Guest editorial: in the rearview mirror

by Holly Adam
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Back in the day, the role of men’s fashion director was fun. It involved assessing collections according to the zeitgeist of the moment and taking those torturous trips to Paris, Florence, and Milan. A few decades and a new career later, I still search for clues to determine what guys will wear each season. Here, a look back at 2020.

January and February required no crystal ball: while buyers shopped trade shows for fall ’20 inspiration, fall ’19 fashion was being marked down in the stores. Print ads for spring ’20 featured menswear that was loose and androgynous, styles few American men were ready to try. Logical? Of course not!

March brought the pandemic, or should I say PANT-demic. No need for pants in any case since Zoom meetings were waist-up affairs. Smart buyers brought in masks: fleece, cotton, flannel, denim, even luxury versions in cashmere. Some took a clue from Nancy Pelosi and coordinated masks with outfits. Edward Armah matched masks with pocket squares, in fine fabrics and upscale prints. Many manufacturers began producing PPE. But whose idea was designer toilet paper? Designer wipes and hand sanitizer? The most coveted designer name of all: Lysol!

April rolled in with a bold color SPEC-trum, thanks to TV weatherman Al Roker and his eye-catching frames from fashion optician Dom Vetro. What started as cobalt evolved into pink, orange, purple, always matching his tie.

May would bring more sweats and joggers, in lighter weights as needed. Creative merchants put together their top ten sellers and installed pop-up “Sweat Shops.” (This concept can work well into 2021 as home-offices are not disappearing…)

June-July: Typically focused on summer weddings, proms, and graduations, retailers this year had a tough time selling tailored clothing. Still, merchants who shouted about suits did okay, especially at prices that competed well with rentals. But with last summer’s weddings postponed until fall, and then again to summer ‘21, the long-anticipated suit resurgence is yet to happen…

August-September: There’s nothing more beautiful than fall menswear: handcrafted Italian sportcoats in lofty wools or tweeds, luxe cashmere sweaters, rich corduroy five-pockets, soft sumptuous scarves. But why load up on expensive heavyweight garments when it’s still so hot and there’s nowhere to go? Trunk shows helped a little but not enough.

It’s October, and outdoor dining refuses to die. Quilted vests, multi-purpose outerwear with knit inserts, nice sweatshirts, knit accessories–these are the new essentials for safe socializing.

November-December: Store mannequins were decked out in sportshirts, quarter zips, PJ bottoms, and slippers, but even so, much business moved online. Smart retailers turned to gift items like cocktail shakers, bar accessories, grooming products, candles. And of course, masks, holiday’s new ugly sweater. Although most retailers found themselves working twice as hard for half as much, good cheer (and gift cards!) kept everyone optimistic.

On a personal note: I’m delighted that 2020 is in the rearview mirror. May we all start the year with the passion, hope, and agility required to soldier on. Dig deep for the creativity that brought you into this special, crazy, gratifying business in the first place. Celebrate what’s new and embrace it. You’ve got this!

Holly Adam was formerly the men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s, launched her own luxury retail shop in Greenwich, CT, and now runs a catering business in Stamford, CT. 

11 Replies to “GUEST EDITORIAL: IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR”

  1. You nailed it again, Holly. Thanks for this lighthearted but serious look at that memorable but forgettable year.

    1. Holly, you haven’t lost your pulse on the business that we grew up in! Well written piece and spot on!
      Much love,
      Eddie Rodriguez

  2. This lady was never given the position nor support to fully utilise her undoubted ability and knowledge. Holly has forgotten more about men’s fashion than many of the ‘bright young things’ who ‘talk the talk’ however seldom are prepared to walk the walk long enough for their opinions to actually be relevant. Class is permanent. MTG

    1. MTG, you make my heart sing!
      We shall meet on ACK summer 2021 and “raise one!”
      Merry Merry from HoHoHolly to you and yours :) xxx

  3. Great insights Holly: agility and creativity will certainly help get retailers through this tough first quarter. Let’s not be afraid to take a few risks!

  4. Holly, we have never met, but you hit the nail on the head. One thing we know about our business is that is ever changing. I remember when casual friday started, now we have every day loungewear. Maybe one day we will meet and talk about the business we both love

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