January 2018 Menswear Tradeshows in NYC

As a former menswear retailer, I still enjoy attending the shows so I can stay connected to the industry and keep my finger on the pulse of brands and wholesalers. This past January 21-22, I had the opportunity to attend three different shows in a 48-hour trip. Living in DC is great because it’s a transportation hub of sorts. I took the 5:25 am Amtrak from Union Station to downtown Manhattan and arrived 3.5 hours later at Penn Station.

Despite the recent Amtrak issues with derailing, the ride was smooth and the free WiFi allowed me to get some research done before my arrival.

The menswear industry has been outpacing women’s in percentage growth since 2009, however, the growth has been through online sales as well as pop up shops. This has left the trade shows with some brands that are now struggling and a few vendors completely absent. My first trade show was the NYC MRKET but it has recently been combined with the Project Show and both now fly under the UBM Fashion branding.

After arriving in NYC, I got lazy and took an Uber over the to the Javits Center. I have to give it to UBM, the show was by far the best one I have been to since my involvement in the industry. The check-in was extremely smooth and painless and I was able to store my Hook+Albert ‘Weekender’ bag with staff while I made my rounds.

This year, UBM did a lot of homework ahead of time. Before the show, one could go online and see the floor plan and vendors along with their contact information. While the floor layout had always incorporated sections for Italian made goods, ‘Brits in New York’ and Modern Prep. Project Show was merged with MRKET Show in the summer of 2016 and it essentially brought modern contemporary clothing and traditional dress wear under one roof. For brands deemed ‘makers’, they had a new section called The Foundry.

 

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t stop by the booth of Edward Armah, the bow-tie king. Eddie started at Neiman Marcus and now runs his own line of pocket squares, bow-ties and lapel flowers. He’s expanded into ties, umbrellas, scarves along with a few leather goods as well. While he is based in New Jersey, he has no presence in the DC area and I think that is something we need to change. I picked up a handful of his reversible pocket rounds and a lapel flower.

 

It was neat to reconnect with Marcus Troy, the gent that leads #ProjectBlogger. His crew bring a different flavour to the show with their modern and contemporary dress which I think is well noticed amongst the crowd.

As I walked up and down the aisles while looking at my handouts, it was interesting to see some new brands in the room as well as some of the mainstays that were missing. I have heard this show is pretty expensive to present at so over the past few years, brands like Peter Millar and Coppley reserve space at the Park Lane Hotel. Other smaller brands that can’t afford the Javits Center rent have followed suit but I did not have the time to make it over there.

 

I stayed at the Javits Center from about 9 am to 3 pm then headed up north to The London Hotel to catch up with the Custom Tailor and Designers Association (CTDA). Twice a year, they put on a custom clothing trade show that takes up two floors at the hotel. Vendors include fabric mills, cut-make-trim (CMT) shops as well as shoe, tie and other unique goods manufacturers. Back in 2015, I received my custom clothier certification after taking a handful of classes taught by professionals who have been in the business for many years. While on a website a month back, I saw that for the first time ever, they were offering a complimentary class on fabrics by Luke Mayes from Dormeuil. I decided to take them up on the offer and learned a lot in the process. Luke was very helpful in answering questions, especially regarding stretch fabric and man-made fibres along with their impact on the wool industry. I was also able to reconnect with DC native, energy lobbyist and fashion designer, James Williams from A Stylish Way of Life. He offers handmade bespoke pocket squares but is now moving into ties and other accessories. After the lass, I briefly showed up to the CTDA after-party before my guest arrived. We had a cocktail there at the Red Eye Grille before heading back up to his place in Hamilton Heights. That was my first time riding the NYC subway and it was quite different than the DC Metro: far dirtier but actually functional and on time!

 

 

 

Monday morning started early as my buddy had to headto work but he introduced me to one of his favourite local coffee shops called The Chipped Cup. Afterward, we jumped back on the subway then went our separate ways as I was back to the Javits Center for round two. This time, however, I started my day off with a different trade show. TEXWorldUSA and Apparel Sourcing USA run as a side-by-side show in textiles and finished goods which can be private-labelled. One thing that was different than the menswear show is the number of seminars and educational events. I only had the time to attend one so I went to “Fashion 101: How to Start Your Own Fashion Line”. The room sat about 150 but more than 250 jammed in there to hear a presentation from Mercedes Gonzalez of the Global Purchasing Group. She was very direct and told the crowd not to overthink the industry. People are not your friends and other companies will try to copy your stuff soon as it comes out. Private labelling is not the way for designers and expect for your first sample to come in wrong. Don’t cry and explain to the manufacturer what needs to be changed. Lastly, don’t develop a business plan because they don’t matter. The key is selling it to stores and getting them on board.

After the class, I went up and down each aisle just to see the whole show. Most of the manufacturers were from China and the minimums were very high. One underwear manufacturer has a 3000 piece minimum but the cost was broken down to $1.50 each. I came across a booth that was unlike any other, called Fashion Mingle. Their goal is to connect people in the industry, whether they are designers, manufacturers, wholesale or retailers. The booth right next to them was called Fashion DEX and just as helpful. A few years back, they started writing manuals, indexes and other books to help people learn how to design, market and ultimate retailer clothing.

I had the privilege of meeting with the team from CTD, a Chinese manufacturer of suits that many clothiers are using these days. Their team presented me with a gift which was very generous. They had to be on the sourcing side of the show instead of the menswear retailers because they are not domiciled in the U.S.

I would say one of my favourite parts of the show was learning where everything is made. Brand’s like Kirkland, which was created by Costco along with Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Boss, Calvin Klein along with a host of other designer brands. Manufacturing is going to change as Alibaba connects small-time creators with manufacturers that are will to do low minimums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the show, I had a dinner with one of my former sales reps, Les Hale then hopped back on the Amtrak back to DC. Les lives in Chicago and represents Trands USAis the custom suit world but also reps Dapper Classics and

 

During my long ride home, it gave me a lot of time to better understand how all the pieces fit together in this industry. Politically, NAFTA and TPP along with trade restrictions and tariffs will play a part in the future of retail. In the 1960s, the US made about 95% of itsclothing but now it is about 3% today. Based on the labour rates around the world, it is highly unlikely that manufacturing will return to the US. Most of the tailors in the US are also ageing and younger people are not taking up the trade. While retail has been around for the past 100 years, we are actually moving back to custom clothing in the way of suits, shirts, shoes and the like, however, it won’t be garments that are made by one individual. Instead, the components are broken out, much like in the manufacturing the Ford Model T, an assembly line where each person performs a single process but no individual has the knowledge or tooling to build the whole thing.Flash manufacturing will also be the future with lower runs for custom homegrown brands. Young people in America are saddled with debt so clothing as a form of splurging will decline and people will also become more socially conscious as to where their clothing is made from an ethical perspective. Millennials are also much pickier than previous generation and demand that their clothes are much more fitted. The only way to be able to accommodate all of the body types without creating so many sizes is to include stretch in the fabric. While it has been in womenswear for years, it is picking up speed very quickly in the menswear arena. The next few years will be interesting, not only in the US but around the world as the expectations and tastes change for the consumer. There will be many companies that will figure it out and become successful but that will not be without several more bankruptcies as the larger companies have not had to change for years and also given their large structure, prevent them from moving quickly on a new idea.

The DC Dapper Dudes

As we start the new year, it’s time for new goals. Historically, DC has not been a place of fashion but it does have a timeless style. The beauty of the DMV area is the diversity of its people. They come from not only across the U.S. but from around the world. While this offers many strengths, there is a lack of coordination and consistency in attire, even in this ‘one company town’. The one real upside of DC is the requirement to dress up. While many other parts of the country are moving toward a casual environment in the workplace, Congress maintains its Brooks Brothers conservatism with navy and charcoal suits along with white or blue shirts. With that being said, any organization, be it lobbyists, think tanks or trade associations all must adhere to the culture of ‘The Hill’. Well, at least that’s the case when they have appointments.

DC’s wealth has mostly resided in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. The District has a long history of violence and crime with pockets of impoverished people but recent policies are changing those neighborhoods through gentrification. As more organizations seek to influence Congress, more money flows into the DMV with real estate development and trickle down changes with more way for one to spend their money.

This has a major impact on menswear. Congressional staff pay has been deflationary over the decades so while these young professionals are required to wear a suit to work, they often times lack the resources to make long-term investments in their wardrobe. Once they reach the outside with a trade organization or lobbying group, that changes.

The menswear industry has many opportunities in the DMV area and some companies are taking notice. Newer suit brands like SuitSupply and IndoChino have set up shop in DC or nearby Northern Virginia. They offer made-to-measure suits for prices far below what consumers are used to paying. At the same time, there are several independent retailers and customer clothiers vying to put custom suits on DC’s most influential.

When it comes to voting, people are much more likely to trust their friends and family over a billboard or commercial. This same theme is slowly taking root in the menswear arena as well. Men are looking for a relationship, not just an advertisement. They want to know what they are wearing fits correctly, complements their physique and changes their mindset in all activities. I believe businesses, small and large will seek to redirect marketing funds toward fashion influencers. These people have a captive audience and whether or not their know their followers, an online relationship is one that is strong enough to build trust. In come the DC Dapper Dudes.

Committed to style and fashion, the DC Dapper Dudes are looking to change the landscape of DC and help others dress for success in whatever their endeavors may be. With different backrounds and professions, each gent offers a unique perspective to the industry. In addition, they seek to make a long-term impact in the community. In a place that seems to be rife with negativity, there’s no doubt that time with these men will put a smile on your face.

On Saturday, January 6th, these gents met up for the first time at Kyirisan which is located just two blocks from the Shaw station along the green line on DC’s north side. Hosted by Barnette Holston of DC Fashion Fool, the event went from 10-2 and there was a lot of learning to be had. The boys started the morning off with a photo shoot outside in the frigid cold with shots along the sidewalk and in the streets. The photographer and fashion blogger at Comme Coco, Jennifer Jean-Pierre, did a heck of a job corraling the group and taking snaps without wearing gloves. We’re thankful she didn’t lose a finger or two!

Upon finishing the shots, the gents went inside and started the meeting. The first point of order was uncovering the purpose for everyone being there and what the group is supposed to achieve for each person. Within the DC Dapper Dudes are makers, retailers, influencers, custom clothiers and brand ambassadors. Each man’s mission is different and personal but as a team, readers and the Greater Washington DC area benefit from the knowledge, the best place to shop for deals, how to acquire unique handmade goods and more.

Around noon, the gents were served coffee along with mini cinnamon rolls and croissants which were nothing short of tasty. Shortly thereafter, bloody marys and mimosas rolled out along with our choice of brunch entree. I opted for the pork belly hash but the menu quite frankly had too many good options to choose from.

As the meeting progressed, our friend James at Hugh & Crye gave us complimentary pocket squares. You can see me sporting it in NYC at a coffee shop. Barnette also hosted a business card raffle with prizes from various vendors.

As the meeting drew to a close, we had to decide what comes next. The group plans to meet once a month and hold educational sessions related to a specific part of the industry. In addition, we each have a commitment to build up each other through our websites, social media accounts and keep each other abreast of what is happening in the menswear industry. There is no doubt that this is the beginning of a movement to help the men of DC not only dress better, but lead better lives.