Hedi Slimane, Ralph Lauren, Clare Waight Keller and Kim Jones

These 12 designers, brands, retailers and influencers are changing the face of the men’s wear industry.

 

1. Hedi Slimane

 

As the original androgynous designer who set in motion the skinny tailoring movement in his days at Dior Homme, it’s no surprise that Hedi Slimane’s appointment as artistic, creative and image director at Celine was one of the most newsworthy debuts of last year, marking the label’s first steps into the men’s arena.

“I am enchanted; what a great choice,” said the late Karl Lagerfeld, one of Slimane’s most enthusiastic fans, at the time of Slimane’s appointment at Celine in January 2018.

Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has called Slimane “one of the most talented designers of our time.”

The Frenchman has a track record of reinterpreting cool and attracting youth, tapping into the energy of the music and art scenes and positing his designs in a broader cultural context.

The nomination — which also includes heading Celine’s women’s fashion as well as leather goods, accessories and fragrances — was part of an ambition to at least double the brand’s sales within five years, making it one of LVMH’s top labels after Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.

With his debut men’s stand-alone show for Celine in January, Slimane showed that he had moved on from the indie rock aesthetic he channeled in his Saint Laurent years (2012-16), delivering a day-friendly ode to British elegance that topped several leading buyers’ wish lists.

He drew a line under his Los Angeles era — now closely associated with the aesthetic he developed at Saint Laurent — and harked back to his days at Dior Homme (2000-07). The polished display made for a fitting end to a men’s season that has seen designers swing away from streetwear.

It also signaled that Slimane is ready to start a new chapter at Celine: one that doesn’t eschew his youthful passions, but cracks open the door for a fresh point of view.

Slimane’s designs for men are already attracting keen interest from retailers and fashion fans alike — while perhaps sparking anxiety among some of his designer colleagues in men’s.

In January, Celine’s ceo Séverine Merle told WWD, “The collection has been welcomed very enthusiastically. The savoir-faire and legitimacy of Hedi has made us recover customers and loyal clients. We have total credibility in a growing and incredibly creative market.”

Slimane had been on fashion’s sidelines since April 2016, when he wrapped his celebrated and controversial tenure at Yves Saint Laurent, which he rechristened Saint Laurent and propelled past 1 billion euros in sales.

He is known for his ability to blow up a brand — in a good way — as much as he’s known for being press-shy and demanding control of every aspect of his work.

In a rare interview, published in Le Figaro last September ahead of his debut Celine women’s show, Slimane commented on his first controversial move for the label: removing the accent from its name.

“You don’t shake things up by avoiding to make waves. When there’s no debate, it means there’s no opinion, the definition of blind conformity,” he said.

With Celine, Slimane has a completely blank canvas on which to paint — apart from a few silk shirts printed with its chain motif, the label has no men’s wear heritage. If history is anything to go by, there is no doubt his brushstroke will leave its mark. — Alex Wynne

 

2. Patagonia

 

Since Yvon Chouinard started rappelling down mountains to reach falcon nests as a teenager, his life has been inextricably linked to the outdoors. The California native started a climbing hardware business but soon realized he wasn’t so keen on the drab color clothing that was de rigueur in the sport at the time. So he imported some colorful rugby shirts from Umbro in England and the next thing he knew, he was in the apparel business. He named his new company Patagonia, worked with Malden Mills to create a synthetic fleece called Synchilla, and the rest is history.

Today, the privately held Ventura, Calif.-based company is still a go-to brand for everything related to the outdoors. But Chouinard and his team have built more than that — they’ve created a company whose primary mission is to protect the planet — and, at a time when sustainability is a key issue in the fashion world, Patagonia has become the model for many brands to follow. From donating the $10 million it saved from the recent tax cuts to environmental protection groups, to filing suit against the government over plans to reduce the size of some national parks, Patagonia’s message has never swayed over the past 40 years. It’s one of the reasons it was called the “coolest company on the planet” by Fortune magazine. Patagonia recently updated its mission statement and now says it is “in business to save our home planet.” This message is especially poignant for Millennials, who embrace the brand for its values as well as its products. — Jean E. Palmieri

 

3. Kim Jones

 

While everyone else was still riding high on the streetwear wave, Kim Jones — one of its initiators — looked to Christian Dior’s archives when he arrived at the house as Dior Men’s artistic director for ready-to-wear and accessories.

The British designer joined Dior last April after seven years as men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton, a fellow brand within the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable, and has presented three collections — including the house’s first pre-fall men’s runway show — in rapid succession.

With his street cred, 589,000 Instagram followers and famous friends ranging from Kate Moss to David Beckham, Jones is shaking up Dior Men, whose image has remained largely tethered to the slim tailoring pioneered by Hedi Slimane and elaborated upon by Kris Van Assche, who had been Slimane’s underling before rising to the top design post in 2007.

In his seven-year tenure at Vuitton, Jones was credited for taking luxury in a more casual direction, most visibly through its collaboration with skatewear brand Supreme.

He is seen as one of a handful of marquee designers who can straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds, although since his arrival at Dior, he seems to have distanced himself somewhat from the urban trend.

While his offering features denim and plenty of sneakers, he has also tapped deeply into the house’s archives and implemented high-profile collaborations with contemporary artists, which was already one of his signatures at Vuitton, where he worked with artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman.

When he joined Dior, Jones — a graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins — said he was “committed to create a modern and innovative male silhouette built upon the unique legacy of the house.”

His debut collection melded the house’s haute couture heritage — in the shape of toile de Jouy and floral embroideries — with his signature sportswear-infused aesthetic, in a softer interpretation of tailoring and a gentle color palette that is finding equal favor with men and women. It reportedly broke sales records for the house when it hit stores in January.

His high-profile artist collaborations are also a nod to the house’s heritage. “Mr. Dior was a gallerist before he was a couturier, and he was working with people like Picasso and Salvador Dalí, who were huge artists of their time,” Jones told WWD in November. “I thought these people have a big influence on things, but in a very different way,” he said. “Culture is extremely important in fashion now.”

Jones’ first runway show for Dior Homme featured a 33-foot-tall clown-like sculpture made from 70,000 flowers created by U.S. artist Kaws, who also reworked the house’s bee emblem and created a capsule collection that had fans standing in line to snap it up when it debuted in Tokyo last November.

That coincided with the pre-fall show in Tokyo, which featured a 39-foot statue of a robot woman by Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama, with the designs echoing the artist’s aesthetic and channeling Christian Dior’s love of the country.

For fall 2019, he collaborated with U.S. artist Raymond Pettibon, with designs shown on static models ferried past guests on a 250-foot-long conveyor belt.

Amping up the street cred, meanwhile, are his initiatives to beef up the brand’s presence in accessories. The spring collection featured a new men’s version of the Saddle bag; belts with a stylized CD buckle created by Matthew Williams, the designer behind rising label Alyx, and graphic jewels by edgy Ambush creative director Yoon Ahn, whom he brought on board to create jewelry for the house.

Jones seems to have mastered walking that fine line between respecting a house’s codes and bringing them to a younger, contemporary audience, and everything points to it being a winning recipe. — A.W.

 

4. Ssense

The Montreal-based Ssense refers to itself as a “fashion platform with global reach.” Founded in 2003 by brothers Rami, Firas and Bassel Atallah, the retail store and web site offers luxury, streetwear and avant-garde labels to shoppers in 150 countries. It averages 76 million monthly page views and has posted high-double-digit annual growth since Day One.

The company has been credited with launching the first shoppable music video for “I Think She Ready” with FKi, Iggy Azalea and Diplo in 2012 and has been recognized by everyone from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Ernst & Young to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for its entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in men’s wear retailing.

Over the years, Ssense has become known for offering the best and most directional brands including Gucci, Balenciaga, Prada and Bottega Veneta. Its men’s wear mix is a who’s-who of fashion’s most-directional names and includes Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Craig Green, Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander, Kiko Kostadinov, Loewe, Maison Margiela, Off-White, Prada, Thom Browne and Vetements.

Last fall, Ssense snagged the launch of Stefano Pilati’s new unisex line, Random Identities, and this month scored the exclusive for the first men’s wear capsule from buzzy Paris-based designer Marine Serre.

The company has a bull’s-eye on the 18- to 34-year-old consumer, who represents 65 percent of its audience and 77 percent of its sales. It appeals almost evenly to men and women. The site receives 32 million page views a month.

Its Montreal storefront has become a showcase for experiential programming and experimentation. The 13,000-square-foot, five-store shop in an historic 19th-century building across from the Notre Dame cathedral also offers a personal shopping model where customers can choose from among the 20,000 products on the web site and have the pieces shipped to the store within 24 hours. The space has a buzzy café developed by Montreal restaurateurs Jason Morris and Kabir Kapoor.

The web site has also become an editorial platform for everything cool. Its 2019 content ranges from a piece on the ubiquitous coach’s jacket and a feature on the musician Yaeji to the history of the trenchcoat.  — J.E.P.

 

5. Ralph Lauren

 

Last year marked the designer’s 50th anniversary in business — and he’s as hot as he’s ever been. While the company weathered a few rough years — marked by the founder stepping down as ceo in 2015 while remaining chairman and chief creative officer — the situation is a lot brighter today.

Not only have sales and earnings improved, but the designer was knighted by the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and able to throw out the first pitch at his beloved Yankee Stadium last year as he celebrated his golden anniversary. And his preppy aesthetic — particularly vintage Polo and Polo Sport pieces — are now found on the backs of influencers and Millennials around the world.

The Lo-Lifes, a gang from Brooklyn that shoplifted Polo merchandise in the Eighties and Nineties, helped create a robust market for secondhand pieces. And vintage pieces are being sold at premium prices at resale sites and stores worldwide.

That phenomenon wasn’t lost on the company, which embraced the movement by creating a Polo app last year that brings the community of collectors into its fold. The app offers not only the latest collections, but also serves up limited-edition product launches, exclusive content and curated product selections.

Lauren has also reissued some of its most popular products from the period — notably the Snow Beach collection from 1993 and the Polo CP-93 capsule created for the 1992 America’s Cup — updated with modern colors and graphics. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em is working wonders for the brand. — J.E.P.

 

6. Harrods

 

Harrods is making its largest investment to date in a men’s wear floor that aims to capture what is becoming a golden moment for the industry.

Men’s Superbrands partially opened late last year with 19 boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Balenciaga and Ermenegildo Zegna. It is the first of a seven-phase project that will see men’s wear and sports live on the same floor, rather than scattered around the store, and is meant to mirror Women’s Superbrands, which opened in 2015.

Burberry has opened with a concept designed by chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, while this spring Dior Men will unveil the first Kim Jones boutique globally. Men’s Superbrands will eventually span 41,000 square feet on the second floor.

“Men’s wear has changed dramatically, very quickly,” Simon Longland, Harrods’ general merchandise manager, men’s wear, accessories and sport, said in an interview. “Last year, men’s had the biggest growth in the store, and men today, especially our customers, want to shop, need to shop and enjoy shopping. This project means we can create a proper destination for every man, for every category. Regardless of price points and what we are selling, we want the environment and the experience to be super rich, super special and luxurious.”

Longland added that, due to social media, men are alive to fashion like never before. “The young guys are coming in with Instagram and saying, ‘I need this.’ It is the power of social media that makes guys come in wanting a style from a brand in a particular color. It’s like, ‘I want Brand A, Style B, Color D,'” he said.

The floor, which is being designed by David Collins Studio, is set to be finished in 2020, and will cover 155,000 square feet, with shoes, contemporary, outdoor, swimwear, personal shopping and grooming among the categories yet to be added.

The men’s wear overhaul is part of a larger, four-year project that will see Harrods invest more than 200 million pounds with the aim of redesigning the store around the needs of the modern luxury customer. — Samantha Conti

 

7. Fila

 

Leveraging on the contemporary convergence of fashion and athleticism, Fila has succeeded in making a major comeback on the international scene in the past few years.

The strategy developed by the company led by global chairman Gene Yoon, who as former ceo of Fila Korea took direct control of the international group in 2007, was extremely multifaceted and diversified.

On one hand, Fila put the accent on its core business, the sports world, by developing sponsorship agreements with a high-profile range of international athletes. While the company extended its ambassador roster with legendary personalities, such as tennis icon Björn Borg — the brand first signed a deal with the Swedish athlete in 1975 — marathon runner Germán Silva; NBA Hall of Fame player Grant Hill, and former number-two ranked tennis player Tommy Haas, at the same time it is betting on new generations. In particular, Fila signed deals with number-seven ranked tennis player Karolina Pliskova and tennis rising stars Leo Borg (Bjorn’s son) and Sofia Kenin.

On the fashion side, last year the brand got major exposure thanks to the Fendi Mania rtw and accessories capsule collection, which the luxury label developed around the Fendi/Fila logo created by Instagram artist @hey_reilly. Fila, which previously collaborated with cool brands and retailers such as Gosha Rubchinskiy, Married to the Mob and Urban Outfitters, confirmed its intention to strategically invest in the fashion division by staging a runway show last September at Milan Fashion Week.

“We thought it was our moment to break the rules and to enter the fashion arena. We strongly believe that a fashion show is the best way to make our voice heard by the fashion system,” Yoon told WWD last June, explaining the company’s decision to show during the regular fashion season.

In keeping with this approach, during the latest edition of Pitti Uomo, Fila unveiled a new contemporary unisex logo-free collection called Fila Fjord, designed by Copenhagen-based designer Astrid Andersen.

Founded by the seven Fila brothers in 1911 in the Biella area as a textile company, the Fila label made its debut in the sportswear segment in 1973. It quickly became a leading brand in the tennis arena and then entered different sport segments, including climbing, golf and ski. — Alessandra Turra

 

8. Moncler

 

Moncler chairman and ceo Remo Ruffini has been forging a new strategy for the brand with the launch a year ago of the Genius project, enlisting a group of different designers to create capsules to be launched every month — thus effectively changing the company’s organization and production cycles.

The latest chapter was unveiled during Milan Fashion Week last month at the Magazzini Raccordati on Milan’s Via Ferrante Aporti 9, a storied site linked to the Central Station, marked by a series of warehouses and tunnels that connect different train tracks and platforms.

The roster of designers this year includes the addition of Richard Quinn and Matthew Williams of 1017 Alyx 9SM and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who teamed with Liya Kebede; Sandro Mandrino for Moncler Grenoble; Simone Rocha; Craig Green; Fragment Hiroshi Fujiwara; Palm Angels’ Francesco Ragazzi, and former Celine designer Veronica Leoni, and Sergio Zambon, a former MSGM and Acne Studios head of men’s wear, share the creative helm at Moncler 1952. It has also expanded with its dog clothing Poldo Dog Couture. For example, Williams’ collection featured his signature hardware, used as fastenings on belted jackets, with metal snap hooks bearing the Moncler insignia. Light raincoats, utility vests and cargo pants were layered under liquid-looking down jackets.

The project takes into account the different generations of customers and different cultures and it is already paying off. In commenting on year-end results, which saw profits climb 33 percent to 332.4 million euros on sales that rose 19 percent to 1.42 billion euros, Ruffini told analysts in a conference call: “I don’t want to be pretentious, but the brand perception, the product, it’s all new and everyone feels happy. The Moncler Genius project helped us with different products and ideas and talk with different generations, we attracted young kids and they bring energy.”

Chief marketing and operating officer Roberto Eggs said Moncler Genius “is a fantastic communication opportunity, the first digitally native product we have.” The number of impressions or visualizations was up 43 percent and the number of unique visitors was up 59 percent since the launch. “This would not be possible in a traditional way,” Eggs noted.

In 2019, Eggs said Moncler will open “two new houses of Genius,” one in Europe and one in Japan, where all the collections will be under the same roof, similar to the New York SoHo and Aoyama units. — Luisa Zargani

 

9. Clare Waight Keller

 

Clare Waight Keller marked Givenchy’s return to the men’s wear calendar in January with just 17 looks, presented at the brand’s historic haute couture atelier on Avenue George V in a salon filled with fresh gypsophila.

The brand has grand ambitions for the category: In June, Givenchy will be the special guest at the Pitti Uomo trade show, where the designer plans to stage her first stand-alone men’s show on June 12, after holding coed displays since arriving at the house in 2017.

Waight Keller is banking on a mix between tailoring and chic sportswear, following her fall collection of tonal suits, amped-up outerwear and sleek after-dark ensembles. “January was almost like the first chapter in the book. It was sort of setting up my framework of what I want to do,” she explained.

Givenchy’s initiative is part of a wider push by parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton into the booming men’s wear market with the launch of the category at Celine, as well as the appointment of new designers at the helm of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Berluti in the last year.

Philippe Fortunato, ceo of Givenchy, said both genders are of equal importance for the brand, both creatively and in terms of revenues.

“We have a very special business split at Givenchy, that I believe keeps the brand very relevant in today’s world: men’s and women’s each represents half of the business, which is quite a unique strength in our business,” he said.

Waight Keller’s campaigns for the house have portrayed both genders in mirror-image pairs. “There was a very, very strong business in men’s wear when I arrived, and it was quite a unique situation. I hadn’t necessarily expected to find that, but I knew the men’s wear vision at Givenchy was strong,” she recalled. “Now that I feel I’ve got the opportunity to branch them off, and actually give them their own real distinction, I really feel that actually the business is going to become even more important.”

Among the celebrities who have worn Waight Keller’s designs in recent months are Bradley Cooper, Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Harry Styles and Prince Harry, who met the designer when she made the wedding dress for his bride, Meghan Markle. — Joelle Diderich 

 

10. Jaden Smith

When your parents are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, the bar is set pretty high both in terms of social standing and fashion. But Jaden Smith has risen to the challenge.

From how he wears his hair — everything from dreadlocks in a top knot to closely cropped burgundy and platinum crewcuts — to how he accessorizes — using fine jewelry as a hair tie, wearing Roka mirrored wraparound cycling glasses on stage or rocking custom New Balance x Louis Vuitton dad sneakers — the 20-year-old has embraced the limelight and consistently showcases a unique sense of style.

Not everyone can show up at the Met Gala wearing a Louis Vuitton coat over a T-shirt and sneakers and carry a gold record as a “date.” But Smith can, and did. He’s also the guy who wore a Batman suit to Kim and Kanye’s wedding, so nothing is too outlandish for the young rapper, actor and Instagram star.

But while he may push the limits in fashion, he also has a much more serious side when it comes to the environment, a cause he’s been vocal about protecting. Case in point: he teamed with G-Star Raw to launch Forces of Nature, a collection of sustainable denim pieces that launched last fall. He’s also behind the creation of the ethically sourced, paper-based bottled water company Just Water.

Smith has his own gender-neutral apparel line, called MSFTSrep — and pronounced Misfits Republic. This fits into his propensity to wear whatever he wants, even if that’s a dress or high heels. He describes MSFTS as a line targeted to girls who want to be tomboys or boys who want to wear a dress. (In 2016, Smith featured in Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear campaign wearing a skirt.) His line features hoodies, T-shirts and sweats screenprinted with his album and song titles, including “Syre” and “Beautiful Confusion.” The hoodie with Syre printed on the front and Icon on the sleeve was even categorized as “one of the year’s most iconic streetwear pieces” of 2018 by Hypefresh. — J.E.P.

 

11. Union

 

Connect the dots when it comes to directional, edgy urbanwear and all signs tend to lead back to Union Los Angeles. The men’s retailer is one of only a few at the forefront when it comes to stocking hot labels playing in the general arena of streetwear. Union’s reach is so much more than just that streetwear label and epitomizes a directional point of view customers seek out and brands want to be dubbed a part of.

Elizabeth Birkett Gibbs and Chris Gibbs bought the business from James Jebbia, Mary Ann Fusco and Eddie Cruz in 2008, going on to maintain and build upon the Los Angeles retailer with an assortment that’s contemporary, on point and just plain cool, with the couple as personable as the temple of streetwear they’ve built.

Venice-based brand Born x Raised got its start there, with Union its first account, which helped it get into Colette and other doors. There’s no shortage of similar stories of labels getting their break within Union’s doors. Anwar Carrots, founder of his own namesake men’s line, remembers printing out the Mapquest directions to Union after moving to Los Angeles from the Virgin Islands, walking into the store just to look at the A Bathing Ape section. He got more than that when he met Chris Gibbs himself and asked question after question about the streetwear category and was schooled on that history and the business of it.

For as much guidance as the Gibbses have provided to other brands over the years as a retailer, their aesthetic is now being infused into their own product lines. Beth quietly started Bephie in late 2017 and linked with No Sesso the following year for a more formal debut, hitting the ground running with a collection built on unique prints and hand embroidery. That continued with a showing of new pieces at ComplexCon in November that carried on the spirit of the line’s artisan craftsmanship.

Union also launched its own line in 2017 to be sold, at least initially, under its own roof as Chris learns the ropes of the other side of the business after 20 years spent mostly buying other people’s product. Last year, the Union label moved into its own separate studio and office space.

Meanwhile, Union the retailer expanded to Tokyo with the opening of a store there last April, which the Gibbses see as an opportunity to help feed emerging Japanese brands back into the Los Angeles store. — Kari Hamanaka

 

 

12. Ilaria Urbinati

Ilaria Urbinati shops for a living, but she’s OK with that. The celebrity stylist — whose clients include some of Hollywood’s biggest names, such as Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Joel Edgerton, Damien Chazelle, Donald Glover and John Krasinski — has landed on The Hollywood Reporter’s “Most Powerful Stylist” list four years in a row.

Urbinati was born in Rome and raised in Paris. She started out as a buyer for high-end boutiques on the West Coast, including Laura Urbinati, Satine, and Milk, before opening her own store, Confederacy. It was there that she partnered with Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes on her first collaboration — a line of men’s suits, which were worn by Ryan Gosling’s character in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and sold out almost immediately.

From there, she went on to create successful capsule collections for two seasons with Eddie Bauer, a limited-edition luxury bag with Montblanc, and another line of suits with Strong Suit that was sold exclusively in Nordstrom. She even had a cameo in a Walmart commercial during the Academy Awards this year.

Urbinati, who has 163,000 followers on Instagram and more than 15,000 on Twitter, is a student of men’s wear. “I listen to men all day — what they like and what they don’t like,” she has said, adding that some of her pet peeves include shirts that peek out under vests in three-piece suits. “With men’s wear, the details really matter.”

But she’s not afraid to break the rules, and bright colors, distinct prints or patterns are all part of what put her on the map.

Her most recent collaboration is with Roots of Fight and celebrity trainer Johnny Hunt, with whom she created a limited-edition stadium jacket that is wrapped in a Thai-inspired lining. Hunt is Urbinati’s official Muay Thai trainer — that’s the official combat boxing of Thailand for the uninitiated — and she also works with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, so anyone criticizing her clients’ fashion choices best stand back. — J.E.P.

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