MAN, a discerning menswear tradeshow, has been held biannually in New York and Paris since 2011. Contingent with men’s fashion week, it’s a small-scale and carefully-selected array of vendors. This A/W ’14 edition in Paris was hosted in the 10th arrondissement, in close proximity to its target market (well-heeled guys chain-smoking in cafés along the Canal St. Martin). Three floors of independent brands from international provenances displayed their wares to buyers. While many presented somewhat recurring trendy-right-now looks, a few labels stood out from the pack. Most of the more notable brands had a tight focus on one element or subset of elements, and you could feel that they mastered the nuances of doing their thing well.
Country of origin: Sweden
Stutterheim’s slogan, “Swedish Melancholy at its Driest,” is written on the label, with a tiny blue-and-yellow Swedish flag tabbed below it. Only a Scandinavian country could bring psychological malaise into the fashion mix (Can you blame ‘em? Their winter days are interminable). In any case, the company began three years ago, when founder Alexander Stutterheim was inspired to recreate his grandfather’s old raincoat. He modeled his prototype on it, but the production costs of sewing it and lining it proved expensive. He made an second, more affordable model, welded rather than sewed, available in a wider and brighter color palette. The coats are timeless because they’re unfussy, durable, and utilitarian. A smattering of rain-related accessories, including rain boots, hats, and thick socks, are also offered.
Country of origin: Japan
This Japanese company was founded seven years ago by a husband-and-wife team who love to travel. They decided to leverage this pastime as a way to inspire their collections. The duo pick a new country each season, studying its architecture and history and textiles. Switzerland was their point of reference for the present collection (think tiny downhill skiers and neat rows of snowflakes); past location “muses” have included India, the Netherlands, and New York. In addition to socks, they make knit gloves, plus scarves in both light rayon and warm wool.
Country of origin: Portugal
A brand-new label! Helmed by two brothers, Antonio and Manuel, the two decided to take their family’s generations-old fabric manufacturing company in a new direction. They only make button-down double-stitched shirts, napped with a special brushing technique, in soft cotton-wool fabrics, all manufactured in Portugal. The shirts come in a wide array of colors, with the plaids alternating in color and scale.
Country of origin: England
The two-year-old brand was started by Kieron Hurley, who saw a hole in the market for high-end items to wear in low-key moments. His label focuses on male undergarments (boxers, briefs, boxerbriefs) and unisex loungewear like tanktops, V- and crew-neck tees, sweatshirts and sweatpants, button-down nightshirts, waffled longjohns, and onesies. The materials vary from chambray to jersey, from cotton to fleece. Basic white or gray solids give way to more playful designs like skinny stripes or graphic “Mondrian” patterns.
Bleu de Paname
Country of origin: France
The five-year-old brand was a project started between two friends. Drawing from the French working class “bleu de travail” (functional blue workman’s uniforms), the proletariat look is polished and reconceived into high-end separates for today’s young urban set. It proudly boasts made in France, barring some more technological materials not available locally. This season the label leaned on the alpine look (a.k.a. what to snuggle into in the chalet) with cozy knits, functional jackets, and the most un-French article of clothing imaginable—slim-leg sweatpants in a soft color palette.
Country of origin: U.S.
This American brand knows how to make a backpack. Featuring a single strap design in fortified leather, and accented with hardware details (double brass rings, subtle studs), it exemplifies the utmost simplicity. And it is all the more attractive for it. Namely: these backpacks don’t look schoolboy-ish. Rather, in PVC and lambskin, they look incredibly sleek—almost jetpack-y. The accessories label also does duffels, card cases, and book sleeves, but the backpack is by far their standout.
Country of origin: Japan
This Japanese eyewear company was relaunched in May 2013 (1972-1985 were EyeVan’s initial years of operation, as indicated in their new name). Using lightweight materials like titanium and acetate, the glasses are comfortable and nimble in addition to being stylish. The precise detailing resurrects accents from the original archives: features are carefully recreated and executed in factories by artisans in the north of Japan. There are 11 styles, with 46 variations in color and detail, for both eye and sunglasses.