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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Changing Of The Garde


You know creativity can come out of necessity. I find that when I have little to work with, I get to be much more creative than if I had the world on speed dial. And I guess it's because I have to work that much harder and think much more outside the box to achieve an outcome that is the same as having everything readily available. Think about the struggling single guy who has more space than items in his refrigerator and whose girlfriend is stopping by for dinner. One quick call to his mom and somehow day old take-out rice, an onion, a can of fruit cocktail, a half drunken bottle of red wine, pork bacon and string beans on their last leg become a culinary delight. (How? I have no idea, indulge me here, I'm making a point!) The point is you go the extra mile in thought and execution to achieve something desirable in quality, when faced with lack of quantity. I liken this thought to menswear.

For as long as anyone can remember, women have always had the advantage in the clothing arena. I mean just walk into any department store and ladies apparel swarms the floor space like pigs to a trough. One reason for this is what I call the molasses-like ability of men to change and the small array of socially acceptable styles that men have to don. Now accepting this is the inevitable. However, once accepted, in comes the incredible process of slowly nudging men forward while using the framework of menswear and lifestyle to determine a 'new'. That is the 'thinking outside the box' in today's menswear market and it's particularly exciting. Why? Well now you have much more zeroing in within the market coupled with changing social shifts and an enlightened male consumer. Details have become a must, ease of wear is now a no-brainer, versatility plays a power role and a bang for your buck keeps the wallets 'melting in the hand and not in the pocket'. Also, what I find very necessary are the moves being made to give importance back to the male shopper in a modern, strong and attentive way within the retail and pre-retail climates.

Stores now seem more centered on a certain man of peculiar but noted tastes. Its almost like the approach now is to have the male customer feel as though he's not just buying clothes. He's buying into a lifestyle perpetuated by social zeitgeists like for example being green and informed, cycling culture, the Americana heritage, workwear and ivy leaguer movements and luxury living. I see all this happening to push menswear in a forward direction. When I attended the latest trade shows last year, I took notice of a change happening. And I feel that this direction was being taken so that menswear wouldn't start to achieve the wishy-washy legacy that the cup of womenswear sometimes leaves coffee stained on the kitchen table. One particular show on note is the Project trade show whose fresh blend of different facets of menswear culture seems to be a great direction. When I spied the show's upcoming exhibitors and roster of collaborations, I nodded.



Brands like Spurr, Woolrich and Creep with retailers like Oak, Saks Fifth Avenue and Four Horsemen provide an eclectic mix of the varied levels of menswear targeted to that new male consumer. Also of note was the announcement of Project's first pop-up store 'Made In New York', a lucrative and fairly new marketing approach in menswear. It's a swell idea to get the attendees to experience the products through ownership. But even greater, is the decision to showcase local businesses and young emerging brands with fresh approaches to the new male shopper and design aesthetics with great growth potential. There's a mash of ocular brands, cycling companies, jewelry and home goods labels that celebrate great cosmopolitan references under the Americana umbrella.




It's a noteworthy buzz-generating platform to get buyers buying, small businesses growing (and bloggers blogging). Its official, I'm intrigued. For more information check out www.projectshow.com. Open to trade only....but the decisions made there will reach the masses soon enough.

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