by Karen Alberg Grossman
At this week’s Forum meeting in Louisville, graciously hosted by Rodes’ Howard and Susan Vogt, I had a chance to visit their first-class fashion emporium for men and women. The store is equally divided in square footage between men’s and women’s and although my intention was to turn left into the menswear store, the exciting fall fashion in the women’s store pulled me to the right, where I perused great styles from many contemporary women’s brands (Eleventy, Lafayette 148, and Vince among my favorites). The mix is well balanced for both young fashionistas and sophisticated women of all ages. Accessories are exceptional—everything from stylish hats, scarves and handbags to on-trend handcrafted jewelry. (I bought a perfect brown suede clutch bag!)

Fortunately, the men’s store was just as fabulous! Men’s buyer and style advisor Jim Porter showed me around the open airy selling floor, with mannequins clothed in gorgeous layered looks despite Louisville temperatures in the high 80s. Most impressive: a new and beautiful 450-square-foot men’s lifestyle shop featuring well curated assortments of contemporary and artisan brands including gorgeous unstructured sportscoats from Boglioli and Eleventy, cool leather accessories and a compelling denim collection (Adriano Goldschmied, Joe’s, Hudson, J.Brand). The exceptional shoe department features everything from sleek sneakers from Common Projects to buttery loafers from DiBianco, comfort dress shoes from Magnanni and much more. Says Rodes’ president Howard Vogt, “Business these days is fun! Our new lifestyle studio shows guys how to dress modern, comfortable and relevant for today’s casual world. They can go from work to a night out and look amazing!!

According to Porter, despite the warm weather, fall fashion is selling well, including outerwear, sweaters, and vests. New shops for Zegna and Eton look terrific: Porter notes that Zegna sportcoats are the strongest sellers but suits are gaining traction, adding that “Zegna ties are always our best-selling neckwear.” As for the Eton shirt business, “Every month it keeps growing- it’s a phenomenon like nothing I’ve seen. I believe it’s a combination of their easy-care fabrics and the fit. What also helps: the sellers are excited about it! People don’t come in to buy just one shirt; they buy 3, 4, 6 or 10… We have very few markdowns, plus we sell Eton shirts with both expensive and moderate-priced clothing.”

Clearly, Rodes is doing lots of things right: a contemporary but not overly trendy menswear mix, a balance of pricepoints, an open, easy-to-shop store layout and enthusiastic young professional sellers who dress the part. (All this, and a big boost in traffic from the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup!)

Here’s to another century of fabulous fashion!