By Mallory Hughes
Hot on the heels of the Men’s Fashion Weeks in Milan and London, Paris Fashion Week, which closed on Friday, offered one last look at luxury menswear for the upcoming Fall-Winter 2015 season.
When the latest designs hit the European runway, Chicago can seem like a world away. But local men’s boutiques, department stores and couture storefronts are already making decisions about next years merchandise, sending buyers to the shows and placing orders.
Apartment Number 9, a menswear boutique at 1804 N. Damen Ave., carries lines ranging from New York’s Rag & Bone to Belgian design house Maison Martin Margiela. The latter showed its Fall-Winter collection in Paris on Friday.
“We’ve already started receiving shipments from Spring,” said Reed Schmidt, the store manager at Apartment Number 9. “But we’re not sure when we will start to receive the new Fall-Winter collections.”
Chicago men are starting to care a little more about what they are wearing, Schmidt said, adding, however, that the Windy City has always been a little slow to patronize men’s boutiques.
But with new stores like Gallery Aesthete, 46 E. Oak St., the men’s fashion scene in Chicago, while still limited, is steadily growing, said Samm Mackin, a buyer for the Gallery.
“The landscape has completely changed,” Mackin said, “since we moved in two-and-a-half years ago.”
Mackin expects the merchandise from the Paris shows to arrive at Gallery Aesthete in July.
“Each piece we select has to fit into our aesthetic,” Mackin said.
Thom Browne, who showed a collection last week in Paris, is one of the latest men’s brands to move into Chicago.
“It’s a slim, short fit and guys around here are used to slimming, longer fits,” Schmidt said, “But we’re teaching them.”
Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan Ave., anticipates that the Fall-Winter designs will hit stores in late July or early August.
“The Chicago customer continues to be sophisticated, very knowledgeable about fashion,” said Julie Cameron, Director of Marketing at Saks.
The buyers at Apartment Number 9 and Gallery Aesthete are often keep track of their customers’ sizes and style preferences before placing orders after Fashion Weeks. That way, when the merchandise comes in, the customer has selections ready to try on.
“The teams in the store have a close partnership with the buyers so that each store has pieces specific to their customers’ lifestyle,” Cameron said.
Even national store like Saks Fifth Avenue maintains close relationships with its regional buyers so their clients can have clothes that fit the Chicago lifestyle.
At Hermés, 25 E. Oak St., the Fall-Winter ready-to-wear collection could arrive in stores as early as June, said Peter Malachi, senior vice president of communications.
“Customers of fashion and luxury brands like to shop early,” Malachi said.
Hermés’ store directors purchase only merchandise tailored to the region where the stores are located, he said.
In Chicago, for example, Hermés will continue to sell Fall-Winter 2015 collections through the end of this year, even though Spring-Summer 2016 collections will have been released in October or November 2015.
For local boutiques, an online presence is key, Schmidt said. His customers tend to find items online before traveling to Bucktown to shop in-store.
And while Saks and Hermés have national advertising campaigns, both Malachi and Cameron said that connecting with clients on a personal level is vital.
“Our sales associates contact clients by email, text or phone to let them know about the new designs,” Cameron said.
No matter where the stylish Chicago man is shopping, he’s clearly becoming more interested in high fashion, shopping early and staying on top of trends.