Menswear impresario Michael Macko and Doneger’s Tim Bess each recently pointed out changes to the men’s business this season that I found to be quite true: Bess has forecasted the return of color to menswear, and Macko says it’s all about fashion.
To Bess’s point, since the economic meltdown, not only were stores buying safer—lots of navy, gray and black—but even consumers, if they were buying at all, stuck to tried and true pieces in colors that reflected a mood of caution and propriety. I don’t hear anybody blasting Happy Days Are Here Again, through their earphones just yet, but the mood at MRket was decidedly upbeat and color was making headway across categories. Spring promises to be even brighter.
Macko’s position also proved to be true. Even staid tailored clothing companies are betting on lighter construction or technological improvements like S. Cohen’s custom print lining fabrics. As LBM’s Andrea Benedini put it, while holding a lovely but conservative navy suit, “If my customer comes to me for this and only this? He’ll be out of business next year. Yes, there is a need for it in the market, but the growth will come from fashion pieces like unconstructed jackets and hybrids.”
Another point that I found quite interesting, while speaking to Bill’s Khakis’ Bill Thomas, is a greater anticipation of seasonal needs on the part of brands. “I have the plaid flannel shirts that stores want, but who can wear them in August when fall deliveries hit the floor? We’re also offering shirts that look ‘fall,’ [in color, pattern and silhouette] but are in lighter cotton fabrics like broadcloth that are ‘wear-now.’ We have also introduced a very ‘outdoor’ lightweight Marblehead twill in bottoms.” Great for the southern tier stores, too. Thomas also says they’ve introduced more sweaters and knits this year to their lifestyle collection built around khakis.
Also on that bandwagon, yet at a different place in the market, is “Under Two Flags,” the new collection from Scott Langton. His inventive new collection has appeal for classic menswear, street and contemporary stores (Atrium, Akira, Harvey Nichols and Perlis were all name-dropped during our conversation). Langton mixes sweatshirts with hula dancer embroideries and “camouflage” prints with pineapples and palm trees that cleverly work for hot September days.