Menswear rocks (and rolls) in Cleveland

Kilgore Trout

We know it’s not Manhattan or LA but you will not find 10,000 sq. ft. of more beautifully merchandised luxury menswear anywhere in the country! In fact, shopkeeper Wally Naymon gets a bit peeved when his out-of-town customers comment that they never expected to find such sophisticated menswear in Cleveland! “Why not?” Naymon wonders. “We’re a world class city; why shouldn’t we feature the best of the best?”

Wally Naymon, his wife Andrea and their daughter Betsy

And the menswear mix at Kilgore Trout (only Naymon would name a store after a Kurt Vonnegut character) is clearly just that: Zegna, Canali, Coppley, Samuelsohn, Eton, Etro, Robert Talbott, Rag & Bone, PRPS, Sand, Gimos, Moncler, Allegri, Agave and Gardeur are just a few of the great brands that Kilgore merchandises with notable flair.

What’s hot at the moment? Naymon mentions sportcoats (both unconstructed and more traditional), slimmer suits, casual trousers, denim and cashmere. Also doing well: accessories and footwear, especially boots and hybrid-type shoes with colorful soles and laces. Top footwear lines include Pliner, Gravati and Magnanni.

Women’s apparel is currently 20 percent of total volume with an immediate goal of 30 percent. (Editors note: I couldn’t resist purchasing bronze-tone stretch jeans and a sexy top in Kilgore’s women’s department: the sales associates were wonderful, convincing me not to worry about “age-appropriate…”)

J3 Clothing Company

The new kid in town, J3 was opened about a year ago (September, 2011) by three J’s: Joe Paster, JB Dunn and Jack Madda, all retail veterans. At 3,800 sq. ft., the store (decorated at the time of our visit with a very cool $70,000 bike and lots of reclaimed wood) has much personality and offers a nice mix of menswear targeting guys from 25 to 65. “We wanted to offer a broad range of prices and styles,” says Dunn. “You’ll find shirts from $99-$495, suits from Hickey Freeman to Emporio Armani.”

JB Dunn and Joe Paster

“We wanted everyone who walks through the door to find something to buy,” says Paster. Adds Madda (who was recovering from a knee replacement so we missed him at the store), “We tried to create a warm easy shopping experience and I think that’s what we did. We carry many exclusive boutique vendors and artisan collections that you can’t find everywhere else.”

Key categories include outerwear (we caught the tail end of their Barbour trunk show) and jeans (they’re housed in the back, so customers need to walk through the rest of the store to get there.) Key brands include Citizens, MAC, Stitches, 3×1, Naked&Famous, Relwen, LBM, Zimberg, Maker, Woolrich, Zachary Prell, Cucinelli, Tombolini, and Armani. Tailored clothing is 30 percent of the mix, half of which is made to measure.

Cuffs, Chagrin Falls

It’s a family affair at Cuffs these days, with Rodger, Patty, Zach, and Cameron Kowall all involved in the business.

Rodger Kowall and his son Zach Kowall

The first thing one notices when stepping into this historic (1873) landmark brick building is the delicious smell, a combination of falling leaves, the wood remains in the fireplace and the Santa Maria Novella products that Cuffs was first to bring to the States from Italy many years ago. In fact, Rodger Kowall was first to discover many great European brands well before they were repped in the States. His vendor list features Hermes (theirs is the first Hermes boutique ever opened in the States), Arnys, Kiton, Belvest, Avon Celli, Inis Meain, Loro Piana, Southwick, Polo and other iconic names. It’s luxury for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Kowall himself not only appreciates these things but features them in his store. There are wine tastings (the building has a 22-inch thick stone walled wine cellar built into the Chagrin River), various receptions, home cooked dinners by some of his top Italian designers, and regular artist workshops. Fine wine and beautiful paintings by local artists are always for sale in the store.

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