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Is classic fashion under threat?

27 Dec 2016

News Is classic fashion under threat?
Brioni is a highly-regarded name in the field of international classic men’s fashion. Based in Rome, the brand has a legion of followers around the world. But today the company is facing a serious crisis. It is about to let a third of its employees go, around 400 people. Is this an isolated case, or a sign of the times?

The current situation at Brioni has become a serious political topic in Italy. In the last edition of the French magazine, Journal du Textile, Brioni’s board claimed that “radical changes to men’s behaviour, which now favours a less formal wardrobe than in the past, is responsible for the marked decline of the brand”. The problem is that Brioni is not alone on this journey to the cliff edge.

Changes are also on the horizon at Ermenegildo Zenga. Their renowned designer Stefano Pilati is leaving the group. The same is happening with Berluti, a male brand based in Paris, which has confirmed that designer Alessandro Sartori is leaving. He was replaced by Haider Ackermann.

“I don’t think classic fashion is under threat, I think it has to adjust to the new demands of the market”, said Jorge Ferreira, designer at Vicri, that belongs to the Riopele group. “In times of economic turmoil, people look for something that cheers them in their clothes, that raises their self-esteem and transmits positivity. It is not a good time to commit to minimalist products. Look at the case of Alessandro Michele at Gucci. He brought a new look to the brand. Whether you like it or not, this new image is ostentatious in its use of strong, contrasting colours and the brand’s results are better than expected following this “renewal”. Clearly this is just an example, I don’t believe traditional masculine fashion is going to disappear, but it is going to have to become more creative, without preconceptions, and will have to break some of the rules about what is, and is not, acceptable in this segment”. Vicri’s head designer believes “the market is saturated with classical traditional brands, and that there must be a reinterpretation of what today’s man really needs and looks for in his everyday life”. As far as Jorge Ferreira is concerned, “what is threatened is the man of traditional patterns, in his way of being and thinking. We are all seeing fewer and fewer men in suits and ties, dressed in a highly traditional style. In fact, the few who still dress this way are now seen as uniformed professionals, people whose jobs require clear presentation standards. And they are increasingly few in number. Even among politicians, for good or ill, this standard of dress is changing. It is inevitable that this will be felt on the street and then in the market. For this reason we have to ensure our collections adjust to this new reality”.

changes that are here to stay

Changes in footwear are equally as important. “It was inevitable that, once the large brands had changed direction and moved towards more functional footwear, that the whole footwear industry would follow. I believe this is a trend that is here to stay.” These are the views of Fernando Bastos Pereira, a fashion producer who has worked with APICCAPS for several years on the promotion “Portuguese Shoes – The Sexiest Industry in Europe”.

Companies were not slow in responding. “We had to adapt, to reinvent our more classical models”, says André Fernandes of Everest, which has just launched its Perks brand. “We have a lot of accumulated experience that enabled us to change manufacturing and construction techniques. We found new solutions, we made the models more flexible and chose softer raw materials that meet our customers’ expectations.

Nobrand’s Sérgio Cunha also has little doubt what is in fashion... and what will last. “It fits well into all kinds of environment. Moreover, casual styles are a global trend, increasing the demand for this kind of product.” He said that “footwear fashion that focuses more on the more formal and less sporty, in the meaning of the words, will be more beneficial to domestic companies.” In the case of Nobrand, the response was “the creation of more classical styles with a sporty touch, and in a commitment to stand out.”