Tag Archives: louis boston store for women

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

What is the Real Price?

I travel to Europe the same time every year for work. I buy men’s during a specific time and I buy women’s a couple of weeks later during their slotted time. So buying airline tickets become a bit of an art to get the best seat for the best price. The fact that everyone sitting on the plane is paying a different price bothers me but when the airlines make up rules as they go along after they promised something different really disturbs me. Of course I’m talking about point redemption.

I’m old enough to remember when “points” first became the tool that developed loyal travelers to one airline. Once you traveled exclusively with one airline you could redeem “points” for a reduced price ticket or an upgrade. Then the airlines started losing money and they played this game of “how hard can we make it for you to redeem your points”. I believed the government stepped in with regulations, which stopped the practice. Then the airlines started to partner up with credit cards and the whole process started over again. And again it’s a game of preventing you from using your points. The difference this time is there are fewer flights with fewer choices to get you where you want to go. The question remains what the real price of a ticket?

Since this is Black Friday weekend, I found a statistic that floored me. In 2011, 226,000,000 shoppers visited a retailer or mall, or shopped on-line over the black friday weekend (according to the National Retail Fund). The population of the US is 314,165,11…do the math. Another number is that 90% of those shoppers plan to purchase items for themselves while 10% plan to buy presents for the holidays. The media claims there ARE some deals to be had but most of the deals will be there for the next 30 days and the best time to find an exceptional deal is still after Christmas. The new move is to open retail stores on Thanksgiving to get a leg up on the competition but numbers show that consumers were getting most of their deals on-line on Thanksgiving. All if this frenzy has created this zombie effect which is suppose to give the consumer what he/she wants a deal and the discomfort to go with it….it’s like a cocktail or a drug.

Ultimately it’s up to the consumer to find the right price. Armed with technology, the shopper must now navigate their way to find the real price. But what is the real price of an item? If the lowest price is the most important part of the purchase what is the real VALUE of an item? More importantly what is the real satisfaction of buying something? The price or the product? How can a shopper be satisfied knowing that the cost of the item when everyone is paying a different price? All this frenzy and we still don’t know the worth of things. Like what’s the worth of a civilized shopping experience, or the worth of an appreciated item? Believe it or not we, as a nation have been through this before, during the last depression. Price will not rule the day forever and soon the consumer will demand a product with an experience that is worthy of a real price.

WBUR’s Cognoscenti

Sorry it’s been a while since I have blogged but I was traveling, buying actually, for Spring/Summer 2013 (can you believe it’s 2013 already?). But in the meantime I was fortunate enough to participate in WBUR’s cognoscenti page on their website. Here’s the link, I think it came out well.

Cognoscenti

Meanwhile thanks for reading!

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.

How Did We Get Here?

Every day I keep hearing the question “how did we get here?”. The only answer I can come up with is; “because we don’t want to pay for anything”. How did we manage to ship all our jobs overseas?….because we didn’t want to pay for anything. “How did we get into this healthcare mess?” ….because we didn’t want to pay for it (and then some of us ended paying too much for it)…. How is it you can’t go into a store anymore to see TV screens and only a few manufacturers still make them?…Because no one wanted to pay for them…so you can only choose from 3 adaquate manufacturers. Don’t get me wrong we WANT all these things….even though most people can’t distinguish the difference between good and bad quality….we just don’t want to pay a lot for anything. We want the big DISCOUNT of life….no matter what. That’s what drives the American consumer and it’s no secret that everyone takes advantage of that fact to give us what we want…one big DISCOUNT…because somehow we feel entilted to it!

Please read this article I ran across the other day.

The new dynamic: Off-price is not for the faint of heart

May 1, 2012 By Karen Alberg Grossman

 “What’s an off-price store anyway?” asks David Lapidos, EVP of the OffPrice Show, alluding to the extent of discounting and promotional activity in conventional stores. “Off-price stores come here to do the bulk of their buying; regular stores come to improve their margins.”

According to Lapidos, the show’s exhibitor base these days is half manufacturers and importers, half jobbers. “Jobbers can no longer exist on just clearance merchandise since few manufacturers are overcutting or taking risks. Consequently, several have developed their own lines for department stores that they also show here; others have goods made specifically for this show.”

Tom Joyce of Building 19 is a retail expert in off-price. His stores, based inMassachusetts, are famous for value product and wonderfully quirky advertising. As he explains, “It takes expertise and finesse to get good brands at good prices, especially in a tight market. There are no longer large quantities available domestically, so jobbers are going overseas. What’s more, it’s a gentleman’s business: if a jobber’s stuck with something, you help him out and then next time around, he’ll help you. With the right relationships, you can lock up exclusives, especially from department store shelf pulls. So I can sell a gorgeous designer name sweater at $9.99—maybe it’s Pantone 423 vs. 422, but who cares? Having last year’s goods is less of a factor in men’s.”

According to Joyce, great offerings are finite. “There are only limited amounts of most off-price product; when it’s gone; it’s gone. And the biggest change over the last few years is that as stores and manufacturers reduce inventories to accelerate turn, availability of the most desirable goods has diminished.”

Another issue, he explains, are the growing middle classes inChina,Indiaand other Asian countries. “Many opportunities of the past are staying in local markets overseas. If factories can sell goods in their own country, they don’t have to use quota or pay duty.”

Joyce cites another issue: chains (Bealls, National Stores, etc.) using larger quantities so that one call from a vendor could be 12,000 units—the end of that style if the chain buys it. “Several of my key vendors sold out of half their offerings by the end of the second day of the show,” he explains.

As regular-price department and specialty stores look to increase margins, off-price buys are an increasingly important part of their strategy. Concludes Joyce, “If they buy a $40 MSRP item for $5 (which means out the door at $17.99 to $19.99), they can special sale these goods at $14.99 and still triple their money. So while it’s hard to forecast and there are many frustrating variables, off-price remains a dynamic and viable business.”

Well there you have it….a whole industry built on the idea that it really doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s cheap and you can take advantage of the cheap consumer it’s on the shelves of your local stores and internet sights…..Be careful what you wish for, you’ll destroy the value of what you already have. (I sound like a fortune cookie)

 

 

Does It Really Make A Difference?

Well the news has finally arrived, Raf Simons, formerly of Jil Sander is now the designer for Dior.

Raf Simons the "New" Designer for Dior

So what does that exactly mean? Let’s backtrack shall we. A year ago, the former designer for Dior, John Galliano, was fired from his post because of racial slurs spoken during a drunken rage at a Paris bistro. A year long search took place but in the meantime the interim designer was a “second in command”  known for his tame, well crafted collections.  The public statements by LVMH, owner of Dior, say there hasn’t been any fluctuation in sales, and they have been experiencing an increase in sales due to the Asian market. So one designer, who was slowly deteriorating, gets fired but had no real influence on sales.  An interim designer, whose aesthetic was completely different, takes over and surprisingly there is no change in sales. And now we have yet a third designer put in place and everyone is writing about the merits of his talent and what effect it will have on sales. My guess is “it” will make no difference.

The basis for this statement is looking at the numbers, or the numbers told to us by LVMH. They are doing a great business no matter what because the foundation for their unbelievable success is their BRANDING machine. The sales come from consumers that “want to be”. They want to be known as rich, they want to be known as part of the “style club”, they want to have instant recognition as if they were famous. That recognition comes from “stars” wearing their clothes, shoes and handbags. That recognition comes from editorial appearances in all the top fashion magazines around the globe which is LVMH’s top priority. LVMH has monthly reports done on how many times their products appear in the press (editorial and/or star related) and put constant pressure on their public relations army… the same way Toyota puts pressure on their dealers when they look at their monthly unit numbers.

80% of Dior sales are shoes and handbags (which only a few pieces are in the fashion show). They are sold around the world at Dior shops in malls and airports. global department stores and then specialty stores which tend to sell more clothing. So the “designer” and the fashion show are just SHOW, that’s it.  The fashion show is one big advertisement that makes the press and buyers feel important. The show also gets editorial immediately and afterwards. If the fashion show reads over the top expensive, that translates to the consumer as “luxury”. But the designs and integrity of the product (clothing) means very little. So my prediction is the Raf Simons will do just fine. Once again design integrity is last on the list of consumer importance.

I Guess You Can Have It All at My Expense

Have Someone Else Advertise for You

I am a Marni freak…I admit it, I’m addicted to her design style and aesthetic. We have sold (very well I might add) Marni in this store for more years than any other store…we were the first store to buy it. So you can imagine the fumes that come out of my ears when people ask me what I think of Marni for H&M. Oh yes I know it’s a marketing tool, so that the masses  get to know Marni, a “relatively” underground designer. Let’s just go back to how Marni got to where it is now in “designer world”.

Consuelo Catiglioni a.k.a Marni got into designing at a relatively late stage in her life. Her children had just gone off to college and she wanted to do something with her now empty time. So she started to design coats in her husbands factory…they were good, so were the pants she designed for the models to wear underneath. I bought them all. And sold them. The next season she designed everything in leather, we sold it to the piece. Consuelo and her husband were smart enough to recognize the salability of her designs and they merchandised the line by category. Soon Marni blouses were the item to get, then her pants, and she really started the dress trend. All were in her now famous prints.

Actually you the reader probably do not know half the trends Marni started because she always relied on independent retailers to introduce her designs, not the press. The reason the press never mentioned her was because she didn’t advertise. I hope everybody reading this does know that fashion magazines do not feature any designers that do not advertise. (Hence the same cast of characters are always featured in editorial even though they are not relevant any more) (even more important these same designers steal designs from Marni and others and then claim the ideas for themselves). The relationship worked very well because the stores got exclusivity of her product and the knowledgable customer got to discover a brand that wasn’t a BRAND.

But ahhhh things never stay the same. I think that the Asian market is heavily reliant on the BRAND paradigm. So Marni needed to raise it’s awareness (so they thought).  They got together with H&M and Consuelo designed a collection (supposedly a one time event) to be released this March. Well it worked.

There Were Lines Around the Block

Just Maybe They Knew About Marni Before H&M

For a designer that doesn’t advertise the public relations of this “event” was huge. The press party before hand included a movie directed by Sofia Coppola. H&M, with their resources,  grabbed what took years for independent retailers to build up and maximized it with a sell out, day one.

Sofia Coppola

H&M had no problem advertising the event, and they had a killer take away bag which became a collector’s item on it’s own. Needless to say it was a success, but what does that do for my business. The answer is I don’t know. Most of the designs were redos of things done WAY in the past. The sophistication level really didn’t match what we carry in the store. The quality was great considering the simplicity of what was on the racks. I am going to watch it and keep you posted.

I think I just wanted to explain all the work that goes into nurturing a designer. And it’s tempting for these designers to get their name out there and think they are producing garments for “every man and women”. But here’s a thought. Why not promote the quality of good design and construction and help the “every women” to trade up, instead of having your knowledgeable customer rush to trade down. Because the biggest customers at H&M that day were women and men who already knew the value of Marni…they lined up outside the doors of H&M in the early morning light.

Line at H&M for Marni

That Grand Feeling of Perfection

I love my new boots. Yes I know you hear it all the time the “perfect boot” for Fall. But I mean this…but how would you know. Every magazine, every website, every shopping website, every catalogue, even every store claims this every Fall. It kinda looses it’s meaning. Having said that when you find the right one for you, it feels sooooo good. Every time you put them on, with every outfit, you say to yourself, “wow these are great boots”. Your start to take care of them…you bring them to be resoled with a rush charge. When you pack to go away you start with the boots and figure out your outfits that will surely highlight the boots. You find yourself wearing them everyday and when you have to wear another pair you sigh and make sure your wear the “great boots” the next day. Sometimes if you are really careful you wear them two years in a row everyday until the boots just plain wear out.

cool side buckle, tight at the ankle and calf, tall, great leather, flat, comfortable

Great heel, no shiny leather, open at the knee, easy to get on and off

Sorry for the blurry pictures I was in a hurry but you get the picture right? Pierre Hardy had these boots last year, but he perfected them this season. You will probably not find these in any magazine, you will probably not find these on any website….because they do not register as perfection from the photos. They do not register perfection from the description. They do not register perfection from the name brand. Actually they would only register perfection if you actually saw, felt, tried on these boots when someone pointed to them in front of you and you tried them on immediately. The consumer is missing so much by falling into the trap of brands, ease and the addiction of point and click.

When I “buy” for the store, I look at each piece I purchase with the same inspection as I did buying these boots for myself. That feeling of perfection when you own something that rewards you every time you wear it, is the goal. There are so many items that are chosen that even looking at them on the racks of our store you wouldn’t know were perfection until you tried them on. I make sure I see everything on a body before I “buy” the product, especially shoes. Shoes look so different on and off the foot. Not everything comes out the way it was shown…fabrics can change fit can be funny, but to be sure I am inspecting and selecting with a sharp focus, and aiming for no mistakes.

But what I’m really reaching for ALL of the time is giving you that feeling of confidence every time you pull that garment out of the closet and put it on your body…..ahhhh appreciation!!!!!

Why Is Ugly The New Black?

So I land in Paris at 6:30 A.M., make it to my hotel at 8:00 A.M….of course the hotel room isn’t ready so I have a leisurely breakfast (lots of coffee) and take a walk down Rue St. Honore to look at the selection Fall clothing displayed in the French shops. I see a glimpse of the beginning of “Ugly” which is what I’ve seen in New York for the last two weeks (buying women’s Spring/Summer 2012). I’ve been trying to digest the large quantities of FASHION that have been thrown at the retailers/consumers and I keep asking why?  Why now is the industry (and it’s pretty unanimous) pushing ultimate, in your face, loud, FASHION? These are clothes that will wear you, that scream VICTIM !!!! Why now?

It has it all loud color, embellishment, mixing everything

Shiny and Overly Designed

These Shoes have been promoted in every Magazine this Fall

There are two theories I have about this. First I think the internet has such a strong influence on the designers and the industry that it forces a consensus of trends and these “trends” make every designer look the same. When most of the designers and magazines utilize the same trends they are pushing these trends on the consumers as if they were already a fact, which they assume will force the consumer to buy. But not all consumers are blind followers. Second, I think no one knows the answers to the economic downturn so designers are trying too hard, looking desperate, thinking they will jump start the consumer into buying again. In the end the collections look all over the place.

I am not afraid of FASHION, but I’ve been around fashion long enough to reject superficial techniques as an excuse for modern design. I’ve seen merchandise on my sale rack that scream that mistake…my mistakes…the customer has taught me well…they will spend money on new, innovative and yes, different but the consumer will not fall for clown like clothing (especially expensive clothing) readily.

When consumers have such a lack of confidence in…well everything…. why would the clothing industry push such over the top FASHION on them? This will only make them feel more uncertain.

Meanwhile I have managed to find some beautiful clothes for next spring, yes it has color and it has innovation but it’s not theatrics…it’s clothes you will want to put on your body and make it your own. But as I keep looking around I shake my head and ask is Ugly the new Black?