by Karen Alberg Grossman

By all accounts, it was a fabulous Chicago Collective last week: high energy, beautiful product, happy reunions with friends and colleagues. Both buyers and sellers expressed much optimism about fall ‘22 business, elevated by healthy 4th quarter sales and exceptional fall fashion. Worries about inventory shortages, enduring supply chain issues, rising prices, staffing problems, online competition, widespread inflation and meeting last year’s strong second half were placed on the back burner as hugs, laughter and order-writing filled the aisles. Important note: the show was Covid Careful: masks were removed only for photos and dining; vaccination cards were mandatory in the dining area.

What follows, a small sampling of hot fall ‘22 trends as seen at the Chicago show. As might be expected, the huge showing of Italian brands was a gift to better specialty merchants who are aggressively pursuing made-in-Italy product. As Ellen Levy of Levys in Nashville noted, “It was great to have the Italian brands at the show: Corneliani, Fly 3, Gimos, Teleria Zed, Waterville, Fradi, Pal Zileri, Gran Sasso and more. Other highlights for me were Lords of Harlech, Blue Industry, Anderson Belts and Richard Choi.”

Says Jose Bolado of J. Bolado in Miami, “It was a terrific show with so many fresh ideas. I loved the dip-dyed Italian jeans from Teleria Zed and I’m considering the wedding package from Munro.”

Field Jackets, Barn Jackets, Chore Coats, galore! So many overshirts are now part of so many collections that the category is widely touted as the hottest, must-have menswear trend for fall ‘22. While there were many great-looking models at all pricepoints, some variations look very much like simple shirts, which has me wondering if customers will see the value in totally unstructured garments at super luxury prices? We suggest buying selectively: if priced in the luxury realm, the fabrics/styling/details should warrant the high ticket. Among our favorites: great shirtjac looks from TailoRed at Peerless and Liverpool jeans. And out of Italy, Barmas clothing modeled below by Massimo Chiapponi and Roberto Lamastra, available at John McCoy.

Knit one, sell multiples! Luxury knitwear is more important than ever, evolving from classic quarter-zips, V’s and crews to vintage-inspired cardigans, interesting reversibles, shawl collars and (big comeback) turtlenecks! Great sweaters were shown at Pashmere (I couldn’t resist a try-on: such luxury!), Raffi, Hagen, Barakett and Trumbull Rhodes.  Sid Stumacher showed fabulous Fly 3 seamless reversible knits (wholesales $162-$245) to John Massara of Projex214 in Syracuse, who selected the craziest colors. More great knitwear at Fioroni (three and four-ply cashmere in neutral tones) and Gallia Knit Project (colorful knits in lime, orange, and purple to break from the crowd!) Both at Angela Libani.

Trumbull Rhodes
Fly 3
Jeff Block at Barakett

Statement Outerwear:  Bold statement topcoats are a definite fall must-have! So much great stuff at the show, including Schneiders, Blue Industry, Salvatore Martorana, and Ravazzolo. With a little help from Martin Bradshaw, Ravazzolo has evolved from a gentleman’s luxury label to a more contemporary luxury collection. Exceptional for fall: outerwear featuring sumptuous leathers, suedes, washed goat, pure cashmere, removeable goose down liners, much of it reversible. Key items are available via custom special orders.

Statement topcoat from Schneiders USA

Tailored Clothing: Brian Trybus and Larry Drew at Diversified Apparel were doing well with their “ultra-motion” suit with stretch gusset targeted to young guys (no pleats): $150 cost often retailing for $500. Their in-stock program features 48 sizes and 48-hour shipping.

Brian Trybus and Larry Drew from Diversified

Byron also stands out for its exceptional in-stock program. And here, retailers can download an app (and share it with their customers; no prices are mentioned) to see exactly what styles are available in which sizes. The app features beautiful photos of both the clothing (in Carlo Barbera fabrics) and outerwear. Retailers love the high margins (a pure cashmere sportcoat at $500 cost is retailing for $1500) and the ability to exchange slow sellers. Customer service to the max!

More important than ever, say better specialty store merchants who have learned to do more with less: MTM clothing. Fall ‘22 fabrics are magnificent. Some textile makers like Scabal are starting to offer finished product as well as fabric.

Michael Phillips is the US Sales For Scabal apparel and Craig Wertheim is head of Scabal in US

Finishing Touches: Despite a decline in tie sales that started well before the pandemic, American men are finally learning that finishing touches matter. As always, Ruth Graves and Edward Armah showed fabulous neckwear (ties and bowties are still apropos for weddings), pocket squares, scarves and neckerchiefs (a hot item this season, perhaps to double as masks) that are virtual works of art.

Ruth Graves with Carl Sterr and Devin Doon from Carl Sterr by Design, Birmingham, Michigan.
Edward Armah

Collar Tricks: While it might not be earthshattering news, the old problem of droopy shirt collars has been solved by at least two companies. Jim Sweeney and Jim Bourg at Cooper & Stewart have added a removeable placket stay under the first shirt button. The placket stay (similar to a collar stay) can be inserted into the shirt placket to preclude drooping in their popular non-iron cotton shirts ($35-$45 wholesale). They also report renewed interest in their blended shirts ($20-$30 cost), now 58% cotton, 38% poly, 4% spandex.

Jim Sweeney and Jim Bourg

At Marcello, Darren Apel (in photo with Jeff Glickman) has discovered a different way of supporting the collar in Marcello’s popular one-piece roll collar shirts. By lengthening the collar lining to extend past the first button, the collar cannot flop downward. “Retailers are buying and reordering these shirts at $60 cost for $175 retail, 100 percent cotton, custom buttons, solids and patterns. It’s all in the fusing but it’s really tough to make; very few factories can manage it.”

Collection Finds:

Digel, out of Germany, is a modern family-owned menswear company offering suits, sportscoats, knitwear, outerwear, footwear and seasonal separates. Hans Digel (son of the founder) recently retired; general manager Heiko Arend represented the brand at the show, noting that the company does its own production just south of Stuttgart. Field jackets and overshirts in cashmere and corduroy look exceptional, as do cable knit cashmere sweaters and single pleat trousers with a slim ankle.

What can one say about Polo, Ralph Lauren’s legendary brand that has stayed true to its roots over the decades. Recommitting itself to better specialty stores (with a heritage label distinct from department stores), the Polo team explained that they’re focused on growing business in both independent specialty and RL stores in the top 20 U.S. cities. While some specialty merchants question the sudden courtship, the fall ’22 Polo collection looks truly terrific!

Chervo: It’s an upscale resort collection, best known for men’s and women’s golf and ski wear. While a bit pricier than some activewear brands, the styling, quality and fashion factor are exceptional, just perfect for better specialty and resort stores.  

Chervo’s managing partner Layne Dempsey and David Schuster of Drest Agency, who is repping the collection.
David with MR’s Karen Alberg Grossman modeling Chervo’s easy-care, heat-retaining, lightweight vest

04651—The numeric nomenclature is actually the zip code of Sylt, a remote island in the North Sea and an exclusive vacation spot for affluent Europeans. What the designer Matthias Garske (with 20 years of experience as both a retail buyer and designer) has created here is a weekend wardrobe in a bag, a sophisticated selection of essentials including seamless boiled wool sweaters ($121 cost), hoodies, joggers, linen shirts, perfect polos and turtlenecks. Product is crafted in Italy and Portugal; buttons are made of mother-of-pearl from Sylt oysters. It’s all about effortless elegance to be packed up in a single carry-all. Let’s start packing!

Brand manager Matthias Garske with Fly 3’s Tommaso Bilancioni. Turtlenecks never looked so good!