Drapers followed buyers Rob Adams and Richard Humby as they visited the Engineered Garments stand at Pitti.
Engineered Garments is our favourite brand but our least favourite buy,” laughs Rob Adams, menswear buyer for Winchester indie The Hambledon, as I embark on shadowing his buying appointment at Pitti Uomo, along with fellow buyer Richard Humby. “We’ve popped in a few times already to do a recce. I wish they had a London showroom.”
Crammed into a small, busy stand, hemmed in by other buyers, it’s easy to see why Adams would prefer a private appointment. But nonetheless, we spend an hour and a half as the boys work swiftly to build up a rail of mostly navy products. “Navy pays the rent,” laughs Adams. “Engineered Garments nods to workwear and has a dandyish element, but for my customer it needs to be more refined,” he explains, adding a paisley blazer to the rail.
“If we buy this, we’ll probably just buy the one.”
The Hambledon duo don’t merchandise every product by brand, but it’s important they do so for Engineered Garments. “We need to represent the brand; it has a loyal following,” explains Humby, with Adams adding: “On a hanger, it’s difficult to show why; it’s the way it sits on your body.”
Adams explains that The Hambledon is looking to offer Engineered Garments jeans for the first time to complete the brand’s “wardrobe”. “Legwear is not the easiest part of this brand for us. They don’t do tapered styles; the trousers have more of a cargo feel, so denim is more accessible,” explains Adams, satisfied that the leg meets the “everyman width” of eight inches.
But there’s more to it than the science. As Humby tries on a navy, lightweight parka, he coos: “Ah, this is the one.” Both Humby and Adams say it’s important to wear the brands they sell on the shop floor to demonstrate to their customers how best to wear the pieces.
“That’s the one,” says Adams this time, picking out a pair of navy shorts and choosing the longer over the shorter-length version. “This one is a bit longer, a bit cleaner and the cut is beautiful. That’s what will get people over the price issue.” The shorts retail for £175.
But when Adams reviews a jersey, cardigan-cum-blazer, he decides to remove it due to the £265 price. “If it had been £180, I would have kept it.” Final quantities are decided later.
Adams admits he didn’t “get to the soul” of the brand for autumn 12, which was a more piece-led buy. “We need more cohesion for spring 13,” he says, adding that Engineered Garments has a strong sell-through of 78% to 80%. “But we have to be strict because we don’t sell online, which is a much bigger marketplace. When I look at this shirt,” he says, picking out a chambray style, “I think exactly about who’s going to buy it. If I can think of three types of customers, then I go for it.”
An hour into the appointment, and Adams contemplates his rail. “So, we’ve got a jean, we’ve got some shorts … it’s looking a bit dark. We need some pop,” he says, as Humby hands him a pinky-red check shirt and Adams picks out a floral-print short-sleeved shirt.
“Do we need the paisley blazer now?” asks Adams, as we admire the revised, colour-injected selection. No, they both agree, and settle on an edited, well-balanced collection.