He started out in menswear as a retail sales associate in 1964. “I was hired to sell other high school kids Levi’s and Farah pants,” John McCoy recalls. “Which is what I believe independent merchants should still be doing! Hire young people with brains who love fashion (yes they exist) and pay them well. It could make just the difference stores need.”
Today, McCoy is one of the most well-respected menswear agents in the business, always managing to grab the hottest and coolest collections from around the globe. Here, we sit with him to view his newest finds, and talk about the future for upscale menswear merchants.
“Menswear needs to be revolutionized,” he maintains. “The spending habits of millennials are totally different than previous generations, as is the technology available to them. Retailers need to hold on to their existing customer base and also capture this next generation. They can’t continue doing business as usual or they’ll be out of business.”
Unlike many industry insiders who rant and rave about the deteriorating state of business, McCoy actually offers some viable solutions. “They don’t have to throw everything out and start over,” he maintains. “Much of what they’re doing makes sense, but is now adversely affected by too much product in the pipeline. I think by spring ‘17, inventory build-up will level off and stores won’t have to promote as much. Clearly, department stores have to close a lot of doors and reinvent themselves and while they’re doing this, specialty stores have a great opportunity to stand out. Concentrate on exciting new brands (ones that are young, fun, creative, and preferably not selling direct to consumers) and create a true in-store experience.”
According to McCoy, most of the brands he reps can do just that. Among my favorites: Baldessarini (a well-priced, fashion-right designer collection with controlled distribution), Mauro Blasi (a top of the line clothing atelier out of Naples; suits wholesale at $1400 for a $5000 suggested retail), Gran Sasso knits (looking better than ever, especially the lightweight spring collection in gorgeous colors), Masons (the pant company that started the whole garment-dyed, garment-washed trend; $90-$105 cost), Porto (fabulous half canvas clothing out of Portugal, $275 cost for $795-$895 suggested retails), fresh-looking printed and washed shirts from Xacus ($105 cost for $295 suggested retail) and cool casual Italian footwear from Andrea Zori in beautiful leathers and suedes.
“As much as the fashion world is changing,” concludes McCoy, “dressing is still about sex and sex is not disappearing so I think we’ll be okay.”