Jeffrey, the boutique chain that brought designer fashion to the then grimy Meatpacking District in New York City, turns 30 this year.
President and founder Jeffrey Kalinsky has not only seen neighbors like the Standard, the Whitney Museum and the High Line pop up in the now chic nabe, but the retail veteran has also witnessed a wave of change in fashion, retail and how consumers access information.
At WWD’s Men’s Style event in New York last week, Kalinsky shared his retail wisdom about the rise of streetwear, the future of tailoring and why, in retail, it pays to go out on a limb.
Tailoring vs. streetwear
Despite the tailoring and elegant looks that are filtering in for Fall ’19 from the runway, Kalinsky doesn’t see streetwear scaling back any time soon.
“We’ve become a culture that is more casual and accepting. There’s no one way to dress for work anymore. The options for guys are easier,” he said. “And its fashion, it’s an easy way to be cool and look cool.”
Streetwear also became an interesting alternative for women’s brands. “To be able to start selling hoodies and classifications they have never sold and to be able to sell them for $2,000 is never a bad thing,” Kalinsky added.
Rather, Jeffrey customers will find more options in the fall. “Right now, if you come to our store on 14th Street in the men’s shoe department, you can nary find a shoe,” Kalinsky said. “It is all sneakers and that’s not good.”
Next fall, men will be able to buy sneakers, combat boots and a stiletto by Francesco Russo.
The same goes for tailored items like suiting and overcoats, which will share space with hoodies come fall. “There has been an absence of tailoring in stores and the customer has an appetite for it, so I think it’s nice to swing back a bit,” Kalinsky said.
Influencers, sport stars, musicians and fashion personalities will perpetuate the swing back to tailored fashion.
“If you’re a guy…and you look up to some of these music legends, and they’re on stage wearing real designer, even if it’s just a sneaker that they can grab hold on, then they’re looking for it right away,” he said. “It creates a real demand for us in the stores because everyone wants to be like that person.”
Influencers are also a helpful tool for Kalinsky to plan his buys for the season. Scrolling through Instagram has replaced the need to scour through newspapers, magazines and fashion credits. However, he says accessibility to information has an opposite effect on his role as a merchant.
“You see the same ‘It’ shoe or the same sweater on so many people’s Instagram feeds that, to me, you don’t get that surprise of discovering it on your own,” he said. “It lacks the impact after you’ve seen it 100 times, and after you’ve seen it 100 times, you may not even want it anymore.”
Be a unicorn
You can still be the only retailer in New York City carrying a brand that no one else heard of, but it goes against the grain of the current retail market.
Kalinsky says large brands want stores to carry the same thing. “They’re not allowing us to be as individual as we used to be allowed,” he said. “They want you to go to store to store to store and discover the same thing.”
As a retailer with a boutique approach to merchandising, each season he hopes brands don’t drop the two or three unique pieces from the collection so he can have a unique assortment. “Your buy is going to be different slash better from your point of view than the other, so that people can still go around to see the difference in stores,” he said.
Kalinsky admits that sometimes a product secures its “unique” label for a reason.
“I try to be okay with mistakes. As long as I love it, or we love it, I think it’s okay,” he said. “We have to stand for something. And without that excitement in the store, whatever that excitement is, then it’s like why bother?”