What are your thoughts on sustainability and menswear; for example, are green trends making inroads?
"You raise valid questions regarding green and sustainability, but my contention is that menswear is inherently sustainable. Think about it compared to women’s wear, which is pretty much disposable clothing. What a woman wears one season, you will not see the next (of course, this is a generalization but one that holds truth). Whereas menswear, you invest in pieces—a suit, sport coat, dress shirt, casual pants—you wear these for a long time and they do not usually go out of style. That is why I say menswear is inherently sustainable: we don’t throw things away. I am a member of the Taconic Road Runners Club based in Westchester New York; I have t-shirts from races that are 20 years old!"
Do you feel complete "green" collections of menswear are easy to find?
"Look at a company like Bagir, they are making men’s suits out of recycled fibers. It is out there you just have to look."
Will eco-fashion catch on in menswear or will it become a niche market because of costs?
"Will it catch on big? No, but it will continue to gain momentum and play an important role in the menswear industry."
How has the current recession affected the menswear industry?
"The current economic crisis has affected all industries, and menswear is not immune. Sales are down; it is harder for new designers/labels to break out; and the traditional companies are hoping to hang on until this passes, as it will. The ones that survive will be stronger and in a better position to compete for the remaining retail dollars."
What direction has menswear taken within the last 20-30 years, and where do you think the industry is going?
"I think the direction menswear has taken over the last 20-30 years is great. Men started to and still enjoy the ability to wear color like never before. I think menswear will continue to evolve with more and more younger guys getting into fashion. Men are no longer dressing for success but dressing because they feel like it. They are dressing because they want to look and feel good and, of course, attract their opposite—whatever it may be."
Do you have any advice to the reader who is contemplating whether or not to enter the menswear industry, say, as a designer?
"I am not so sure I am the right person to give advice on entering the menswear industry as a designer, but I would encourage any student or individual that is interested in menswear to get involved in the industry either in sales, marketing, sourcing, planning analysts, merchandising, product development, buyer, etc. It has served me well and I enjoyed meeting the many people that I did and traveling all over the world, conducting business as I did."
Michael, thank you again for sharing your years of experience and expertise with us! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future and even from your students at LIM College, who are reading! Next time, you must tell us what you are doing in that cold water!