The always buzzing PROJECT NY is poised to be even more energized this July, as UBM Fashion launches its first combined NY Men’s and Women’s marketplace. Of particular interest is BLUE @ PROJECT, the show’s premium denim area, which will feature the latest looks from the hottest brands.
And for UBM Fashion men’s fashion director Tommy Fazio, the timing for the show couldn’t be better. “Denim is on an uptick,” he said. “We’re right back into trends and showing denim that can be worn in many ways. We had an active moment, now we have a more performance lifestyle moment with it so I think denim is having a comeback.”
With this resurgence, comes a range of offerings—and combining men’s and women’s enables exhibitors to highlight that breadth even better, he said. “You have much more reach when you can attract dual-gender retailers. A lot of our brands like Paige, Joe’s, Blank, Baldwin and Raleigh are all dual-gender,” he said, adding these companies need a platform to tell their entire brand story—and these days, that includes more than just denim. “A lot of the brands are pigeonholed into being denim brands solely, and we’re trying to give the retailer a more broad perspective into the brand to see more into their lifestyle and not just the denim.”
To provide these brands with the exposure they deserve, UBM Fashion has positioned BLUE @ PROJECT in the front of the show, given it a unique look and merchandised it with its own point of view. It’s also strategically positioned at the nexus between the men’s and women’s sections.
To further entice shoppers, the company is bowing THE FOUNDRY @ PROJECT, which debuted in New York in January. The area is designed to create a one-stop shop for buyers looking to round out their assortments. “It’s small batch brands like hand-crafted tees, boots, cufflinks or hats, all of the related stuff you could shop if you were at a really cool denim store,” Fazio said.
Overall, the environment is conducive to the boutique-ready product selection. That’s something that Jazmin Kim, designer and creative director for S.M.N., appreciates about the show. “We love THE TENTS @ PROJECT and are honored to be in that section.,” she said. “I love all the white walls and modern-looking, unified booths. Nothing is overdone and it is very focused.”
For S.M.N., the understated, elegant visual merchandising dovetails with its aesthetic. And the company finds continued success by staying authentic to that brand story. “I believe everything starts from the raw material and the level of attention [that] goes into each product and being consistent,” Kim said, adding this type of product produces a devoted following. “Men’s customers who want that quality-driven product without so much branding outside is really fueling the premium denim market.”
By being thoughtful with the details, S.M.N. has been able to maintain its premium standing, offering pieces that range from $190 to $300 on average and spans up to $550 for a capsule created in Japan.
Fazio said this season more than ever he can see the work brands are putting into boosting their quality. “I think a lot of brands did a lot of fit and fabric research this season. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in those areas,” he said.
Fit is important for S.M.N. because the label isn’t about chasing trends. Instead it aspires to deliver styles that will stand the test of time. “We started developing our fits based on the old Levi’s 501 block and really modernize them in a commercial way—nothing is too extreme,” Kim said. “We have a very sophisticated customer [that] enjoys their lifestyle and calm in their outfits.”
Raleigh Denim + Workshop’s customers also have specific thoughts on how their jeans should look and feel. “Across the board we are seeing strong responses from fabrics and fits that are tailored, look structured and clean, but have a softer hand and some stretch,” said Victor Lytvinenko, co-founder and designer of Raleigh. “It is a fine balance, but it is so lovely when done well.”
To celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary, Raleigh will debut some limited edition pieces at the show. The brand also has a few collaborations on deck, including one with Peter Millar, which launches in September. It’s also working with Bernhardt Design on a new furniture collection and another big development that it’s keeping mum on for now.
Lytvinenko said brands need this variety and element of surprise to keep shoppers engaged. “My perception is that educated consumers that want more interesting products in indigo and denim are fueling the industry,” he said. “It is so fun to see the demand pulled from the end of the supply chain, and to see so many consumers connecting with the craft.”
Fazio said the market is electrified by the influx of novel ideas.
“It’s a season of possibilities. All the brands are doing something new,” he said, adding men’s wear, in particular, holds a lot of promise. In particular, he’s excited about the crossovers resulting in a performance bent to previously tailored collections. “It’s a good season to look at all the brands, new and existing.”
Learn more about the NY Men’s & Women’s show, which runs July 22-24, at ubmfashion.com.