The mood was surprisingly upbeat last week in NYC as retailers came from across the country to escape the cable news channels and shop men’s fashion for fall 2020.
Sustainability was the most frequently repeated buzzword, although what that means is a matter of opinion. At Brax, we loved the definition Rene Christopher appropriated from one of his retail accounts: “Sustainability is when the stuff I buy from you sells so well that I make enough money to sustain my family!” But in fact, virtually every collection we saw at every trade show featured product made from “post-industrial” materials, recycled water bottles or organic fibers, using “re-purposed” hangtags and packaging. (Of course, to truly save the planet, shouldn’t we just stop making clothes, a trend confirmed by the growth in rental and re-sale shops.)
In addition to sustainability, specialty store retailers were looking for unique items and extra margin; fortunately, there was plenty of both to be found at the shows. To add personality to any kind of wardrobe, we’re still big fans of scarves and pocket squares. We found great ones by Edward Armah (he uses a special enzyme washing technique to break down the raw silk and create special effects), Ruth Graves (she can customize artwork for individual stores), Turnbull & Rhodes, and Dion. The beautiful shawls and scarves at Chelsey Imports include show-stopping oversized styles in bamboo, lightweight wool or wool/silk blends that can drape your sofa as well as your shoulders, making them great home gift items.
Numerous retailers were singing the praises of Byron, a family clothing company offering maintained margins at 70 points and a digitalized inventory of in-stock garments that customers can access via a large digital screen on the selling floor, (demonstrated here by Byron’s Spiro Arvanitakis). At BluJacket, Sal Giardina showed some nice soft sportscoats and suits in 45 percent cashmere/55 percent silk. And at Renoir, Patrick Chan showed well-priced beautiful plaids and a 100 percent washable wool sportcoat with travel/wash bag at $145 wholesale.
Autumn Cashmere featured great fancies, including a unique inking technique that prints on the reverse side for an antique look, a perfect merino/cashmere knit jacket, reversible styles using different stitches for each side, and a fabulous camo-printed cashmere hoodie.
For resort selling, I loved the father-son swimwear at Bermies, a brand first launched on Shark Tank! Made from recycled plastics, these swimsuits (each consuming eight water bottles) will now brighten the oceans rather than pollute them.
34 Heritage showed a terrific four-way stretch performance pant with reflective taping and a hidden zip pocket. Many retailers loved Luchiano Visconti’s sustainable “sportcoat in a bag” at $125 cost, $395 suggested retail, and their five-pocket stretch pant at $45 for $150. Mike Apel at Marcello showed exceptional cotton and merino knitwear; Hagen has added merino knits and quilted vests to his amazing collection of dress and sport shirts. Alex Julian is back big-time with his hand-painted signature designs and Ross Graison, as always, showed great rock-and-roll-inspired sportcoats.
Outerwear looked amazing at Schneiders, where Barbara and Stephan showed off beautiful wool/alpaca plaids ($393 cost), country-inspired Harris tweeds, double-faced models and a fabulous hooded waxed cotton style with removable micro-down jacket insert ($479). Don’t get me started on their incredible women’s collection!
We saw more show-stopping outerwear at Norwegian Wool, where Michael Berkowitz has done a great job creating down-lined waterproof cashmere coats, fashionable and virtually weightless pieces (some with cashmere-lined hoods) tested to minus 15 degrees. (Their great women’s collection coming soon!)
So will “chore jackets” be the item of the season for fall 2020? Many are betting on this admittedly comfortable casual model, a cross between a heavier shirt and a light jacket. But in this editor’s modest opinion, they’re not nearly as sexy as all the beautiful soft sportcoats I’m seeing for fall 2020 (Samuelsohn is a wow!). While some worry that the current uniform of soft sportcoat/five-pocket stretch pants/cool sneakers have been around a few seasons too long, I believe we’ve got a few more to go, with both this and a more dressed-up athleisure look (check out Raffi’s newest collection of aqua cottons). That said, we’ll keep searching for the next menswear “uniform”; here’s hoping we discover it soon.