What’s Selling in Men’s? Zegna, Rick Owens, Johnnie-O and More

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Inflation, a roller-coaster stock market, ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine are doing nothing to dampen consumers’ enthusiasm toward shopping.

Menswear retailers from coast to coast report sales this spring are nothing short of exceptional as shoppers stock up on summer essentials, hybrid pieces to wear to work and dressy outfits for all those rescheduled weddings and events.

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“Business is off the charts,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans. “Our customers have accumulated a decent amount of wealth and there’s pent-up demand — nobody’s bought anything for a long time. And they’re going to work without the same body. Guys are trying to figure out what’s appropriate to wear in a post-COVID[-19] world and they’re getting dressed up for events.”

Among the bestsellers for Rothmans’ stores in New York City and Scarsdale, New York, are Emanuel Berg shirts, Rails shirts and pants, Johnnie-O polos and shorts, Billy Reid polos, quarter-zips and pants, Brax pants as well as Faherty’s colorful summer collection.

“We’re all amazed at how good business is,” Giddon said. “But the question is: when is it going to end?” Although the answer is anyone’s guess, Giddon believes the momentum will at least continue through the fall.

The business this spring is also being given a boost by the upcoming Father’s Day holiday in the U.S. on June 19. Long viewed as a second Christmas for the menswear community, spending this year is expected to total $20 billion, according to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. And although experiential gifts such as tickets to a sporting event are expected to be the top choice, apparel and accessories are also on the list.

Wally Naymon of Kilgore Trout in Cleveland said the demand is so intense right now that he can’t keep his shelves stocked. “Everything is selling,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this in my career. It’s like a feeding frenzy. If you have unique product at a luxury price point, that’s what’s driving the increases.”

Among the most popular items are soft jackets from Zegna, Isaia, Canali and Boglioli; sportswear from Faherty and James Perse; five-pocket jeans from Sms Denim, and Fedeli knitwear. “And tuxedos,” Naymon said. With all the weddings that are being held this year, customers are desperately searching the market for outfits from luxury brands such as Zegna, Canali and Isaia, along with all the accoutrement including Eton formal shirts and stud sets.

Naymon is hoping that this frenzy will continue at least through fall despite all the macro conditions that could ultimately have an impact. But if it does slow down, he’s prepared. “Our buys are in line, our margins are good and we’re hoarding cash.”

Hill Stockton, owner of Norman Stockton in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also reported robust sales. “Business is great,” he said. For the first five months of the year, sales are running 55 percent ahead of last year, which he said was his best year ever.

Stockton attributed the strength in part to his new location near Wake Forest University and the fact that the young graduates are shopping for interview and first-job suits. But it’s not just young people; the store’s established customers have also returned to refresh their wardrobes.

Top sellers include Hickey Freeman and Samuelsohn sport coats as well as Hickey Freeman and Byron suits.

“The only thing slowing us down is the supply chain,” Stockton said. “We can’t get tuxedos or white dress shirts. And a lot of our vendors’ in-stock programs are empty. They say they’re working hard to catch up, but they’ve been working hard for 10 months.”

While tailored clothing is a star, the bulk of Norman Stockton’s business is sportswear, and it’s woven sport shirts and five-pocket pants from Brax, Peter Millar and Johnnie-O that are leading the way. “And they all have inventory,” Stockton said.

Overall, he said it’s “hard to keep up, but that’s a great problem to have. I think it will continue this way through fall. Men are still catching up because they haven’t bought anything in two years or what they have no longer fits. I’m not selling one pair of pants, I’m selling two or three at a time. The only question is, how long can we hold onto it.”

Lindsay Morton, president of Andrisen Morton in Denver, said business is running up double digits to 2019, which was the store’s highest volume year to date. “Earnings are much better and our foot traffic is up, too.” The store has added more than 900 new customers over last year, she said, accounting for an additional $2.1 million in volume and an average transaction of $1,800.

“I can’t put my finger on what’s driving the business, but it seems they’re just tired of looking at their closets and want something new,” she said. “And they also want to support local businesses that have been in the industry for a long time.”

Specifically, she said, tailored clothing sales gains have been “huge,” led by Isaia, Canali and Zegna suits and sport coats. Also strong has been Marco Pescarolo five-pocket pants as well as Fedeli cotton sweaters, jersey polos and swimwear. Brunello Cucinelli sportswear, which experienced the “highest growth out of COVID[-19],” also continues to perform with double-face cashmeres and novelty sweaters among the top sellers.

Looking ahead, Morton said she’s anticipating a “slight slowdown in Q3 and Q4 as we anniversary large numbers against 2021.” But she doesn’t expect business to “flatten” until next spring.

A Ma Maniere, which operates stores in Atlanta; Washington, D.C., and Houston, has seen success with its Lanvin collaboration and from brands such as Dior, Burberry, Saint Laurent and Fear of God. Kevin Chao, who leads the A Ma Maniere product and retail team, said customers are also buying denim and bottoms from Amiri, T-shirts and tops from Rhude and shorts and bottoms from Gallery Dept. Nike’s popular Air Force 1 sneaker is a best seller this season alongside Dior’s B22 and B23 sneakers, Amiri skeleton sneakers, Lanvin curb sneakers and casual Yeezy Slides and Fear of God mules.

“People are going back out and traveling more with the world normalizing, so they’re being extra loud in terms of overall style choices,” Chao said. He added that T-shirt sales have increased as the temperatures rise heading into summer and the stores have seen “an uptick in elevated comfort styles led by luxury mules, slip-ons and sandals.”

New retailer Ant/dote that opened in Atlanta this month is finding favor with men that Karlo Steel, buyer and creative director, describe as “very fashion savvy but don’t necessarily subscribe to the more ‘obvious’ ideas about fashion.”

“We have found that our clients tend to gravitate toward items that are design-driven, often in bold silhouettes or with transparency, across nearly all categories,” Steel added. “Brands like Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten and Undercover are good examples.”

Steel also pointed to Y/Project and Pleats Please as popular brands that can be worn according to customer discretion.

“With footwear, we’ve seen an incredible response from Guidi, whose artisanal, object dyed boots have become de rigueur for informed men who demand the highest quality. And we can’t keep Rick Owens’ GeoBaskets or Ramones in stock,” Steel said. “For accessories, it’s been statement-making pieces. Styles by Dita or Kuboraum have been doing very well. We’ve even sold some of the larger jewelry pieces by Paco Rabanne to men. In fact, a lot of our male clients don’t care if a garment was designed with their specific gender in mind or not. If it fits and looks good, then they buy it.”

Ashley Petrie, senior vice president of merchandising for Fred Segal, is also seeing a shift to “fashion-driven items” such as relaxed tailoring, faux leather, novelty shirts — “floral, embroidery, abstract prints” — patchwork and DIY repurposed styles, and matching sets in bold colors and fabrics.

“People are looking to get dressed again and make a statement beyond the brand or logo, they are looking for key seasonal items,” Petrie said. “So far this year we have seen an exciting return to in-store shopping, with our community looking for something experiential and immersive, beyond the product itself.”

Petrie added that Fred Segal is seeing record growth in stores and anticipates this to continue through the year.

“Spring proved that consumers are not only ready to shop, but they are coming in with the intent to spend and make serious investment purchases,” she said. “We have been noticing customers evaluating their purchase decisions differently, looking to invest more in quality and uniquely made products rather than spreading their wallet across a wide variety of items. There is a noticeable conscious decision from the majority of customers that enter our store, seeking thoughtfully curated pieces that will last. There seems to be a higher demand for something that feels more exclusive and well-made than ever before.”

Launch Gallery: Men's Fashion is Booming - So What is Selling?

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