MENSWEAR 2023: THE TRENDS,BRANDS, AND PEOPLE YOU NEED TO KNOW

by MR Magazine Staff

If you haven’t already gotten your copy of MR Magazine’s January 2023 issue, never fear! We’ll be posting every article right here on MR-mag.com over the next week or so. You’ll also be able to pick up a copy at most of the menswear trade shows coming up in January, but be sure that we have your name on our mailing list for future issues by completing the form at the link here.


The beginning of the year is always a good time to look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. Here’s our list of the people, things, and trends to watch for 2023.

The Economy: Money, Money, Money!

To misquote election strategist James Carville, the most important thing we see impacting 2023 is “the economy, stupid.” Last June we saw the highest inflation since 1982, yet consumers —said to still have $1.5 trillion socked away as a result of pandemic stimulus programs — are (at mid-December press time) shopping their holiday hearts out. Prices at the pumps are coming down, but those savings are being eaten up in the produce aisle. Although many are anticipating out-of-control fuel bills once winter really hits, the National Retail Federation scoffs at the idea of a recession, citing nearly 3 percent growth in GDP in the third quarter. Still, CEOs are wary, nodding to the Fed raising interest rates, ongoing inflation, and geopolitical concerns. Our thoughts? Sharpen those pencils, pay off debt where possible, be sure to keep some money stashed in savings…and maybe it’s time to start some seeds for that victory garden you’ll want to start in the backyard come spring.


Paulette Garafalo

Paul Stuart: Mad Men

The store practically defined mid-century Madison Avenue style with a touch of international sophistication and Hollywood glamor. Under its current leadership — Executive Chair Paulette Garofolo, President and CEO Trevor Shimpfky, and Creative Director Ralph Auriemma — it’s poised to set the standard for a whole new generation in the C-Suite: After all, the flagship is close to Grand Central Station for a reason. Now owned by Japanese company Mitsui, the brand has maintained a focus on quality since 1938, adroitly launching Phineas Cole to target a younger customer in 2007. Upon assuming the CEO role in 2022, Shimpfky said, “My support of our Creative Director and his unyielding pursuit of product pre-eminence while staying focused on our digital transformation will be my primary goal as I begin my tenure as CEO and President.”


The New Prep: “Look Muffy, A Trend For Us.”

With its roots firmly planted in the post-World War II Ivy League, “preppy” style has always had moments in the limelight, without ever quite going completely out of fashion, really functioning as the backbone of an international menswear aesthetic. It’s been sampled and remixed, finding its way everywhere from grunge to streetwear, even crossing into country and western designs and dandyism. It’s taken on an everyman aesthetic without losing any of its elitist overtones. While “The Preppy Handbook” seems more like an artifact, 1965’s Japanese “Take Ivy” and 2022’s “Black Ivy” are required tomes in any fashionisto’s library. The robust return of Brooks Brothers and J. Crew signal its renewed importance for 2023 and beyond.


Aime Leon Dore: The Next Great American Designer For Men?

Take a look at this brand’s latest lookbook, and one would assume that it’s an American heritage luxury brand, akin to Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger (whose first ad campaign we referenced in this title), yet Aimé Leon Dore is still often described as a streetwear brand. With founder Teddy Santis at the helm, the company debuted in 2014, slowly building its reputation through collaborations with New Balance, Porsche, and Woolrich. A year ago LVMH came calling, and the cult brand is now poised for a breakout moment, opening a London location last June, and closing its Mulberry Street store (with a pop-up nearby to feed the machine) for renovations.


Michael Bastian, Creative Director, Brooks Brothers: The Brother From Another Mother

He took on this role in December 2020, a few months after Authentic Brands Group and Simon Properties brought Brooks Brothers out of bankruptcy for a bargain $325 million. And who better to modernize this longtime outfitter of prep that, for more than two centuries, has helped define American Style?

Throughout his design career, Bastian has been the poster boy of Modern Prep, occasionally infusing it with an upbeat streetwear sensibility. (In a recent Facebook post, Michael posts a photo of himself wearing a plaid button-down collar shirt under a navy crewneck sweater, with the caption “Still wearing the same stuff I wore in high school and college (but now, thankfully, with a better haircut.)”

The designer explains Brooks Brothers’ healthy sales gains in recent seasons: “A huge win for us these past two years is sportswear overtaking tailored clothing/dress furnishings in sales volume. Now that people don’t have to wear suits to work, our success in elevated sportswear has really driven sales. Our customers are buying upscale sportswear, mixing it with tailored pieces, and wearing it for both work and weekends.” Bastian is most proud of “surviving in this unplanned career” (after studying business, he landed the men’s fashion director spot at Bergdorf ’s) and of remaining stylistically relevant. “Change in menswear is slow,” Bastian acknowledges. “I’ve learned you must remain true to yourself: you can’t give up your identity to chase a trend. But inevitably, trends come back: none of the ideas we see now are new to us; they’re all in a Brooks Brothers catalog somewhere in the past 200 years. But the wheels turn slowly in men’s so ironically, your least advanced customers and your most advanced customers are sometimes buying the exact same things.”


Estelle Babenzien, Brendon Babenzien

J. Crew: Brendon Babenzien Updating The Classics

Named creative director in May of 2021, Supreme alum and Noah co-founder Brendon Babenzien’s first Spring collection, for 2022, was an immediate success with an updated preppy look that hit the sweet spot between classic and trendy. The designer offered updated fits (the brand had been criticized for going too slim) and a selection that appealed to stalwart customers and new Millenial and Gen Z fans alike.

The online edit would make Lisa Birnbach (“The Official Preppy Handbook”) proud with its mix of stories about skiing, a Beams Plus collaboration, and Long Island’s North Fork Polar Bears Club. While we’ll see how things play out for fourth quarter, early indicators show the brand doing well for Fall 2022.


Zegna: The Luxury Leader

Alessandro Sartori began his career at the 113-year-old house of Zegna, but when he returned in 2017 after five years at Berluti, he took the brand in a fresh stylistic direction. Never aban- doning the company’s roots in luxury and tailored clothing, Sartori has offered a renewed take on what dressing means for modern men. With the purchase of high-end fabric makers, Zegna itself is poised to move from first class to private jet luxury level, and — along with its ownership of Thom Browne and the license of Tom Ford menswear and footwear — with Sartori at the helm, we expect the brand to occupy a new primacy at the top of the menswear pyramid.


So.Ty And Sovereignty: The Future Is Now

Menswear brand SO.TY is out to redefine and disrupt the apparel industry as we know it. Dr. Corneil [Neil] Montgomery founded the brand — with Charles Harbiston as its Chief Fashion Director — as the fashion arm of Sovereignty Company, a sustainable circular social enterprise and nonprofit that empowers fashion entrepreneurs of color to collectively solve climate change and inclusion challenges. The collection is about eco-responsibility, gender affirmation, size inclusivity, and race and class equity to infuse thoughtfulness into the business of luxury goods. And isn’t that what we should all be about?


Generation Z: The F-Around And Find Out Generation

As a society, we’ve progressed through the generational stages of grief from the denial of Boomers, the depression of Millennials, and have now arrived at the acceptance of Gen Z. A generation that takes little for granted about the future, they are just now coming into their power at the ballot box and at the retail counter. As a collective, they’ve left behind myopic views on shopping, armed themselves with the collective knowledge of TikTok, and adopted purchasing habits that consider sustainability, inclusivity, cultural awareness, and authenticity. For brands, the greatest struggle they face to reach this group will be overcoming their awareness of the manipulation tactics of traditional marketing and getting through to them with the most elusive of advertising trends: honesty. — Brett Edward Stout


Will Welch, GQ: Millenium Man

With the post-‘me too’ culture demanding that men change, Will Welch faced some tough challenges taking over the Editor in Chief spot at GQ magazine. Knowing that the magazine could no longer rest on its laurels, shooting fancy designer suits and hoping that readers would keep reading and subscribing, Welch has been forging a whole new path.

“We’re not dictating a particular style to our readers,” he recently told The New
York Times. “Instead, we’re going to show different forms of self-expression, almost a mood board, and let you find yourself in it. GQ is no longer about giving style tips and sex advice…”

But since GQ is still a fashion magazine, and since men still need styling direction (and sex advice!), perhaps today more than ever, it remains to be seen how well this strategy will work for GQ. We wish them much luck!


Ralph Lauren’s Fortnite wardrobe.

The Metaverse: Ready Shopper One

Remember back in 1995 or so when you couldn’t open your mailbox without floppy discs or CDs from AOL spilling out? When was the last time you checked your MySpace page? The internet has taken charge of the world as we know it, particularly as routed through our laptops and smartphones, demanding most of our waking hours for everything from instantaneous global communication to banking and finance to Pokeman GO (Gotcha!). Get ready for Web3, a decentralized experience that promises yet another revolution in the way we shop, entertain ourselves, and interact with each other. While many of us don’t yet have a solid grasp on what it is, brands from Bloomingdale’s to Vogue to Gucci are already experimenting with the platform.


Bruce Schedler, Chicago Collective: Trade Show King

Time was that a buyer could get most of a season’s work done at either the wide-ranging New York market or the massive Las Vegas events. That said, the Chicago Collective, under the steadfast direction of Vice President Bruce Schedler, has created an event with a friendly but exciting vibe that keeps the focus on leaving paper. Last August’s show featured a large Italian Trade Agency presence, prompting at least one attendee to pronounce the Chicago Collective “The Pitti Uomo of the U.S.A.” 


John Bartlett: Designer, Educator, Animal Rights Activist, Meditation Teacher, Podcast Host…

There are a few people in our industry who were intent on doing good before doing good became fashionable. Designer and industry activist John Bartlett is by all accounts one of those few. Among his favorite quotes: “Leap and the net will appear” and “The quieter you become, the more you will hear…”

He’s earned a BA from Harvard and an AA in men’s fashion from FIT. Industry awards include Best New Fashion Designer from CFDA and Designer of the Year from AFAA. In addition to launching his namesake brand in the 1990s, he’s been design director for Ghurka, Liz Claiborne, and Byblos. He was a voice for vegan fashion before it became trendy and always a passionate animal care activist.

At Marist College, his current job has been to elevate the design and merchandising programs, incorporating digital and summer interning opportunities for the students. He also just launched a gender-neutral line of accessories, bags, and totes, created by women in recovery (unshattered.org) with a goal to provide pathways toward sustained sobriety and economic independence. A percentage of sales will also go to animal rescue programs.

“Everything in life is so connected,” Bartlett observes, describing some of his other projects and passions. These include a dive into next-generation materials, inclusion work on gender roles and body positivity, course development re: Fashion & Social Justice, certification to teach yoga and meditation, and, after losing the love of his life six years ago, meeting his new soulmate, a lovely man from Vermont who happens to be a great vegan cook!


Image at top: Behnam Norouzi.

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