Inspiration from the January MRket show

Despite a less than fabulous fourth quarter, retailers were upbeat and happy to be back in frigid Manhattan for the January MRket show at the Javits. The only drawback: thanks to flu season, hugs and kisses were few and far between and even handshakes were in short supply as germ-phobic retailers greeted each other by tapping elbows. (Personally, I miss the hugs and would rather risk illness than tap elbows…)

What follows: a few of the people, places and things that inspired me at the show:

Singing in the Rain: Who knew there are 200+ pieces of fiberglass ribs making up the skeleton of an umbrella? In fact, who knew much about umbrellas at all, except that they keep us dry when it’s raining? According to Ira Weinstein of ShedRain, the fall collection is booking exceptionally well, everything from classic upscale models ($65 retail) to several special groupings. These include the jumbo executive at $48 cost; lightweights to retail for $50 (complete with a free silicon counter unit that holds 12 umbrellas), and the magnificent Ombrelli collection ($95-$225) featuring hand-tooled chestnut handles.

Singing down the slopes: According to Herb Spiegel at Randa, the secret to happiness is singing as you ski down the slopes. And at age 84, Herb is still skiing and singing and selling away. He’s recently back from Antarctica where he sang to the penguins (“We should have as many customers as they have penguins…”) And whether or not you’re a customer, check out Randa’s new showroom at 417 Fifth: it’s truly awesome!

Savile Row Style: At Chester Barrie, Chris Scott-Gray and his fashion forward cohort Christopher Modoo have figured out how to make six inch drop clothing that looks like eight inch drop clothing Gorgeous suits in luxury fabrics in the $1,300 to $1,900 retail range. Very strong in Europe, it’s new to the States and sure to be a winner! As said by the sages: Think Yiddish, Dress British!

LBM 1911: And if you’re not dressing British, you’re probably wearing Italian and is there a better Italian clothing collection than Luigi Bianchi Mantova, the people who virtually created the softcoat craze? Clearly, they remain the style setters, and at some unbeatable pricepoints.

Left Coast Tee: In addition to their soft and sumptuous basic knits, we love the new lightweight pima cotton quarter-zips at $115 suggested retails (65 points). Confides Left Coast Tee co-founder Steve Sockolov, “We’re just three years old and in a couple hundred doors; I feel like we’re finally over the hump!”

Ben Walker: We really love what James Benton has created with Ben Walker outerwear: no-nonsense looks that are modern, clean and rugged with lots of understated style. Affordable fashion for real men: coats wholesale from $120 to $320, sweaters from $78 to $118.

Gemelli: We also love what Farhad Heidari and Steven Hill have done with the Gemelli collection (“Functional Luxury for the New Urban Guy”). What was originally a shirt line has evolved into a beautiful full collection featuring fine quality shirts ($80-$85 cost for a $175 suggested retail) and gorgeous denim-friendly softcoats ($295 cost for a suggested $695 retail). Check them out at

Natsun America: Amazing value here! Paul Betenly sportcoats in Italian fabrics at $62.50-$70. Loved a velvet jacket discreetly printed with skulls ($179 cost, picked up by Eltons of course!) and a printed velvet shawl collar tux ($169). Also some beautiful washed corduroys ($119 cost for $295 suggested retails). Design director Sal Giardina talks about their proprietary three-piece chest and shoulder but I’m more about the fabrics, how they’ve managed to create such lightweight versions of classics like Harris Tweed. For better stores, the upscale Owen Miller collection ($285-$299 cost for handmade construction and the best piece goods) is a true find!

Codis Maya: Very special cufflinks, hand-made in England. $150 retail for rhodium/glass enamel; $350 for sterling.

It’s a wrap! For fabulous scarves: Chelsey Imports has some gorgeous menswear offerings between $34 and $70 cost. Ask for Teresa: she knows her stuff.

Coming Up Roses: Last but not least, the fabulous Nikky lifestyle collection, owned by Rocky Zhou of Toronto and Shanghai and managed by Ali Khatami. This upscale collection (now in its second season) features extensive handwork and a sophisticated sense of color and design. Because the company is vertical, prices are surprisingly reasonable: updated sportcoats at $295 cost; handmade shirts $68.50 to $78.50; suits starting at $335 in gorgeous upscale fabrics (there’s also a definitive MTM program.) What could be better? A menswear-inspired women’s collection (soft, sexy shapes; menswear fabrics) launching for spring 2014!

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