Tag Archives: Louis Boston Men’s clothing

Although it’s a Season of Black and White, Here is a Word About Color

Three Cheers for Color and Pattern

So I can tell you right now by the time the collections are complete in the stores for Spring/Summer everything will look black and white. After two springs of “color, color, color” EVERYONE went back to black and white. But by April the stores will look so boring and unappealing consumers will be begging for some color.  As a buyer you choose from what is in front of you. But as I have been telling you for many years there has been this consensus before the shows even start and the media and stores are forced into a storyline. “These are the TRENDS”. If you are not careful as a buyer you might fall into this trap. But I find these trends leave little to the imagination of the consumers, making the consumers feel like mindless idots who can’t dress themselves without a STAR in a magazine showing them the way.

I am so excited about the merchandise in the store right now. It’s design at its’ best; modern, fresh and yes colorful. We will have our share of black and white, but why does everything have to be all or nothing? Here are some examples….

The Mix of Colors in this Dress are So Special!

Though the “trend ” for printed trousers started a few seasons ago, I think some designers are mastering the art of partnering patterns with high tech fabrics.

The Print on these Trousers Really Need to Be Seen in Person

Mix and Match is Half the Fun

One last photo of a cute little dress from Suno…nothing loud or on TREND just a cute little dress from Suno that you would love to wear all summer.

Stretch Silk and So Easy to Wear

“The Lowest Common Denominator”

 

Before Louis, I used to work in marketing for an advertising agency. We would come up with amazing advertising campaigns that would answer to the needs of our clients, with some humor thrown in for creativity. Inevitably, the campaigns would go in front of focus groups. First everyone in the group would chuckle at the ad. They would understand the message but sure enough, they would find some thing objectionable about our work. The client would panic and strip the ad of the very thing that made them enjoy it to begin with. I could never understand why it would be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

 

Recently, I met a very smart gentleman at a dinner one night that was the head of a company that mines data off websites. With that information, he finds patterns that are supposed to help companies sell more products and better serve its customers. What stuck with me the most from our conversation how differently generations are influenced to shop. My generation (Boomers) look to “known brands” as a reassurance for what we purchase. Generation X-ers look to their friends as a reference. The Millennials looks to complete strangers as their guide to purchases, whether through “curated” inspiration boards, blogs or publicly touted “likes” of products and brands. If this proves true then it explains the herd mentality that is prevalent in much of the content we view today. These socially driven endorsements are now dictating what we are feeling – from Dancing with the Stars to the political polls that are reported hourly – even if we are personally not feeling it. This really scares me.

 

The obsession with polls in this election cycle falls along these lines. It feeds right into this instant gratification of information thanks to the real-time nature of reporting. One blunder from the candidates, or their associates, and the polls skew one way until another blunder comes along. Then with that information the voters get saturated with advertising from the candidates until “the polls” say they are not effective any more. The candidates’ talking points are all based on polling.

 

The politicians are not talking about reality (maybe that hasn’t changed) but the candidates opinions change with every poll that comes out. Who votes like that? When you attempt to please more people at a greater volume, you end up lacking authenticity. For something so gullibly accepted by the masses like the polls, you’re losing the validity of these statements being real. With everything said to please the polls, it’s doubtful the soon-to-be elected officials will continue to shift at the masses every whim. Here, we think we’re getting what we want, but in turn, are giving up so much.

 

It really isn’t much different than the current state of retail. Generally, consumers are driven to shop by price. It’s funny, you don’t even have to mention what the product is, they just want to pay less for it. If surveys went further to ask consumers what would they would give up to get the lowest possible price, the answer is what the retail experience is today – and we still haven’t talked about the product! Consumer indifference has lead to the lowest common denominator, having us believe that getting the best price is the greatest goal. Now shoppers are expected to research the products, find them in big box stores, take it to long-lined registers, even check out and bag, then drag the bags to their cars – all by themselves.

 

Think about when you’re at a store with self check-out. You’re under the guise of getting “it” for less, but there’s a lot of work before you even swipe your credit card: you’ve become an expert on the product, whether it’s your cold medicine, cleaning products, electronics, whatever and then you have to scan and bag it yourself. We, as consumers, have become driven to this. We’re giving up the value of the experience and the civility of shopping for something perceived as a bargain or deal. Meanwhile, the large retailers from drug stores all the way up to the big box stores are making a 25-30% gross margin and lowering labor costs because you’re doing all the work (who’s the real winner here?).

 

We’ve been blinded into believing that choosing lower prices are what we want while having sacrificed service and direct information from the retailers. The fact is that this sort of mass consumer demand is showing up in all facets of life, much like how we’re blinded by politicians telling us what we want to hear rather than what they are really going to do in office. I know that saving money is SO important right now, but at some point living a less stressful life might be equal to the quest. And hopefully that will be the lowest common denominator.

 

 

Suits by the Numbers

My most favorite number that I use to shock people about the men’s apparel business is this: 50% of the menswear business is done by Walmart…that’s in $”s. The menswear business is a $55 billion dollar business and Walmart’s men’s business is $27 billion. I promise you if one bore into that number you would find that about 65% of the shoppers of menswear at Walmart are women…maybe more. I know the dollars largely come from purchases of socks, underwear, jeans and t-shirts….but that’s what most men are wearing. As I state this to whomever I’m talking to (male) they usually act surprise and then look down at what they are wearing and say “yeah that makes sense”. They are so oblivious to what they are wearing that they don’t even know what they have on!

So Men’s Retail Magazine just came out with some numbers about suits that I find so interesting. The numbers are from a nationwide survey of 500 U.S. males ages 18 to 35 conducted in July. 67% of the responders ages 18 to 22 said they have bought a suit…that’s promising…73% ages 22 to 33 said they have bought a suit….again looking good. 63% of the responders ages 31 to 35 said they have bought a suit and even more troubling 55% of the responders 35 years old  have bought a suit (I think recently). REALLY so the interpretation is you buy one suit in your twenties and you use it until you absolutely positively have to buy another one. Wait the numbers get better.

42% of the responders shop at Men’s Wearhouse, 15% at Macy’s, 9% at JCPenny’s, 8%Kohl’s and 7% at Jos A. Bank (which was really surprising considering how many suits the say they give away FREE). The last 19% shop at Walmart, Burlington Coat factory, Dillard’s, H&M, Sears, Express, J Crew, Target and TJ Maxx. I guess the line “we guarantee you are going to like the way you look” works. But here’s the kicker of the 42% who shop at Men’s Wearhouse  69% buy on line….really without even trying it on??? Do they even know how a suit is supposed to fit? The real question is do they care? Why not? Why don’t men care?….oh how I wish they would, again.

I do have some experience in this matter. I know how many different areas on a man’s body that a suit needs to fit right so that it will lay properly and not look ….well….wrong. How about the fabric. When you buy a suit on line you can’t feel the fabric. Does it feel like sandpaper? Would you pay more for the suit if you knew it felt better? Would you buy a more interesting fabric if you could look at the detail of the fabric more closely?  Would you care more if you got involved in the process instead of running away from it?

It’s not like the fashion has moved on and the suit has been replaced by….let’s say… a spacesuit? The last portion of the survey really gives away the ambivalence towards the suit. 44% responders say they bought the suit for “special occasions” as opposed to 28% say they buy suits for work. 15% say they buy suit to look good (there’s a ray of hope), 7% to look professional (as opposed to work?) 5% for church and 3% for funerals (lovely thought). Since the mid 90’s suits have not been required at work, forced by a new generation that didn’t want to be like their fathers, and that generation thought they were ushering a new looser revolution in the work place. But they never figured out the new uniform….their leaders were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (both not well known for their attire). The new uniform ends up being mundane and nondescript with features like “no iron and stain-resistant”

There is a small underground movement of young men discovering the suit. They come into our store asking lots of questions. For me it’s a beautiful thing to watch. The suit has progressed so much in the the last 20 years and no one ever talks about the advancements. The industry did answer the problem of the suit being too uncomfortable by developing light, soft fabrics; and the tailoring has come so far to make the suit fit close to the body but allow the user to move freely. Of course I am talking about suits that DON’T have stain resistant and no iron fabrics (which are made up of mostly petroleum …who wants to wear THAT next to their body?)

So with these numbers there is nowhere to go but up. Perhaps with this next generation of employees, employers will demand a more professional workplace. After all “dress down friday” was started  to capture generation X workers when unemployment was at an all time low. Now we are at the opposite end of the spectrum, unemployment is at an all time high. Being competitive is a necessity and looking the part should be one as well.

The Year of The Woman

  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics these last two weeks. One can’t help but be amazed at the tenacity of the US woman athletes. I am 56 so I’ve been watching the Olympics for many years.  There has been a definite switch in emphasis (or television time) towards woman athletes compared to the last two Olympics.

She's Only Sixteen

It’s not just individuals either.

A Dramatic Women's Soccer Final

And some Veterans are being honored.

A Three Time Olympic Gold Medal Champion

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how and when this transformation took place, but one could surmise that women have had to complete harder and faster in every aspect of their lives to achieve their goals. Under the radar women have broken through every sport with record breaking times, physical endurance, and mental focus.  With women comprising 57% of college attendance, and many women finally penetrating the upper ranks of the work force, they have learned that competing is a necessity for success. No longer are women accepting a passive road in their life. When the bar is set this high it will only push women more to be among the ranks of quality achievers.

Another trend about women has come to my attention in two articles that I read this week. One article was in the NY Times style section, talking about high tech women executives dressing up in a luxurious way (not fashionista but styled). Part of this trend has to do with changing perceptions; high tech people are usually perceived as “geeks”. To move that perception forward you need the “best costumes”. We have found that with our women customers, many of which have high powered credentials, they use their wardrobe as a banner to show their creativity and level of finish/polish. Which was exactly the point of the second article in WWD. They stated that women with executive titles in European Governments have really stepped up their attire to look finished and individually styled. Usually women in Government dressed non-descript or “manly” to try and not stand out. With so many women in these positions, they are now trying to do the opposite, “stand out “, and be remembered as a women who knows how to dress and present herself as well as being an accomplished public servant.

Women have definitely made their way in highly competitive fields and I am happy to say they are using their attire to stake their position.

It’s The Product …. Put Simply

Sorry I haven’t written but I’ve been traveling for business…mainly in Italy. I have lived through many turbulent times running this store. I think my generation has been burdened with the same curse as my grandfather’s, where we have to navigate wars, recession/depressions, and discounting at all levels of retail. But this trip really illustrated how frazzled the world is from dodging and maneuvering to meet all the challenges that have been thrown at business over the last decade. Retail vendors are at their wits end trying to figure out, yet again, how to innovate and keep ahead of all the economic changes happening daily. Forget the frustration with paralyzed governments…we’re just stuck with the results of their non action. In Europe many businesses took advantage of the Asian market which has helped their bottom line for many years now….well that is not a given any more….you can feel the wheels slowing WAY down to a pace of business that mirrors the 70’s more than 2012.

Well I say it’s about time. I think this is what we need to do. We need to step back and redirect the consumer to the product and not just pushing them to shop , for the sake of purchasing (at a discount). We have been spinning for so long, at such a fast pace, that we haven’t educated the consumer about anything except how to get it for less. Somehow this just doesn’t seem right now. Oh I know, I’m just one person talking but I really felt the “tipping point” away from this discount behavior in Europe. I’m sure the change will take years to really feel the full force, and discounting isn’t going away…but purchasing is going to become “thoughtful” again, and my prediction is that “honest to goodness quality” is going to be the new focus. Well let’s hope or true quality will slowly fade out of existence.

One of my visits this trip was to the Belvest Factory. Belvest is one of our outstanding menswear tailored clothing vendors, their factory is just outside of Venice. It’s very reassuring to me that clothing is still made this way. One by one, section by section, each jacket is worked with skill and care. As a result we fit these jackets everyday and they mold to each customer because the jacket is made in a three dimensional way…one by one (not 20 or 100 at a time).

Each Jacket is Worked on One By One

Educating this process to consumers is our life long project. It would be great if the media would spend more time honoring these kind of efforts instead of training consumers to look for cheap goods. When the next generation is ready to learn about how important it is for a garment to be made well, hopefully we will be there to educate them. Plus we can show how ecological, as well as cost effective, to buy  a garment that will last  more than a year and will reward you by feeling like it was made for your body…which it was.

End Result

Here’s what I’m afraid of…. as a result of the economic roller coaster that we (society) will rush to eliminate the more expensive way of doing things, we will convince ourselves that cheap is more important than longevity, and we will forget that the product is KING not the price of it. For now we are lucky that we can still enjoy  jackets made by hand and we have the customers to prove it…

 

Fierce

Memorial Day weekend I made a trek to Atlantic City to see Beyonce in concert. OK OK I wouldn’t normally be doing something like that…only your children can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. But as always, when I do these things, it becomes an adventure. We stayed at a massive new hotel called the Revel with a casino in it. I felt like I was in Vegas in the sixties. Atlantic City, as a city, has a long way to go (great beaches though) but this hotel is taking it in a new direction. But the point of this story is to make an observation about women in the 21st century.

Beyonce's Confidence Was On Display From The Beginning

The audience at the concert was made up of 60% women and 40% men. Please understand that I am generalizing now. The men in the audience were happy to see a strong performance by an amazing Diva who performed for two and a half hours straight, danced almost every song and looked “HOT” in over the top costumes (And I usually don’t like the way she dresses). The women in the audience were there to honor a mentor, a women who dreamed the dream, fought the fight and won. You could feel it in the auditorium. The tickets to this event were in the hundreds of dollars, yet there were thousands of women, working women, who paid with their hard earned money, to see a woman that represents the life they are living.

The Huge Tron Behind the Stage Was a Great Back Drop

The women of my generation worked hard to blaze the trail for the this new generation of women and I have been waiting to see this new evolution of female strength. I saw it clearly at this concert. Women now make up half of the workforce. They have to be responsible for everything in their lives. They don’t rely on a man for their financial and emotional support as was the case only 20 years ago. But there is another by-product of this independence, which is their need to do be perfect. Beyonce, their fearless leader, is a prime example of this trend. This sold out show was powered by a perfectionist who spent hours making sure that the show was flawless….and it was. The staging, choreography and the musical performances all were the result of hours of rehearsals and constant editing. The credit roll at the end of the show had Beyonce’s name in every category . It was told to me later that “trust” is a commodity that she values and doesn’t give out very easily. Therefore the old adage of “If you want it done well do it yourself”…or the translation is “you can ONLY  trust yourself to get it done right….is more prevalent than ever.

Standing Tall in Front of a Colorful Screen

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Get Out Of It?

Starting in the early 90’s we engaged in the frenzie of buying. As goods became cheap and disposable the act of shopping became our mantra, our therapy for whatever ailed us. Purchasing was the activity of the rich and famous, and for some reason we wanted to be “just like the rich and famous” (no matter who they were or what they accomplished). Well its been a long road to where we are today…a broken, divided country that refuses to budge on who is going to pay for all the thing we feel entiltled to. As Greece pulls the EU down , the United States should take a close look at how they are trapped in their own inability PAY for their sins. It’s quite clear how they got there …..citizens’ entitlements and the prosperous not paying taxes. But someone, some elected “Leader”, needs to be the mommy of the situation and say “You BOTH are wrong and you both need to give in to get ahead of this”. I don’t understand why human compassion doesn’t kick in and move towards a better evolution of living. We seem to be a very religious populous but don’t practice the basic principles of religion. But that’s Greece, not us right?

There are 3 million job opportunities in America right now. They may not be the ideal jobs, they may be jobs that feel like the work has no meaning…. but just the same they are jobs that PAY for things…and help the government create revenue to pay for the entitlements that keep our government working. Yes if the congress was working together we could make the neccessary cuts in those entitlements, but we can’t eliminate ALL of them to make this mess go away.

There are many billion dollar companies that are not paying their fair share of taxes. While (the ever important) small businesses of this country manage to pay their taxes at a higher rate. They do not have the lobbying power of big business to get that rate to where someone like GE is paying nothing. The same goes for hedge fund managers and companies that have their offices overseas to avoid paying taxes. Again they don’t want to PAY their fair share….they want a DISCOUNT…aren’t they just so smart????? There could be a compromise but no one wants to PAY for anything.

When did we get to this point of feeling like we shouldn’t be paying for anything? Wasn’t capitalism all about that…paying and making money or has it just become stealing money any way we can????

For the next five months wouldn’t it be rich if we had an honest debate about how we are going to get out of this mess, instead of all the negative retoric of whose fault it was….I know that won’t happen and I know we will be listening to blah blah that doesn’t mean anything and then we will vote for “someone” who made less mistakes in the blah blah world. It’s time to realize that we need to PAY for what we want and appreciate what we have….Please