Saturday, July 25, 2009

Can Menswear Save the Luxury Market?

In Dana Thomas’ Deluxe, the luxury market is in peril. The fashion industry’s matriarch is showing signs of aging and her offspring have merged into conglomerates leaving her wondering if her legacy is coming to an end.

The imagery is not far-fetched. The luxury market has fallen prey to salivating counterfeiters (despite courtroom battles and appeals to Congress for protection) and further wounded by major designers publicly stating their amusement of being copied. It has been losing its elite customers to the global recession and the Madoffs of the world, but what is probably most disconcerting is the art of craftsmanship replaced by machines and severely under-paid worker bees.

Who will come to her rescue? It appears this is a man’s job and a second-generation at that.

Haute couture’s little brother, menswear, has increasingly emerged as the luxury market’s saving grace.

Locally, menswear clothing stores such as Everard's Clothing, Redeem, and Lost Boys are experiencing relative progress when their womenswear counterparts are feeling the pinch.

The fact is men need clothes, too, and a suit from Men’s Warehouse is not landing or securing the job or the casual pair of jeans lasting for more than a season. So, they are turning to local ateliers or clothing stores to invest in quality brands or customized pieces that bring longevity and style.

Lost Boys is the visual for Dana Thomas’s summation that “luxury wasn’t simply a product, it was a lifestyle, one that denoted a history of tradition, superior quality and offered a pampered buying experience.” Kelly’s interpretation is a light-filled space in a row-house modernized by what a guy wants: a plasma TV, King-size sofa chairs, a refrigerator stocked with Stella Artois, off-set by exposed brick walls and hardwood floors – an updated lair.

Kelly Muccio, the 28-year-old fashion wunderkind behind Lost Boys, disagrees with the growing perception of the luxury markets’ demise. “This is the best time for independent designers and local businesses who offer what is considered a luxury good because the consumer realizes that they need to invest in a style and the luxury market gives you that.

“It is more important than ever to define your style,” continued the former financier. “This is the time to outperform and show yourself as a commodity and the easiest way to do that is to dress the part.”

Although Kelly considers her clothier as part of the luxury market, she does not equate it with “high-end.” The average cost of a pair of jeans sets him back $200 (i.e., Earnest Sewn), which is cheaper when you consider spending twice that much on jeans that are replaced year after year.

The “pampering” may come in the form of a beer and personal styling, but more so her trained eye for the highest quality pieces with style and brand authencity. Among the shortlist of designers she carries is eco-conscious designer Rogan Gregory, of Loomstate and Edun. The designer plans to design a t-shirt in collaboration with the store to be revealed this fall. Stay tuned for a future trunk show.

“We intentionally carry few designers because we believe in an minimalist wardrobe,” Kelly says. “I have personally edited the selection process for you where you are only going to find the best cut of jean or well-constructed shirt.”

Time will only tell how the luxury market survives this economic impasse. Perhaps, it’s fate rests in the hands of the little brother or its role in the environment (more on that in a following blog i.e., luxury goods sustainable through its slow production process and lifespan), but let’s not be too quick to write its obituary.

(Photos courtesy of Kelly Muccio, Lost Boys)


mensfashiondeals said...

Interesting. I have often thought that the luxury market in men's clothing was always a bit underserved. I guess it's true.

Designer Studio said...

Nice Post!