Fashion’s Shifting Paradigm | A Farewell to Lazy Merchants, Irrelevant Offerings & Bloated Markups

live beyond your means

Sorry Antonio— this image is too good, I had to borrow it.  The irony is incredible– “Live Beyond Your Means” on the window of a store that went under.  Says a lot about the retail climate we’re experiencing.

There’s a lot of reactionary “strategy” in motion right now by apparel retailers & wholesalers who are desperately trying to stop the bleeding.  Slash prices, cut inventory levels, homogenize the product, reduce the workforce, cut expenses, close stores– but what’s the long term answer?  The industry is facing unprecedented times– but this didn’t happen overnight, and we only have ourselves to blame.  The industry is finally paying the price for years of over-saturating the retail landscape with too many stores, an excess of irrelevant “me too” brands & products, and in many cases– undeservedly fat markups.  

“The consumer is so well-informed today, they don’t want to be told how to buy and they feel conned and manipulated by big flagship stores, and by the disproportionate margins the brands are making,” Inacio Ribeiro said. “However, the consumer will welcome suggestions, and that is the way forward.”

Fashion’s reliance on ever-lower prices failed last fall, as sale signs shouting 60, 70 and 80 percent off attested. Value is making a comeback across the price spectrum.  –WWD

In short– we got fat, lazy & greedy, as the consumer became more sophisticated and savvy.  Now they are deciding with lethal force who will survive and who will die– and quite honestly, a lot of us deserve to die.

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Paul Stuart | A New Space, a New Face


Paul Stuart is a brand that has always fascinated me.  They’re always very focused and true to who they are, unapologetically dandy, and have a very distinct flavor that is unmistakably Paul Stuart.  The Phineas Cole label, with it’s new corner shop on Madison & 45th, comes at exactly the right time.  It represents Paul Stuart speaking to the younger guy who wants a grownup alternative to the shrunken suit silliness that is Thom Browne, and many other’s, ilk.  Phineas Cole is respectful to timeless style, but in a way that’s approachable and relevant for the younger guy.  

Paul Stuart has always had a strong point of view, which has served them well.  It isn’t for everyone, mind you.  If you’re not well versed on the classics and the art of dressing, then you may be overwhelmed, or simply just not get it.  For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop.  I love what they stand for.  After all, many brands have learned recently that if you do not stand for something– you will fall for anything.  

And many of them have.  


Phineas Cole

Photo courtesy of Material Interest

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Retail History | The Golden Age

I remember when someone calling you a good merchant was a great compliment, and being in the industry was, well, a real credible profession.  Sometimes when I tell people what I do they give me that look– you know, like they’re wondering when I’ll get a real job.  To me retail & apparel is a real job, and my passion.  But I do long for the past more and more– like the real haberdashers.  Not the pseudo “haberdashery” pop-up shops we see from time to time in J. Crew, Ralph and others, but the real deal.  And the old school merchants, an almost extinct breed.

Ah, the glory days– before it all went to crap.


Gimbel Brothers Department Store

1842 - Alan Gimbel opened Palace of Trade Vincennes, IN; 1887 - Isaac and Jacob Gimbel opened first store in Milwaukee; 1894 - opened large department store in Philadelphia (above); 1910 - opened store in New York City in Herald Square near Macy's; 1973 - acquired by Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. for $200 million; 1987 - last of Gimbel stores closed.

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Men’s Luxury Clothing Correction Needed


In a candid conversation with an executive at arguably one of the nation’s best specialty retailers, the current state of apparel sales was reported as such–  

Womenswear = tough.

Menswear = worse.

Men’s tailored clothing (suits in particular) = abysmal.

Answer = a wide-sweeping retail price correction is much needed in order to start the process of regaining consumer confidence. 


menswear suits


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