West Coast Trend Show Report: Passion for Men’s Fashion

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Kelli Freeman talks to retailers, including The Natty Dresser, Garys’ Modern Clothing and Details Clothing Company at the West Coast Trend Show.

If passion is a key to success, Oscar and Tamalynne Hult can expect to be very fruitful in their new endeavor. Five months ago the Hults opened The Natty Dresser in Albany, Ore. (between Eugene and Salem), the only menswear store there since 1989. “We wanted to have our own business and as director of the Downtown Association, I saw the need for a menswear store,” says Oscar Hult.

The HultsThe Hults took a few minutes to chat with me between meetings at last week’s West Coast Trend Show in Los Angeles. The 2,000 sq. ft. Natty Dresser carries everything from casual to formal wear, including hats and shoes. Their clientele are 40- to 60-year-old men and the women who love them to dress well. The store also has a vintage shoe shine stand. Hult says their customers are asking for cashmere and they’re finding plenty of it. “We like to compare, contrast and feel the product. You can see a swatch but you’ve gotta touch it,” he adds.

Gary Lupo, owner of Garys’ Modern Clothing for Men & Women in Bellingham, Wash., is celebrating 38 years in business. It’s the only men’s specialty store in the downtown area, making it a destination. “We had a good Christmas and now we’re back into February,” says Lupo. “We have to be creative to bring people back into the store so we craft special events.”

Looking to fall 2015, the biggest trend he’s noticing is a lot of wine-colored product, from suits to jeans and shirts. “Menswear styles can’t change enough but the color change gives you something new to talk about. For example, I can tell my customers this is a new color palate for you to consider adding to your closet.”

Lupo also says manufacturers are integrating more give in fabrics wherever they can from jeans to sport coats, sweaters or t-shirts. “My clients want to be in fitted and shaped garments but in a more wearable fit. The higher-quality product snaps back into shape and that’s what distinguishes you.” Lupo sums up the key to his success as, “A combination of listening to your customer and a true customer service commitment, which in our case means staying relevant in the marketplace by bringing in items in that reflect the Northwest style.”

In April, Bernie and Robyn Levine of Details Clothing Company in San Jose, Calif. commemorate 37 years in business and 18 years in their current Old Downtown location. Asked about what he’s seeing at the show, Bernie says, “We particularly like the James Campbell brushed flannel shirts. We got a chance to meet him and get a feel for what he does. Campbell makes it look simple but puts a lot of hard work and detail into his product.”
Levine adds they’re detecting the purple trend, noting some vests from Luchiano Visconti. They tell me they’ve moved away from the brighter colors and are selecting more solids, checks and plaids.

The Levines are also impressed with the color blocking they’re seeing like the Nat Nast ‘retrofit,’ which sports a light gray on the body and darker shade on the sleeves. They’re selling out of Agave’s Henleys and like the 3- to 4-button crew and V-neck baseball style shirts from Agave and Minerals Clothing Co.

Asked what he thinks is the key to success, Levine says, “You have to love and enjoy what you do, your customers and merchandising. Retail is a tough business, smaller retail is about knowing your product and giving your customer attention, helping them find what they need. We also provide complimentary alterations. It takes dedication and long hours — we’re open evenings and we don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”

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