A handful of hot sportswear items brought out the bucks at The Collective, which ended its three-day run Tuesday at Pier 94 in Manhattan. And it didn't take much looking to find them. It was a case of anything goes, anywhere, with most companies taking the collection route with complete packages of shirt-jackets, outerwear, knit and woven shirts, sweaters and even slacks.
Whether it was cashmere sweaters and polos, black leather blazers and open-bottom zip jackets or wool commuter coats, they were all over the show in the newly assembled collection lines. In fact, shopping for classifications became history. Clothing people were showing outerwear. Cut-and-sewn sport shirt companies had knits, sweaters and wool shirt-jackets. So did leather people who were featuring wool coats, sweaters and pants.
From the enthusiastic response from the huge amount of retailers at the show -- and the paper they left -- this is where the men's wear market is going. Exhibitors at The Collective took the first major step in redefining one-stop shopping.
Retailers and exhibitors both agreed -- the reason for this revolution is business casual, which has totally changed retail buying habits. Retailers are buying what their customers want to buy and they're making the game of Garanimals a reality. In short, stores are buying the coordinated packages of a soft sport coat, outerwear and leather jacket, sweater and polo, the woven shirts, plus the slacks, from one resource.
Elyse Kroll, president of ENK International, which produces The Collective, said, 'There's tremendous energy at this show. It's apparent in the attendance, and the way retailers are so excited about the fresh, new merchandise. Stores had great post-holiday business and they're buying across-the-board from accessories to sportswear, clothing and furnishings. This show is so good, it brings me right back to the '80s.'
Many retailers at The Collective were also at the recent Pitti show in Florence and it was a case of filling in the gaps this week. For example, Bob Mitchell, vice-president, Mitchells of Westport and Richards of Greenwich, both in Connecticut, said, 'We're looking for three-quarter-length wool and leather outerwear. We taught the customer what to wear for business and we've done well with sport coats, trousers and knits. But we really didn't have the right outerwear to wear with it. We were too lightweight and the lengths were too short for really cold weather.'
His mission at the show was to find the right coats to sell with business casuals and his answers were dressy wools and heavier leathers in three-quarter lengths to wear over sport coats.
Richard Buksbaum, a principal of Tyrone's, Roslyn, N.Y., had sweaters, knit shirts and outerwear on his agenda and said, 'We were at Pitti and spent a lot of money. But we always leave open-to-buy for The Collective because of the great mix of exhibitors. And this certainly looks like a cashmere and leather show.'
William Crockett, buyer at Porter-Stevens, Metaire, La., reported his store continues to sell a lot of better clothing. 'We recently added Vestimenta and it's great,' he said. 'We buy our clothing early, so sportswear gets our top priority here. We're looking for leathers, which were a hit for us last fall, also knit shirts and sweaters. If there's one classification that came back with a bang, it's sweaters, and they're all over the show.'
Add Sam Cavatto, owner of Cavatto's, St. Louis, to the visiting retailers with sportswear on their mind. He explained, 'I work my tailored lines early in the showrooms and do the sportswear at the show. Based on what what checked out last fall, I'm looking for leathers and better woven sport shirts.'
As expected, with better sportswear dominating The Collective, tailored clothing makers put their best forward with an endless number of variations of super-soft sport coats that double as outerwear, also four-button, patch-pocket shirt-jackets that can sell in either sportswear or clothing departments. But suits were far from neglected at the show and it prompted this comment from Ken Giddon, who owns Rothmans in the heart of New York City's Silicon Alley: 'Suits are coming back because it's not cool to be a dot-commer anymore.' He backed up his statement by shopping the show in a well-cut, three-button, gray sharkskin with a light-blue shirt and navy tie.
The Italian clothing companies at the show were certainly true to form by showing some new takes on old classics, in addition to recently added categories. In the Canadian section, the Arnold Brant collection at SFI interpreted white-on-navy chalkstripes in cashmere for a three-button modern suit. There was also a natural-stretch black cashmere blazer.
S. Cohen broke its own suits and sport coats-only rule with a new collection of three-quarter-length wool outerwear coats with a sporty flavor. Colors were in businesslike darks, while models had fly fronts, side-entry pockets, quilted linings, etc.
Profile Menswear International took an either/or approach to sport coats that can also work as outerwear. Paul Wasserman, vice-president, said the cashmere/wool four-button coat with side-entry pockets, in particular, sold well at the show. 'Retailers also like our new cashmere-blend peacoat that we're also doing in single-breasted.'
Designers Mickey Spatz and Jeff Rose are on the same kick with super-soft, unlined sport coats in traditional British-looking wools. Spatz had a coat with a squared front in a windowpane with a soft collar that can be worn buttoned at the throat. Jeff Rose takes the same unlined route for tweed jackets with either raglan or set-in sleeves. As the designer pointed out, 'It's fully tailored but I made it heavy and soft enough for the guy who wants to wear it as outerwear. I even added working cuff buttons.'
Both of these collections dipped into other classifications and this was the keynote of The Collective. Ike Behar, for instance, has gone from a woven shirt to a collections resource and has cashmere sweaters and polos in the same colors, plus a short line of business-casual outerwear.
Among the many leather specialists at the show, John Remeny, owner of Remy Leathers, said black, smooth lamb, three-button blazers and shirt-jackets were the runaway hits at the show. 'But the color story is finally changing and stores are writing earth tones as well, like brown and taupe.'
According to Robert Souga, national sales manager, Robert Comstock, it's the unusual leathers grabbing the attention. The company showed a chamois jacket lined with shearling, and a deerskin with a napa leather lining. He said, 'We've done well at the show with wools with a deerskin lining.'
Speaking of shearlings, Gimo's, one of the Italian companies at the show, had some knockout lightweight pig suede/shearling shirts and long coats. Also featured was a large assortment of black, smooth lambskins ranging from the now-basic blazer to open-bottom short jackets.
Leather combined with knit was another strong feature at the show. Carol Cohen had a short jacket in black with raglan sleeves. Mondo di Marco showed a pullover sweater with a leather front teamed with a knit back and sleeves.
Mixed media could be the next big happening in the market.