Brands Court Demand for Exclusivity, Low-key Differentiation at Paris Men’s Trade Shows

PARIS — Despite headwinds for both independent brands and retailers and the last-minute cancellation of Tranoï, the mood was upbeat at the recent round of trade shows and showrooms during men’s fashion week here. Many exhibitors were coming out of Pitti Uomo in Florence, where they said sales had been lackluster, and were positively surprised at the buzzy vibe.

Exhibitors at Man and Welcome Edition said buyer turnout had been higher than expected, with a return of American and British retailers. “A lot of the American buyers are skipping New York and coming to Paris,” said Charles Arnett, business development consultant for hemp specialist Jungmaven, showing at Man. “The cost of the trip is about the same, and Paris is really where it’s at when it comes to men’s,” he commented.

“The U.K. is very keen to come here, because there’s nothing similar in London,” said Paul Batista, cofounder of Welcome Edition, which is taking advantage of the growing role of Paris as a hub on the men’s fashion calendar and has grown from showing 25 brands in 2018 to 140 at this summer’s edition.

Buyers in town were shopping for a mix of elevated basics that are easy to sell and exclusives that allow them to differentiate. “Basics are selling strongly, it’s an easy way for people to update their wardrobes,” Arnett said. “Independent stores are being very careful about the brands they pick, having exclusivity for a specific region for instance,” he continued.

To succeed in today’s market, Batista said, brands need to tick all the boxes, offering “a point of difference, good product, intelligent price structure and consistency.”

“Having a unique point of view is important. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of clothing,” said Colby Black, founder of the ’70s-inspired Monostereo brand showing at Man and chief merchandising and product officer at outdoor goods e-tailer Backcountry.

“You need a strong concept and to offer something new,” agreed Gilles Cirelli, president of Bordeaux-based Maison Faret. The historic cycling goods brand, recently relaunched with a collection of high-end accessories for urban cyclists, is opening a store in its hometown early next year. Cirelli and business partner Daniel Faret, the grandson of the company’s founder, were looking for brands to complement the offer in store.

“We’re looking for consistency and for collaborations on products,” said Kasper Hostrup, owner of menswear store Goods, in Copenhagen. “Exclusivity is very important.”

But while exclusives are increasingly essential, buyers said consistency and high-quality product were more important than a trend-driven offer. “Our customer is focused on quality menswear, not fashion,” Hostrup said.

“We are looking for new small brands with a good background in fabrics, good details and sustainability,” said Tabea Böhnke, buyer for Perle Store in Hamburg, Germany. “We’re looking for something classic but cool; it’s important to look a bit different but not in an ostentatious way,” she said. “The materials and the story of the brand are really important.”

“The customer expects to find something they won’t see elsewhere,” said Anne Engstet of Donn Ya Doll, a multibrand women’s store in Copenhagen, in town looking at pre-collections and unisex pieces to make a start on buying early in the season.

Slowing sales of luxury goods as well as recent high-profile retail bankruptcies and their potentially devastating impact on emerging designers means smaller brands are increasingly looking to tap into demand for exclusivity and long-term partnerships rather than grow distribution at all costs, several brand owners said.

“We want to stay difficult to find,” explained Angelo Matias, in charge of business development at Saint-Tropez-based menswear label Erevan, showing at Man for the first time. An advocate of slow fashion, the label recently opened a corner in Japan and has plans for another in the U.S. shortly with a major retailer.

Sunray Sportswear, showing at Welcome Edition, has a similar stance. Owner Colin Campbell described the brand, which offers high-end Japanese t-shirts and jersey pieces, as “analogue,” only offering the label to brick-and-mortar retailers. “By not selling online, we want to support the brick-and-mortar experience,” he said. That strategy is paying off, he said. “The sell-through we’re getting in store is incredible.”

The independent retailers that represent the core of footfall at both Man and Welcome Edition are tapping into consumer frustration with the online experience, from a lack of experience to the inconvenience of deliveries, observers said. “The online experience is soulless, people have had enough of that,” Campbell commented.

“The multibrand stores doing well today are those that are nailing service, but that also offer a digital dimension and know what their customers want,” said Man/Woman cofounder and director Antoine Floch.

Independent retailers are tapping into their role as curators and activating social media to mine consumer desire for exclusivity, several attendees noted. “You really have to increase your efforts on social media,” Engstet said.

“Stores are using the influencer model as a way to promote their curation, almost like a digital personal shopper,” Arnett commented. “It’s a critical way to compete with big-box stores.”

One key absentee this season was Tranoï, which said in May that it was canceling its June show during men’s. “It’s a difficult season for our clients,” Tranoï chief executive officer Boris Provost told WWD. “We are working on a new concept for men’s next January that will be better adapted to the economic reality of the men’s market today.” Tranoï’s women’s show in September will go ahead as scheduled at the Palais de la Bourse, and the organizer is prepping for its debut Tokyo event, also in September. Space there is already fully booked, Provost said.

A few labels that had been exhibiting at Tranoï in recent seasons popped up elsewhere in town — Indian label Countrymade‘s founder Sushant Abrol booked a last-minute slot at Man to ensure he was visible in Paris for the fourth season in a row, for instance. Erevan has also exhibited at Tranoï in the past.

As brands seek alternatives to the trade show format, meanwhile, there was also F. Shop — short for “fashion, friends and family” — a showroom/pop-up hybrid created by communications firm Howlett Dubaele in partnership with leather-goods incubator Au Dela du Cuir, showcasing a selection of 11 fashion and accessories brands, from trade show habitués Valette Studio, Denzilpatrick and Domestique to newbies Félicie Eymard, with exclusive silk print pieces, and jewelry designer Lucas Bauer.

Brands to Watch

A Leather

A look from A Leather. Courtesy of A Leather

A Leather

Showing at: Man

Story: Hailing from Japan and created by fashion executive Toshikazu Nagaoka, A Leather offers distinctive designs crafted from Japanese cows’ leather, allowing it to create larger pieces like hand-dyed kimono styles. Each design is crafted by hand by Japanese artisans to preserve ancestral techniques, and is designed to last. Sportier pieces were made from tan suede, and the brand, founded two years ago, just introduced its first swimwear pieces, crafted thanks to an exclusive water-repellant technology. Last season — its first time showing at Man — the brand picked up edgy retailer H.Lorenzo, and it is targeting a handful of similar high-end accounts going forward, aiming to cultivate the rarity factor.

Recommended retail price range: $600 (hats) to $6,050 (kimono)

Sebastian Vistisen Toft

A look from Forét. Sebastian Vistisen Toft

Sebastian Vistisen Toft


Showing at: Man

Story: Childhood friends Jeppe Meier and Jesper Finderup are lovers of the great outdoors, and want to offer their wearers a hybrid wardrobe stylish enough for the city but practical for country living, with accessible price points and simple silhouettes. With fabrics like organic cotton and production in Portugal, the Copenhagen-based label has around 180 stockists worldwide and offers accessories like water bottles alongside its core apparel offer in line with its active positioning. It was hoping to court Asian buyers visiting the show to expand its international distribution.

Price range: 70 to 140 euros (retail)


A design by Settlemier’s Award Jackets. Courtesy of Settlemier’s Award Jackets

Settlemier’s Award Jackets

Showing at: Man

Story: Varsity jacket specialist Settlemier’s, based in Portland, Ore., is looking to cultivate demand for its expertise and manufacturing heritage by expanding its wholesale business. Founded in 1967 as Nelson’s Jackets, the firm is now in the hands of the grandson of its founder, Aaron Settlemier. Crafted from American leather and wool knitted on vintage machines passed down through the family, the company is ramping up its in-house design capacity and tapping into demand for small runs of its distinctive pieces. Past collaborations include Nike, Tiffany and Beams.

Price range: Starting at $199 (wholesale)

Body of Work

A look from Body of Work. Courtesy of Body of Work

Courtesy of Body of Work

Body of Work

Showing at: Man

Story: Based in Toronto, Dwayne Vatcher and Brittney MacKinnon created their elevated, understated sportswear label inspired by vintage silhouettes four years ago, with lightweight separates designed, knit, cut and sewn in Canada. It was their first season showing a separate line for women, with highlights including baby rib tank tops and matching cardigans and cotton spandex straight-leg pants that are equally suited for everyday wear or physical activity. Further highlights included the Spruce varsity jacket made with Loro Piano wool as well as the brand’s sneaker collaboration with San Antonio Shoemakers.

Price range: Core offer: $180 to $300 U.S. (retail)

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