Category Archives: Brands

Why the London (Men’s) Collections Matter

The Spring/Summer 13 menswear runway season got off to a different start this time around with London launching a three-day showcase called London Collections: Men. It happened just before Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence and the current men’s fashion week in Milan which will be followed by Paris as per usual.

Here’s why London matters. For starters, menswear has long relied upon fashion weeks in Milan and Paris almost omitting the men’s collections that show alongside womenswear in New York and London (which happen 3 months too late anyway). In menswear more-so than womenswear, it would seem that we are mostly looking at big luxury brands for direction.. and a lot of times that equates to a whole lotta suits. Emerging designers aren’t as well featured and that’s where London comes in. In just 3 days, more than a handful of brands made their mark, most geared towards the youth market. It felt refreshing not only as our first look at the season but as if youth culture is finally getting its platform in menswear. It doesn’t hurt that the timing is also spot on. Below are a few highlights from London.

This one is perhaps early to say, but a few designers signal a more FEMININE direction for menswear via sheer materials and a soft color palette.

Elsewhere designers featured inspiration taken from SoCal SKATERS.

SPORT reference was also strong with baseball and basketball jerseys.

A more sophisticated take was noted at Xander Zhou with a new FUTURIST direction.

In silhouette direction, BAGGY shapes were key on pants and shorts. James Long took the baggy direction even further with below-the-knee shorts.

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Fashion Voyeurism a la MUGLER

In case you’ve got nothing but time on your hands and/or are a really, really big fan of Nicola Formichetti’s Mugler, you probably don’t have time for this.

This is Fall 12 Mugler menswear, live-streaming pre and post collection on the brand’s Facebook page for 4 days (since Monday and until Thursday). Gaga is absent (so far) and I think we can all agree that it was time for a different approach after Mother Monster helped revive the brand (and deliver some new singles on the runway) last year. The genius of this crowdsourced concept is that up until now, no one has had their entire collection “on view” to the public in such a bold way (even if that means seeing rows of rolling racks). Reality TV shows could capture the madness only to a certain degree but this exposes much much more like set checks and rehearsals, IF you have the time and/or interest. When I checked in yesterday it was basically looking at them looking at boards and grabbing samples, set to a really good soundtrack.

Here’s what I think we could learn from this. Formichetti gets that fans want to be a part of Mugler. The live-streaming concept gives fans a sense of excitement and look into what goes into staging a runway show, with comment and sharing capabilities to generate buzz. Of course some parts are more exciting than others (and really you can’t see all that much since it’s shot in black and white). But being that voyeur at home tapping into what’s happening in less than 30 minutes before a runway show creates brand loyalty. And I’m willing to bet that that’s the exact audience shelling out cash for the Mugler fragrance.

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A World for Men to Shop

**Just thought I’d share a feature I contributed to the 2012 Department Store Yearbook. It’s an in-depth look at the shape of men’s retail today (in store and online) and presents a world of possibility for brands and retailers. Enjoy!

Men finally have their very own stores to shop in after sharing retail space with womenswear for decades. The reason for the shift comes as a result of both a more educated male customer, and also because men are more into fashion and largely making their own buying decisions without influence from their female counterparts. That means that the time is right for retailers and e-tailers to finally market to guys, cultivating their very own man cave to explore.

MEN’S-ONLY DESTINATIONS

One of the pioneers of the men’s-only retail concept is J. Crew. In 2008 the Liquor Store (named for its former use) opened in New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood, selling an expanded selection of men’s products, which had previously only sold under one roof alongside womenswear. J. Crew’s men’s-only stores have had much success and are attributed to revitalizing the menswear business. The stores now boast 4 locations, 3 in New York City and 1 in a mall in New Jersey. Aside from offering a complete universe of J. Crew menswear and select third-party brands, each location retains elements from the store’s former use, such as the aforementioned liquor store signage as well as a bank vault used to display product at another location. Accessories and lifestyle products that inspire each store are also factored in including coffee table books, DVDs and vintage items.

Ralph Lauren has also helped cultivate men’s-only retail by turning his New York City Rhinelander Mansion into a 4-story men’s destination in 2010. While Mr. Lauren has always been a master of visual merchandising, it’s important to note that in this instance, as well as the other examples, simply creating a more “masculine” concept of the women’s stores isn’t the answer. At Mr. Lauren’s men’s-only address, 5 different brand labels are featured amidst displays like a hunting lodge. Customization and personalization services also heighten the experience. And as is the case with most men’s-only stores, the women’s store is located conveniently right across the street.

European luxury brands are also expanding into men’s-only retail outlets. 2010 was a telling year starting with Hermes Man on Madison Avenue in New York. In Paris, Balenciaga opened the first freestanding men’s store with a high-tech look featuring cube displays and an illuminated staircase.

Dries Van Noten also went the route of men’s-only in Paris and sells one-of-a-kind products not sold elsewhere. In Fall 2011, another crop of luxury brands opened men’s-only locales, including Christian Louboutin in Paris, Jimmy Choo in London (a simultaneous men’s collection and store launch) and Valentino in Hong Kong.

With so many designers and brands going the route of brick-and-mortar men’s-only stores, it will become increasingly difficult for department stores to differentiate themselves. If you’re a department store with only a selection of a branded product, the customer is going to go to the designer’s store for greater assortment. One solution would be collaborations between retailers and brands to provide “exclusive” product and drive customers into department stores. It is also becoming more important for department stores to invest in their own private label lines, which can be used to fill a void in merchandise and also help in developing a unique identity. Keeping in mind that men tend to be highly brand/store loyal, department stores have the added advantage of selling familiar labels, while also introducing new ones that customers will be more open to because they’re right next to their favorite brands. The key to this is finding the right balance to make the customer feel at home with the brands they know, while presenting just the right amount of newness.

THE LANGUAGE OF SHOPPING ONLINE & EDITORIALS

Knowing that we are now dealing with a more educated and interested customer, the key to success for brands and retailers is to engage the male audience. Recognizing the fact that men shop differently than women is key, and so far the e-commerce route has been much more editorial, speaking to a man’s quest for information and advice.

Launched in February 2011, Mr Porter, the male extension of Net-a-Porter, has already achieved much success. The e-tailer features extensive editorial content ranging from brand introductions to style icons and lifestyle tips. Much of the point there is to engage the customer into what to wear and how to wear it. The site’s Style Advice section is popular for answering common questions from an expert, and then suggesting related products to purchase. Recognizing that there is still the demand for women shoppers, Mr Porter also launched a guide geared to women buying for men.

Gilt Groupe, the American purveyor of flash sales, has also quickly grown into several male outlets. First there was Gilt Man, the flash sale site in which 400,000 male customers proved that women are not alone in their quest for discounted impulse buys. Then, GiltMANual was introduced as an editorial outlet providing fashion news, mostly drawing viewers back to flash sales.

In August 2011, Gilt launched Park & Bond, a full-priced men’s site which not only offers a full assortment of products, but also provides more extensive advice and editorials. Furthering the cross between editorials and retail, GQ magazine teamed up with Park & Bond for a brick-and-morter pop-up store in New York City just in time for Holiday 2011.

Coach has had men in mind ever since the launch of their first men’s-only store in New York City back in 2010. While the brick-and-mortar store concept continues to expand (a new men’s store recently opened in Las Vegas and a Coach Men’s pop-up opened in London for the holidays), Coach has a men’s Facebook page which has harbored over 14,000 fans since May 2011. The goal here is parallel to other editorial initiatives, featuring products and features such as “Did you Know” with the goal to educate the customer.


The younger male customer is also becoming more responsive to editorials. Topman recently launched Topman Generation, a monthly online magazine that features icons, music, film and art. The only connection to product is noted on items worn by featured personalities, with the end point once again speaking to engage the customer.

A STYLISH RELATIONSHIP: MAN & BRAND

It’s an exciting time in men’s retail. The eagerness of men to listen and learn makes retail and e-tail environments much more enticing. We are no longer only speaking to wife or girlfriend who tends to buy exactly what they’re looking for; instead we’re providing the story behind brands and educating men on what to wear and how to wear it. Knowing that men and women shop differently in both brick-and-mortar and online environments means that we can now provide men with the right options to engage them, increasing loyalty and encouraging an ongoing style relationship.

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This is What a Target Store Looked Like Yesterday at 8pm

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For once, I’m actually in the States for one of Target’s designer collaborations. But typical this collab was not. As you surely know, yesterday was the release of Missoni for Target in stores and online. I was in fact part of the thousands of people that contributed for the website not working for HOURS yesterday – in fact I was partly convinced that the “Internal Server Error” was my laptop, but twitter confirmed that the world was experiencing the same issues. Luckily I got online sometime around 11am and managed to get a few sweaters and dresses. Now, being that I am in fact in the States, I needed to get into a store, which I did last night at 8pm. The slideshow above shows the store as it was. I must also note that the Target I visited was your typical suburban Target, 2 hours away from a city.

So you might have been a little excited at the sight of ACTUAL MISSONI FOR TARGET MERCHANDISE not only lining the racks but FULL. That was the girls and infant/toddler department. The womenswear selection was almost bare, with a few sweaters and corduroy coats. I was really excited to see Missoni shoeboxes, but what was left was mainly styles for girls. Other accessories displays were completely bare. My partner in crime managed to get a tie and the only cardigan style remaining in menswear, which for only $49.99 was of excellent quality. A candle and a few stationary sets were around and there were still a few vases left. Excited that there were still some items to be had – and just generally excited to see it in the store – I snagged a card set, some girls clothing and a ladies coat to gift and the 2 menswear items.

In today’s market of numerous collaborations, Missoni for Target goes down as one of the best ever. The entire collection is said to be sold out. So what can we learn from this? For one, Target did an excellent job at PR and marketing leading up to the launch date. As one of my friends told me, “You might have luck in your suburban Target, there is no hope in NYC.” I was skeptical that people in a suburban middle-class area even knew what Missoni is let alone about the release date of the Target collab. I was wrong. I spoke to a sales person who said that at this particular Target, there were no lines, but that the RTW departments were crazy all morning with most clothing items selling out then. Of course there is something to be said about the supply and demand here. In my estimation, this was the most hyped Target collab with a major Italian designer. That went far. The limited edition factor also went far. IF Target would have produced enough Missoni product to meet the demand, would customers still want it as much? Probably not. The thrill that surrounded this designer collaboration surpassed that of even the most popular H&M collaborations. I’ve got to almost feel bad for Versace at H&M which launches in 2 months because I don’t feel like it’s going to be as major as Missoni for Target.

If you’ve read this and are in any way distressed by not scoring any goods yesterday, I have a solution. At posting time of this blog, there are 16,446 Missoni for Target clothing, shoes and accessories items on eBay! But Target prices, they are not.

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Fashion’s Night Out: MOSCOW Edition!

привет from Moscow! I’m here all week doing seminars as part of the launch of Fashion Snoops in Russia. Exciting stuff AND I just so happened to be here for Fashion’s Night Out Moscow, which was held Tuesday September 6, 2011.

This is the second time Moscow is participating in the global event which is FNO, and since I’m already familiar with NYC and Paris editions, I couldn’t wait to check out Moscow.

For the event, supermodel Natasha Poly partnered with VOGUE magazine to create 1,500 tote bags with her image on it. The tote bags were sold along with Russian VOGUE for 2,000 Rubles (about $65) with proceeds going to the “Who if not I” charity. Although I would never buy FNO NYC or Paris gear, I felt compelled to be a part of this event because it was my first time in Moscow and in general I applaud the FNO efforts to get people shopping.

First stop was department store TsUM, where I purchased my tote bag and Russian VOGUE at a FNO kiosk. The store drew quite a fashion crowd (as well as a personal appearance of Natasha Poly later in the evening) and congregated on the first floor in the midst of Russian designer clothing and sea of beauty counters and free champagne. The well-heeled elitist crowd mingled and interviews were hosted. I found it kind of ironic, though telling, that the crowd was dressed head-to-toe in international non-Russian designers. Labels like Balenciaga and Chloe offered special gifts with purchase, as a FNO incentive.

Next stop was GUM, the stunning luxury shopping mall in Red Square with illuminated exterior (and intriguing history). All the usual luxury brands were present on the ground level including Louis Vuitton, Etro, Dior and Hermes. There was a FNO kiosk in the middle of the mall, however the limited-edition products and/or gifts seemed to be absent from most retailers with the exception of a special Moschino bag and Etro t-shirt for FNO. The mall environment – while spectacular in general – seemed to draw less foot traffic and even though many designer stores served snacks and drinks, the energy was just not there. However, Louis Vuitton featured a fun board cutout of the illustrated F12 collection which I convinced Julia, my FNO partner in crime, to pose for with me. Photos at FNO in front of logo-clad backdrops are fun but I much prefer props like the LV cutout or the double G’s at Gucci in Paris last year.

Unfortunately I think I was a little more excited about FNO Moscow than the event itself, however I was happy to experience another FNO city. In retrospect, NYC is still the ultimate event. Last year I thought the event was too exclusive in Paris (it was invitation only, and only designer stores on 1 street participated). In comparison, Moscow attracted a similar crowd as Paris, though the atmosphere was less enticing. Being a New Yorker I am a strong believer in the democratization of fashion, which I think should be encouraged in major cities. But then again I remind myself that Anna Wintour of Vogue in NY created FNO and each Vogue editor is responsible for the execution of the event in their city. Of course there’s no place like New York, but when it comes to getting people excited and into stores, market expansion beyond luxury brands goes a long way.

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Musical Muses

I just adore this spread in W Magazine, July edition. Behind The Muses features 8 designers and the musicians who inspire them. This is great because in some cases it’s a bit expected and the musician has the same sort of style as the designer, but for others it’s a deeper appreciation for the artist and their personality, which is ultimately in line with the brand. Definitely worth the short read, in which Deborah Harry talks about the roots of each designer/musician love affair. Note the reason I say affair is because some designers, a-hem Karl, tend to change muses with every season collection.


Diplo & Alexander Wang


Donatella Versace & MIA


Esperanza Spalding & Francisco Costa


Florence Welch & Frida Giannini


George Craig & Christopher Bailey


Janelle Monae & Karl Lagerfeld


Kanye West & Rodarte


Yoko Ono & Proenza Schouler

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Band of Outsiders presents West Side Story

I say “presents” for a reason. This Band of Outsiders collection not only marks our first show of the Spring 12 menswear season, but it was in fact A SHOW, with the theme of West Side Story. Selected as the guest designer of the Pitti Uomo tradeshow in Florence, creative director Scott Sternberg showed not 1, but 4 collections – starting with menswear S12 but also including the lines This is Not a Polo Shirt (men’s casual S12), Boy (women’s resort) and Girl (diffusion resort). But getting back to the guys, the West Side Story themed collection was every last bit Americana, inclusive of prep elements and varsity jackets, with an array of pop brights thrown in for good measure. You’ve just got to SEE the show below, if not for the clothes, for the choreography!



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