Melissa Austria has been working in men’s fashion long enough to have seen some unusual shifts in customer behaviour, but guys still manage to surprise her occasionally.
“Last week we sold a purple velvet jacket,” the founder of GotStyle — which has been selling designer clothing for men through two locations in Toronto since 2005 — told Swagger during a phone interview this week.
”I think there is a pent up demand where people do want to dress up again. I can see it (online) with the tux jackets and special occasion items that people are looking at. They might not have anywhere to go right now, but it’s just the mindset of people that they want to be ready just in case.”
That said, Austria acknowledges that this Fall presents something of a quandary for her clientele, which has included everyone from Bay Street professionals to top NHL players. With question marks around when business or large social gatherings can resume, and with many men now working from home indefinitely, it may be difficult to know what to shop for this season, if anything.
Although GotStyle’s original mission statement was “clothes for guys to get laid in,” Austria said she’s among those cringing at some of what she’s seeing on Zoom calls and the like.
“You can upgrade you causal wear or still stay cosy and comfortable but not wear your Leafs jersey,” she said. “At the end of the day you’re still conducting business. You’re still doing a group call with your team. You shouldn’t look like you just got out of bed.”
This is why Austria and her team have begun to develop curated set of clothes that help ease the decision-making process for men — something she’s simply calling a “videoconferencing kit.” In flat-lay photos shared exclusively with Swagger, Austria showed off ensembles that largely consisted of a jersey blazer, a knit polo shirt and . . . joggers?
Yes, joggers. But not the ones you’d get from Old Navy or Walmart.
“We brought in this Italian line that has the elastic waist, but looks like a dress pant when you have it on,” she explained. “The great thing about wearing a knit polo, besides the fact it’s comfortable, is that it can cover the elastic band of the jogger.”
Even the blazer included in the set, meanwhile, is more focused on striking a greater balance between form and functionality. Austria chose Circolo, a brand which offers a stretchable cotton jersey but looks entirely boardroom-appropriate. “It’s washable as well, so it really gives guys that ease of use,” she said.
Other options include shirts from Germany-based Desoto, which also use jersey and are non-iron.
Though the videoconferencing kit can take GotStyle customers well into December, Austria is now buying clothes for Spring 2021. That means she has to think on behalf of her clients and what they’ll want, assuming pandemic restrictions continue to ease up.
“I’m not doing that much in terms of suits, but I’m trying to buy casual clothes that are exciting and where there’s a reason to buy them.”
Even if you’re not going anywhere formal very often, for example, Austria encouraged men to use this time to try out prints, colours and even silhouettes they’ve never attempted in the past. “We’re beginning to see shirts that are more oversized, more relaxed, shorter shorts. These kind of styles were always there, but now they’re starting to become a little more mainstream.”
These choices may seem tricky, but Austria said she was optimistic more men would become even more intentional about what they put on.
“I think the bigger thing is a lot of my business guys are changing their wardrobe, where they’ve worn suits as this uniform for their entire lives,” she said. “You can still have that uniform, but you can redefine what it looks like.”