Thursday, August 30, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

 It’s All About Menswear These Days

Thom Browne
Photo courtesy Thom Browne 

On August 28th, there was an announcement that the Italian luxury house Ermenegildo Zegna Group, the largest menswear brand in the world, acquired a major stake — 85 percent — in Thom Browne. The designer's New York-based namesake label (predominantly made in Italy), was bought by the Italian men's fashion house at a valuation totaling $500 million. Browne, who launched with a menswear line in 2001 (his women’s collection came 9 years later) is the sole other shareholder in this agreement and will still independently run his namesake brand as chief creative officer alongside CEO Rodrigo Bazan, who joined Thom Browne in May 2016. With the Ermenegildo Zegna Group resources, Thom Browne feels his namesake brand will be “really able to grow and do everything, and anything [we] want to do” and “to build something strong that will outlive all of us.” For Browne, the Zegna Group represents “true quality, one of the most powerful things in the relationship. We are always making things the best that they can be and the same is for Zegna as well — it’s the perfect relationship.”

Thom Browne Resort 2019
Photo: Vogue.com

Perfect indeed and the fact it seems like a match made in heaven, or in this case, match that is ‘tailor’ made given that both companies are synonymous with impeccable hand tailoring and they approach fashion, luxury, quality, and craftsmanship in much the same way. Thom has always felt that fashion moves too fast and changes too quickly. His consistent vision from the beginning, for both his men’s and women’s collections, was to take very classic ideas and good old American sportswear and show them in a fresh new way. He will routinely propose both shrunken and elongated silhouettes, severe black and white along with shades of gray, pastels and strong color, and accessorizes with everything from platform sneakers and flat lace-up oxfords to natty wing tipped towering high heels. And of course, his fabulously and witty handbags. His shows were always the highlight of New York Fashion Week until he decamped to Paris in October 2017.

 Menswear suiting from The Row Fall 2018 Ready-To-Wear
Photo: Vogue.com

Just one day before, it was announced that Mary Kate and Ashley's The Row will be launching menswear and it will be available in stores and online in October. In a press release provided to Fashionista.com, the New York-based company announced that The Row's men's offering "echoes the dedication to craftsmanship, exceptional fabrics and fine tailoring already present in its womenswear and accessory collections.” This is hardly a stretch considering that the name of the luxurious, minimal label is taken directly from Savile Row and the designing twins dabbled in menswear previously, having introduced a menswear capsule collection a few years ago and a retail menswear capsule in 2016. The award-winning brand is not only a beloved fashion favorite among savvy It Girls (with money to spend) but highly discerning men. Couturier Ralph Rucci counts himself as a fan.

 Haberdashery takes center stage at Ralph Lauren's 40th-anniversary show
Spring 2008 Ready-To-Wear - Photo: Vogue.com

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to talk about impeccable tailoring and menswear without mentioning Ralph Lauren, who will celebrate his label’s 50th anniversary with a special event on September 7th during New York Fashion Week. The fashion show and dinner will take place at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park and will benefit the Central Park Conservancy. His 40th, in 2008, was naturally, a fashion spectacle that included a runway show and black-tie candlelit garden party for 400 in the Central Park Conservatory.

There is no question that there is an inundation of androgynous fashion throughout the market. Many designers are empowering women with a new kind of ‘armor’ for the workplace and reaching out to a generation of young women, many of whom may have never been seduced by a pantsuit or a great jacket. This is no doubt a reflection of our times, and a resurgence in feminism which was jump-started by the #Me Too movement. It is no longer about an overtly sexualized feminine silhouette or baring too much skin, and the notion of what is beautiful and ‘sexy’ continues to be redefined by the women themselves.

 Gaia Repossi
Photo: Harper's Bazaar

Gaia Repossi, the 32-year-old creative director of her family’s namesake jewelry house, who is Italian but lives and works in Paris, captured this mood perfectly with an article for the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, “Ageless Style: French Chic.” As she put it, “Nothing dazzles me more than a woman’s wardrobe whose codes are borrowed from a man’s. What I like and what interests and feels modern to me, is an accumulation of jewelry with men’s tailoring. A restrained palette can be disrupted in a way that surprises with shine, accents of light, volume, or the materiality of jewelry. This contrast in character, which seems to affirm a modern woman-a woman who questions inherited codes of femininity and who refuses to be an object- is what I find most feminine”.

                   Ageless fashion icon Francois Hardy wearing a tuxedo                   

I have long been a proponent of menswear. Classic menswear codes are versatile, failsafe, timeless and ageless (they literally work across all generations) and they are as valid for day as for evening. Like the color black, menswear creates the perfect blank canvas with which to build a look and personalize. If you want to take the menswear concept literally and wear a brogue or oxford, great! If you want to feminize by adding a high heel or statement jewelry, that’s great too.

 Meghan Markle wears a Judith & Charles mini tuxedo dress to the theatre

Coincidentally, on Wednesday evening Meghan Markle looked modern and sensational attending a party for the show “Hamilton” in London wearing a Judith & Charles black wool abbreviated tuxedo dress accessorized with high heeled pumps. It was the perfect mix of masculine and feminine.

It’s hardly surprising that menswear, menswear fabrics, Savile Row tailoring and power suits just happened to top the list of ‘what’s hot’ among a select group of fashion insiders surveyed by WWD for a special article, “What to Watch: Hot Fall Trends, What’s Over, What’s Coming”, August 27th . Seven editors interviewed retailers, influencers, and stylists in a quest to find out what they saw as the most significant trends for fall, what’s entirely over, and what directions they sensed would reign in the future.

Giovanna Battaglia
Photo: courtesy www.abitofsass.com

Among the other items that made the hot list were statement coats, cowboy boots, the 80’s, sequins, shearlings, cozy knitwear, metallics, minis, faux furs, cowboy boots, and animal prints, although the only one who suggested letting loose and wearing leopard, tiger, zebra head to toe was Neiman Marcus’s, Ken Downing. I adore Ken, but really, I think a little goes a long way, and the only way that works is on a runway or maybe if you are Giovanna Battaglia lol!

Black leather by Richard Quinn available at Noir, Bergdorf Goodman

They were also in agreement that it’s all about a pulled together look (even streetwear is becoming more formalized), comfort is key (kitten heels and flats in all their guises looks much cooler than wearing heels all day, every day), off the shoulder and the cold shoulder should be given the cold shoulder. And while some thought pink still had a life, some didn’t, though they mostly agreed that pastels have pretty much had their day (neon anyone?). Interestingly, Linda Fargo was the only one who really singled out black and as always, she is putting her money where her mouth is. Noir, a boutique within the store (curated by Linda and entirely devoted to a selection of fabulous black pieces) will open on September 6th.

Another retailer whose sentiments I truly agreed with is Averyl Oates, managing director, 10 Corso Como, New York:

“The customers are the ones leading the trends now and the biggest trend, if there is one, is attitude, and creating your own style, and how you put yourself together. Because of this there are more ‘micro-trends’ happening simultaneously than ever before. With easy access to a diverse range of fashion, people are being incredibly creative and breaking traditional molds — mixing luxury with high street, vintage with streetwear, etc. Comfort is also so important — you can see it in the massive sneakerization of America, and the general dominance of streetwear in the retail space from affordable fashion right up to, and perhaps even most prominently, the luxury sphere. Headlines pronouncing streetwear as the new luxury are never-ending. It’s pretty commonplace to see hoodie/sneaker attire in fancy restaurants now.”

The article ended with a single comment from a reader who had a similar train of thought: “The only people who follow trends are customers with no sense of style and need to be told what to wear and waste their money. Then next season your "color" is outdated. What a joke! Also, designers that "dictate" trends are boring designers that have no originality and are as well TOLD what to do. Trend forecasters are so useless. It's too funny to hear people use the word trend. Find your own style, buy a few high-end pieces like shoes, accessories that will go for MANY looks you have year after year. Stop being fed garbage. I love designers that NEVER follow trends but get knock off for their good ideas”.

I personally hate the word "trend" and I hate the notion of trends. I’ve lived long enough to know that it all comes back as fashion is so cyclical. And who cares if it doesn’t come back? There is validity in all styles; it just depends on the context it’s put in and the sense of appropriateness applied to an occasion. It’s all about attitude and the way clothes are worn. It’s ridiculous to tell a tiny, small-boned woman that it’s all about oversized fashion, when she might look and feel better in something more fitted.




- Marilyn Kirschner

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