I’m in Jeffrey today and the new Thom Browne Spring 2006 collection is starting to hit the floor. It is really beautiful, pale grey base pieces with equally pale pink and yellow shirts, knits, yellow striped pants, pale yellow floral pattern sportcoat, and tying it all together hand-pieced madras sportcoat and shorts. The rack is beautifully coordinated and merchandised, except for one thing: about half of the available bottoms are shorts – not any old shorts, but $715ish shorts! I’m sure they are beautifully bespokeish shorts but they are still $715!!! Marni, Barrett, Dior – all had shorts but in the $250 to $300 range; still a lot for shorts but at least comparable.
So here is my question. If Thom Browne ultimately fails, who is to blame? Thom, for letting an important store like Jeffrey order a huge percentage of their order in shorts, or Jeffrey for ordering the shorts in the first place? If Jeffrey sells over 60% or 70% of those shorts at full price everyone is happy but if he doesn’t, then that is when the finger pointing begins.
Thom is trusting that Jeffrey is ordering something he knows he can sell in his store; lets face it though, Thom needs the order not only from a financial standpoint but also from a credibility standpoint. Jeffrey needs designers like Thom to keep his store relevant and exciting, but he is probably willing to take a bigger risk on Thom’s buy because in the big picture it is a small percentage of Jeffrey’s overall mens business.
The problem is when a guy like me, or just about any other straight or gay man I know, is willing to buy a $3000 sportscoat I don’t want a $700 pair of shorts to go with it. It is all about the merchandising; sure offer one pair of shorts but give me more pants to choose from – the pants are only $800, a comparative deal.
So at the end of the season when Thom only hits a 50% sell thru (sounds high to me, but let’s just say) don’t you think it will be those shorts? Again who is to blame? Will Jeffrey buy less next season when he looks at his reports and sees his sell thru was off,maybe (retailers have a short memory when you remind them that you warned them not to buy a certain item), Well, guess what, I just saw Thom’s collection for next season (Fall 2006) and it was full of wool shorts. Even if Jeffrey wanted to buy more pants he may not be able to, especially if he wants to stay true to representing Thom vision (which ultimately is what ever designer wants anyway). Is Thom offering the right merchandise for actual sales?
What are the bigger ramifications here for Thom and Jeffrey? For Jeffrey, not much. He will just move on to the next hot designer. For Thom, the consequences are much more dire. When stores that carry a similar mix as Jeffrey come to New York for market they always shop Jeffrey. They pay just as much attention to who Jeffrey has dropped as whom he has added. If Thom drops from Jeffrey he only has Bergdorf which is a lot different than having both.
I have personally been through this dance many times and it is no fun, but that is why I find what is happening in New York menswear so fascinating. This New York menswear revival will either happen or it won’t, but we will know pretty quickly.
I can’t wait to see how Spring sells.