Menaissance: fashion labels discover men


Female fashion brands adorn our high streets, but where are the men’s? We look at this growing sector and meet an ambitious new menswear label. 


A very new entrant into the market is &SONS, a men’s clothing brand dreamed up by two creative designers, and even though it’s less than a year old, the brand is already catching the eye of international buyers, according to designer Phil James. 

James and co-founder James Cowdale created &SONS last year, having become frustrated at the lack of availability of the clothes they loved to wear, based on vintage workwear clothing. ‘I was having to hunt through 10 or more different websites to find individual items I wanted, as well as shopping at vintage clothing stores and then adapting them at home,’ says James. 

&SONS emerged as a range of comfortable and stylish workwear clothing harking back to the early 20th century. The collection is based on layers rather than being a slave to the seasons, but the team is already widening its designs to create different looks and styles, including a sartorial range of high-waisted trousers with braces.

More brands invest in men’s stores
Research carried out by CBRE Global Investors shows that &SONS and new young designers like them have accurately captured a current trend. According to Marije Braam-Mesken, now portfolio manager EMEA at the company but previously head of EMEA retail strategy and research, men are more interested in fashion than before, and are more brand-loyal.

‘They look for quality and are also more predictable spenders,’ she says. 

Predictable spenders, along with brand loyalty, are music to retailers’ ears, which is why more players are reinvigorating their men’s departments. So long buried in the basement, many are now benefitting from smart refits, funky lighting and improved service. ‘You can see this move to showcasing men’s fashion in many markets,’ adds Braam-Mesken. ‘The French luxury brand Louis Vuitton opened a dedicated men’s pop-up store in New York City in January this year.’ 

It was Louis Vuitton’s fi rst stand-alone store dedicated solely to male customers and held a broad range of its ready-to-wear collection, accessories and leather goods. Italian luxury brand Furla, interviewed elsewhere in this magazine, has also opened a men’s shop-in-shop in its new flagship store in London’s West End and Lululemon, the Canadian athletic apparel company founded in 1998 which has stores across the world, opened its Local Toronto last December. This was the first-ever Lululemon’s men’s concept space in the city.

The new, smaller-format store aims to boost the brand’s investment in community, with a focus on providing locals with a place to ‘connect, collaborate and create’, says the retailer.

Men’s brand &SONS is still trialling its retail presence, but interest in the nascent brand is rising, thanks to increased awareness following three weeks in a pop-up shop in London’s trendy Shoreditch area, supported by pop-up experts Appear Here. 

Unexpected early success
‘We sold online from the start, and were surprised to get orders from Scandinavia and New York as well as from our home country the UK,’ explains &SONS co-founder James. ‘The pop-up helped us build data on the brand to enable us to provide more information to potential investors and it was a big deal. We attracted a number of well-known actors and other personalities, and turnover was much higher than expected,’ he says. 

‘It wasn’t until we opened the pop-up that we thought opening a store would be an option,’ adds Cowdale. ‘Now I can see the benefi ts that stores would bring. It doesn’t need to be purely men’s fashion either, we would look at widening the range to lifestyle products, and we’re already expanding into a limited range of women’s wear.’ 

Part of the &SONS brand appeal is that much of its clothing is made in the UK, and it is looking to have more made in the country. ‘Made in the UK is a strong brand of authenticity,’ says Cowdale.

Another benefi t to the pop-up store was that it attracted international stockists, which led &SONS to being invited to sell its clothing range on the Sinroja Motorcycles stand at a huge motorbike expo in Verona in January this year. That has led to even more international stockists coming forward. Online retail is driving increased brand awareness for &SONS in 2017, which is looking at new physical retail opportunities elsewhere, including in the US.