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“What’s interesting is that some of these younger brands are actually outperforming established fashion labels — some of our biggest businesses Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo — right now,” said Saks’ Jennings. “[Customers] seem to be more willing to experiment with new brands in footwear rather than ready-to-wear.”
This was a worry at Bloomingdale’s, said Kevin Harter, VP of men’s fashion direction, where mainstay high-end brands such as Ferragamo have ruled.
“There was a point when we were concerned that all these new players on our floor could affect the Ferragamo business, but they have just complemented Ferragamo and it’s even stronger,” he said.
So it’s no wonder that more designers are getting in on the action, including a number of women’s labels (see sidebar on previous page).
In addition to Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin, which have both opened dedicated men’s-only stores, Giuseppe Zanotti, Pierre Hardy and Manolo Blahnik also are increasing their focus on the category. This new concentration has increased overall momentum in the market.
“Trends in men’s footwear are moving faster than they have [historically]. The cycle started at maybe 20 miles per hour, and now it’s going 60,” said Jason Hall, director of menswear at Stylesight, a trend-forecasting firm. “[The challenge is that] it’s acceptable at a lower price point for the trends to move like that, but when you get to the higher price points, I don’t know if there is the clientele to keep refreshing their wardrobes season after season.”
Or, as Sanderson said, “As yet, men don’t seem to have quite the same voracious appetite for shoes women do.”
Still, there’s no question that consumer demand is strengthening, and retailers said that’s a good thing. But for those who want to play ball, they must keep up with the growing category.
“It’s just the beginning. But designers can’t sit still,” said Matthew Singer, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus Group, which includes Bergdorf Goodman. “They can’t stay comfortable with what they are doing. Certain styles, yes, are iconic and will sell time and time again, but they have to keep evolving, for sure.”
On the Edge
Men’s labels in all areas of the market are getting in on the growing category.
The British women’s designer launched for fall ’13 a collection of six silhouettes ranging from classic to sporty, with an oxford, a smoking slipper, a lace-up boot and a sneaker hybrid. Already, it has been picked up by Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others. “Within women’s it’s about experimental shape,” Kirkwood said, “and with men’s, I have two options: experiment with fabric on a classic shape or with shape [using traditional materials].”
The contemporary women’s label will go after the denim dresser with a full collection of men’s shoes for spring ’14, said CEO Rick Cytrynbaum. The 24-style line will include boots, welted shoes and sneakers in buffed and distressed leathers. “Nobody has really cool, advanced contemporary footwear in men’s right now,” he said. “So we are going to launch men’s [shoes], and then we will move into apparel for fall ’14. We believe men’s is the future right now.”
The designer has had a men’s line on and off since 2008, but production issues led him to discontinue the offering, which once was carried at Bloomingdale’s. He will relaunch the wholesale collection for spring ’14 with an oxford, a smoking slipper and several sandals. “There’s something to be done out there for the gracious shopper, the hipster man, that’s not currently being done — and at a certain price point,” said Bernson.
As CEO of his family’s company, Arezzo & Co., the designer now heads up four women’s brands (including his eponymous luxury line), and one could soon add men’s to the mix. “This is something we are planning for the future. It’s hard to keep the current rate of growth, so another segment would be a great opportunity,” said Birman. “It could happen in the next two years.”