Despite Omicron upending holiday travel, New Years plans, and the Paris edition of the trade show the week before, Man/Woman carried on with their New York men’s event at the end of January, shuffling exhibitors around at the last minute to accommodate what the variant had planned for all involved.
On the third and final day of the event, the room at AG Studios in Tribeca was calm as snow flurries came down outside. For several of the brands in attendance this was the first show back to meet buyers in person since the pandemic, and it felt good to be there. “The first real trade show back for a lot of retailers and brands has been very strong,” Wholesale Manager for Corridor, Brandon Capps, told FashionUnited as he organized a rack of cardigans that had been hand-crocheted by a women’s collective in Peru. “The first day was very, very busy and everyone was happy to touch product and reconnect with people, meet new people—it’s something that we haven’t been able to do for the past two years so, it was refreshing.”
Corridor is an independent brand local to New York, founded by designer Dan Snyder in the East Village, and so it’s representatives did not have to travel too far to attend. But its neighbor on the floor, Heimat, came in from London for the show. Co-owner, Gemma Hofmann was wearing a mask but it was still easy to tell that she was smiling as she enthusiastically approached. “We’ve been so excited. We were just so glad to be back and actually see people’s faces, even half covered,” she said. Hofmann’s partner, Christian, founded the brand in 2016 around fisherman and naval-inspired knitwear. The brand’s name is a German word, an homage to his heritage, that doesn’t translate directly into English but its meaning refers to what may best describe the day: feeling at home while doing something that you love. “This is what we do,” Gemma continued. “That social aspect, I think people have been really missing.”
For a brand like Portuguese Flannel, who updates consistent shirt and jacket silhouettes with new versions of their legacy fabrics that they produce themselves in Portugal, the Covid years were not too punishing due to buyers’ familiarity with their product. “We’re feeling quite optimistic because even during the pandemic it was good for us, we didn’t lose any accounts. The clients knew the brand, they knew the sell-through they’d been having, so they were committed to do orders each season during the past two years. We can’t complain really,” said Antonio Magalhães who co-owns the family company with his brother Manuel. But Hofmann believes that a lot gets lost when there isn’t that in-person connection. “We introduced a lot of new styles last year, but actually they were missed because buyers played things safe,” she mentioned. “They kept to what they knew, which is completely understandable.” Heimat was debuting a new women’s line at the show. “We live and breathe the brand and spend so much time developing something. So, to be able to show it to clients, and for them to see it in real life and love it and then, hopefully, buy it—that feels really good.”
Ayako Yamada, Sales Director for Sage de Cret of Tokyo, echoed that sentiment. The brand she represents, designed by Kimitoshi Chida, specializes in unique washes, finishes, and textures on utilitarian and military-inspired styles that make a strong impact in person with that tangible connection. “We were trying to send out swatches from Japan, you know, so our existing clients could at least feel the fabric when we were talking to each other. We tried our best, but it’s just not the same at all.” Yamada noted that they still made an effort to connect with new clients virtually throughout the past two years, in spite of the difficulty. “That, I think, helped a lot because our collection was always in their minds. One day, we knew they were going to come to see it, and then that happened these past two days,” she said.
Showing at the New York edition of Man/Woman for the first time was Crescent Down Works and its Production Manager, Annie Michelson, who traveled cross country from Washington State. Michelson’s mother started the company in 1974 that specializes in Northwest outerwear designs inspired by her love of hiking. “She was kind of part of a hippie collective of DIYers in the ‘70s, so she made her own down clothing. It was this vest actually, this is our original style,” Michelson explained, pointing to a Nylon puffer made in Seattle by a small team in their own factory. “That’s really when down clothing was not commercially made. She would get these kits—you could send away for down kits and they’d send you a big package of down and a pattern and you’d cut and sew your own down piece. She did that a few times over and then just started developing her own styles.” The trip sounded worth it to meet with new stores and preempt potential sizing issues as buyers were able to assess the product in person. “We started selling direct from our own online shop a couple of years ago, which has been awesome, but we get lots of returns—sizing stuff. So, it’s nice for people to try on and be able to buy the right size runs for their shop.”
Overall, the show appeared to be a success and perhaps signaled a small light at the end of the tunnel. “I think for any brand, it’s been difficult and we’re still kind of going through it, especially with supply chain issues and inflation across the board with materials and workers—it’s a lot of hurdles to jump through. Visitors were positive in their retail sales and in terms of the brands, everybody’s been excited to see notes and orders coming in so, I think we’re doing well to come out of all this,” concluded Capps from Corridor.
“People showed up, even a couple of Canadian clients,” Yamada from Sage de Cret underscored. “It’s a small show but we have to start from somewhere, you know? So it’s good.”
Woman Paris AW22 will take place from March 4-6 at the Place Vendôme in Paris.