Coat by Save The Duck;
Suit by Lugi Bianchi Mantova; Sweater by Alanui; Shirt
KAREN ALBERG GROSSMAN
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I ADMIT IT it’s been tough to concentrate on the myriad challenges our industry faces amidst the turmoil we now face as
a nation. Between the pandemic raging on, a precarious economy, and recurring threats to our democracy from our own citizens, it’s been hard to focus on new washes in denim. To me, the values that have always made America great are exactly those that make our industry
great: the diversity, creativity, and infinite possibility that seem suddenly in jeopardy. Perhaps a new administration will set
us on a positive path, but our problems
are complex and my hopes are tempered
That said, we at MR are putting doubt aside to move forward with our steadfast mission: to inform, educate, entertain and inspire menswear retailers, designers and brands. To showcase success stories and new talent. To gather suggestions and strategy from industry leaders. To translate ideas from other industries. To integrate popular culture into fashion forecasts. To debate controversial issues. To champion change. This is what has sustained MR for 30+ years and what we will continue to bring you.
What we’re adding to our offerings: many exciting new advertising options. These
include custom content that companies
can share with clients (in print, digital, interactive digital), sponsored webcasts, podcasts, videos and more. MR is here to help you grow your business in compelling new ways at surprisingly affordable prices; contact Shae.Marcus@wainscotmedia.com or Kristin.Dauss@wainscotmedia.com to brainstorm what might work best for you. Especially in this era of isolation, it’s wise to remind your customers that you’re still in business (out of sight, out of mind),
with fabulous men’s fashion that fits our changing times. With many retailers reassessing their merchandise mix in search of fresh product, the time to reach out is now.
As we put 2020 behind us and look toward a brighter year, we want to thank our loyal advertisers for their unwavering support, and welcome those now joining our MR family. I feel lucky to be part of a menswear community of smart, courageous optimists who care about each other. As our editorial mission evolves, let us know what else you’d like to see in MR, or if you’d like to put your own views into a guest editorial. Truly, it’s all of you who renew my
hopes for our business, our country,
and our world.
Some might call me old school but truth is, I’m
a progressive merchant who is constantly thinking of ways to solve problems in the men’s fashion world. And the current challenge is clear: retailers who have built successful businesses based on tailored clothing are suddenly surrendering their birthrights.
I REALIZE THAT most are licking their wounds from the negative impact of the pandemic. I’ve heard nobody say their business is good. But what’s going to happen after Covid? What are retailers doing to bring customers back, to get them excited to come into stores and replenish their clothing wardrobes? Probably very little, as merchants are operating under the assumption that suits are dead and that men will no longer want them.
Here’s where the lack of imaginative merchants is a huge problem. They all carry the same clothing brands and buy the same year-round fabrics so that one brand blends into another at varying prices. Year after year, they continue to buy the same ubiquitous brands, totally dependent upon makers who are
trying to build collections that can be sold all over the planet. They have no idea what your customer is looking for. In fact, few customers know what they’re looking for: they need you, their trusted clothing advisor, to tell them.
Real merchants need to explore the world for uniqueness. Create your own brand, design it (or consult with a few emerging designers), and find production to execute your vision. With the recent slowdown, many talented Italian artisans will jump at the opportunity to work with you. Fabrics are key: tweeds, flannels, coverts, saxonies, these reimagined classics will look new after years of absence. Don’t predetermine what will sell. Even in warm climates, people travel and are more open to fresh ideas than we realize. Too few retailers these days can claim that when a customer walks out of their store, it’s clear where they shopped. They sell units, but very little style. Merchants need to create and promote their own discernable taste level.
Yes, e-commerce is a growing factor today but what are you selling online? How are you going to compete with your suppliers? They are your biggest competition.
Armani was the last great revolution in men’s fashion. Fred Pressman recognized his talent, and built the brand in America. But how many other retailers failed to get it? Without a clothing business--suits, jackets, pants, topcoats–there will be no menswear business. Sportswear is not going to save you.
Barry Wishnow is a long-time menswear exec who built businesses for Schoeneman, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein, among others. As a consultant, his clients have included Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Joseph Abboud and Luciano Barbera. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAN FARRINGTON, MITCHELL STORES Tailored clothing has fallen off the cliff and while sportswear volume cannot make up for those losses, we started December with some sportswear increases that continued through Christmas. So we ended up with one of the best holiday sportswear seasons in our history (just shy of 2019). This was a big win for us but bottom line, it’s been a tough road. Mandated store closings in certain parts of the country didn’t help.
Can you specify what within sportswear has been selling?
FARRINGTON Our customers are buying casual, active-inspired, and in some cases less expensive sportswear. We’re doing well with Faherty, Rhone, Fourlaps, Wahts, Sease. And also with loungewear/athleisure: hoodies, joggers, etc. And even some luxury casual: Loro Piana, Moncler, Zegna active…
Although online is not a huge part of our business, it’s invaluable now as a selling assist. But most business is done through the store, either in-person visits or via facetime.
KEN GIDDON, ROTHMANS, NYC Our situation is similar: tailored clothing is virtually non-existent. Except for an occasional wedding, the only reason a guy buys a suit is if he’s gained or lost weight. Our normal mix is 60% tailored clothing; for Fall ’20, our “buy” (or what we actually took in) was less than 5%. For Fall ’21, I’d expect us to get back to 50% as I predict a swing back to men dressing up. But for now our best sellers are fun sweatshirts; hoodies from our proprietary maker are killing it. Our sportswear business is way up, but on a very small base.
RICH O’BOYLE AND JIM FOLEY, WOODBURY MEN’S SHOP We did a decent clothing business early in the summer for backyard weddings but no more. What’s selling now: sportcoats and jeans, luxury sweaters, knitwear, corduroy five pockets, athleisure. Strong brands include Fedeli, Fiorini, Gran Sasso, Good Man Brand, Luciano Barbera… We’ve just added e-commerce; it’s our first season and we’re selling denim and knitwear.
JOHN BRAEGER, GARYS, NEWPORT BEACH We’re selling casual sportswear and footwear, thanks largely to a few great clients. In fact, one of our top clients (who always recommends us to his friends) recently asked if we would host a group of guys for a shopping night at the store. So we closed the store at 5:30 and hosted seven guys and their wives. We sent out a survey beforehand, asking their size, their personal style, their favorite cocktail. We had everything ready for them and for two hours over drinks, the guys shopped. (And so did the ladies: our custom shoemaker makes fabulous women’s shoes!) We did $70 grand in two hours and had lots of fun… (The store is big enough to spread out; everyone wore masks and had their temperatures taken.)
ANDY WEIL, POCKETS, DALLAS Our tailored business is also way down but we’ve had decent sell-throughs on softcoats, casual shoes, knits and sweaters, even lightweight outerwear. Key brands include Faherty, Fedeli, Andrea Venturi. We’re lucky that our customers really want to support us so they’re shopping. We don’t have an online business so they’re coming into the store or else we facetime and email photos.
WALLY NAYMAN, KILGORE TROUT, CLEVELAND Our government shut everything down early so it’s been a nightmare
getting people to overcome their fear. Still, our store is big enough (9000 square feet) to spread out and some things are selling well, including lightweight leathers from Gimos. It’s all about relationships. The one thing that’s really surprises me is that, counter to trend, our men’s business is doing better than our women’s.
Based on what you’ve learned from the pandemic, how are you reinventing your business?
NAYMAN I learned that there’s a lot of fat in our business so we’ve begun to manage expenses in line with the new reality. Already, I’m in a better position now than I was pre-pandemic. We hired a sharp office manager who found tremendous savings: instead of leasing a copy machine for thousands a year, we bought one for $600. Instead of a mailing machine, we’re buying stamps. We’re seeking out competitive bids from IT people. All these small savings add up.
We also learned to accelerate our move to casualization at warp speed. We have to be nimble enough to react to what’s selling without overbuying. Yes, we need fresh product but I’d rather chase it than be stuck with it. Our advisor (Steve Pruitt) says we can’t be too bare but our mix needs to be more focused. Interestingly, every luxury product we’ve brought in has sold to the piece. So while we’re getting killed in tailored, I believe luxury sportswear and outerwear can ultimately replace that volume.
BRAEGER Manage expenses? I’m now personally handling shipping and receiving: with so little product coming in these days, we don’t need a full-time person back there…
GIDDON We too started looking at every little expense, even contacting the mob to negotiate trash removal, examining compensation structure, vendor profitability, etc. As my brother says, “Anyone can run a business when times are good…”
But more than anything else, this pandemic has taught us who are friends
are: on both the client side and the vendor side. In fact, I made a list of the 4 D’s we need from our vendors in these trying times: 1)Decency: This means compassion and understanding, not calling us demanding immediate payments when you know we can’t pay right now…); 2)Deliveries: Work with us so we’re not getting in everything at once at the wrong time; 3)Discounts, especially on late shipments that we clearly can’t sell; and 4)Depth of inventory: Now more than ever, we need our vendor partners to take some chances. I’m stunned by how many multi-billion dollar companies are not doing anything to help us.
FOLEY We’re on a path to reinventing our mix; we see continued opportunity in knitwear, athleisure, luxury loungewear… We’ve narrowed our brand structure, cutting back 25-30 percent for a deeper focus on what’s selling best.
We’ve also restructured our compensation plans, for example cutting back in our tailor shop from three full-time tailors to one full-time and one part-time. We’re fortunate that our landlord
continues to work with us. Bottom line: it’s all a balancing act. But we believe that with the vaccine, events (weddings, proms, graduations) will come back and there will be renewed demand for dress-up clothing.
WEIL We were lucky that we didn’t have to furlough any employees but we restructured some compensation plans in order to keep the balance sheet in line. I agree that the pandemic is a good opportunity to solidify partnerships. And timing on deliveries is critical: vendors need to respect our shipping windows; it’s 105 degrees in Dallas in July so no, we don’t need our fall goods shipped yet. The right partners respect this.
FARRINGTON By and large, our vendors have been pretty good. In a crisis, it’s been easier for me to ask for cooperation and compromise. They understand that we had to cut back.
Although it’s tough to predict business a year from now, I’ve read that 2021 will be the biggest year ever for weddings. So we’ll put back out the spring tailored clothing we held over. We didn’t mark it down because we couldn’t have sold it this year at any price: if we could have sold it at 30 off we would have done it; there’s no point selling it at 70 off. So hopefully, with the return of events and our sharpened focus on sportswear, we’ll come out of this lean, mean and healthier than ever.
GIDDON I worry that the first quarter will be brutal so watch your cash. Although attitude is important, the next few months will be duck and cover…
WEIL Although I’m fiscally conservative, I believe we need some major innovations, rather than simple tweaks. We have more competition these days than we realize; our customers are spending money in new ways and in new places so we need to test new merchandising concepts. But testing means failing fast, getting in and out quickly. At the same time, we need to strengthen our involvement with our customers and our communities.
BRAEGER: Cash is king: we need to control inventory and expenses, and stay in close contact with our customers. What’s helped us a lot has been converting a former Hugo Boss space into a Peter Millar shop: this business has been consistently strong. We’re also looking into other ways to bring customers in more regularly: a barber shop perhaps. Or some other type of partnership…
NAYMON Our goal is to embrace change! And to consistently encourage our staff and celebrate their achievements. After all, they are our greatest assets.
FOLEY Early 2021 will be tough: we’ll have fewer customers; we’ll be making less money so cash-flow is all important. Also key: keeping up staff morale, and staying in touch with customers, even if they’re not shopping at the moment. We need to keep everyone focused on maintaining old relationships and building new ones.
Is anyone focused on getting in younger customers and how are you planning to do this?
FARRINGTON We have to offer and edit the brands and items that keep us relevant to every generation. Our luxury product might be out of reach for young people just starting out, but our core
demographic gets relatively younger as wemerchants age. We can’t buy for one generation and stop there.
That said, I think the next generational change will be the trickiest to manage. Those coming into wealth now will have a different perception of brands, consumption, sustainability, and values. The pandemic has accelerated some of the changes that were already evolving – a casual and active lifestyle for sportswear, dressing up more for occasions and less for everyday business, clothing with real performance features, authentic quality and value, an interest in the people and story behind the products...Staying young-minded and listening to what the next generation cares about will be how we make the transition successful.
NAYMON We’ve benefited from an influx of younger customers simply by creating an environment that welcomes a new generation. Most important is having sellers who that young demographic can relate to. Half of our selling staff is under 35 including our visual coordinator; all bring a fresh perspective to everything we do. Next on my agenda is to play the right music, to ensure our associates dress the part, and to assemble the proper vendor matrix so we’re more than their parents’ haberdashery.
That can’t be easy: assembling the right vendor matrix…
NAYMON It’s not so tough! You spend time researching and seeing what’s trending in hip circles. Think APC, Stone Island, RRL, RAG & Bone, Dries Van Noten, etc. Also, having product for this younger customer allows crossover with our core clientele. It’s very cool when that happens. As a team we sometimes look at each other and say “Who’d a thunk?”
Vendors need to respect our shipping windows; it’s 105 degrees in Dallas in July so no, we don’t need our fall goods shipped then.”
Andy Weil, Pockets
I predict a swing back to men dressing up for fall 21.”
Ken Giddon, Rothmans
Yes, we need fresh product but I’d rather chase it than be stuck with it.”
Wally Naymon, Kilgore Trout, Cleveland
We’ve narrowed our brand structure, cutting back 25-30 percent
for a deeper focus on what’s selling best.”
Jim Foley, Woodbury Men’s Shop
We recently hosted a small group of friends for a private shopping night: we did $70 grand in two hours and had lots of fun…”
John Braeger, Garys
With the return of events and our sharpened focus on sportswear, we’ll come out of this lean, mean and healthier than ever.”
Dan Farrington, Mitchells
Leather bag by Troubadour.
Top: Fashion by Weatherpoof Vintage; right: fashion by Left Coast Tee.
SEAN HIETER, CORNELIANI USA
Retailers will continue to need help from their vendor partners to get through this. We need to give them
dating, reduced or more flexible shipments, and regular emotional support. To take the buying experience to
a higher level, we created a new way of showing our collection. Working with Verte Creative, we can now offer our clients one-on-one live webinars with a professional flare. We have cameras, monitors, speakers and mics that bring the showroom to the store. Multiple people can
log on through a cloud-based secured platform. Multiple camera angles, remotely controlled by our in-house producer, can zoom so close it’s as if viewers are touching the product. (We can even show the weave of the fabric!) We’re launching this on February 1-12 to buyers not coming to NYC. After the appointment, we create line sheets with photos of everything the buyer liked. We also send 2x2 swatch clippings for every classification and can send samples as needed. While the studio is actually in Italy, convenient to our showroom, our producer controls it all from his home office in France.
As for product, our focus has moved from tailored clothing to modern luxury sportswear: cashmere
bombers, technical knitwear, soft double-faced knit sport coats that feel like cardigans. We’ve made fit changes
and inventory investment for the U.S. market and look forward to a five-year growth period beginning this fall.
GARY WASSERMAN, LEFT COAST TEE
Our industry’s immediate and near-term futures will be
the toughest any of us has faced. Therefore, the goal for most brands, retailers, and suppliers is to work together
to develop new partnerships.
Our strategy at Left Coast Tee is to continuously offer
new services and compelling content to our specialty
store partners, thereby leveraging the strengths of both the brand and the stores.
We’ve recently developed online fashion lookbooks that can be customized by store and used for their marketing and selling purposes. Our retail accounts are delighted
to send out these digital storybooks in order to start conversations with their customers and stimulate sales.The major message from this pandemic year: we must all find “partners” who understand our industry and can deliver innovative products and services at affordable prices.
RON RHEINGOLD, WEATHERPROOF VINTAGE
The way business is transacted is changing rapidly.
Yes, the Pandemic has caused store closures and other setbacks. This partially remedied itself with strong ecommerce business and lots of creativity. Our Weatherproofvintage.com business has shown high double digit increases over last year.
What we’ve learned: Today’s consumer is very savvy and entirely understands the fashion/value equation. What’s more, he’s tired of “yesterday’s” brands. Therefore, we continue to market Weatherpoof Vintage as a young fresh
all find ‘partners’
who understand our industry and can deliver innovative products
services at affordable prices.”
Left Coast Tee
collection, creating quality, fashion-right product at great value. We pay much attention to detail and what we can add to–not subtract from–the product. Often, adding a quarter in detail nets an extra dollar to the bottom line.
ABEL SAMET, TROUBADOUR
2020 reinforced the importance of best-in-class product. Since many customers are stuck at home, they have more time to do their research. The
real winners from this are the brands with the strongest product offerings in terms of quality, function, and price.
Troubadour has always been a product-first company devoting the vast majority of our energy and resources to accelerating product improvement. When other companies in the bag/travel space pulled back on product development during COVID, this created extra supply chain capacity. We took advantage of this and did a year’s worth of product development in six months. As a result, we will be launching double our typical number of new styles in the next two seasons.
One of Warren Buffett’s most quoted lines is “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” While the tide went out in 2020, we believe the real winners and losers will emerge
this year when we find out who’s been standing still and who’s been building the future.
BARBARA KIERSCH, SCHNEIDERS
We’re working on cultivating even closer relationships with our sophisticated luxury retail partners. We’re focused on staying true to our Schneiders’ motto: “Everywhere at Home” by expanding our offerings to accommodate all lifestyles and situations…even this pandemic. As for business changes, besides participating in live trade shows, we’re working more and more with digital line sheets and fashion photographs for retailers who are not yet traveling.
SHAWNA OLSTEN AND ADAM CRAIG, SAXX
We’ve had high double-digit sales increases for the past four years and have balanced our wholesale distribution among all types of stores: contemporary, department, outdoors and better men’s specialty.
What we learned from the pandemic: the importance of communication, empathy and talking regularly to our customers. In mid-March, we put all orders on hold and started working on adjusting terms. We began providing digital assets that we update every two weeks. We learned that
“We’re working on cultivating even closer relationships with our sophisticated luxury retail partners.”
–Barbara Kiersch, Schneiders
Coat by Schneiders of Salzburg.
the consumer is very comfortable buying online. Brick & mortar is not dead but there’s tremendous value in omni-channel. Specialty retailers must acquire the right skill set to support an ecommerce business.
Although business during the pandemic shifted DTC, fourth quarter saw an uptick in the wholesale part as retailers got more aggressive with their own ecommerce. So one of our main goals now is coming up with new ways to support specialty stores and help them build relationships with their customers via social and digital. Things like digital fashion shows and Wine & Underwear nights. We’ve also shifted our own websites to add a Shop Local component and a portal for retailers to access information in real time. And we’ve created several well-received videos. Consumers are accepting rougher, less polished content and we’re finding new ways to produce these pieces.
DAN ORWIG, PEERLESS
We made the decision in April not to bring in goods for fall 2020 so we’re now in a decent inventory position. We felt we needed to protect both ourselves and our retail partners. We’ve had some great conversations and apparently, many of the big stores are betting on tailored coming back by fall ’21. Bottom line: Americans are social creatures; we’re tired of staying home and can’t wait to start going out (and dressing up) again. So tailored clothing will be back!
Our lessons from the pandemic: 1)We learned that we’ve got a terrific team–highly motivated, committed and adaptable at finding creative ways to sell, even without seeing people. 2)We learned the importance of inventory management, of following the analytics to work in new ways. Although tailored clothing has always been an inventory-intensive replenishment business, it’s got to turn, it’s got to be productive. We need to elevate our expectations accordingly. And 3)We’ve learned to jump on technology and digitalize our business. Zoom meetings are
now as commonplace as phone calls; digital showrooms are part of the process. It’s amazing how well the intricacies of fibers and yarns can show up digitally! Of course, better specialty stores still want to touch and try on so we’re sampling where we need to. But the big stores know and trust our quality so we’re sending swatches rather than samples. From both an environmental and financial standpoint, that’s a lot less waste.
“From a product perspective, we realize we can’t stop pushing the envelope: as tough as business is now, Peerless will continue to innovate. Our focus will be on clothing that combines classic and active components, clothing that offers versatility with performance features. We’re still a suit manufacturer but we’ll keep pushing the limits.
PAUL BUCKTER AND ANDREW WEISBROT, ZANELLA
With new funding (Daytona) behind us, we can pick up where we left off when our four-way stretch tech pant took off. At $298 retail, this was the epitome of comfort in a proper dress pant. When we launched it in Sept 2019, guys weren’t looking for beautiful wool dress pants so this tech pant was our savior. We stocked it in seven solids and several prints with a flannel effect. We added some technical outerwear, vests, rainwear, and a sustainability focus. We opened 50-60 new accounts based on this one pant. Today, we’ve not only added compelling product but we perfected the fabrics, fit, packaging and branding. As new CEO David Sweedler puts it, “If the market direction is one way, we want to go in the opposite direction. We want Zanella to represent what’s unique, new and unexpected in Italian-made luxury menswear.”
What we learned from the pandemic: the importance of communicating, even overcommunicating, with our customers. Going forward, we’ll continue to focus on servicing our accounts by providing social media content, and by enabling specialty stores to order from
“We provide stores
with digital assets updated every two weeks.”
–Shawna Olsten and Adam Craig, SAXX
our inventory via a discount code on our website so they can buy at cost with free shipping. Although our direct-to-consumer business is small, it will be a focus in 2021. Our wholesale business at the moment is 60 percent department store (Nordstrom, Neiman’s, Bloomingdales) and 40 percent specialty store but the growth will be in specialty stores.
LISA STEFAN AND RENATO BALDASSARI,
We’ve learned that a crisis can be seen as an opportunity to work in different ways and think outside the box. We’ve learned to adapt quickly to change: our collection is now a total immersion into refined luxury sportswear. We created new models for “sheltering at home” such as cashmere/felt overshirts. We added unique knitted jackets in different blended yarns. The result is a collection that reflects the needs of the New Modern Man.
The pandemic also emphasized the importance of technology. We established a B2B system that gives all our agents and clients the ability to view the collection online and easily place orders. We redesigned our website and created an e-commerce section featuring a curated selection of products.We learned that maintaining customer relationships is crucial right now. We managed to stay in contact with all our partners worldwide, with the goal to support them and their businesses.
Last but not least, we learned that strengthening resilience within our organization is a must. We boosted confidence and positivity by reminding our team that this difficult time will pass, with the company emerging stronger than before. We continue to emphasize our core values: Trust, Passion and Respect.
MARC ROSEN, LEVI STRAUSS AMERICAS
We’ve accelerated a number of changes across the business to meet the moment and ensure that our company emerges stronger from this crisis than we went into it.
To begin, we’ve invested in the health and safety of both our employees and shoppers, developing a playbook for our stores around the world. We rolled out and expanded a number of omnichannel initiatives that allow for flexible shopping; our focus on our direct-to-consumer business has only increased as we continue to diversify.
We’ve made tremendous progress this year embracing new digital capabilities. Our loyalty program and Levi’s app, both
“We continue to emphasize our core values: Passion, Respect, Trust.”
click here to read
the full article
Underwear by SAXX.
Fashion by Baldassari.
SAXX has found that consumers prefer unscripted videos.
Coat by Moose Knuckles; Suit and Shirt by Boglioli.
For FALL 2021, we’re FORECASTING
A RETURN to the
A DEMAND for
BOTH BEAUTIFUL TAILORED CLOTHING, and
Coat by Cockpit; Tuxedo, shirt, and bowtie by Ralph Lauren Purple Label.
Left: Coat, Suit, and Shirt by Ermenegildo Zegna XXX.
Right: Coat by Moncler;
Suit by Nicestuff Clothing;
Shirt by Boglioli; Shoes by Golden Goose.
Coat by CP Company; Suit by Boglioli;
Sweater by N. Peal;
Boots by Sebago.
Left: Coat by Herno; Suit by Luigi Bianchi Mantova; Sweater by Ralph Lauren Purple Label; Boots by Sebago. Right - Coat by Nobis; Suit and Shirt by Alexander McQueen.
Left: Coat by Mackage; Suit by Luigi Bianchi Mantovo; Sweater by N. Peal; Shoes by Golden Goose. Right: Coat by Collini Milano 1937; Tuxedo and Shirt by
Billy Reid; Glasses by Tom Ford.
Model: Heath Hutchins / Wilhelmina NY
Grooming: Valissa Yoe
While the pandemic has had a negative impact on overall menswear business, COVID-19 rules have been bringing folks outside, adding incentive to keep warm. While functional outerwear has been selling well, the real key to increased sales is stand-out styling.
Ollie Galam of Avant for Men in Highland Park, Illinois, admits that business is challenging. “Our customer is not going to work or events, so I’m expecting outerwear to make up for declines in clothing business,” he confides, adding that his high-end customer is spending on luxury. “We’re selling a lot of hybrid outerwear, especially shearling mixed with luxury fabrics like waterproof Loro Piana cashmere. The mix brings the price (of shearling) down. We also do well with leathers from Gimo’s and Remy. We prefer to sell special items like Italian leathers vs. commodity outerwear like Canada Goose.”
On the other hand, the big brands are important to many merchants. Says Mr. Porter’s David Morris. “As social distancing has people spending more time outside, down jackets have picked up, especially from Canada Goose and Moncler. Both brands are known for high-performance; down fill helps lock in body heat on particularly cold days.” That said, Morris is also selling hybrid models. “These versatile styles are perfect layering pieces. Moncler, for example, makes a great reversible down jacket in quilted cotton-jersey on one side, weather-resistant shell on the other. We’re also seeing a spike in bombers from brands like Loro Piana, Tom Ford and Saint Laurent.”
At Bloomingdale’s, Justin Berkowitz also touts shorter down and puffer styles from Moncler and Canada Goose, including hip-lengths, shorter parkas, bombers and shirt jackets. “Overall, the popularity of casual and sporty styles speaks to the shifting need for practical outerwear pieces that allow for mobility in outdoor activities.”
Coat by Moose Knuckles.
Coat by Parajumpers.
it’s all about the quality of the skin, the color, the emotional experience.” The brand has also had success with limited edition offerings using rare leathers, like Japanese horsehides (making just over 50 pieces, selling for around $1,400) and blue leathers, as well as vintage looks with a “second-hand shop patina.”
HEADING TO MARKET
“I’m going to be careful,” says Flynn at Dumas. “It’s not reliably cool enough here to jump aggressively into heavy weights. I’ll try to react in season as much as I can. Newness, things we’ve not yet tried, will be reasons for me to pull the trigger.”“We feel optimistic about outerwear as we head into the fall/winter market,” says Saks’ DiGiacomo. “Our focus will be on fashion, color, novelty and newness. After spending lots of time at home this past year, our customers will want to make a statement.”
“Overshirts and hybrid shirt jackets that can double as blazers or chore coats feel right for early fall,” says Bloomingdale’s Berkowitz. “Given that we’ll (hopefully) be returning to more regular routines, guys will look for styles that bridge the gap between comfort and something a bit more polished.”
Alpha is also developing a curated offering of pants and accessories to make them a true lifestyle brand. Another authentic military-inspired brand, Cockpit’s had a rough year that included not just pandemic-related woes, but showroom flooding. Says Jacky Clyman, “We’ve been encouraged by our son — who was an F-16 fighter pilot and historian — to stay within our wheelhouse. That’s what’s guiding us. We’re not looking at fashion trends: there’s no reason for us to create 30 new styles each season. For us it’s more about finding the perfect leather, or the best zipper. We noticed that about three years ago, people got tired of wearing puffer jackets. They may be lightweight but these days, wouldn’t you rather hug a sheepskin jacket around you? It’s like a blanket: so cozy and practical and also a good investment.” Cockpit’s Rudy Gonzalez points out that as more people move away from big cities, they’re choosing garments that fit a country lifestyle. In addition to its iconic outerwear, Cockpit will be working with a Japanese company to bring back a retro workwear and denim brand.
Schott has put real emphasis on the customer experience. “We’ve been focusing on softer skins, a softer hand, a drapier style,” says Jason Schott. “When consumers try a jacket for the first time,
Italian style,” says sales director Teri Ferguson Roth. “We’re emphasizing investment pieces like four-way systems jackets in cool Japanese fabrics that are lightweight, warm and waterproof. We’re offering our classic styles without fur due to demand, and we’re building on our offerings of sweatshirts, sweatpants, and T-shirts.”
Alpha Industries is going back to basics, with a focus on bombers and other military heritage silhouettes. Says Mike Cirker, “Brands and retailers must dig deep in defining their true core values. They can’t be everything to everyone: they must pick a lane. With our military heritage, we’re doing lots of field jackets, onion quilting, patches and pocket details, as well as cleaner, more tailored silhouettes in interesting fabrics and mixes. Beyond military, utility and outdoor are growing influences in fashion. Recent collaborations such as Adidas x Hyke and L.L. Bean x Todd Snyder highlight this. Of course, a core value for our brand is sustainability, through both sourcing practices and the use of recycled materials.”
on everyday routines: dining, outdoor markets, exercise classes, even commuting options. “With this extended time outdoors, we’re seeing a willingness to invest in premium outerwear. Warmth, function, and adaptability are at the forefront of that decision. While bold prints and bright colors were overlooked in 2020, these could play a refreshing role on the retail floor for fall ‘21.”
Says Moose Knuckle’s Jamee King, “Fashion consumers are sharpening their product knowledge, looking for value beyond price. What we’re seeing now is consumers shopping for exceptional construction, craftsmanship and detail. In this ‘new normal,’ brands are forced to make products differently and better. Outerwear companies in the fashion space will need to lean into the function space.”
Italian company Parajumpers has broadened its offerings, seeing success with styles from sherpa/down mixes to great sweaters. “We have requests for high levels of performance, with a real emphasis on
fabrics, and a focus on sustainability.
Norwegian Wool’s CEO Michael Berkowitz, who had much success last winter with an ad campaign on Metro North, notes that “our consumer is looking to us for performance, versatility, and comfort. We have a real affinity for fabrics that feel nice, so for Fall 2021, we’re going deeper into luxurious wool and cashmere, but always performance-based. Touch shouldn’t compromise warmth.”
Peerless’s Dan Orwig concurs, saying “With restaurant restrictions and outdoor dining continuing nationwide for the foreseeable future, hybrid outerwear is crucial. This season we infused our outerwear with All-Weather features, so it’s both water- and wind-resistant. Guys want outerwear that’s multifunctional, so we’ve added bib fronts and removable liners on many of our models. You’ll see PrimaLoft linings for light-weight insulation and reflective interiors that retain heat without bulk. New fabrics include sustainable all-weather stretch wools, eco-leather, textured boucles, and BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) sustainable cotton.”
Nobis’s Robin Yates observes that people now have a new perspective
Louis DiGiacomo at Saks Fifth Avenue reports similar trends, adding that his customer is “buying vests and more transitional pieces. Novelty and color are performing well, a continuation of what we’re seeing for menswear in general. White has been our best-selling fashion color this season.”
Japanese fast fashion retailer Uniqlo is practically synonymous with lightweight down outerwear. Yuki Katsuta says the brand’s Hybrid Down, combining down and padding, “is an innovative sustainable product: the down component is minimized while performance padding is moisture-absorbing.” Uniqlo also sells lots of light, unlined outerwear. “These items are worn like a shirt or knitwear,” Katsuta explains, “often underneath a jacket or blazer.”
In South Carolina, M. Dumas’s Gary Flynn sells lots of Barbour. “There’s a big push towards athleisure; lightweight is super important to my customers given our climate.”
Manufacturers have pulled out all stops for fall 2021 outerwear, including collaborations, functional features, performance/luxury
Coat by Norwegian Wool.
Coat by Alpha Industries.
Coat by Nobis.
— Ollie Galam, Avant for Men,
Highland Park, Illinois
“I’m expecting outerwear
to make up for declines in clothing business.”
— Mike Cirker, Alpha Industries
“Brands and retailers
must dig deep in defining their core values. They can’t be everything to everyone.”
As a new brand, Norwegian Wool shares its backstory.
Sophisticated denim by JOOP!, newly launched in the U.S. for fall ’21.
In general, 2020 was a mixed year for denim but those stores that showed fashion sold it. Sunny Diego from Saks Fifth Avenue notes that customers are not resisting higher pricepoints. “Sweet spots for us are anywhere under
$500. There’s been much innovation in fabrics, colors, washes, and elevated distressing from the top denim
LA-born artist, rapper and Levi’s model Duckwrth mixes vintage and classics to create his rockabilly style.
Fashion by Levi’s.
brands. Plus Saks Men’s has seen strong footwear sales which historically portends increases in denim; both categories are now performing and should continue strong."
According to Diego, men are really loving skinny fits and elevated but subtle distressing. Hot brands at Saks are Amiri, Purple, Hudson, Ksubi, and PRPS. “It’s the fashion guy who’s fueling the sales trends. As long as our brand partners deliver new fits, fabrics, and
exclusive programs, there will be continued reason to buy.”
Matthew Sebra, senior fashion director for men’s and kids at Macy’s, agrees that newness is key. “There are only so many times a guy will keep buying his favorite basic jean so it’s our job to broaden assortments and show what’s next.” As Macy’s continues to evolve its denim mix, they now showcase their hottest looks in an exciting new trend space (The Park, in both
Herald Square and Lenox), refreshed every 8-12 weeks. Says Sebra, “Men are becoming more comfortable exploring fashion options, and more open to creating a denim wardrobe. Some of our best sellers are the most directional: a distressed patchwork jean, a drop shoulder denim jacket, a kimono-front patchwork jacket. We offer pricepoints from $30 private label to elevated offerings at $225, from slim-fit basics to high-rise tapered models.” Although Sebra believes there will soon be a swing back to dress-up as guys tire
of joggers, “Denim is never going away. It’s the most personal garment a guy can own.”
Independent menswear merchants shared mixed reports on denim business. While most tout the need for newness, not all were confident enough to take fashion risks during a pandemic. “We expected denim to be better,” confides Dan Farrington from Mitchells. “I believe the business will pick up as guys get tired of sweatpants, but the category needs innovation: it’s been
Outland Denim rescued women from the sex trade and trained them for jobs at Outland.
Says Levi’s muse Joonbug, “I love my style because it’s putting the comfort of yourself over trying to please others.”
indigo and black denim. Additional styles include joggers and shorts
as well as destructed washes and shades of black denim.” Joe’s has also done well with their drop-yoke jogger and will continue to expand this category in modal twill, linen, French terry plus corduroy and coated treatments for fall. “Cargo and utility details continue to be important in these shapes, but we also see cleaner, more classic
According to Biszantz, the non-denim category is 30% of Joes’ business for spring ’21. “We’ll continue to build on this for Fall
as the short, jogger, cargo and drawstring pant categories grow. Much of this growth is around non-five-pocket silhouettes, including lounge capsules with novelty treatments like storm dye and marble dye in a variety of fabrics with a premium twist on athleisure. Fits continue to get slimmer: we’ve had success with leg openings from 14 to 12 inches. As the customer looks for newness, we’re selling vintage washes with destruction, holes, paint, bleach, and resin
coating. We’ll continue to build on these trends for fall.”
Clearly, denim makers have risen
to the innovation challenge, it’s
now up to retailers to get the word out. Advises Dey, “Having a diverse range within your assortment is key right now. As we adapt to changing lifestyles, everything from rigid denim to leisure looks should be showcased. Also, retailers must
be ultra-supportive of their staffs, always the key to strong sales.”
Suggests D’Angelo, “Not only
do buyers need to adjust their assortments to reflect today’s
casual environment, menswear retailers need to embrace social media marketing and other
creative strategies like weekly email video clips of new arrivals. Many
of our women’s accounts have reported very successful social media campaigns and events. Understanding that men shop differently, the outreach might need to be approached differently but nonetheless, the outreach has to happen.”
to design for comfort across the brand as we
look to use more high-stretch fabrics. For denim washes, we expect bleached out indigo, granite stonewashes, authentic indigo washes and well-worn destruction to do well. The utility trend will become even more popular, including carpenter and cargo.”
According to Arkun Durmaz at 34 Heritage,
best-sellers have been a compilation of softer, lighter weight styles offering great stretch
and comfort. “Despite the unprecedented circumstances, 2020 outperformed our expectations. Our replenishment styles were
in high demand and our twill shorts were a
huge success for spring/summer. Cargo styles, however, underperformed.” For fall 2021, 34 Heritage is committed to using only the richest, most premium fabrics with the least impact on
the environment. They’re also introducing fabrics with organic cotton and post-consumer recycled polyester yarns.
At AG, VP of Retail Sid Dey observes that, despite the pandemic, consumers are adding newness to their wardrobes. “On the men’s side, we continue to see slimmer silhouettes and on the women’s side, an interest in higher rises. A notable hit this season is our turtleneck tops for both men and women, ideal as a layering piece or worn on its own—it’s also a personal fave!”
Suzy Biszantz, president and CEO of Joe’s
Jeans and Hudson, remains bullish on denim. “Particularly on the men’s side, our business at
retail has been very strong; in some cases, we’re seeing high double-digit increases over last year.”
She describes the Hudson brand as directional,
with consumers who buy into the designer sneaker trend. “Hudson has an authentic streetwear vibe
to it: evolved washes with heavy destruction, artisanal details and unique dye techniques. This customer is looking for newness so we’ll continue
to evolve the denim in authentic original ways
for Fall ’21. This includes stripped and dyed techniques that bring about great highs-lows in the wash and new depth to indigo, black, and color. Also, we’ve updated tie dye, evolving techniques
that are tonal and subdued. Skinny still prevails, whether moto, five pocket, or cargo details, the overall market continues to get into skinnier fits. Our Zack fit (11 ¾ inch leg opening) and the Blinder Biker V2 (12 inch leg opening) with moto-inspired details constitute most of our business
and are the bodies we’ll continue to build on.”
At Joe’s, the casualization of the men’s business and the WFH (work from home) trend continues. Says Biszantz, “Comfort has become key, which we’ve seen in our newly introduced French terry indigo fabric. It looks like a regular jean, has the comfort
of a sweatpant, and comes in a variety of shades of
stale for a while.” Jim Foley at Woodbury Men’s Shop, whose dominant brand is Mac, is optimistic about
a denim comeback, noting that “customers are now more open to color, overdyed fabrics, and trimmer
fits.” In Miami, Ed Boas at Lanes does the majority of his denim business with AG at $198-$225 retails. “My customers know and love the brand! We carry their skinny fit 14-inch bottoms in two denim washes and several colors of stretch cotton. We sell the 15-inch bottoms in five different denim washes and 10 colors. Of course, we sell more stretch cotton because of the color options.”
VENDOR VIEW: FALL ‘21
Clearly, brands are getting the memo on innovation, brand extension and sustainability. “More than ever, now is the time to think outside the box,” says Mark D’Angelo at Liverpool. “One of our most exciting new fabrics is our 360 knit denim, introduced first in bottoms, then jean jackets. Given that our demographic is 30-55, our models remain focused on slim straight, relaxed straight and skinny. Washes are more diversified with more offerings in light, and a continuation of dark and medium. Newer washes reflect a vintage feel, minor destruction, heavier
sanding, tonal and contrast stitching. Our jogger business will expand as will our travel knit fabric,
and we’ve reintroduced a tech capsule. The biggest homerun from this past fall was our introduction
of sweater knits and shirt jackets, which sold out. Expansion of our eco/sustainable product is a key long-term initiative.”
Marc Rosen, EVP and President of Levi Strauss Americas, notes that the global trend toward casualization plays well to Levi’s strengths. “Comfort categories, including denim with stretch, shorts, and fleece, represent more than half our business and
have continued to grow as we find innovative ways
to expand our product portfolio.” He goes on to mention sustainable fabrics and more relaxed models as strong performers, as are brand collaborations e.g. a sportswear-inspired capsule with Snoopy, a collection with Lego and a two-part collaboration with New Balance, all successful.
Rosen expects comfort to continue strong. “Looser
fits will continue to thrive, as Levi’s has recently seen a resurgence in heritage fits like 505 and 501. We’re also bringing a wider range of fleece items; we continue
by Outland Denim.
Levi’s discovers and promotes authentic influencers.
Christopher Lena Shirt Co | 310.327.0050 ChristopherLena.com
IT’S TOUGH TO summarize the book, as indicated by its title, “Beyond Category.” From sharing his personal career path to profiling visionary merchants (Cliff Grodd, Wilkes Bashford, Murray Pearlstein,
Stanley Marcus, the Mitchells) to introducing us to notable creatives (Richard Gere, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Wagner, Peter Jennings, Luciano Barbera, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald), Barrato relates charming anecdotes that inform and entertain. Noting how many celebrities fail to recognize their own greatness,
Barrato observes, “As celebrated as they came to be within their industry, their greatest talents lay in their humanity and kindness.”Barrato began his career as a stock boy at Brooks Brothers while still in high school and worked there through college, learning from great merchants of that era. So naïve was he as an intern that he didn’t register the joke his colleagues were playing on him by setting up “accidental” elevator visits from a sexy female associate. Needless to say, he soon began climbing the stairs (10 flights!) rather than risk these embarrassing encounters.From Brooks Brothers, Barrato took a job as a road salesman for a trouser company, then went
to work for Ralph Lauren in 1968, a year after the company was founded. He recalls running around the city with Ralph to fabric suppliers, often without enough cash to pay the taxi drivers. He shares details on how Ralph launched the first ever department store concept shop, how he opened his first mono-brand store, how he projected trends and stirred consumer emotions like no one before him. But for all his genius, Ralph was not easy to work for. Writes Barrato, “At 28 years old, I was inexperienced running a company. It was a challenging, labor-intensive position, with crazy hours—and working for Ralph was different than being his friend. He expected your loyalty and rewarded you for your hard work but if you didn’t possess a strong work ethic, you simply did not belong there.” Ultimately, Barrato felt overwhelmed. With three young children at home, he “wanted to be Joe Barrato, not the man behind the star” so he left to open his own menswear stores on Long Island and Wall Street. “In my heart, I never truly left Polo,” he writes. “The unique brotherly connection Ralph and I shared as young industry hopefuls will remain with me always.”
As CEO and president of Brioni USA for two decades, Barrato gained confidence and recognition, traveling the world, meeting fascinating people, doing cool things like outfitting Pierce Brosnan for James Bond films. In addition to teaching fashion history and the
art of sprezzatura, Beyond Category imparts enlightened insights on food, wine, family, friendship, music and baseball. (Only Joe would become a Yankees fan because he loved the team’s pinstripes!) As Louis Armstrong once said about jazz, “If you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know…” The same might be said about style.
Beyond Category can be purchased on
Lulu.com (Joseph J. Barrato, Memoirs); Barrato
can be reached at email@example.com.
As CEO and president of
Brioni USA for two decades, Barrato gained confidence and recognition, traveling the world, meeting fascinating people, doing cool things like outfitting Pierce Brosnan
for James Bond films.
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