Tag Archives: men’s retail

After All That Movement Where is The Real Fashion?

I just got back from Paris where the much anticipated shows from Dior and St Laurent produced a wild media frenzy for collections that were …um …OK. Yet again the media created controversy for the big houses with tons of copy and air time, and I am pretty sure the luxury consumer could care very little about the outcome . My take on these shows was that they were derivative of other designers work and the press gave the credit to these mega brands. Let’s start with St Laurent. The good news about the St Laurent show is that Mr. Slimane used the foundation of St Laurents original looks from the 70’s for his 2013 show.

St Laurent in the 70's

Now St Laurent 2013

St Laurent 2013

 Rachel Zoe’s has always been accused of copying St Laurent (but updating the fit). Here are pictures of her past shows and advertisements….

A Rachel Zoe Ad

From a Rachel Zoe Fashion Show

Confused? So was I….what was all the fuss about? Another show, much anticipated,was the return of Jil Sander, back to her namesake (which she sold for $250 million) . Granted Jil is still getting her feet back into the business at age 68. Her show was OK….good attempt…lots of press and lots of talk about it….But the Marni show was Jil Sander at her finest (only not designed by Jil) Marni has been exploring a new version of Minimalism for a long time but the press only talks about the big advertising accounts which is not Marni. If they do talk about Marni it’s usually a small blurb about her prints not her architecture. Who do you think did Jil better?

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Or Marni?

Marni S/S 2013

Marni S/S 2013

 

Raf Simons did a pretty good job for his first Dior Show…Over 50% of the show was decent. The press LOVED it which was over the top but of course Dior is a BIG advertiser. Here are a few shots of that show.

Dior S/S 2013

Dior S/S 2013

What’s the point of this blog? Fashion has so many dimensions and unfortunately  the public only gets about 15% of the information. Plus if advertisers are the only people that the press talks about how can anyone grow in this business? Same old houses, same old designers….no credit for the real new and different….this bothers me.

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!

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

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)

 

 

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

Jil at Jil

Will It Be The Real Jil?

Twenty five years ago we started carrying a line from Hamburg Germany called Jil Sander. It was perfect for Louis, incredibly well made, modern researched fabrics, minimalist styling and a price tag that matched all this luxury. At the end of the 90’s Jil descided to sell 75% of her company to Prada because “she wanted to improve on the breathe of her handbag-shoe business” . She was promised by Prada’s chief executive officer that the business would remain the same. Well it didn’t stay the same. The first thing that Prada demanded was that all of the clothing would be made in the Prada factories. There went the quality that Jil was known for, and the fabric research was cut in half, there went the modern take on clothing. Jil couldn’t work under those conditions, and feeling duped, she left. There went the design. We dropped the line as soon as Jil made the announcement. (how could it ever be the same value?)

After that, Prada worked hard to try and restore the value to the company which was of course, impossible. After a few tries they brought in a menswear designer named Raf Simons.

He Had Never Design for Womenswear

Raf had never designed for womenswear. (Somehow they thought it was a good bet). A few seasons later they sold the company to an English investment company who quickly announced that they were going to sell the company as soon as they made it profitable again (like that could happen). Raf’s first attempts at a collection were actually better than I thought they would be and each season you could see he was learning and growing, but the company still struggled . A few years later a Japanese/Italian company bought the company and continued to support Raf and you could see improvements with the collections and sales (the quality still could not match the standards of the original Jil Sander).

Last year around this time John Galliano was fired from the Dior house for racial slurs during a night of drinking in Paris (one of many nights). It was announced the Raf was a consideration for the job. Well now…. here is the fashion world in a nutshell. Gibo, (the Japanese/Italian company) who had been investing money (while losing it) in Jil Sander (a company abandoned by it’s designer) watched it’s designer publicly announce that he was interviewing for a job in a company that was trying to rebuild their brand that was abdondoned by yet another designer. (I know that was a run on sentence) So Gibo fired him.

The fashion world is in a tizzy…They are mad at Gibo for firing Raf (who, by the way, miraculously popped out the most beautiful collection for his last season). They are thrilled that Jil is returning, and they are expecting the company to return to it’s original splendor. Well guess what….in won’t. I was asked to start showcasing Jil again in the store. I thought long and hard about it and I refused. There were two reasons. First, Jil is now sold at many stores not just the controlled specialty stores that she insisted on originally . Second, Jil’s control on quality will be minimal. She will not have the control over the factories like she did before, and her obsessive control over details will be cost prohibitive. I’m sure she will push the envelope of the company owners, but the price of her pants in 1998 are still considered outrageous at $1200 (and that quality can not be replicated for the same price).

The musical chairs of designers that is going on with these fashions houses are going to catch up with their customers and eventually their sales. Branding IS important, I know that, but product integrity is also important. Is the consumer so gullible that it will eat anything companies throw at them? One change can be understood, but when the consumer needs a road map to understand how far away from the original concept the company has gone, the consumer will abandon the product. Success in a label is usually a combination of design, make and fit. When these elements are rearranged or eliminated the BRAND can’t stand on it’s own…look at the GAP. I wish Jil well and I will be watching carefully to see if I did underestimate the situation. But I thought I would give you, the reader, insight into how decisions are made. I will be the first to admit my mistakes, but I have to have some guidelines to give my store the integrity that I demand from my vendors.

Women Now Outshine the Men at Work…Is That Acceptable? Really?

Donald Trump Bad Hair Day

Here is the supposed KING of Business. So are we (I mean the work force of America) saying that it is OK for a man to parade around like this just as long as he makes a lot of money?  Would that be acceptable for women? Funny, every time a women runs for office, all the press and opponents talk about is her dress and her hair, but we don’t even speak about a man (well ok we are finally making fun of “The Donald”).

Is this Best We Can Do?

Here you go…here is the perfect illustration of our illustrious young male workforce, badly dress and groomed. Why aren’t the women of the world screaming for a revolution….Would you really look at these guys and think they are the best you could hire for your company?  How can you tell them apart?  They all think they look the part, and what they really look like is that they have white man’s disease, you can tell they can’t dance either. Maybe one of them could have worn a dark trouser that possibly would fit them without having a saggy ass. Maybe one of them could have worn a patterned shirt or dare I say a tie. We all know they were wearing blue blazers (without a spec of a design element anywhere). Somewhere there is a secret code that informs these men that it’s the only acceptable uniform to wear; khakis, a blue or white plain shirt and a navy blazer and you are all set for the business world. Get an $8 hair cut while you are at it.

Well guess what men of the secret code…your competition isn’t each other any more. it’s women. And I can say for certain, because many of them are my customers, women are grooming themselves to look more modern for business to beat the competition in their saggy assed suits from Joseph A. Banks. Get ready… So when you walk out of an interview all wrinkled (or unwrinkled in your stay pressed shirt and pants) that the women (or male) interviewer is going to respond better to a candidate with an aura of a well dressed and groomed person, not someone in the secret code uniform.

Now I know that I’m a woman, and women aren’t part of the CLUB…. But this code has gone on for way too long. It was cool to see men stop being so buttoned up, but of course we had to go to extremes and soon they are wearing pajamas around because they are comfortable. If that’s the case why wear clothes at all?

Is this Really Sexy? I Guess if You Have Money You Shouldn't Care..I Think You Should

Whether men like it or not, to compete in this business climate they are going to have to put more time and effort into their appearance or be left behind. There are leaders in this endeavor. The look may not scream out (which is the point) but check out the grooming and the variety of dress.

He Looks Modern Without Looking Stuffy

Look a Different Colored Shirt?

Now There's a Man Who Knows How To Tie aTie

See my point? Please….

Who Goes to the Waterfront?

 

The tall Ship in the Background with the Screen in the Foreground Says it All

Last Saturday was great day at the waterfront. RedBull sponsored an Extreme Diving Event off the roof of the Institute of Contemporary Art. 80 feet above the water (12 stories high) 10 men had the nerve to do triple summersaults with double twists and land feet first in the water. There was no doubt that these men were insane….but you couldn’t take your eyes off them. It felt like the 50’s something very daredevil but no high tech involved….just men in their speedos.

 

Starting from a Handstand....I can do that

Here’s another shot taken with a tanker cruising through the  middle of the event…never a dull moment. But that is the Waterfront, there is always something moving and there are so many pieces that complete the puzzle. We are so happy down here. The attitude  is fun and relaxed especially when the world is not. We had 25,000 visitors at the Waterfront on Saturday…the store (Louis) and Sam’s were hopping and the energy represented…well RedBull. I used Hipstamatic to take the next shot (film which makes your photo look vintage) . I think it is appropriate for the day.

 

Old Time Boston in Real Time

 

When the Economy Tanks Elegance Becomes Essential

“Does anybody know who Wallis Simpson is?” I once asked and got a big stare back….I understand that women, who influenced style during the last 100 hundred years is not essential to ones knowledge of modern history;  but could we have a cheat sheet made up (since there are not that many) for the younger generation. These women represented style not only with their clothes but their lifestyle as well. Wallis Simpson was not a women that lived a commendable life, neither did Coco Channel, but they influenced “women’s fashion” during a period of major economic turmoil (the 30’s) in a way that would truly be relevant today.  Only today they would not have to compete with the tonnage of CHEAP merchandise that has flooded the retail environment.

For many years there have been several trends that don’t feel right to me. When there is so many indicators that the economy is weak, why does the fashion world promote flashy, aggressive clothes as if we are living during boom times? I think I know why…it’s because we are a Global Society now and fashion houses are catering to emerging markets. The US is not the major consumer it once was. We are down on the list and our number one concern is how cheap can we get it…..not how it’s made or who made it , or how long will it last (style and make)…but what percentage discount can we get it. When was the last time you read an article on how good clothing is made? When have you seen a segment on the “Today Show” about how to buy a garment that takes months to design and make or a segment on clothes you bought ten years ago that are relevant today because they were designed and made well. OK enough lecturing…now back to Wallis Simpson:

 

Wallis Simpson Married the Abdicated King Of England, Edward Duke Of Windsor

The 30’s were a time of elegance and style, just look at the dress Mrs. Simpson(Duchess of Windsor) is wearing in the picture above. You can see the how luxurious the fabric is by the way it drapes on her upper body under the matador Jacket and the skirt falls gracefully from the waist down. The 30’s were also a time of austerity, a time of quiet refinement. The Styling of the dress covers the whole body, almost prudish (and she was far from being a prude). So we finally get to the point of this blog which is trends today do not yet reflect the socio-economic times of today. But  Louis has moved strongly in this direction, without the support of the media, for a few seasons very successfully. We made a trip to London(ironically) in January and found some great lines that we felt moved in this direction of elegance and refinement. Here are few pics to help you see what we are talking about.

 

Alessandra Rich really Captures the Mood, no?

Alessandra Rich is an Italian living in London. She know quality like an Italian and she gets the design feel from living in London…a perfect match.

 

Lee Klabin's Cut and Drape along with Great Fabrics Make this Dress

check the dress out from the back

Lee Klabin has been making boned, rock and roll wedding dresses for the lucky women in London for many years. This is her first season making ready to wear and Louis is her first American store. The quality shows when you zip up the asymmetrical zipper and it fits like a glove….and the midnight duchess satin is delicious.

Osman is the Perfect Blend of the 30's and the 70's

Osman is a Cambridge educated designer out of London who again, only worked with private clients until this season. Originally from Afghanistan, he has a retro esthetic with a modern twist.

Well this will be the first of many blogs on this subject. We are in a time of refinement and appreciation…our new words for this decade…we better start understanding the meaning of these words or we will miss the point of living well.

 

Old School Jeans

Anyone who has listen to me talk about sportswear in the last five years has also heard me say “the one thing your closet doesn’t need is another pair of jeans. First of all I was sick and tired of looking at every American wearing jeans 24/7. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing we are wearing jeans….sometimes ripped, sometimes bleached, sometimes hand rubbed they look sloppy and predictable. The funny thing is that jeans are supposed to be the great equalizer, but really they are the most toxic garment one can wear. 80% of the jeans made globally are made in China because of the toxic waste they produce. They have traced cancer in children near the rivers wear they have dumped the indigo dye that makes blue jeans …well… blue. Having said that….the best looms to make denim are in Japan (about 10% of the denim made). The Japanese bought all the machinery from American companies when we decided to make denim cheaply and washed out.

OK so here I go…I found a company “Raleigh”that makes jeans old school. I don’t know why but I was in the mood for it….The sales person for the company, John, will tell you I walked into their showroom with such an attitude….”I don’t buy jeans I leave that to department stores and jeans stores and A&F and The Gap and anyone else who wants to join in”. So why was I there? Because he asked me to come by. I felt like I was looking at jeans that James Dean would have worn. The denim was Japanese which means they had selvedge edges and the color that pure denim weave produces which is true dark denim. The fit has a low rise but not too low so they have that 501 feeling. Of course to make the jeans authentic they were raw (not washed) with a button fly….but after all it is 2011 so I had them rinsed once (so your washing machine and dryer won’t turn blue and the jeans won’t feel like sandpaper) and put in a zipper fly (so it’s easier to get on and OFF).

 

Old School Raleigh Jeans

I even shot the picture with old fashion film, and had the models cuff them, just like James Dean. Look at the women’s jeans they’re not skinnies, they are manstyle which looks great with a feminine top. (The women’s jeans have stretch in them which technically does not make them authentic but they sure do look like it.)

 

She really looks like she was from the 50's

One of the most important facts about the history of denim is that they started in America because they were made in America. Raleigh is also made in America. The tag in the back of the jeans states that fact and gives a certain air of authenticity.  I guess if I was getting back into the jeans game I should start at the beginning.

 

They make it easy to understand "Made in America"