Thursday, May 31, 2007

Summer Essentials: Madras Pattern

Carried by just about every major preppy retailer this summer, Madras-style shorts and dresses seem to have finally broken into the realm of acceptable fashion. First catching hold with retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) in the summer of 2004, Madras has had a tough break with the mainstream consumer - until now. Retailers like Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL), J. Crew (pictured) (NYSE:JCG), Brooks Brothers, and Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) have begun carrying this pattern along with their solids and seersuckers in full force. Styles range from clean patterns, to darker, tea-stained patchwork - a much significantly different approach in comparison with traditional prep styles.

High Fashion e-retailer Still Unrivaled

Confession: I’ve spent $40,000 this spring on clothes. Perhaps this purchase hasn’t actually been made, but I can assure you that my cart total is nearing the mark on . Though others have tried, see or, NET-A-PORTER is a clear winner with its innovative approach to the high end fashion experience online.
Featuring a magazine-like layout, with a tasteful black and white design concept, NET-A-PORTER appears edgy yet classy enough to support their inventory. This is impressive considering its a dazzling selection from designers from Chloe, Marc Jacobs and 3.1 Phillip Lim to the more terrestrial offerings of Juicy Couture and Scoop. The goodies on the site are too easily comparable to candy store delights, especially for the majority of starved fashion addicts outside the New York and Los Angeles areas (but never fear, they offer same day delivery in Manhattan.) Down to the last detail, NET-A-PORTER delivers on its promise of the high fashion retail experience, each purchase arrives in a NET-A-PORTER dust bag then placed in one of the company’s signature “black boxes.”
On the business end, NET-A-PORTER’s growth is promising- since its launch in June 2000 the website has expanded features, service and brands with leaps and bounds, and recently branched into an affiliate website venture. Their fashion editorial has evolved too- the site now offers quality bi-weekly articles on hot pieces and trends, and an overflowing seasonal "planner." NET-A-PORTER's reporting is done in the UK and their headquarters are located in London. For more biz info check this UK coverage out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tom Ford's Manhattan Diggs

Tom Ford of Gucci fame has just opened his own store in Manhattan. The iconic designer personally netted over $250 million while masterminding the legendary turnarounds at Gucci and Yves Saint-Laurent (both owned by French luxury powerhouse PPR) and has put some of that cash to work by striking out on his own. Mr. Ford sure has his eccentricities about him: he had an orange tractor at his New Mexico property spray-painted black because he couldn’t stand the color, it takes half an hour to drive from the gate to his house (15,000-square-feet!), and he's hired a half-dozen young models dressed as French maids and butlers in gray suits and white gloves just to stand against the walls of his Manhattan boutique trying to blend in. For the rest of the craziness that is Tom Form, peep the article:

New York Magazine Article
Tom Ford Website

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Banana Republic Men's: Summer Outlook

As stated in an earlier article, Banana Republic is arguably the only thread left holding Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) together. Here is a look into some of the products featured in the Banana Republic Men's summer lineup.

For the most part we were bearish on the casual wear, and neutral on most of the business-casual wear. Distressed polo shirts seem to have not caught on in the past with brands like Lacoste, which Nordstrom(NYSE: JWN) began carrying a few months ago in their Rail section. We think that the Banana Republic consumer will not be looking for such an extreme fashion statement and will stick to the more traditional looks. This also goes for the ruffled shirts which we think are too fashion-forward to be casual wear.

In The Spotlight: Tailorbyrd

Tailorbyrd Sport Shirt
Launched in 2002 to critical acclaim, upscale shirtmaker Tailorbyrd has prospered with their button-ups, serving a sport-casual niche with bright colors and refined cuts. Tailorbyrd’s sport shirts all share thick, high quality fabrics, double-barreled cuffs, and a quintessentially British spread collar. To add flavor, some pieces sport colorful patterned trim inside the cuffs and collar. We like Tailorbyrd’s direction; it’s been spot-on with trends since its inception and it spices up the dress shirt just as much as necessary without being over-elaborate. Sr. VP Michael Sheinfield gave us the low-down on their plans:

TFI: Is your firm privately-held? Where are you based?
MS: "Yes, we’re privately-held, based out of New York and Seattle.”
TFI: What are Tailorbyrd's plans for the future?
MS: "Our goal hasn't changed: use the best materials possible. We won't waver-that's the mindset."
TFI: What are your plans for expanding your current line-up?
MS: "We've got boys sport shirts available now, women's shirts, swimsuits, even t-shirts and golf wear. Our women’s line is expanding into dresses and jackets. That's not to say that we're losing our focus; you won't be seeing any Tailorbyrd bicycles anytime soon. We've been all over...we even did specialty vests at one point. We're selling online now, and a boutique store is something we'd consider-no idea is off the table."
TFI: How’s the business doing?
MS: “I won’t go into specifics-let’s just say that each and every growth target is met and exceeded.”

Link: TAILORBYRD Website

Vineyard Vines, Martha's Vineyard Prep

Vineyard Vines, an up and coming prep brand from Martha's Vineyard has been gaining momentum ever since its inception in 1998. Spotted recently at Sak's Fifth Avenue (NASDAQ: SKS), Vineyard Vines is arguably one of the strongest East Coast prep brands to surface in the last few years. Comparable with the casual looks of Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) and Brooks Brothers (Retail Brand Alliance), Vineyard Vines brings both contemporary East-Coast prep with the addition of weekending clothing and beachwear.

Why Gap Sucks

Flagship brand Gap of The Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) sucks. I'm all for "buying when theres blood in the streets", but if there is no end to a company's failure in sight, it may be better to hold off. With seasons of uninspired collections, GAP is quickly turning into a K-Mart brand, with only its subsidiary, Banana Republic, doing considerably well. When consumers can turn to alternate companies for better fashion at a competitive price, such as Forever 21, H&M (STO:HMB), and Zara,there is no reason to purchase subpar clothing. Gap, here is a tip for the outfit pictured above named "Casual Charm":

1. Fire the model, she isn't good looking and no one knows who she is.

2. Fire/smack the designer who thought that washed out earth tones was a great idea for the fifth season in a row.

3. Fire the person who put together this outfit and named it. It should be called "no personality".

Thick Stitching

True Religion (NASDAQ: TRLG) has released a new line of jeans featuring a bold new stitching direction. I think this direction could salvage their lag in new innovation and distinguish their branding in the high-end denim market.

Nordstrom Stock

Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) is reaching its lower resistance point and it looks undervalued. Based on the Shareholders Meeting that took place on May 22nd, the overall outlook of Nordstrom suggests a bullish tone. Higher gas prices this summer may impact a substantial chunk of retail, however I think the loyal Nordstroms customer will continue their spending spree on upscale clothing. Although upscale boutiques in major metropolitain areas have been gaining momentum, Nordstrom has adapted by focusing more carefully on increashing inventory turnover and variety.