NEW YORK — Break the mold, create excitement and establish relationships to lure Millennials. That’s what it’s going to take to survive in this new world.
“We are confronted with a tsunami,” said Robin Lewis, founder and chief executive officer of The Robin Report, during a retail seminar at MRket and Project on Tuesday afternoon. “It will wipe out every Old World retailer who doesn’t fundamentally transform their business model.”
To compete with the online players and the off-price community, merchants must create “experiences” that speak to the young customer so their stores look cool and desirable. “You’re really in the entertainment business,” he said.
Tom Ott, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed. Noting that today’s climate represents the largest change he’s seen in his two decades at the store, Ott said Saks is moving to appeal to the Millennial shopper, who will outnumber the Baby Boomers by 22 million people by 2030.
This reality impacts everything about shopping experience. Since 62 percent of Millennials respond to mobile offers, Saks is moving its efforts from print to digital advertising, he said, and counting on word-of-mouth to get its message out.
And while heritage brands will continue to be important, the store is also moving further into contemporary labels to appeal to this shopper who is more likely to dress casually than previous generations.
Experiences will also be key. Ott said that in the new downtown men’s store in New York that is opening next month, Saks is adding a Sharps barber shop and salon, a men’s apothecary and a permanent pop-up space that will change every month.
For Bob Mitchell, co-chief executive officer of Mitchells Family of Stores, there are a couple of key strategies that are essential to attract the luxury customer.
“The biggest opportunity is the integration of technology,” married with an exciting store experience. But it’s going to take more than just coffee shops and restaurants to lure shoppers, he said. “We have to enhance the relationship with our existing clients in a personalized manner.” And this means “keeping our sales associates in the middle of that relationship.”
Mitchell believes that customers today “crave service. They’re used to just sitting at a computer all day, punching buttons to buy things.” But if they can be convinced to stop by the store, providing an educational experience with lots of personal service can undoubtedly lead to sales. “Nobody needs a $5,000 cashmere sport coat, but luxury is all about the emotional connection.”
But there are “headwinds,” he said, the biggest of which is “price transparency.” Customers are checking their phones to find the lowest prices, a habit that is creating “commoditization” among brands and prompting stores to look for more exclusive with their existing vendors or seek out new ones.
“The winning formula,” Mitchell said, “is to provide dynamic product that is relatively exclusive, a fun buying experience and marry it all with technology.”
Simon Graj, founder and ceo of Graj+Gustavsen, a brand strategy firm, said Millennials are looking for “brands with a purpose” as well as a true identity such as Shinola, Saturdays Surf, Everlane, Socks by Stance and others. “It’s a fragmented marketplace, but there are pockets of opportunity.”
David Rubenstein of Rubensteins in New Orleans, said retailers are “starting to understand what the Millennial and what he buys. The big questions are how to get him in to the store.” He said his daughter is now in charge of advertising for the store and has shifted completely to digital and “we’ve gotten big results. We’re also inviting kids in for an experience.”
This shift is also impacting the mix in the store, he said, as customization becomes more important. “The young guy really wants things all tricked up.”
At the shows, he was looking for brands that would fit the bill as well as accessories to augment the apparel purchases.
Mike Zack of Circa 2000 in Plano, Tex., was in search of something different to compete with the Internet, the vendors-turned-retailers and the rampant discounting. “We found some nice shirts, leathers and sport coats,” he said. “Things that are unique. It’s harder work for us, but we can’t keep going to the same well.” He pointed in particular to Maceoo’s whose sport coats and shirts are “innovative and something that no one else has.”
Backstory: This newly launched collection of jewelry is targeted to “explorers, dreamers and creators.” The line was conceived and executed by Joe Thiel who has worked in public relations and brand strategy for many fashion brands and created the collection of necklaces and bracelets to indulge his love of travel and philosophy. The line takes its inspiration from the scapular, a necklace with double pendants, that have traditionally offered protection. “I have long been intrigued by the scapular, an iconic form of adornment, with rich symbolism and true reverence for life’s journey,” he said. “I’ve found it full of mystery, inspiration, protection and even comfort. I wanted to reconstruct this devotional amulet and bring it forward in a modern iteration of life’s duality.”
Key Styles: The collection consists of necklaces in sterling silver or sterling silver plated with 14-karat gold, as well as beaded necklaces in onyx, coral, jade or lapis. Other models are created from lava or malachite. Each byThiel piece has two pendants — a hammer and a nail, a sun and a moon, a cow and a cross — that speak to life’s balance. Some can be worn as bracelets or necklaces and there is also a small assortment of cuffs.
Prices: The sterling silver necklaces are $170, the gold-plated models are $185 and the beads are $165. The solid silver cuffs are $325.
Project Brand: Jerry Kaye
Backstory: Jerry Kaye, who was formerly the creative director of Perry Ellis, has started his own eponymous men’s wear line that’s designed in America but made in Italy. “This is cut for an American guy, but the line has the artisanal details that you can only get in Italian factories,” said Kaye, who introduced the collection a little over a year ago. Kaye believed there was space for an Italian-made brand with an opening designer price point.
Key Styles: Shirting and chinos feature blanket stitching and knits made from Loro Piana cashmere are plated with Egyptian cotton, which is inside the sweater. There’s also a sporty element infused into the assortment. An olive corduroy suit is made from washed, stretch seersucker while knitted wool jackets are bonded with water-repellent scuba material. Kaye’s jackets, which are made by Gi Capri, have minimal construction but maintain a tailored look.
Prices: Shirting ranges from $175 to $235; knits retail from $80 to $125; jackets start at $300 and go up to $795; pants retail from $135 to $150; leather jackets range from $700 to $900.
Backstory: Closed, the German brand that entered the U.S. market six years ago, is continuing to focus on denim. For this season, the denim collection is manufactured in Italy all within a 20-mile radius to promote sustainability. Closed has also collaborated with New York-based artist Faust on graphic sweatshirts, and the Italian brand Ateliers and Repairs on chinos and denim that feature patches of cargo military fabric. The brand is now sold at retailers including Ron Herman, American Rag and Brooklyn Denim Co.
Key Styles: Important denim styles include the Flint, a 100 percent cotton straight leg, mid-rise jean that’s influenced by early Nineties Americana and more relaxed silhouettes that feature the X pocket detail Marithé et François Girbaud designed for Closed in the Eighties. Jackets are made from Thinsulate and are free of down product and have zero stitches, making it impossible for cold air to get through.
Prices: Shirts and chinos are priced from $125 to $197; denim retails from $183 to $325; jackets range from $400 to $500 and shearlings retail from $1,900 to $2,000.
Brand: Hari Mari
Backstory: Founded by husband-and-wife team of Lila and Jeremy Stewart, the Dallas-based footwear brand has created a flip-flop that can be worn at the office as well as on the beach. The name comes from Hari, which means “of the sun” in Indonesian, and Mari, which means “of the sea” in Latin. While the styles offered are the same, what sets Hari Mari apart is its use of memory foam in both the toe post as well as the strap to eliminate blisters and improve comfort. The shoes also have non-slip rubber bottoms. Since its founding five years ago, the brand has gained a foothold at retail and is carried at Nordstrom, REI and Allen Edmonds, among others. It also donates 1 percent of its sales to organizations to support kids battling cancer.
Key Styles: In addition to its traditional men’s and women’s models, which are available in a variety of colors, Hari Mari has collaborated with Nokona, a heritage baseball glove company, on a new premium collection of flip-flops that use the same leather as the sports brand. Those flip-flops will also include the use of RFID chips so customers who download the brand’s app can get discounts and other information about the company.
Prices: The Hari Mari x Nokona collection will retail for $110 and be available starting on the opening day of baseball season at Huckberry and select specialty stores. The other flip-flop models from the company retail from $45 to $75.
Backstory: Shimon and Ariel Ovadia, the twin brothers behind the successful Ovadia & Sons label, offer their unique take on the ath-leisure trend with this line of activewear that works as well in the gym as it does going out to brunch. The assortment of T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, joggers, shorts and jackets have all the technical attributes needed to perform during a workout — moisture-wicking, breathability, stretch, technology pockets and mesh inserts — but with a tweak of fashion amid a minimalistic sensibility.
Key Styles: A breathable nylon wind jacket is a key piece along with a two-ply jersey pullover with a pouch pocket. Aire training shorts have a built-in compression short, and the T-shirts are fitted for a more-modern appearance. Although the majority of the line is tonal — black and gray are the most prevalent colors — the line also features pops of color such as the neon green wind jacket and the orange T-shirt with reflective details.
Prices: The wind jacket is $195, the sweatshirts are $130 to $140, the joggers are $125, the shorts are $85 and the T-shirts are $70.
Brand: Plein Sport
Backstory: Mannequins running in slow motion in mid-air while wearing looks from designer Philipp Plein’s luxury active sportswear line turned heads at the show. Launched last year as a luxury alternative to Nike and Adidas, the line has two components: a true performance group as well as a more fashion-forward offering. Its motto is “First Rule: No Rules,” and the collection delivered just that — a blend of street styling and cutting-edge technology. About 40 percent of the line is true performance and the goal is to continue to build on this portion, according to sales manager Alexandre Alliot.
Key Styles: Sweatshirts, puffer vests and bombers, leggings, backpacks and a large array of sneakers were on display. A jogger suit with large raised gold lettering of the designer’s name was among the most striking pieces but even the true performance pieces offered Plein’s trademark graphics and pops of color. The sneakers were available in an array of colors including orange and neon yellow, and like the apparel, these were either true performance or true fashion. Perhaps the biggest eye-catcher were the bright silver puffer coats with elaborate PVC lettering, eco fur hoods and graphic print details.
Prices: The collection is two to three times more expensive than traditional sporting goods brands, but less than the Philipp Plein runway collection. Sneakers are $220 to $400, track suits are $350 to $700 and the outerwear pieces were $598 and topped out with the long silver puffer at $1,200.
Brand: Perspectives Global
Backstory: Founded by Cody DeJardin and his brother in a college dormitory room four years ago, the Portland, Ore.-based sportswear brand is intended to “shine a light on the…darkness, pain and injustice around and within us.” What that translates into is a line of basics with enough tweaks to make it interesting. The line’s trademark double stripe is used as a graphic detail on everything from nylon Windbreakers and hoodies to T-shirts and is a nod to the two founders. Each season, the brand comes up with a theme — The Beginning and Chaos were used for past seasons while The Storm is Coming is next fall’s message — and creates graffitilike patterns to embellish the pieces.
Key Styles: The wind- and water-resistant nylon Future and Future Lite jackets are offered in an array of colors and have the double stripe as well as the graphics indicative of the season. The Future has a cotton flannel lining for warmth, while the Lite was the top seller last year. Satin bombers, coaches jackets, embroidered logo Ts and cotton-polyester hoodies round out the offering and the brand will introduce jeans for the first time for fall.
Prices: The T-shirts retail for $40, the hoodies for $65, the Future and Future Lite jackets are $70 to $80 and a long double-lined parka is $199.
Brand: Celestin Salvador
Backstory: Ladislas Mande and Juan Gamino introduced their Dallas-based line eight years ago, which is named after their deceased fathers. They’ve merged their cultural backgrounds — Mande was African and raised in France and Gamino is from Spanish and Mexican descent — to create a collection of foundational pieces inspired by the Thirties and Forties when materials for clothes were hard to find. The brand, which only produces 100 pieces per item and releases new styles every two months, will open a flagship store in Dallas this March.
Key Styles: Tailored outerwear is the crux of this collection, which is made in Italy. The line features a wool coat covered in patches, distressed cargo jackets with satin lining, and a linen, double-breasted blazer with contrasting sleeves. Knits in the line ranged from dyed T-shirts made to look vintage to sweaters decorated with patches.
Prices: T-shirts retail at $300, sweaters are priced at $700 and outerwear is priced at $1,500.
Brand: Pure Blue Japan
Backstory: Over the past 20 years, Pure Blue Japan has gained a loyal following in its home country for true denim jean aficionados seeking artisan denim fabrics. Chief executive officer Ken-ichi Iwaya, who got his start working in denim mills in Okayama, uses natural indigos and blends to create original fabrics that he weaves on low-tension shuttle looms. The result is jeans in traditional silhouettes created in slubby textures and with contrasting shades. In addition to its unique fabrications, the brand is also identified by its indigofera leaf logo. Pure Blue Japan just opened up wholesale in the U.S. and is in its second season here. It also operates the Blue in Green store in SoHo.
Key Styles: Jeans are available in a variety of fits including slim-fit work pants, tapered slim, slim straight, mid-rise, left-hand slim, regular and cigarette slim. There’s also a camouflage patterned indigo sweatshirt and a long 13.8-oz. denim coat. Pieces are hand-distressed, offered in variegated slub yarns, selvage fabrics and stretch yarns.
Prices: The standard jeans range from $250 to $300, the indigo sweatshirt is $250 and the long denim coat is $750.
Brand: Armando Cabral
Backstory: The footwear brand was founded in 2008 by Portuguese model Armando Cabral who was seeking good-looking and comfortable shoes in modern silhouettes. Although the silhouettes are based on traditional models such as chukkas, derbys, loafers and sneakers, they have flexible insoles, linings that mold to the foot, durable outsoles and innovative designs such as basket weave or perforated leathers and exposed stitching.
Key Styles: This season, Cabral explores the contrast between day and night by offering different variations of his hallmark designs. For instance, a suede zippered boots is offered in a lighter shade with lacing details for day and in a highly polished oxblood version for night. Ditto for the loafers: the day model features a chunky crepe sole with lacing in light brown while the night version has no lacing and a fold-down back in black. Sneakers have also been retooled with smooth, textured soles.
Prices: Sneakers start at $475 and prices go up to $560 for the boots.
Brand: Country of Origin
Backstory: Although Benjamin Taylor, Country of Origin’s creative director, doesn’t have a background in fashion design, his family is well acclimated with knitwear production, which is why he decided to launch this U.K.-based sweater line. Taylor’s aim is to offer contemporary pieces made in traditional ways — the line is produced in London. The men’s collection — he also produces women’s sizes — is sold at independent boutiques including Platform Place in Seoul and e-commerce site Western Assembly.
Key Styles: Taylor maintains a modernist color story through each season and updates the silhouettes. For fall, he presented a navy chore jacket with gray pockets, color-block crew neck sweaters, roll neck knits and cardigans.
Prices: The collection is priced from $140 to $190.
Backstory: This French brand, which is six years old, is run by designers Marc Asseily and Laurent Bourven, who are cousins and wanted to create a brand that celebrated casual, French clothing. The collection is made in France and the brand regularly collaborates with other French brands on different products.
Key Styles: The fall 2017 collection was influenced by the Purkinje effect, the tendency for the human eye to see mostly blue during the night. This translated into pieces coming in various shades of blue and grey including a 100 percent wool, zip cardigan made of Milano rib, bootcut, stone wash denim, corduroy trousers and graphic T-shirts covered in illustrations by French artist Régric. They’ve also collaborated with Le Coq Sportif on a line of tonal sneakers.
Prices: The collection ranges from around $240 to $550.
Backstory: Last year, this men’s and women’s Swedish brand, which was started by Ann Ringstrand and Stefan Söderberg in 2002, brought on two new creative directors hailing from Acne and Yves Saint Laurent. The collection is known for its minimalist, Scandinavian look.
Key Styles: Protest and youth movements were the starting point for the fall collection, which was made up of a long, oversize duffle coat, wide trousers, a tailored herringbone coat, flannels and wide-leg jeans. Touches of pink popped up in the collection on V-neck sweaters and turtlenecks.
Prices: The collection is priced from $90 to $1,200.
Backstory: Miami native David Ben-David, who grew up in the skate, surf and graffiti world, thought there was void in the market for fun, statement making backpacks. So he introduced Sprayground in 2010. The brand launched with its popular “Hello My Name Is” style and later the Money Stacks bag, which took off within the hip-hop community. The company, which is based in New York, holds the licenses for brands including Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers and Mattel. The collection is sold at retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Zumiez and Foot Action.
Key Styles: Sprayground is moving into the that category for fall and produced baseball caps — currently known as “dad hats” — that are covered in characters ranging from Barney to Sponge Bob. They’ve also partnered with rapper Young Thug on a purple patterned backpack named after his album, “Jeffery,” and are releasing a Muhammad Ali commemorative backpack that will be available in May and sold with matching boxing gloves. Other key styles include a checkerboard leather backpack covered in money stacks and a style inspired by the Fox series “Family Guy.”
Prices: Bags retail from $60 to $300 and hats are priced at $20.
Brand: Ethik Clothing Co.
Backstory: Ethik’s creative director Travis Peitz opened a store/community space on the Lower East Side for like-minded people five years ago before launching his streetwear line Ethik, which is meant to represent the Millennial generation’s disposition for working hard to achieve their dreams. Peitz now operates five stores throughout North America and only opened up the brand to wholesale partnership a few seasons ago and are now attempting to push into the European market.
Key Styles: Ethik will introduce socks for fall that will feature tie-dye, camo and floral prints. Standouts from the line include its color-block Windbreaker sets, athletic-inspired jerseys, hooded parkas with waterproof zippers and souvenir jackets.
Prices: The assortment ranges from $28 to $200.
TRENDS FROM THE SHOWS:
• Nineties Street
• Puffer Coats
• Graphic Backpacks