Touted by all as a fabulous show, the Spring ‘23 edition of the Chicago Collective was bustling with positive energy. Even amidst worries of a recession, rising inflation, supply chain issues, worldwide tension, and politically-driven divisiveness here at home, retailers showed up from around the country, delighted to see old friends and shop new fashions.
And clearly, there was much to be excited about, including a notable move to custom, the resurgence of beautiful knitwear, gorgeous resort wear, softer less structured tailored clothing in fresh new colors and slightly roomier models, and 60+ Italian brands brought over from Italy by the Italian Trade Agency.
Here are a few collections I loved:
Peerless Clothing: Better than ever, the various Peerless offerings were modern, sophisticated, upscale, and very cool. Colors were perfect pastels, subtle not sugar-y, and lots of silvery grey. Patterns ranged from subtle classics to bold party jackets. Styling was loosened up a bit but still slim. Construction was light and soft with comfort first and foremost. “I do believe the looser styles on runways in Europe will gradually impact men’s suits here and pleats will become a viable option. I also believe it’s time to add some DB models to assortments,” predicts Peerless president Dan Orwig.
Will Leathergoods: After a five-year hiatus from the wholesale business, Will is back with its beautiful bags in great leathers and interesting indigenous fabrics. A special photographic tribute to former industry icon Billy Neville truly touched my heart; I picture him smiling from heaven to be so kindly remembered. RIP Billy; thank you Will!
John Smedley: Claiming the oldest working factory in the world, this heritage brand turns Sea Island cotton yarns into luxury tees and polos in beautiful shades of brights and pastels. Polos are $108 for $270 suggested retails; there are also more contemporary models to work with soft tailored pieces or on their own. All made in England.
Trinity Clothing: This custom clothing maker has branched out from suits and sportcoats to sportswear and outerwear pieces including a fabulous bomber jacket in pinstriped cashmere. Although they intentionally limit sales to those retailers who can work with their software, Trinity has had substantial growth with made-to-measure in the right doors.
Remy: Gorgeous outerwear made in LA. I especially loved the lambskins from Italy and a microfiber jacket with lambskin trim.
Italo Ferretti: If you’re not buying a lot of neckwear these days, focus on what’s truly special.
Federico Ferretti says they’re selling lots of formalwear, as well as special order pieces featuring monograms and other types of personalization. I loved the dark blue necktie subtly studded with Swarovski crystals. In addition to their art collection of aggressive prints, classic neckwear is back, with widths are averaging about 8 cm (three inches).
Ruth Graves believes in creating trends, rather than waiting for them to happen. Her success with neckerchiefs, introduced a few seasons back, proves that visionary retailers can make things happen by merchandising aggressively. Check out Ruth’s very creative digitally designed new prints (inspired by her recent trip to Italy) and sophisticated classics, all works of art.
Edward Armah: Retailers were lining up to buy Armah’s fashion socks ($50 suggested retail) that coordinate with his beautiful pocket squares ($95), for why not make two sales in one, especially for holiday gift-giving.When I visited the booth, both Scott Shapiro from Syd Jerome and Bruce Lisles were singing the praises of this outstanding collection.
Jack Victor: Nelson Suriel was most excited about a new unique summer fabric from Loro Piana, a lightweight blend of silk, linen and wool that they purchased early. Sportcoats in blues and greens looked exceptional, as did the double-faced jerseys, denim knits, and pique weaves. “It’s both seasonal fabrics (linen blends) and dark/dressy that are driving sales,” says Suriel. “And though prices are up about 5 percent, retailers are not complaining.”
Bugatchi: Great swimwear (in two lengths) and sportcoat alternatives in utility and field coat models ($350-$399 retail). They’ve also added new models in their exclusive 8-way stretch fabric that looked terrific, as did their linens. Says Richard Gualtieri, “The shirt jacket/pant in our special tech blend is doing terrific in both platinum and black, as are the spring suede jackets.” I loved a suede jacket ($799 retail) in light blue, so many beautiful shirts, and all the fashionably roomier pant styles. (Above photos by Karl Simone.)
DIS: Vince Gonzales was busy showing retailers how they can do a strong custom shoe business (both sneakers and dress shoes) with zero stock. “All the components and details are interchangeable,” he explains. “Delivery out of Italy is 10 days and there are no minimums; we will make one pair.” (Vince was also touting the world’s first biodegradable sneaker: I was told it doesn’t disintegrate on your feet, only in landfills…)
Ross Graison: AKA King of Party Jackets, Ross recently switched sourcing to Naples and showed two winners this season: a blue/black peak lapel model that appears to change color with the light ($275 cost), and a beautiful black crystal-studded tuxedo, $240 cost and retailing for $795.
Salvatore Martorana: Beautiful Italian luxury pieces in fresh spring colors. Lightweight double-faced outerwear as modeled here by Luciano Moresco.
Pashmere: Magnificent cashmere pieces out of Italy that I had to try on as I was freezing on the show floor. (In truth, I just wanted an excuse to try it on!) Also available via Luciano Moresco.
BARMAS: In addition to their regular weight jeans in fabulous new shades for spring ’23, Barrmas has developed a lighter-than-air 5.5 ounce denim that’s the most exciting innovation I’ve seen. Inside seams were strategically reinforced to preclude any stress damage.
ASAPRIMO: I loved these printed long and short-sleeved cashmere knits, with numerous inspirational sayings in English and Japanese. Shown by Primo Guercilena and Giovanni Vasta.
Matema: Contemporary styles, gender neutral, made in Italy. Need we say more?
Cordone 1956: Exceptional printed shirts, fatto a mano, modeled here by Luigi Cordone.
Paisley & Gray: Fun party looks, priced to go, at Paisley&Gray. Shown here by Joe Cook and Joe Freeman.
Serge Blanco: Choose from Parisian streetwear (washed linen shirts, jacquarded florals, workwear), or St Tropez resortwear (bright swimwear, sailing slickers), or the sporting looks of Toulouse (bold, bright, aggressive polos and tees with taped seams and sporting details), this ‘tres francais’ collection is worth checking out.
Tiki Napoli: With all product made in their own factory in Naples, this Italian brand is growing fast in the States. Original prints for the swimwear can also be reproduced on linen or cotton shirts in 15 colors. Best-selling swimwear has been shortened to 5.5-inch inseams—much sexier and more flattering.
Desoto: According to Jeff Lowenstein, business is growing in both the casual and luxury divisions as retailers continue to elevate their sportswear assortments, especially knits. More merchants are also embracing count and fill, managing inventory in a more productive way.
Smathers & Branson: Of course, we’ve always loved their customizable embroidered belts ($79.50 for a suggested $175 retail) but who knew about their lower-priced gift items, including key fobs ($14.50 for $32.50 retail) and can coolers, bottle openers, luggage tags and hats, all $17.50 for $39.50 retail. Display by the register for instant impulse sales.
NN07: It stands for No Nationality and is one of the coolest lines we discovered (15 years later) at the show. Based in Copenhagen, the company claims that 85-90 percent of their fabrics are sustainable, as are the tags and hardware. Production is mostly in Europe and pants are more directional relaxed models (higher waists, wider thighs, wider bottoms). I loved the sartorial workwear, the crinkled seersucker and textured linen shirts. Prices are $125-$175 on the shirts, $195-$275 on pants and $295-$475 on their special embroidered pieces.