September 27, 2012

The Gentlemen's Club

Lately, everyone’s eye (and wallet) is on men's fashion. With an over-saturated women’s market and a new era of fashion forward men, the tables have finally turned. We’ve talked about the rise in popularity of the man bag as well as the menswear luxury boom on previous blogs, and today, we want to take it one step further by connecting all the dots.

photo via GQ

And the best place to start? Fashion Week! This season, despite competition from predominantly womenswear collections, menswear still managed to make major headlines with at least 40 designers showcasing men’s fashions at NYFW. Details magazine even debuted runway shows and presentations to promote the likes of John Bartlett, Gilded Age, Mark McNairy, Bespoken, and Marlon Gobel at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center.

The distinction arises in the fact that men’s fashion is built around different ideals than women’s. Let’s face it men are just built differently and look to fabric, fit, and quality of construction whereas for women, there is more of a place for creativity and well, sex appeal. The men's fashion scene still has many barriers to break down, away from traditional suiting and casual wear as well as balancing the gap between mid-market retailers and smaller designers.

video via Nordstrom

From a retail perspective, the possibilities are endless. It seems everyone has moved into menswear. Earlier in the month during NYFW, the pop up shop entitled, GQ & Nordstrom Men's Shop opened its doors on the ground level of Treasure & Bond. The concept was developed as a supplement to the "GQ Selects," where each month GQ editors feature merchandise in the magazine that can be purchased directly from the Nordstrom e-commerce site. This strategy not only introduces an omni-channel retail format, but harmonizes both the strengths of print and digital media into one campaign. Additionally, all profits made from the pop-up will be donated to various NY charities, which nonetheless remains at ease with the Treasure & Bond philosophy.

photo via WWD

GQ is also teaming up with is Gap to launch limited edition men's capsule collections highlighting designers Todd Snyder, Mark McNairy, Ian Velardi, Ovadia & Sons, BLK DNM, and Saturdays NYC, which starts today both in stores and online. The collections will include everything from boxer briefs to outerwear with price points at $20-$348. According to the head of merchandising from Gap North America, Mark Breitbard, "Our men's business is very consistent but we think there's a lot more opportunity." He also explained how the designers remained true to their aesthetics while simultaneously incorporating elements of casual American sportswear.

photo via WWD

Other news includes Urban Outfitters introducing it's first menswear only e-catalog this fall featuring talented, stylish, and personable NYC male locals and Sears launching a new line, Outdoor Life, that specifically caters to the "outdoorsman." With this, Sears hopes to capture more cross-shoppers who initially buy hard goods and then move over to the apparel section of the store. Since the entire concept was inspired by the magazine that bears the same name, Outdoor Life, the collection is a mixture of casual sportswear, performance clothing, and hunting and fishing apparel priced from $20-$140. Not to mention, this is where the retailer will push advertising efforts. Again, the presence of print media integrated into retail formats is heavily a focus in the menswear mid-market arena to stimulates exclusivity and incorporate more traditional elements.

photo via The High Low

On the department store front, Bloomingdale's is debuting luxury shops like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton into its menswear accessory and dress furnishings departments at its flagship here in NY. According to Kevin Harter, vice president and men's fashion director this luxury "arcade" is similar to what the retailer did on its Lexington Ave side of the store in the women's department.

photo via Gentlemint

So what about men and social media? Well besides the everyday Facebook and Twitter of course, there is Gentlemint. Described as the "Pinterest for manly things," this social media platform is pretty much what you expect with a tiled layout and visually driven content. While the site is welcoming to women, the actual pictures posted say it all, with things like electronics, cars, jet skis, and beer. While the founders never had intentions for it to have a significant user base, they've had to moderate entry and place tens of thousands of people on waiting lists.

video via youtube

Despite, such a movement towards technology and the online world in the womenswear market, the menswear world seems to be taking a more traditional route. While there is a digital presence, print media, traditional advertising, and looking to more established brands seems to be more effective. However, as this fashion forward male consumer continues to get savvier and more interested in standing out, we will begin to see a rise in the popularity of more smaller menswear design houses as well as more innovative retail concepts like that of GQ & Nordstrom. Obviously there is major growth in menswear overall so things just have to evolve and we suspect, this market will pick up speed quickly. Lastly, we'd like to leave you with a fun little video from the founders of Cool Hunting as they offer menswear advice on how to pack using Tumi's menswear travel bag, the safari duffel

September 20, 2012

MBF Salon Goes to University!

As we are sure many of you remember, we first introduced the mbf Salon at the Kingpins Show this past July. Since then, we have taken our conversational platform to the road! Despite it being fashion week, we’ve been on the move…our first stop was Philadelphia University, followed by a visit at our offices from Cornell University!

We asked students from both universities to research what they think a trend and design consulting agency does as well as what they believe are the drivers in the apparel industry. For us, it was a great experience to hear the point of view of the students and learn how informed they are since they will one day be in charge. With this, we exchanged knowledge, got to hear what Gen Y really thinks, and discussed where the industry is headed.

It just so happens that the night before we arrived in Philadelphia was FNO 2012, so this sparked the initial direction of our conversations towards more trend-related topics that brought up very important points like how the industry has changed and updated itself to remain “new,” the mixture of both high and low fashion that consumers now enjoy, as well as the significance to feel like an individual whether it be on a personal level or a brand's value.

For the students at Philadelphia University specifically, we requested, depending on their major (which ranged from Undergraduates to Graduates in the areas of Textile Design, Fashion Design, and Fashion Industry Management), they look into the fall/winter “Renassiance” trend. While the dynamic here was a bit different, with twelve students pre-selected and an audience of about 80, the trend conversation could have went on endlessly – from the presence of studs on shoes, metallic threads in textiles, an upsurge in leather and velvet fabrications, and a re-emergence in Renaissance inspired wallpaper patterns, etc. Overall, we were blown away with the level of knowledge, the flow of information, and the general amount of pre-research the students actually did.

A week later, Cornell visited us and this time we tweaked the Salon by bringing in more sustainability elements like how are sustainability and technology impacting the industry and which fashion companies are integrating it in a successful and profitable way. Here, the ten attendees ranged from Sophomore to Graduate levels in Apparel Design and Apparel Management. The students were on a visit to New York City to potentially get an inside look into a few different types of companies from retail level to designers to well, us!

In our discussions, as we examined different companies' initiatives like Toms, H&M, Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher, we found we kept returning to the idea that no matter what, whether consumers are educated or not, it comes down to excellent design. We also chatted about the best way to successfully market sustainability – whether it is better to keep it separate or incorporate it into contemporary fashion lines. While the conversation also touched on other areas like co-sharing economies and gift societies, there was a definite hopeful aroma in the air. Things are changing, people are more educated, more demanding, and these people, hold the future to our world.

video via

With that said, we'd like to introduce a few shifts happening in the industry right now. A co-sharing economy is already here with sites like Air B&B and The infamous Patagonia has registered itself as first Benefit Corporation in California. There are more sustainable brands, designers, collections now more than ever from long-time veterans like Sass Brown to newbie Katie Holmes' line Homes and Yang. What's next?

Ok so we've all heard about the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and we know it's comprised of major companies like Gap Inc., Adidas, Nike Inc., Nordstrom Inc., Li & Fung, etc, but what are they actually doing? Well, we'd like to report to you today that they have unveiled the Higg Index, which is a three-part scoring system for both apparel and footwear companies to measure their eco-footprint and is based on both the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index and Nike's Material Assessment Tool. Not to mention, it's completely free, downloadable directly from, and even offered in Mandarin!

video via Made Collection

A new flash-sale site called Made Collection recently launched that solely features goods made right here in America. This site, much like the format of Gilt and sells everything from jeans to guitar straps, is just another step towards preserving domestic jobs, boosting the economy, and supporting a "Made In The US" mentality. Another major point to note, with the Made Collection online store, locally made brands now have the opportunity to be available across the nation to a wide gap of consumers. How's that for spreading American pride?

photo via Before It's News

London Fashion Week may officially be over but did you know Estethica, founded by the British Fashion Council (BFC) has been promoting sustainable fashion at LFW for 13 consecutive seasons? This season, the exhibition features 15 designer's S/S13 collections that include apparel, lingerie, and accessory labels like Honest By, Chiarini, Joanna Cave, Carla Fernandez, etc. Estethica not only supports designers during fashion week but offers mentoring, marketing support, and an online arena through their e-boutique on

A shift is happening and fast! From universities around the country to upcoming international designers to huge corporations, and online websites, a more sustainable lifestyle is the future. It's no longer acceptable to just "say" what we are going to do, we have to actually make it happen because today everything moves even quicker than yesterday. As we continue to share, converse, exchange knowledge, and support one another cross-industry, we can gain the resources to really make significant changes and slow things down. 

September 13, 2012

Getting Personal with Allison Parris

Since New York Fashion Week ends today, we'd like to celebrate by featuring the face behind the eco-friendly and socially conscious, Allison Parris New York, Allison Parris herself. We were lucky enough to attend her Spring/Summer 2013 Fashion Event last Friday and not only did we have a blast, but the clothes looked fabulous – from sequin embellished racerbacks to fun, silk party dresses with cutouts!

MBF Trend Consulting: How did you get into fashion? And what is your background?

Allison Parris: I grew up in a creative household, my mother is an interior designer and my father is a photographer and public relations consultant, so artistic development was highly encouraged! I started training in pattern making and sewing while still a teenager, and I was designing gowns for clients in the Detroit area. I then moved to New York and graduated from the Fashion Design Program at FIT with a specialization in special occasion. I’ve then worked with Catherine Malandrino and Cynthia Rowley for a couple of years before starting my collection.

MBF: How would you describe your personal style?

AP: Haha, well on a daily basis – jeans/t shirt/ no makeup…not very glam…but when going out, it’s always the highest heels possible, tutus and beaded party dresses! I love dressing up!

MBF: What is the story behind your collection for Spring 2013?

AP: The designs of SS13 have been influenced by a handful of women I know who are confident, successful, ambitious and kind. They all have an enviable distinct personal style and a dedication to what they do, which is something I always find inspiring.

MBF: We know that you utilize the factories here in New York’s garment district and we have read that you support “Made In The USA” on your blog, what inspired you to do this? And how else do you incorporate sustainability into your line?

AP: I use sustainable and organic fabrics such as raw organic silk, recycled PET satin and netting. We use recycled PET for all of our linings, as well as for many of our softer nettings and one taffeta.

MBF: How would you describe your customer?

AP: We have many different types of customers, but overall, our girls are not slaves to the fad of the week. Despite the occasional loud color, sequin, whatever – we tend to stick more to a classic style and our customers do too – at any age.

MBF: We’ve heard a couple of celebrities have been spotted wearing some of your pieces in the past. If you could dress anyone, who is someone you would want to design for?

AP: I already do dress the women I design for :) But there are always different people who I would be happy to see in my dresses for different reasons…I love both of the Deschanel sisters, Isla Fisher, any of those “cute/quirky girls.”

MBF: What are some key pieces every girl should own?

AP: Every girl should own a mini tutu and one of our new sequin dresses like the Greta or the Arden! :)

MBF: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers or people looking to break into the industry?

AP: Persistence and common sense are the two most important qualities I look for when hiring someone – it sounds ridiculous I know, but those are two qualities of paramount importance to success in the industry which can't be taught to you when you’re on the job, you have to work on it on your own. Also, read everything you can get your hands on – WWD, Vogue, blogs, etc. (industry focused, not celeb focused).

MBF: We loved your concept for Bishops & Barrons where you designed the uniforms. We thought it was very innovative! What’s next for Allison Parris?

AP: Thanks :) Still sorting out the next big partnership, so who knows! Just playing it by ear right now!

September 11, 2012

Fresh Out of the Editing Room...

So we're thrilled to say "here for your viewing entertainment" is our video of the launch of the mbf SALON at Kingpins NY.

As some of you know since Kingpins we have taken the Salon on-the-road with a first stop at Philadelphia University.

We'll keep you up-to-date on our next stops and hope to share some of the great take-aways from those Salons with all of you.

If you're interested in learning more about our Salons feel free to reach out to us directly at

Let's keep the conversation going!

One more thought. A special thanks to Kristin McDonald [Creative Concepts] who translated our concept into a brand / logo. And did it with a smile. 

September 6, 2012

MBF September Picks

Everyone wants to understand how to predict the future. With businesses changing so quickly and new innovations hitting the marketplace everyday (or less), the retail industry is more unpredictable than ever. However, looking directly at what is happening today, there are a few trends that may hold the key to the future direction of retail.

Look at how much New York City has evolved over the past few years. The infamous 5th Ave used to solely be lined with luxury shops like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Bergdorf Goodman. Now, the major shopping destination is graced with everything from Abercrombie & Fitch to Zara. Many contemporary shops have infiltrated Madison Ave as well, like Proenza Schouler and Rag & Bone, who are just a few among nearly 50 stores who have opened in the last year and a half. This explains the unfolding of a new customer who wants to fill his or her closet with a mix of high and low fashion.

video via Clean Technica

Last week, we spoke about how many retailers are downsizing to fit into smaller spaces. However, this shift in updating store designs goes even further with Puma's sustainable store in India and Restoration Hardware positioning itself as a showroom. Is this shift towards eco-friendly elements like solar power, rooftop gardens, and recycled wood just the beginning? Will retail shops cease stocking merchandise and producing actual sales in store, to eventually become mere "touch and feel" establishments? If this happens, brick and mortar retailers will be able to compete with online merchants by shipping products directly to customers at cost. Not to mention, more easily re-merchandise the entire store and lessen the need to have warehouses nearby to replenish stock.

video via

While traditional brick and mortar operations are evolving to try and keep up, online retailers are still one step ahead. just relaunched their website, modernizing to a super stylish new layout that features model Xiao Wen Ju wearing a digital dress on the homepage. But wait, it gets even better! The e-commerce retailer is also initiating Speak & Shop voice recognition software that allows customers to shop online by simply talking to the computer. Not only does this technology simplify browsing, but acknowledges up to eight different languages.

photo via ecouterre

Speaking of digital technology, after spending time at tradeshows in both the U.S. and Europe this past July, we can affirm it's all about digital printing. And with Constrvct, a new online tool, anyone can create a made-to-order t-shirt or dress with any image they want. It's even predicted that one day, people will have affordable at home 3D printers to produce their own clothing, towels, and utensils.

photo via NY Times

As technology continues to change the face of retail, across the city many bookstores are becoming more like galleries than actual shops, recognizing the beauty and sacredness that books offer as an art form. With irregular hours, rare finds, and sometimes in hidden locations, these stores like Karma, 6 Decades, Specific Object, and Printed Matter, appeal to everyone from the average reader to collectors and fanatics alike. These book galleries serve as a permanent think tank and not only display contemporary book art, but offer publishing services as well. It's establishments like this, that are  dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the future of their industry, that will endure as they further look to redefine the business.

photo via WWD

Overall, the entire industry is over-saturated with sameness, which challenges retailers to incorporate cutting-edge concepts, innovative marketing strategies, and unique merchandise into their approaches. Retailer Nine West is rolling out new store concepts over the next few weeks catering to themes like "The World According to 9" at its 555 Madison Ave store, which features walls filled with merchandise according to trend and a "Vintage America Collection" in SoHo that will sell exclusive products from such collaborations with Kate Ciepluch, former Shopbop Director and Monica Botkier, among many others. This is an excellent example of how companies are learning to to balance an international presence while still recognizing American pride.

photo via Media Post

Still, some are taking their strategies straight to the internet. For instance, Clavin Klein will launch its new Push Positive bra line via a black and white video featuring model Lara Stone this month on YouTube. In addition to this, there will be an interactive Facebook App, Twitter hashtag sweepstakes, and sales associates in store will be given iPads to help with fittings.

photo via Departures

For the booming menswear luxury market, it's all about the details, with a rise in made-to-order, made-to-measure and bespoke clothing. From building a full suit at Brioni, Ascot Chang's custom shirtings to Giorgio Armani's made-to-measure tuxedos or Louis Vuitton's custom Taiga briefcase, men can now customize everything from head to toe. According to the CEO of Brioni North America, Todd Barrato, "Men like to be involved in the process." In today's world, consumers in general continue to look to buy more meaningful pieces. For many shoppers, money is tight and if they are going to splurge on something, it is going to be of excellent quality, a superb fit, and tell some type of story which leads us into our next point...

We've discussed "Made In America" before, both on our blog, Made For Us, and at our MBF Salon, Transitioning from the Recent Past to Generation Y: Concepts. Well it's making the news again and why wouldn't it be? There is a continued growing interest in the domestic manufacturing of apparel and textiles as more companies look to build relationships with vendors and factories right here in the U.S. For businesses, the advantages are plenty, like quick replenishments, more flexible timelines, and quality products. "There is a certain amount of apparel we can and should be making in this country because we can make it in a matter of days, giving us quick response and test-marketing abilities," explained Gail Strickler, the assistant U.S. trade representative for textiles and apparel. While many believe this shift towards a "Made in America" mentality is the future, questions still remain like "is it sustainable?" and "how will it evolve?"

photo via WWD

You've heard of the black market, but what about gray markets? According to WWD, "Gray markets refer to the trading of goods through legal but unofficial paths, ones that original manufacturers may not have intended." Here, originates Graymarket, a boutique in Williamsburg, that through a network of friends who collect, buy, sell, and trade clothing birthed the shop that now sells a plethora of archival men's and women's clothing and accessories. The shop, full of clothing from designers' past collections, is all unworn with tags and features a mixture of designers like Givenchy, Undercover, Gareth Pugh, Maison Martin Margiela, and Carol Christian Poell. Each of these pieces is described as "significant" and "iconic" to a particular season or designer. And just as the name states, merchandise comes from all over the place, even people's personal collections.

photo via USA Today

So what are the key themes that will lead us into the future? Despite trends of customization, sustainability, digital printing, voice recognition, and a shift towards showroom type retail establishments, there seems to be a back and forth swing between the new way of doing things via the latest technology, and still preserving the humble past of domestic sourcing and support for traditional industries. In addition, the rise in smartphone and iPad technology is slowly challenging the use of tangible cash via such innovations as Google Wallet and Square. The balance between old and new is super important as we move forward into the unknown because the best way to progress, is to learn and evolve from the past. 
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