Project New York returned to New York City’s Flatiron District for a three-day fair from July 17 to 19.
A pared-down version of the show’s upcoming Las Vegas expo, eager brands came to New York to hit high-level targets. Attracting buyers from major retailers like Bergdorf Goodman to local boutiques like Cueva, the space held over 40 menswear that hailed from an array of the world’s fashion capitals.
Organised at Iron23, an industrial yet intimate space, Project New York saw a fair share of well-established returning brands as well as emerging designers on the scene. Through each distinct design approach was a common thread of perspective, as many shared the aim of expanding in the American market.
What brands brought to the table
Canadian retail brand Frank and Oak presented at Project New York for the first time with a relatively smaller edit for its first round at the event. For Spring/Summer 2024, Frank and Oak brought various pieces that were less focused on seasonality, and instead reflecting where the company stands in core values.
With a selection of minimalist basics made from fully recyclable denim to regenerated oyster waste, Frank and Oak has been making a push toward more sustainable upgrades since 2017, according to the company’s account manager, Jean-Mathieu Vincent. “We’re at a level where we want to be from when we first started,” said Vincent on the current collection. “We don’t have a specific story for the season; our goal is to always make timeless clothing so it’s more responsible”.
Washington D.C.-based designer Georges Bijoux was also new to the show, marking the trade show debut of his innovative eyewear brand Ossawa.
Starting with two designs, all Ossawa pieces are interchangeable and customisable. “Instead of having to purchase multiple frames, it plays into the sustainable fashion realm where you don’t have to over-consume but you can have a personalised style,” said Bijoux.
Being a new player among veterans, Bijoux found success in networking, broadening his perspective on the current fashion climate, and catching the attention of a significant retailer.
“I would’ve liked more buyers coming in, but understanding what they’re looking for helps me get ready for the next thing,” said Bijoux. “What I knew was that being in an environment like this, I was going to be able to have my pulse on what trends are coming, what people are into, and connect with brands of the same calibre”.
New shifts in the menswear world
Although a series of New York rainy days slowed down foot traffic, the enthusiasm on the floor for the year ahead was palpable. Following the launch of the United Men’s Fashion Association, Edwina Kulego, Informa Markets’ Vice President of International & Men’s Fashion, is at the helm of a new chapter in the men’s market.
“We were hit really hard throughout the pandemic, but now New York is bouncing back,” said Kulego, who helped establish the UMFA earlier this week alongside a number of other industry professionals. “For the first time this season, showrooms and major trade shows have come together to form an association where we can establish dates together and have conversations,” said Kulego.
After being with Project New York for 13 years, this season’s introduction of the UMFA is ushering in an era of collaboration and global connection. “It feels a little lighter, less competitive—more of a season of coming together,” she continued.
Trends on the horizon
According to Kulego, buyers are responding positively to this shift in energy. Pulling in a wide net of both national department stores and local specialty boutiques, the rise of gender-fluid fashion and growth of menswear in the United States are key impacts on what is on the forefront of buyers’ minds. “Buyers are coming into the event shopping for a customer without an agenda attached to it, because then they can really explore and get creative,” said Kulego.
From casual shoemakers like Bed Stu to avant-garde designers like Asparagus, the show had a curated mix of commercial and independent brands as part of Kulego’s vision. “We are here to shine a light on the best creators in the industry. It’s a global melting pot just like New York is,” she continued.
Textural styles, unconventional prints, playful colours, and a surge of denim were consistent throughout the collections, with the latter being a particular—and unwavering—interest among retailers.
“Denim has been a big part of Project since it launched in 2003. It’s almost a must; across categories, denim is always something they want to pick up for the season,” said Kulego.
A prospective glimpse into 2024
As menswear’s online presence has been steadfastly strong, hopes for more market growth through more store openings are cast upon the year ahead.
From collaborative drops to concept stores, the fashion industry has been making a steady return to brick-and-mortar as companies set out to elevate the in-person experience.
“Expect to see a lot of collaborations between retailers and brands, brands and other brands, and that showing up in retail,” said Kulego, whose view on the coming year signifies a more experiential retail future.