NEW YORK -- Men's specialty store executives expect this fall to be a better season for better leather outerwear.
Many shop owners say that after a couple of boom years, fall '93 marked somewhat of a slowdown in leather. This, they report, reflects the consumers' desire to get some wear out of their previous purchases before buying new items. Additionally, the cloth outerwear category attracted so much attention last fall that leather suffered at its expense, they claimed.
That brings retailers to the fall '94 selling season, which they say should benefit from classics in smooth lamb and new styles in worn, rugged skins.
At Silhouette, which has four stores in the Washington, D.C., area, owner Alain Chetrit said about 75 percent of his leather outerwear open-to-buy is in place. He said he's left some room to make purchases at the beginning of the season.
'As far as fashions for this coming season, I like the nubby lamb and shearlings,' Chetrit said. 'And I'm a big believer that the B-3 [bomber] shearling model is important for casual dressing. I started noticing that piece a lot in Europe last year and I thought I should have it here. I think it will be great here.'
Chetrit said that leather outerwear comprises about half of his total outerwear business in dollars.
'Leather was not as good for me last year as the previous year, so I think there could be a resurgence now,' he predicted. 'It's cyclical. We go through a couple of good seasons then we have to give people a chance to wear what they bought and then they come out again.'
The leather selection at the Silhouette stores, which will range from $395 to $1,000, will include an unconstructed blazer in chocolate-brown suede from Hugo Boss, retailing for about $750, and a B-3 bomber from Schott. Said Chetrit of his choices: 'I feel the blazer is a longer silhouette that could be a sport coat or dressier outdoor piece. As for the B-3, I started with Schott in our jeans store and I think it is the most authentic looking B-3 I saw, so I chose the most authentic manufacturer.'
At New York's Camouflage store, partner Gene Chace said he's very excited about this fall.
'Leathers were a bust last year -- cloth coats were the thing,' he stated. 'But I think the business will be stronger this fall, because there's some nice new shapes around.'
Chace, who's placed all his leather orders for fall, said that while the three-quarter shape is 'really the deal,' it's the distressed or worn treatment that will be important to consumers this fall. 'The texture and finish is key, because it makes the piece look like your old favorite jacket fight off the rack,' he said.
Camouflage's leather outerwear offerings will retail from about $300 to $800. Labels include Golden Bear for its consistent sales, New Republic for its retro styling and, as one of the store's new resources this season, Ufuk Arkun.
At Threads, a men's apparel store located in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., owner Nancy Amoroso said she's placed most of her fall leather orders.
'But I haven't placed all of them because last year was not a good leather season,' Amoroso said. 'Had the January/February leather sales taken place in November and December, we wouldn't have had any in stock. But the change in season didn't happen fast enough. So this year we bought more lightweight and shorter leather jackets for early in the season. But we also bought some heavier pieces and shearling, in the hopes that the weather will take off earlier this year.'
The Threads assortment will include leathers with removable liners, and fashion pieces from Victor/Victoria, Scarab and DKNY. The styles, which will retail from about the mid-$400s to more than $1,000, will emphasize versatility, she said. 'They're pieces that guys can put on and not wait until it's freezing cold outside. They're less gimmicky and more in the way of classic.'
At F.R. Tripler, the leather business was quite good last year, according to Richard Press, president. So, he said, the store will continue with the items that meant business last year.
'We will continue to carry both short aviator lengths and longer topcoats for city or country walking wear,' he said. 'Both of those have been very popular with us. And leather in general seems to be on the upturn.'
Press said he's banking on leathers in the brown family to sell best. His assortment includes both private label and better brands, which he declined to identify. But price points, he did mention, will range from the mid-$400s to about $1,000.
'Our pieces cover a milieu, for the man that tends to go for a sportier look in an overcoat to wear in New York or the customers in New Jersey or Connecticut that are country dog walkers,' Press said. 'The styles are either very conservative or town traditional.'