It's hard not to learn at least a few things about menswear when you ask some of the industry's experts to share their knowledge. Everyone from Public School's Dao Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne to Bergdorf Goodman president Joshua Schulman participated in the discussion at the recent WWD Menswear Summit, and shared their insights on how men are shopping today and what they expect to see from brands. Here are the three biggest lessons from the talks.
Men are starting to treat their bags more like women treat theirs.
"Bags are interesting," said Shulman while discussing how Bergdorf Goodman is approaching its male customers. "There is a definite function. Ten years ago, men carried file folders or a note pad. You may still carry that, but today everybody I know carries at least three devices—two phones, an iPad…It's really interesting to watch how guys are interacting with leather goods and buying them, often as a symbol of their identity. This has been going on with women for many, many decades."
Social media is exposing us to brands we wouldn't know about otherwise.
It's been said that any publicity is good publicity, but the kind of visibility brands can create and control via social media channels is helping the little guys get much, much bigger. To put it another way, what your friends tweet matters.
"The rise of social media means that these tiny little companies like mine have this global reach, which is [as] awesome as it is time-consuming," said Band of Outsiders' creative director Scott Sternberg. "It's a positive thing for our men's business when it comes to selling more clothes and opening more dialogue."
Specifically, Sternberg cited the success of his Polaroid campaigns, which have starred everyone from Jason Schwartzman to Frank Ocean. "The power of celebrity cannot be denied," he said. "We have a good batting record."
People care about where a product is made.
Making something in the USA isn't a gimmick, it's an important part of what many men expect from brands today.
"We believe that today's consumer demands a deeper level of engagement with the brands and the products that he purchases," said Shinola CEO Heath Carr, whose products are all made in the United States. "We also believe he cares about where that product is manufactured and the story behind that."
For proof that location and story matters, Carr offered up the first product Shinola ever produced: a limited-edition release of 2,500 Runwell watches that sold out in just eight days.
Bonus factoid: Male models didn't start walking down runways until 1952.
Brioni, which was purchased by Kering (the company that owns Gucci) in 2011 and is now under the creative direction of Brendan Mullane, bills itself as the first luxury menswear brand. The brand staged its first show in Florence's Sala Bianca at the Palazzo Pitti and cast its own employees as the models at a time when there were no males modeling.
"Let me be clear," Mullane said. "This was a revolutionary act in 1952. Until then, fashion itself was considered entirely for women."
Thank goodness that's not the case anymore.
—Details associate online style editor Justin Fenner.
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