Menswear Monday: Barneys’ Tom Kalenderian

There’s more to menswear than suits and ties. Every other Monday, we’re giving the fastest developing facet of fashion the attention it deserves and introducing the designers, buyers, trendsetters, and stylists you need to know.

As one Interview editor so succinctly put it the other day, Barneys is our “happy place.” When we got the chance to talk to Tom Kalenderian, an executive vice president at Barneys and general merchandise manager for menswear, he let us know (to no one’s surprise) that we weren’t alone. “I’ve heard for many years how clients who love to shop at Barneys consider it ‘their’ store,” he says. “We cover menswear in a very democratic way, offering a wide selection, catering to different lifestyles.”

Of course, fashion is never quite a democracy. Barneys also plays an important role in picking which brands are going to be big. “We’re always in search of something rare, new and exclusive,” says Kalenderian. “Launching brands is part of our DNA.” Barneys has debuted or otherwise helped develop men’s labels like Band of Outsiders, Thom Browne, Michael Bastian, Tim Coppens, Public School, and Rag & Bone, as well as one of our new favorites, Simon Miller. We reached out to Kalenderian to ask him what he sees happening in menswear—in each city, each season, and each section of the market.

NAME: Tom Kalenderian

BRAND: Barneys New York

SPRING AWAKENING: Often we find that the fall collections are more impressive given the additional layer of cold weather items—coats, cashmere, scarves and hats. This spring was particularly strong. Many collections infused casual, sometimes athletic elements into formal clothing. The mixing of the quintessential sweatshirt, in luxe materials, with classic trousers and paired back with trainers, has become the new uniform. More than ever, you see Nike shoes worn with luxurious sportswear and in turn you see designer sneakers worn with drop-crotch sweats and jeans. The mood of mixing, and the irreverence with which the mix unfolds, reveals the genuine, eclectic nature of menswear today. Most importantly, you see the style of real men, or what’s better known as “street style,” directing what we see on the catwalks.

HIGHLIGHT REEL: I felt that the Milanese rekindled a look back at the casual elegance of men’s style [this season], especially in the nonchalant way that the Milanese emerged as modernists in the 1970s. No collections illustrated this better than Giorgio Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna by Stefano Pilati. Mr. Armani clearly is a living legend and the architect of the chic mood of menswear—were it not for his keen eye and determined instinct, we all might otherwise still be wearing more rigid and less modern clothes. His influence on menswear is profound on all designers and the way we live and dress today. A special nod must go to Dolce & Gabbana for the extraordinary Sartoria Show they gave. The combination of these elegant clothes presented in a courtyard, with the occasion of rainstorm, created a mood of romanticism that heightened the experience. It was memorable.

TIME IS MONEY: Regarding the question of whether New York Fashion Week should break out a mens’-only presentation: this is a longstanding conundrum that is yet to be solved. There are many practical obstacles that stand in the way of this materializing. Some emerging designers lack the funding for a separate presentation, often finding it more effective to show their men’s and women’s collections together. International buyers and press would require an additional budget and schedule to add another fashion week to the already packed agenda following London, Florence, Milan, and Paris Men’s. For sure, it would be a great focus on men’s fashion, but it all has to make dollars and sense, no pun intended.

SUIT UP: We’ve seen a big swing with the casual invasion of sportswear in the workplace. Ironically, the trend is shifting, especially with the youngest guys in the business sector opting to wear a suit. This is not a suit that reminds us of “my father’s clothes.” Instead, it’s a tailored garment that embodies all of the same tenants of what is important to the way these guys look and feel in their sportswear. The silhouette is key; the suit today has to be just as sexy as your favorite pair of jeans.

DENIM ON DENIM ON DENIM: Clearly a play on denim was by far the strongest influence on men’s in Milan, from the pattern of indigo-cloth textures printed on sweaters to multiple shades of blue denim. Denim is a staple in men’s; it plays as much importance for color as it does for the fabric and models. It’s emerged in Spring/Summer in a big way, possibly for the lovely color palette of blue, which is the foundation of a man’s wardrobe from sky blue all the way to indigo, known to Italian trendsetters as indaco. We’ve been buying from a collection for over 30 years which titles their Spring/Summer concept “Indaco” and weaves that onto their label.

ALL OVER THE PLACE: I am one of the odd birds that finds Milan fascinating. From the wartime Rationalist architecture to the genteel elegance of the Milanese lifestyle, for me it has been a touchstone for how I view Italy and appreciate the history, art, and culture. However, from a fashion point of view, Paris is the epicenter for new ideas. There is an energy in the air that creates the foundation for creativity on an extreme level. There is so much to draw from this season, making this a great moment for men’s.

Menswear Monday runs every other Monday. For more, click here.