There was a mood of cautious optimism in the menswear industry this week, with many pointing to quality, pricing and customer loyalty as key to weathering a “tough” market.
Brands and agents arrived in Florence in high spirits on January 12 for the 89th edition of Pitti Uomo, despite flight delays caused by adverse conditions at the Italian city’s airport.
The menswear trade show, which exhibited more than 1,200 brands and ran until January 15, got off to a busy start and exhibitors reported a strong UK and Irish turnout.
Buyers from Asos.com, Selfridges, Flannels and Fenwick were among those seen, flanked by a good international crowd.
Dan Griffiths, founder and director of young fashion agency Red Alert, showing brands including Low Brand and Black Mountain, said: “People had a good Christmas. Sales seem to have carried through from Black Friday, so there is a positive mood in the market.
“Men are trading up and investing in quality pieces. We’re seeing spikes in sales on the more expensive items in the range.”
Patrick Nilsson, chief executive of Gant, said the menswear market is “difficult” but that people are prepared to spend if they see something exciting.
“Innovation is more important than ever – the mixture of technical fabrics with the key look of your brand. The market of five or six years ago isn’t coming back any time soon, so you need to be customer-focused.”
Ilias Nathanail, head of business development for tailoring brands Hardy Amies and Kilgour, added: “The market is a bit tough, so it’s important to keep in mind who your customers is and make sure this is reflected in your prices.”
The men’s clothing market has outperformed the womenswear market in the last five years, increasing by 22% to £13.5bn in 2014. Womenswear rose by 21% to £25.9bn in the period, Mintel has reported.
“Menswear is buoyant at the moment, whereas womenswear has been tougher because online is a bigger threat to womenswear boutiques,” said Mark Hickling, director of Marc Alexander Agencies, which represents brands including Circle of Gentlemen and La Martina.
“Menswear boutiques from Manchester down have all been posting positive figures, up 10%-15% overall during 2015. Men are more loyal to local retailers because they want a personal service.”
The menswear buying season officially started with London Collections Men, on January 8-11.
Brands welcomed the newly combined Designer Showrooms at Victoria House in Holborn, reporting more consistent footfall. In past seasons, the showrooms were split between Victoria House and The Hospital Club in nearby Covent Garden.