25 Hot Topics for 2015

by MR Magazine Staff

In honor of MR’s 25th anniversary year, we’ve compiled the 25 hot topics for 2015.

A Questionable Trend
1_25HotTopics_1Last season’s runways were drenched with bucket hats: Burberry, Dsquared and Canali to name a few. The cylindrical chapeau has been kicked back into action since its last notable jaunt during the “golden age of hip hop” on the heads of such icons as LL Cool J and Run DMC. Perhaps the trend will again fall back into obscurity, but the kids seem to like it, and in the interests of full disclosure, we shot a Baracuta bucket hat for our London Look fashion (page 58). It was Black Watch plaid, and it matched the Black Watch plaid shirt by Ben Sherman and Pendleton, so it was a perfect fit. But maybe it’s time to kick the bucket…

Affordable Luxury?
1_25HotTopics_2The proliferation of outlet stores is by now a fact of life. They are the key to growth for luxury department stores (Neiman’s, Saks, Nordstrom) as well as for upscale brands like Coach, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. Not only are today’s outlets highly productive, they now feature in-season, full size-range assortments of desirable fashion, a far cry from yesterday’s end-season clearance goods.

Whether or not consumers realize that most of the product in outlets is manufactured explicitly for the outlets (meaning that most of it has never seen the selling floor of the parent store) is a moot point. For some reason, shoppers still believe they’re getting a deal and like most things in life, perception becomes reality. At least for awhile.

Most Unlikely Retail Hot Spot
1_25HotTopics_3In Canada, with a total population of 35.5 million, there could soon be more retailers than consumers! The recent invasion of U.S. stores (Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, possibly Neiman Marcus) should be interesting, especially since Canadian-based stores have strengthened their defenses, raising the bar on product, presentation, e-commerce, customer service, marketing and technology. Harry Rosen, with 16 stores in eight cities including a $4 million outlet in a Toronto suburb, now boasts North America’s first sales associate who’s actually a human hologram. Holt Renfrew, with 12 stores in nine cities, has a new separate men’s store across from Rosen in Toronto. And by most accounts Hudson’s Bay (new owner of Saks and Lord & Taylor) looks stronger than ever.

So while all eyes are on the U.S.-based newcomers, we’re betting on a home court advantage: you know those Canadians!

Always in Fashion
1_25HotTopics_4We’re proud of the huge percentage of menswear companies that give back to those in need. We salute Kenneth Cole for starting it all more than 30 years ago: his Look Good, For Good company has supported many great causes while inspiring others. These include Tailor Vintage (supporting families and communities in Bangladesh), Will Leather Goods (donating filled backpacks to inner-city schools), Barbour (their warm coat drive in numerous U.S. cities distributed gently used coats, plus brand new Barbour sweaters and shirts) and the many independent stores that do so much for so many. Then there are major corporations like PVH, Macy’s and Belk that not only donate big bucks but also encourage their employees to volunteer within their communities.

Making us especially proud are the myriad organizations that make brand new clothing available to those who can’t afford it: Suited for Work, Fashion Delivers and Dignity U Wear (at left, supporting the Santa Train) are three of our favorites. Contact us for more info on these terrific charities: more than the tax write-off, they’re changing lives!

Crowd Funding
We get pitches every day from new companies touting the funds they’ve raised on crowd funding sites like Kickstarter. But does rounding up the cash make them viable?


Despite apparent success stories like Ministry of Supply ($429,276), Mizzen + Main ($54,568) and The 10-Year Hoodie ($1,053,830!), how do start-ups turn their ideas and funding into a revenue-generating business?

We think it takes more than a vision and some cash to turn an idea into a business. But the more cash, the better…. For example, after its second stint on Kickstarter (raising $204,601), Ministry of Supply raised $1.4M in convertible notes from 2012 to 2013 led by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, followed by $2.65M in 2014. All of which rolled into $4M Series-Seed equity round in 2014, giving them the ability to make and market a full range of menswear products, increasing their odds of becoming a viable brand.

For the Boys
1_25HotTopics_6In the darkest days of menswear, when bow ties were a quaint affectation and pleated khakis were workplace norms, the men’s department was typically relegated to a far-off floor. And then things started changing, slowly at first. While traditional menswear seemed to be disappearing among older men, younger guys were rediscovering it. J. Crew opened its game-changing menswear shop, the Liquor Store, in NYC in 2008. Gilt Groupe launched a separate men’s site in 2010. In Toronto this year, the luxury retailer Holt Renfrew decided to go head to head with menswear retailer Harry Rosen, opening its first all-men’s store just down the street. And then the women’s yogawear retailer Lululemon announced it was opening a shop for guys. Suddenly, opening men’s stores isn’t daring anymore; it’s just good business.

Growth in Growth
1_25HotTopics_7The men’s grooming boom fed by shaving products made taking care of one’s skin and hair masculine again. Guys who never washed their faces outside the shower are spending $20 or more on facial cleansers made and marketed specifically to them. Double-edged razors and badger brushes sit alongside a half-dozen brands of men’s shaving creams at men’s stores.

Sadly, the beard-as-fashion trend threatened the momentum of the grooming renaissance. “Your beard is killing the shaving industry” scolded one headline. But happily, the grooming industry adjusted. Beard oil, beard shampoos, conditioners and a whole new crop of trimming devices have taken up some of the slack and ensured the boom will go on.

Payment Evolution
1_25HotTopics_8Apple Pay, the streamlined payment service featured on new iPhones, made big headlines last fall, but the shift away from traditional transactions was already well underway. From Bitcoin, the internet-based currency created in 2009, to the emergence of so-called digital wallet technology, the way we buy stuff is changing fast. What’s a digital wallet? It’s a personal app-based payment system that effortlessly and instantaneously trades myriad forms of currency (from dollars to airline miles, bitcoins to euros) giving you the best up-to-the-minute rate. That’s right: airline miles have value, just like money. We’re not far from loyalty programs from big retailers evolving into a form of virtual currency that’s not tied to any government.

The Rise of Content
With websites like YouTube and Facebook topping the global traffic ranks, and blogs continuing to proliferate even as naysayers fling around vicious words like over-saturated, hack and even blogger, it seems that in many respects, content is king. Social media has enabled the world’s billions to share content across continents, and share it they do. (Just look at Kim Kardashian’s generous assets that “broke the internet” courtesy of Paper Magazine.)


Content has become a key part of a successful marketing strategy; both retailers and brands are producing content, from Mr Porter Post to Nike’s Gear Up campaign, engaging a content-driven consumer.

A Dedicated NYC Men’s Fashion Week?
1_25HotTopics_10While we Americans rarely find ourselves eating other countries’ dust, the lack of a dedicated menswear schedule has confounded the industry for years. We sat idly by as the British Fashion Council joined forces with Topman and Fashion East to create London Collections: Men, a dedicated four-day event headlined by some of the biggest brands in the industry. Erin Hawker’s New York Men’s Day was a leap in the right direction, and while it still seems odd that the CFDA wasn’t already on that, it looks like they might finally be catching up and coming to New York soon. Bravo boys; about time.

1_25HotTopics_12There’s lots of good news about social media for the men’s industry: it not only helped create a global network for #Menswear aficionados to share information and connect with each other, it also leveled the playing field for independent retailers on tight marketing budgets. But it’s changing fast. Facebook has started charging marketers to reach more fans, and if that wasn’t enough, its demographic has been skewing older as younger people abandon it for newer and shinier networks.

Increasingly cynical social media users are beginning to resent being marketed at while they interact with their friends. Smart retailers and brands play it cool, the same way they approach shoppers in stores: creating beautiful spaces with unique products that lure us in gently.

The Guy-Friendly Anti-Shopping Concept
1_25HotTopics_11While the days of mothers, wives and girlfriends dressing their men may be slowly disappearing, shopping has yet to establish itself firmly on the man’s list of pleasant weekend pastimes. It’s still eschewed as more of a chore. The anti-shopping concepts of personal stylist services like NEED, Trunk Club and StyleLab have capitalized on this with websites and apps that deliver stylish outfits right to your door. No more leg-work then, and more time left for life’s more important quandaries. Packers or Patriots?

Enough Already!
1_25HotTopics_13They might be Hot Topics, but we’re so tired of reading about: Pop-up shops (already a $50 billion industry), curated assortments (shouldn’t all assortments be curated?), cautious optimism (Why can’t we be recklessly optimistic? Or just plain optimistic?), omni-channel (virtually all retail is now omni-channel), Black Friday and Cyber Monday (for how much longer can retailers audaciously tell customers when to shop?), targeting Millennials (if everyone is targeting Millennials, the greater opportunity is likely other age brackets), bad excuses for bad business. The weather, the economy, politics, epidemics and wars are not in our control; let’s focus on things we CAN change: our mix, our marketing, our attitude!

Most Challenging Target Market


Generation Z, with an alleged attention span of eight seconds.

Recognition Technology
1_25HotTopics_15It’s fast becoming the norm in retail. These days, when customers see a look they like on friends or celebrities, they can simply snap it and instantly find a store or site that carries it (without the archaic inconvenience of scanning bar codes). Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom have all launched photo recognition applications this past year.

Lots of Great Reads…


We highly recommend the updated version (coming out this spring) of Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell, originally published 10 years ago and clearly the bible for personalized selling. We couldn’t put down Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man, a compelling book on how, as a young boy, he survived the horror of Nazi concentration camps to eventually come to Brooklyn and start a successful clothing business, and ultimately became tailor to presidents and superstars. (Greenfield was liberated from the camps by General Eisenhower and years later crafted suits for President Eisenhower!) Mark Weber’s Always in Fashion (out this month) offers down-to-earth advice on business success from the former chairman and CEO of Donna Karan Intl. And Terry Agins’ highly acclaimed Hijacking the Runway is a fun and fascinating read on how celebrities are stealing the limelight from fashion designers.

Despair not, menswear execs nearing retirement: you can always write a book!

1_25HotTopics_17Cult brand Supreme has worked on collaborative projects with an innumerable amount of notable people and brands: artist Jeff Koons, Timberland, The North Face, Oakley, Nike, Clarks, Levi’s, Comme des Garçons…the list goes on…and on. “Free agent” Nick Wooster is another who collaborates with a spectrum of brands and retailers (Birchbox, Lardini, Woolmark, United Arrows, Leffot), seemingly without getting tired. These collaborations are certainly creating demand (e.g. lines of guys waiting outside the NYC Supreme store before a new release), but at what point do collaborations (or the collaborator) become oversaturated? More importantly, what makes a good match?

(In photo, Thom Browne and Mr Porter, a recent home run!)

When Will Mobile Shopping Overtake Other Channels?
1_25HotTopics_18At present, mobile is 19 percent of all e-commerce sales and e-commerce is 8.4 percent of total sales, (up from 7.6 percent last year). But given that 80 percent of 18 to 34 year olds own smart phones that they check 150 times per day (and that they’re never more than three feet away from), it’s a safe bet that mobile shopping will accelerate. Quickly.

Transparent Menswear
1_25HotTopics_19Companies like Bonobos, Warby Parker and Everlane are trying to de-bunk the traditional retail model for consumers. Everlane’s founder Michael Preysman explained why in MR’s February issue: “We want to show our customers the supply chain so they feel confident buying from us. We post photos of each factory and give them information, so they can see how products are made, where the factory’s located, who owns it, etc.” Everlane also explains their margins and model, showing consumers how much it actually costs to make something, and how much traditional retailers are marking up products.
Good for Everlane! (Not so good for traditional retailers…)

So Few Great Ads
1_25HotTopics_20Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger campaigns are classics—still visually powerful but hardly innovative. Kenneth Cole still scores points for some clever copy lines. Countess Mara generated buzz with their recent tailgating ad, part of a series of photos (of real guys, by real guys) that’s running in The New York Times Magazine. Joe Boxer for Kmart gets points for featuring four guys in pajama bottoms with exposed beer bellies: realistic, somewhat amusing and certainly memorable.

But let’s face it: most menswear ads these days are strictly aspirational, featuring beautiful but boring-looking guys (often with facial hair, a lame attempt to appear cool) in boring-looking suits. Why so few ads with wit or humor? An image from a recent Isaia print campaign showing a baby peeing on his well-dressed young dad was actually censored by U.S. retailers for showing the infant’s private parts. (The revised version hid the offending parts.) If we can’t get beyond this puritanical nonsense, how will we ever create ads that are compelling, or at the very least, memorable? With all the talent in our industry, we can do better!

Loosen Up?
1_25HotTopics_21According to many observers, the pendulum in fashion capitals has already swung back to looser fits. Says industry analyst Steve Pruitt, “Trendsetters in Europe are not wearing skinny clothing, nor are fashion-forward stores featuring extreme cuts. Consequently, store windows showing really tight suits with narrow lapels are starting to look dated. Yet when I suggest to American retailers that it’s time to loosen up, they’re reluctant. It took them five or more years to get their male customers into fitted clothing; they’re not keen on confusing the issue just yet.”

Bigger Than Texas
1_25HotTopics_22Stag arrived on the Austin, Texas menswear scene in 2009 without too much fanfare. The industrial hunting lodge aesthetic, coupled with ruggedly masculine brands like RRL and Red Wing, sat comfortably with everyone from the Texan everyman to the more stylishly inclined southern gent. MR recognized their talent in 2012 with an Uptown Downtown Award, and now five years after they opened their doors, Stag has not one, not two, but three stores in three cities, and will open a fourth this month. We salute them.

CEO Shake-Ups
1_25HotTopics_232014 was a year of CEO churn, with half a dozen major retailers left without permanent chief executives over the summer: American Apparel ousted the controversial and creepy Dov Charney; American Eagle Outfitters CEO Robert Hanson left suddenly in January after an apparent campaign against him by the company’s old guard; Bon-Ton’s Brendan Hoffman surprised everyone by not renewing his contract; Dollar General’s spectacularly successful chief Rick Dreiling announced plans to retire; Jeff Gordman, longtime CEO of the 95-store Gordmans chain, said he’s leaving to spend time with family; JCPenney’s returning CEO Mike Ullman made it clear he’d only stay to right the ship; and Target’s Gregg Steinhafel resigned after nearly four decades with the company in a year of turmoil.

But as we begin 2015, some new leaders are settling in. In August Kathy Bufano took over at Bon-Ton and Brian Cornell joined Target; in November Marvin Ellison joined JCPenney (and will succeed Ullman at the end of this summer); Paula Schneider just joined American Apparel and Art Peck officially takes over at Gap Inc. next month.

Women on Top?
1_25HotTopics_24Although a glance at current retail rosters still sees few women in number-one positions at major stores (in addition to Kathy Bufano and Paula Schneider, there’s Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz, HSM CEO Mindy Grossman, TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz, Saks president Marigay McKee, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay president Liz Rodbell and a few others), it’s heartening to note that female execs are swelling the ranks at the next (EVP) level. Will this mean a kinder, gentler approach to the retail business any time soon? Definitely not! These women are as tough as they are savvy and we’re hoping for more like them in the very near future.

The Ultimate Revenge
1_25HotTopics_25Joseph Abboud’s continually evolving deal with Men’s Wearhouse gave him back his name, his factory, his status…and now some beautiful new stores. Abboud was named chief creative director of TMW in December 2012; six months later, TMW acquired the label from JW Child’s for $97.5 million and it’s been uphill for Abboud (and Men’s Wearhouse) ever since. As one of the true talents in menswear (who’s also the force behind HBC’s Black Brown label), Joseph Abboud is still one to watch in 2015.