Men's Buyers Eye Rebound in Spring

The recent men’s shows in Milan and Paris offered a variety of new footwear looks, but also left many buyers wondering if it would be enough.

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Mario Bisio of Mario’s

Photo By Courtesy Photo

NEW YORK — The recent men’s shows in Milan and Paris offered a variety of new footwear looks, but also left many buyers wondering if it would be enough to lure consumers into stores next spring.

The high-end men’s shoe business, like nearly all luxury categories, has been battered by the recession. As shoppers drastically cut spending, buyers across the country have been charged with finding styles that will make customers open their wallets again.

Dan Leppo, VP of men’s, furnishings, shoes and sportswear at Bloomingdale’s, said a desire to shake things up among many of the footwear brands would be a positive move come spring ’10.

“There’s a sense of ‘we can’t do what we’ve always done, so let’s do new things and try,’” he said. “That’s very good for fashion.”

“I’m excited about footwear,” added Eric Jennings, VP and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “When I was doing my recap [of the trip], there was so much to talk about in footwear. There’s so much newness out there.”

Overall, men’s shoe trends for spring pointed to chic and effortless casual styles that could alternate with sneakers, retailers said.

Across the board, the deck shoe stood out as one of the stronger styles. And though it is usually a fall material, suede seemed to be finding a foothold in spring product as well, with moccasin drivers, bucks and chukka boots making frequent appearances.

Still, sneakers never go out of fashion.

“Sneakers are always there,” said Mario Bisio, owner of Mario’s department store in Portland, Ore., and Seattle. “In all the major collections, there’s the tennis shoe, which looks great with jeans.”

And colors covered the spectrum.

“We’re feeling strong about the aqua, turquoise and blue family,” said Lanita Layton, VP and GMM for men’s at Holt Renfrew in Canada. “You’re also seeing a big emphasis on the lavenders in the ready-to-wear, so you’re seeing shoes in purples, magentas and lilacs.”

Standout footwear looks — both on the runway and in other showings — included Salvatore Ferragamo’s laced two-toned shoes; Prada’s drivers and chukka boots; John Varvatos’ boots; and new sneakers by Car Shoe, according to buyers.Yuketen also won praise for its unique take on classicism.

That’s good news for retailers, who are just getting into fall sales and are still struggling with the global economy.

One issue that will prove important for both fall and spring is price. Retailers who attended the shows in Europe commended vendors for working with them in that area.

“People have gotten realistic on price point, which I’m glad to see,” said Dan Farrington, GMM of men’s at Connecticut’s Mitchells and Richards department stores. “Everyone got a little drunk there with success for a long period. Price points got out of control. [The economy] is forcing retailers, wholesalers and designers to get a little reality check.”

One example, according to Farrington, is John Varvatos’ recent addition of footwear to his Star USA diffusion line, which showed in Milan. With shoes made in Asia, rather than Italy, the designer is keeping prices for spring between $165 for sandals and $345 for boots.

Leppo also has added the Star USA footwear to Bloomingdale’s fall lineup. Additionally, he pointed out that many brands are focusing on entry price points, making more product available in that range.

“People are being very careful not to lower their prices, but they’re putting a lot more into their opening ranges,” he said. “My best shoe this season is Ferragamo, which is certainly not an opening price point, but Ferragamo has put more at the opening ends of its ranges, whether it’s the high-end Tramezza line or opening Studio line.”

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