Tag Archives: Louis men’s retail boston

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Age of Consensus

Consensus of Thought

I don’t know about you but I am sick of listening to the media talking 24/7 about the Republican Primaries. It’s not that I mind the candidates or their messages, or that there is so many mistruths being thrown around. I’m tired of the media forcing a consensus and watching the public follow suit. First the media pushed Michele Bachmann on the public and then the POLLS showed her in the lead. Then Herman Cain was pushed to the forefront by the media, and the POLLS  followed suit. And so on and so on. It doesn’t make any difference whether it is left leaning or right leaning media, they push forward an agenda of blah, blah. If they keep talking they think we’ll keep listening. And if they keep talking they will influence us , not on the issues but on the blah blah.

In our need to belong to the “right” team we follow popular opinion, no matter how fast it changes. I find this part of the process fascinating. The candidates talk of individual rights but condemn anyone who doesn’t think like them. The audience applauded Jon Huntsman during the debate this morning when he spoke about truth, honesty and leading people to come together, but they also applauded when candidates spoke negatively about The President or other candidates. In their need to be right for the moment the public will follow whatever is the current “on trend” message.

Where does this lead us? We follow whatever the media is leading us.  Because the media cranks stories about consumers lining up for sales after Thanksgiving, Christmas retail has become a frenzy of slashed prices. This is good for the consumer as long as they know what they are buying…and sometimes they buy things just cause it’s going to be cheap for an hour or so. How about Fashion? The media dictates the 5 trends for the season, retailers provide it and the consumers are walking around looking like pumpkins whether they look good in orange or not. We follow suit like soldiers marching forward, afraid to stand out or be different.

The internet has not helped this situation. It too works on consensus. The YouTube Videos that everyone likes becomes the most popular. The shopping website that everyone visits become the most used….plus the products have to be something you already know or you won’t buy it. It must be in our DNA that we want to belong or be known for something that everyone else believes.  I guess if we just studied religion we can find out how strong that DNA must be.

I thought freedom of choice is the foundation of democracy. In a time where it is “consumer beware”, we have to become experts on everything. We have to be a perfect travel agent if we want to travel in style for less. We have to know about all kinds of cars if we want to buy a great one for less. Same goes for electronics and appliances. So where do we go for information?…The internet, which will give us the best information from a consensus of information. I love how the new “information technology” (think the genius bar) thinks that it can predict what we will like by a consensus of information taken from us, combined with people who might think like us or have our same demographic (feel the sarcasim). Where did all the individuals go?

The new generation is so willing to give up habits and personal information to technology thinking that they will benefit from the consensus of data. Is it  destined that we will only move forward when the whole blob of the sameness will move forward with us? Will we create products that ONLY a majority of people will purchase? What happened to products that we don’t even know we want yet? Where’s the room for invention and creativity? Who will be brave enough to support products that don’t fit the mold? Hopefully stores like ours, with customers like ours, will still support new and different products that don’t just fit a consensus!

“That Shit Cray”

My 19 year old daughter took me to see Kanye West and Jay-Z last night. This is the truth. At the dinner we had before the concert she gave me a tutorial on some of the language and what it means and a small history of old school rap i.e. Jay-Z and how Kanye changed rap from  the streets to popular poetry. As she was talking to me I was looking at her remembering her first concert. She was 6 and I took HER to see the “Spice Girls” (indulgent but historical at the same time). I also took her to see Britney Spears twice, Janet Jackson, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and several Summer Jams. She went to see the Back Street Boys and Shakira with other parents; all by the age of 13. Now she was taking her mother to a concert ….this concept blew my mind. I would never have taken my mother to a concert at 19, and here she was taking pictures with me on her I Phone.

I kept thinking about all the times in the car when she was younger, she would turn up the volume (and the bass) when a rap song came on the radio.  I thought the songs were completely inappropriate (especially the messages about women).  She would yell back “it’s poetry Mom”. I shook my head and thought she’ll figure it out. I would say “every song sounds the same and has the same beat”, and she would say “it’s about the words Mom”.

Kanye and Sam

Let’s go back to how we got the tickets to this show (which by the way she saw in DC a few weeks ago when she was at school). I was early when I was on my way topic her up at the airport  on Sunday, so I stopped by the store to check in on things. While standing there in walks Kanye West and entourage. He was pleasant and introduced himself to me and complimented the store. All I could do was think about how I could get my daughter and get back so she could meet one of her favorite ….favorite…rappers? I jumped in the car and in a flash brought her back. With all the confidence in the world I watched her stick out her hand and introduce herself to him. Taking her lead I too started a discussion about his first attempt at  fashion with a show in Paris this past October. Though the show was an OK first try,  I thought his media response was dead on…”it was just his first attempt and fashion is about trying and learning from your mistakes”. He then picked up the conversation and went on about how nothing was going to stop him and he learnt so much, and his next go around would be better. I commented on his confidence and then he challenged me to come to a concert to see how much he changed rap music. I went and it did change my view of rap music. But another surprise was my daughter’s expression of satisfaction that  she had introduced me to an experience,  as I had done when she was young. As they always say, you are never too young to learn.

You Can't Miss His Presence

Here’s what I discovered. There must be thousands of words in every rap song. When the music started (the floor was shaking) the audience was shouting back the words to the performers. They knew every word, every nuance to every line. There were no musicians , no dancers, no strong melodies, just two people manning the synthesizers and  the performers with their words. So THIS was the poetry she was talking about. This was what moved this generation into memorizing hundreds of songs… it was exhilarating . These two performers had to be in the best shape to go on like this for 2 1/2 hours…. no stimulants here or they couldn’t get the words out…their energy was pure and real, and the audience was the same way.

Armed with Only Their Words

Here they are just sitting while the crowd was standing and completely motivated by their words. The encore was a process of the two of them singing the same song over and over, to beat the fact that they repeated it 5 times in Miami…Boston can claim that they repeated it 6 times, a record, and the audience shouted each time, like it was the first. The name of the song “Paris” the hook is “That Shit Cray”….i.e. That Shit’s Crazy…..it really was.

That Shit Cray