones and Dries Van Noten’s use of the shade, in particular.
Meanwhile, he saw Comme des Garçons’ disco dream as a direct reflection of “where we are today politically. There’s a reason why disco — the most amazing time — came after Watergate.”
Despite ongoing political turmoil, several buyers reported strong growth in their business. “We are anticipating top-line growth for the brands that we see in Paris,” said David Aquilina, head of men’s wear buying at Harvey Nichols in London.
“A lot of our key partners are confidently projecting their DNA through branding and creating distinct aesthetics. We think this will be great commercially for us, as at the moment, our consumers are really looking for iconic and identifiable products,” he added.
Harvey Nichols has registered “phenomenal” online growth, Aquilina reported, although bricks-and-mortar retail has been more challenging. “With this being the case, it is important that we inspire through innovative shopping experiences, so we look forward to collaborating with the designers we have seen in Paris on bringing their stories to life in our stores,” he remarked.
Chris Kyvetos, buying director at Stylebop in Munich, said he has allocated more to the Paris collections this season. “The influence of sportswear and sneaker culture continues to be a strong driving force — both commercially and creatively,” he said.
This implies an evolution in buying patterns too, Kyvetos noted.
“Men’s wear has always been less seasonally driven than women’s wear, but at this moment, there is a greater emphasis on more frequent deliveries and unexpected releases, or drops, taking further cues from the sportswear industry,” he explained.
“We are spending far more on in-season purchases to cater to this growing and diversifying method of distribution,” said Kyvetos. “For brands, I also think it has created a greater sense of freedom, as it allows for more experimentation with special products that feel unique and collectible.”
Emmanuel de Bayser, cofounder of The Corner in Berlin, said he expects T-shirts, sweatshirts, shirts and sneakers to drive sales next spring.
“Eighty percent of the business is based on immediately recognizable pieces,” he explained. “Logos, very specific designs and shapes: Our customer is very educated and informed through social medias and knows very precisely what he wants.”
Items priced at less than 600 euros are resonating with younger customers, with Balenciaga and Vetements being the most influential brands and bestsellers for men.
“We see more and more younger customers, 15- to 25-year-olds, Millennials, coming to our stores to shop,” he said. “And they buy. Sneakers, T-shirts, sweatshirts: they want to be part of it. It’s a very positive development for the men’s market, since these customers are the future.”
Olie Arnold, style director at Mr Porter, said Paris was full of inspiring and motivating ideas.
“The mood overall was very optimistic. Many brands were challenging the traditional show format both in Milan and in Paris, which left people feeling excited by what they were about to see. Paris in particular felt open and ready to embrace new ideas,” he said.
Even local retailers were feeling energized.
Karen Vernet, director of men’s fashion at Printemps, said the most salable items included long midseason coats and pants in all shapes and styles. “Pants are really the item of the season,” she opined, adding that suits are making a strong comeback in energized and refitted styles.
The retailer earlier this year opened a five-floor men’s department at its historic Paris flagship. “The Printemps de l’Homme is a success. We are slightly increasing budgets again this season,” said Vernet.
Alix Morabito, fashion editor at Galeries Lafayette, said Paris did not disappoint.
“This season, it seems more than ever that the client is at the center of the thought process and strategy of the brands. They are mostly young, sporty, healthy, urban men, who know fashion and feel really comfortable about it,” she said.
Morabito said key trends ran from sportswear to edgy and comfortable tailoring, with pieces such as short-sleeve shirts, loose pants, sneakers, sporty sandals and cross-body bags. Colors include navy, white, beige, khaki, with fluorescent and pastel colors used as accents.
Maud Tarena, director of men’s fashion at Le Bon Marché, said: “Most of the shows offered a renewed, richly detailed expression of the DNA of each brand. Paris fashion week is essential and key to really understanding how men’s is moving,” she said. “We are increasing the share of French collections in our overall budget.”
Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s, said the trends he feels good about included Hawaiian shirts; new takes on volume in knits, jersey and trousers; technical and lightweight outerwear; the fashion suit; updated seersucker and the extralarge belt.
“Paris was strong this season — from the creativity and newness shown among the shows and presentations; we believe the differentiated and new product we are finding is the right way to move forward,” Berkowitz said.