SOLD ON SOCIETY!

by Karen Alberg Grossman

What a wonderful response to the fabulous new Wainscot-produced menswear show that launched during New York market week with great brands and all the right retailers. Exhibitors and retailers loved SOCIETY’s open, modern layout, and the elevated ambiance of the Metropolitan Pavilion’s upscale venue. They all said they’d be back in January. —KAG

Among the many booths that stood out to us:

JL Rocha showed beautiful leather jackets and travel bags, hand-made in Mexico. With a mission to “honor and preserve leather craftsmanship in Leon, Guanajuato,” the charming father-son team of Jose Luis and Jose-Noel Rocha (generations two and three) share what they offer their retail partners, in addition to great product, including in-store events, customized marketing materials, and unique furnishings (cedar hangers) for an elevated presentation. Their leathers are all vegetable-tanned and ethically sourced; their artisans are fairly paid and, instead of retirement, are offered an opportunity to teach their craft to the next generation.

Jose-Noel speaks proudly of what he learned from his father and grandfather: how to do things the right way. “We pay our workers by the hour, not by the stack, and encourage them to take their time and do it right.” The jackets are notable for their simplicity and authenticity, with much attention to detail. The next collection will feature a collection of lighter weight leathers, perfect for Southern stores in the U.S. For more info: jlrocha.com.

Desoto: Jeff Lowenstein describes the evolution of this growing brand of upscale knit shirts. “When we launched in North America seven years ago, woven shirts were the norm, so it was tough to break in with knits. Then three years ago, we launched a new fit that was too slim for the U.S. market. Finally, knits are in, slim is in, and the brand is on fire!”

And deservedly so. The base fabric is knitted in Austria on “the best knitting machines in the world.” The fabric is then printed and dyed in Germany—the process totally chemical-free and sustainable. Even the packaging components—plastic and paper—are recyclable. Best booked items include a casual collection of fun prints ($180 retail for short sleeves, $190 for long), unique pique knits, a fresh-looking banded collar collection and some sophisticated polos. (The collection is sold in 17 countries; green seems to be the color of the spring ’23 season, especially in Holland…)

Desoto’s luxury division features knit dress shirts at $255 to $285 retails, selling well and still well below most European luxury brands. These ultra-soft shirts are knit from the finest Supima cotton and use genuine mother-of-pearl buttons. They’re sophisticated, sartorial, and very saleable! Contact Jeff Lowenstein, jlowenstein@railtowngroup.com, or Gary Williams, gary@garywilliamsshowroom.com.

Benson is part of a vertical operation that owns both the mill and the factory in Turkey, so this collection is both on-trend and well-priced (2.5x markup). We loved the linens ($145 retail), the whimsical swim trunks in both five- and seven-inch lengths, the super-soft pocket tees in beautiful colors ($85 retail), the printed tees, terry polos, and pique shorts. Contact: Tony Lucia, tony@bensonapparel.com. We worked with Benson’s talented designer Ilayda Eltemur (shown here with her well-behaved assistant, Peanut).

Serge Blanco, named for the famous rugby star of the late 1980s, is a family-owned business based in Toulouse France with 55 stores (20 franchised and 35 owned.) Fabrics for the collection are mostly Italian or French; their factories are in Tunisia and Mauritius. Spring ’23 introduces a full lifestyle collection inspired by a sporting heritage (golf, cycling, track, skateboard) and featuring tissue-weight fabrics and unique designs. Key items include half-elastic back swimwear in quick-dry nylon with 6.5-inch inseams ($85-$115), chore jackets, French sailor sweaters, five-pocket stretch chinos in fun colors (orange, yellow, red) and beautiful knitted shirts in a batik-y print. Watch out for these on-trend sports-inspired looks in kids’ sizes 6-20. Contact: Jon Kalupa, Jon@avalongroupusa.com


It was truly a treat to reconnect with friends old and new at the show, especially the teams at 34 Heritage, Raffi, Tailor Vintage, and — after having written about the brand a couple of times — to finally see the Chervò collection in person (be sure to check out  all of them!) As a trend, I’ve been focused on how “dressier” brands were responding to consumers’ demand for comfort with performance fabrics and relaxed construction. What I hadn’t given much thought to was how casual brands are incorporating a bit of formality into the mix. I know it’s become a sort of summer collection classic, but just watch “The Talented Mr. Ripley” again, and watch it all fall into place. Honestly, it was hard to narrow the field to just a few picks, but here were four I loved. A special shout-out to Schneider’s of Salzburg: The SS ’23collection includes a Loro Piana DWR-treated linen quilted vest that may be hard to think about while we’re in the middle of a heatwave, but is the perfect piece for  May or June when it’s still chilly and we’re tired of wearing the same outwear we’ve been wearing all winter. —JRJ

Martin Pescador: This Colombian company has several of its own shops to use as its style laboratory. Although their Panama hats, with inventive hatbands, embodied a relaxed summer weekend, I was most impressed with the brand’s linen popovers with a crisp spread collar. There was also an antique jungle print camp shirt that had an air of mystery like something out of a Joseph Conrad novel. From head-to-toe, the collection finished with jaunty embroidered espadrilles that’ll knock ’em dead at next summer’s pool-side cocktail parties. Contact Nicolás Vásquez Fernández, nicolas@martinpescador.co.

thesalting: I was introduced to this unisex collection a few months ago, and it’s rapidly becoming one of my favorites. Designer Michael Ward has a way of capturing a moment that feels like the most perfect, most glamorous summer weekend ever. Yes. Some of these pieces are caftans, but for a younger (or younger-minded) guy, one of these may well become his weekend summer uniform (a black linen version just glows). Equally luxe linen shirts, and matching camp shirt/short sets can draw a more conservative customer into thesalting’s world, and there are several pieces in a shade of pink that would put a flamingo to shame: perfect for heat wave days. Best of all, because of their unisex sizing and appeal, these could make for an easy add-on sale to women who are shopping with their guys. Contact MichaelWard@thesalting.com.

Royal 1968: Menswear veteran Mario Tomei knows a good thing when he finds it.  He’s partnered with Royal, a long-time made-to-measure shirtmaker based in Canada relaunched as Royal 1968. The brand carryies on Anita D’Abbondanza’s family legacy with  elegantly patterned shirts, both knit and woven, paired with updated jackets and blazers. The collection seems perfectly on the mark for today’s shopper: upscale, casual, and comfortable, yet sophisticated enough to satisfy all but the fussiest dress codes. Contact mario@royal1968.com

Culture of Brave: OK, I have to admit that I may have fallen for Michelle Wray’s (Culture’s owner) South African accent and charm, but this Italian-made sneaker collection — which debuted in the U.S. at Society — can speak for itself! Athough the entire range has a somewhat clean, modern design aesthetic, it ranges from a classic low-rise to an elegant high-top (the branding’s “wing” logo running up the back from heel to ankle is a striking design detail) to a more broken-in “garment-washed” grouping. Sure to become a must-have for American sneakerheads, these shoes are made with the exacting standards you’d expect from Italy, and have a level of sophistication that fits with today’s casual/elegant wardrobe. Contact michelle@cultureofbrave.com.

Society returns to the Metropolitan Pavilion January 22nd to 23rd, 2023. Contact Lizette Chin or Coleman McCartan for more information.

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