Nip And Tuck

September 5th, 2005

This Season, Men's Suits Get Readjusted; Slim and Trim With Shorter Hems, Narrow Lapels.
BARRY G... a conservative dresser with more than 10 suits in his closet, was relieved.Recently to hear his office was returning to a business dress code and figured he wouldn't have to shop for a while.

But now the 35-year-old financial planner thinks he may have to buy something new after all, given all the new fitted suits he's been seeing for fall. "It's a struggle between what's coming into style and what is traditional," says Mr. G.... of Virginia.

With sales flat this year to date, mens wear industry is playing it safe looks that have an evergreen appeal with men. Some designers are slimming lapels and emphasizing flat front pants. Others are focused on the overcoat, updating it by shortening the hem 30 centimeters. The latest turn for the tweed blazer involves featherweight fabrics, "washed" looks to appear old and shorter hemlines.

But the biggest push : The readjusted suit. In a shift from last fall's pleated looks, the U.S. retailer Barneys New York, for example, is increasing its stock of suits with flat-front pants by 15%.

At Men's Wear house, the main focus will be side-vent suits with flat-front pants in the $200 to $400 range.

Meanwhile, makers like Hickey Freeman and Ralph Lauren are emphasizing suits that are not only slimmed down in the chest area, but also have narrower lapels and shorter hems.

The shift might seem odd in an era of ever-expanding waistlines, but market analysts say manufacturers are simply responding to what consumers want :- looking trim in tailored clothing.

While mens wear sales overall last year rose 5% in the U.S., tailored items jumped by a quarter, according to market researcher NPC Group.Of course, not every consumer wants, or can, squeeze into a re-dimensionalized suit.

The standard amount of ease-the space between a garment and the body-in a suit jacket is about 18 to 23 centimeters. But now, more makers are start narrow from there, says Mark-Even B..., head of Technology in New York. "For most people, that would essentially be the next size lower,” he says.

Scott R..... , for example, plans to buy a couple of fitted suits, but he still prefers the looser variety. "To be honest, the new models aren't as comfortable to me as the other traditional ones," says Mr. R..., who runs a New York real-estate investment trust. "I prefer the baggier style."

Business redux: Suits are back !

Even casual days call for a blazer Blazin' Blazers.This is the area where there is the most change for fashion types.That's mostly because men are buying more jeans and pairing them with sport coats. In a nod to that shift, Men's Warehouse is introducing a line of $159 "denim friendly" blazers.

Meanwhile the midpriced chain Jos. A Bank is increasing its inventory of $450 corduroy and wool-silk blend sport coats to appeal to consumers who want to dress up, but not necessarily wear a suit. There also are washed tweeds at Bergdorf Goodman for $995 and velvet styles at Nordstrom.

The new blazer at Brooks Brothers is the $498 "featherweight" tweed that is made with super light yarn - it weighs 260 grams a square meter, compared with 400 grams in Brooks Brothers’ current tweed.

Bracing for Cold

Armchair Harley drivers, rev your engines. The leather jacket is getting a fashion tune-up with more brown than black, in leaner cuts and often with notched collars. The idea is to echo motorcycle, aviator and motocross jackets, and designers from Andrew Marc to Nice Collective are weighing in. Saks has bought "tons" of motorcycle for fall, and is showing them in store window, with Brooks Brothers says its vintage leather model, dubbed "the Lindbergh", was inspired by year's movie "The Aviator".

While shearing coats or shearing-lined versions, such as a $4,000 aviator trench from Ralph Lauren, are expected to be big in the luxury market, more-conservative spender will have the option of the three-quarter-length car coat in wool or nylon.

Ross M... is sold. The director of research at a commercial real-estate services company in Massachusetts, Mr. M... says he has budgeted $400 for a car coat because "if I have to wear it with a suit it doesn't look totally ridiculous."

Not Your Father's Briefcase

"Guys have a lot of stuff to carry." Says Michael M..., men's fashion director at Saks, explaining the boom in carrying bags for men. A bag, he adds, has become" a necessity today."

For fall, retailers are betting that high-earning men want a place to stash their personal-digital assistants-plus their Blackberries, cell phones, MP3 players, laptops and gym clothes.

To that end, stores are stocking and pushing some of the priciest bags seen in years. Vicorinox's Swiss Army Brands has a new $249 model in nylon that transforms from a backpack to hand-held case and includes a removable computer sleeve and legal-size fan-file system.

Barneys is exotic-skin bags ranging from $6,500 to $8,000.

For its part, Saks is planning to start carrying the Italian luxury brand, VAL EXTRA, with models that cost as much as $27,000.!

Excerpt from the Asian Wall Street Journal -   

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