Yes, the merchandiser. Now while the designer conjures up the ideas, it's the merchandiser or store buyer that waves their magic wand (or purchase order) and says what of the designer is worth those unbeknownst men purchasing in the dreaded netherworld known as retail. Yes it's true that nowadays we see the collection as soon as it airs on the runway but it's also true that we see it so far in advance to when it actually hits the racks that many changes, tweaks and polishes are made. This is particularly true of the more mainstream fashion brands since they reach the broader American male consumer (and I mean broader figuratively and literally). For it's these merchandisers that the designers have to work with to create a dialogue that the consumer can understand and thereby support.
When thinking of mainstream collections, a main presence in many a department store in Anytown, USA is Nautica. For a few years now the company has restructured itself to keep its Americana/Heritage appeal while competing with the 'wash & go', 'no prep necessary' appeal of brands like the revamped JCrew and a host of younger designer labels. See, Nautica's aesthetic is easy. It's the attention to detail, the little nuances to update and their retail presence that they have to keep abreast of. It's this visible presence that makes them stand out to the masses and also makes key what and how their store inventory and presence is merchandised.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the invitation for Nautica Spring Summer 2012 was "what revamped thing are they going to propose?" since right now the differentiating lines amongst labels that focus on heritage dressing are easily distortable. However, Nautica showed a fresh take in addition to their usual traditional fabrics and familiar weaves like oxford, pique and chambray and finishings like wash n go and wrinkle resistant. That fresh take was a bold use of color in a segment of the collection that was inspired by sailing. You're thinking Nautica?..Inspired by sailing?..Groundbreaking! Actually it was the combination of bold "I can see them at night" colors with the trimmed silhouettes a more body conscious male is now seeking and the updated patterns of father's 'yesteryear clothing' that made the segment standout. This coupled with their offerings of great technical meets everyday outerwear, sportswear that take men from sun-up to sun down and that capsule collection interchangeability among the segments made for a collection merchandisers will be pleased with. Some merchers like safety and some like stoking the fire with a bit of risk. When ultimately marketable brands like Nautica stir the pot a bit it ultimately makes the risky seem all the more feasible which sends a message to the consciousness of men and inevitably pushes fashion forward. Oh the witchy bewilderment of the decisive 'mercher' is once again prompted by the designer to become the cause and the cure.
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