NEW YORK — Designers at New York Fashion Week offered fall collections filled with tailored suits and trendy looks for men, and that's a good thing because men are looking to buy.
Ed Jay, senior vice president for American Express Business Insights, said male fashion customers were exposed to luxury when prices came down during the recession. Analytics from IBM show a projected 8.2 percent rise in men's sales from 2010 to 2011, and sales are expected to continue to grow in the first three months of 2012.
"What we've seen coming out of the recession, you have new brands just for men," Jay said. "There's more for men to buy."
Designers and style watchers say suits are the hot sellers.
"It's about guys who are 30 buying suits," said Tyler Thoreson, head of Gilt Groupe's menswear editorial and creative divisions. "The sort of traditional boxy suit your dad wore to work is not what these guys are wearing. What these guys are wearing is less formal and it's much more stylish."
Men have started following fashion blogs and they're looking to dress up, said menswear designer Michael Bastian.
"The customer, this young guy, is really educated, reads every blog, is all over the Internet and he really has high expectations with his tailored clothing," Bastian said.
Tommy Hilfiger told the story of a young cadet's military and sporty lifestyle in his fall men's collection.
"It is an academy look that is sophisticated, modern, a touch rebellious but buttoned up," he said. The show's notes called the line "a personalized take on military precision."
The military theme ran through nearly every piece, from four stripes at the wrist cuffs of coats to peacoats with chain embroidery. Zippers detailed the thighs of skinny pants and collars flipped up to reveal leather. Quilted leather was used in gloves and on the sleeves of jackets. Patches were on the inside of elbows, not the usual outside.
There were even smaller touches too. Hilfiger showed a few turtlenecks, but one model wore a small buckled belt around his neck outside the sweater like a choker necklace.
Colors were rich autumn tones of burgundy, navy, olive and grey.
RAG & BONE
Marcus Wainwright and David Neville of Rag & Bone took cues from military and formalwear styles.
The collection showcased classic menswear — jackets, pants, vests and suits — but diverged in some pieces with wide stripes or ombre black to red prints.
The designers outfitted many of their models in black or brown officer boots. There was a peacoat, army-green long coat and an air force blue tweed coat. Leather detailed collars on tailored sweaters and coats.
Bring back the baggy pants.
Duckie Brown's design team of Steven Cox and Daniel Silver showed roomy, swingy men's pants in large plaids.
The designers played with shape for their pants, showing trousers with dropped crotches, wide legs or made with chunky sweater material. Suits were clean, focusing on two and three-button jackets in tweed and herringbone along with a black double-breasted coat.
"It's got to go away from that grungy guy," Cox said. "I think it's going to be that unkempt guy in a suit."
Cox and Silver paired their looks with winter accessories, chunky knit turban-style hats, long sweater gloves and hats made from Mongolian shearling.
"They play with volume in a way that no one else does," Thoreson said. "Their construction and tailoring is impeccable but they're having fun with it."
J. Crew's menswear collection had the brand's classic preppy look, clean two-button suits, pants and navy cardigan sweaters. Designers did bring the colored jeans trend from womenswear into menswear. There were jeans for men in orange, purple and bright blue. Men's pants — dress and casual — were cuffed at the ankles.
Outerwear was the traditional parka with fur collar in navy and a toggle coat, but the materials were quilted. There also was a tan workcoat with darker brown corduroy at the collar and cuffs.
Male models also wore thin sleek scarves tied closely around their necks.
John Bartlett's models were smeared with dirt and mud, some carrying camping accessories and wearing Hunter rain boots. The designer said he was inspired by two films, "The Life of Steve Zissou" and "Lord of the Flies" for a collection with nautical and mountaineering silhouettes.
Bartlett didn't focus on suits, instead showcasing a more casual, sportsman's look.
"Everything I do goes back to denim," he said.
He also looked to make an eco-friendly collection, using vintage wool and organic cotton.
Bartlett used a red plaid and green and blue plaid for a funnel-neck vest with matching shorts. Another look paired a motorcycle jacket with trousers in both red and brown.
Bartlett also grasped onto long underwear, showing a body suit in navy with a high neck and white buttons down the front. Another model wore a turtleneck and long underwear pants in a thin brown and black horizontal striped pattern.
Ervell said his fall collection was inspired by the crossing of a "heavily policed state" and "moments of protest."
The Swedish-born designer included pieces like a "tactical police sweater" made from alpaca with black patches on the tops of the shoulders and down the outside of the arm. He used a navy blue fabric that he called "police nylon" and showed SWAT jackets, flak jackets and helmet bags.
The looks, especially Ervell's suiting, were clean cut, but futuristic. A black, sporty shirt had a high neck and cuffs ringed with shiny gold fabric. The suits were made with black and blue wool and paired with oxford shirts. Ervell took a gray cotton twill fabric to make a field coat and utility pants that together looked very much like a uniform.
Bastian debuted two collections — the more laid back GANT by Michael Bastian and the more buttoned up Michael Bastian.
His namesake line, Michael Bastian, has clean-cut suits, sweaters and dress shirts.
"This new suit trend is really dependent on it being more of a designer fit," Bastian said. "Slim, all of the designer details."
The GANT line is trendier. There are suits, but the sleeves are rolled up, fingerless gloves and pants tucked into boots.
The label's designer, Bernardo Rojo, looked to the classic 1930s style of the movie "The Sting" for the label's collection.
Rojo's detail work showed, with elbow pads on jackets, large buckles on the belts of coats and large scarfs draped close to the neck. His runway show ended with a dozen models wearing different tuxedos, punctuating Rojo's message that formal is back.
"I think it's time to dress up, dressing down, we have had it for a long time," Rojo said. "But it has to be in a contemporary way. I don't want to make it old."
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