Despite last week’s snow and sleet and frigid temperatures (and the typical retailer complaints about having to schlep all over town), NYC was buzzing with gorgeous men’s fashion. As Fred Derring pointed out at his jammed-to-capacity meeting at the MRket show, “There’s more beautiful product out there than ever before. It’s time to forget everything you’ve been doing and re-invent your entire store!!”
With too many personal favorites to list here, I’m citing (in two parts) only a random sampling of companies with something truly new to offer or with product that’s special enough to create some buzz. (That said, if upscale menswear stores shop only two collections for fall ’11, be sure to see Hickey Freeman and Samuelsohn, both perfect blends of gorgeous clothing and luxury sportswear, both perfect 10s!)
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Karen’s Baker’s Dozen, Part One:
1. Southern Tide: First they reinvented the basic polo with a little stretch and a brushed inside fabric for softness, then they expanded their collection to an entire preppy wardrobe (the stuff guys actually wear!) They received a DLS Customer Service Award this year but better yet, rather than undermine their accounts by selling direct to consumers, they decided to credit their closest retail account whenever someone orders direct from their website. How terrific is that!
2. AndrewJ: They stock 15,000 care-free shirts at any given time and they’ve greatly expanded offerings in trim-fit styles. These magical shirts repel red wine and ketchup, are available in neck/sleeve sizes and S-M-L-XL, and cost $36 for a suggested $95 retail. What’s more, retailers get a prop—a wine glass with red wine spill–to use for display purposes in-store. According to Ted Silver at Weiss & Goldring, customers comment more on this display prop than just about anything else in the store. And then they buy the shirts!
3. Touch: This great shirt line from Chris Blowers and Paul Rego started out as a custom collection but most stores are now buying it ready-made. In addition to great product (most retailers are buying in pairs, reversing the body and trim fabrics for a stronger fashion statement), the company offers strong marketing materials that can be digitally adjusted for websites, email blasts and postcards. (Average cost on the shirts: $55-$65.)
4. Royal Highnies: Only five years old with limited distribution, this is a great line to offer your customers underwear that’s upscale and exclusive. The fabric (400 count pima cotton) is to die for; suggested retail is $78 for a bag of two. In photo, Allison Moore shows off a special sequin piece made for a Stanley Korshak charity fashion show.
5. Mine: Some great wovens averaging $100 retail plus a new super-soft flannel fabric at $59.50 for $159 suggested retail. In photo: Don Wechsler with a washed oxford shirt trimmed with regimental tie fabric. I also loved the paisley overprints and the new knits at a price: mercerized wool-blend sweaters, $27.50 cost for a $69 suggested retail.
7. John G. Hardy at Gladson: I loved the 8 cm “regimentals on steroids,” $34.50 cost (young guys will wear them as sportswear) and the super elegant neckwear in suiting fabrics (my pick: 85% worsted spun cashmere/15% silk; $45 cost for $150 suggested retail.) Other great items: Maslov cufflinks that feature any PDF image you send them (your wife, your girlfriend, your pet), $80 cost, two week delivery. Also Roger Ximenez custom belts, $65 cost: customer selects their own strap, buckle, stitching, name is embossed inside the belt. And my favorite: Gladson luxury suiting fabrics made into carry-on bags, a gorgeous gift item ($320 cost) that can be personalized with customer name or store name.
8. Antonio Valente: (in photo: Joe Valente and Ross Hendin) Some great items here including sportcoats with custom buttons, a wonderful raw-edged shirt, many double-faced fabrics, and a shirt with stripes that are actually tiny zippers! Also check out their cool motorcycle pant with the look of padded knees. Note: the company hangs their in-stock shirts without collars and cuffs so retailers can customize as needed.
9. Butterfly Bowties: Love the pocket “rounds,” a new take on pocket squares. (For spring, try them in linen with color trim: $22 for $55 retail). Also for spring, I love the seersucker ties and bowties ($45 for the four in hand, $38 for the bows) and the baby cord ties at $45. Then for fall ’11, check out their sumptuous cashmere ties at $74 cost. All handmade in the USA; Edward is the master!
11. Betenly: In addition to their famous high-margin in-stock suits (7 inch drop is the way to go here), new items include beautiful softcoats ($139 for wool/cashmere/silk, $239 for cashmere), fashion vests (some with leather trim) at $79-$85 cost for a suggested retail of $225 and some gorgeous coats in wool or cashmere, booking well in both SB and DB models. (In photo with camel coat, owner David Abril.)
12. Thomas Dean: New here is their made in Italy collection (Brown Label) featuring sportcoats and trousers (Loro Piana fabrics) beautiful sweaters (Zegna Barufa yarns), shirts, knits and some killer shoes! Also at Thomas Dean, the Lochlane collection of preppier styles including cotton/cashmere sweaters, reversible down jackets and five pocket pants. (Watch out J. Crew!)