This week, PROJECT kicked off its massive three-day trade show at the Jacob K. Javits Center, New York City’s convention hall mecca. The bi-annual fashion event, held in both New York and Las Vegas, brings together some of the best and brightest designers in the contemporary menswear market under one roof.
After January’s inaugural presentation of PROJECT N:OW, a tightly curated mix of youth-minded labels that speak to millennials and Gen Z, it returns this season with another crop of fresh brands and new programming to educate attendees on the ever-changing landscape of retail. In a panel moderated by Highsnobiety’s Jeff Carvalho, he delves into the future of retail and how traditional retailers have become brands unto themselves. Carvalho was joined by some of the most respected figures in fashion, including Moda Operandi’s Josh Peskowitz, Bodega co-founder Oliver Mak, and Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety’s editorial director in New York.
The four spoke to an intimate audience on how retailers today have evolved into brands themselves, and the necessity of building physical and digital universes that must speak the language of the modern consumer. In today’s retail environment, it’s not uncommon for brands to have a presence on a range of platforms, and it’s important for them to build cohesive customer experiences across all of them in order to be successful. “We used to see a lot of people coming into the store looking at [a specific product], trying it on, and then purchasing online later,” revealed Peskowitz. On the flip side, there are also those consumers who come into a store knowing exactly what they want and crave a deeper connection with other like-minded folks who share the same passion for style as they do.
“What I found is that there’s a lot of people who wanted to come in and talk, have a person-to-person conversation about the clothes; about the brands; about the style,” Peskowitz continued. “Particularly when you’re dealing with a customer who has a very grand sense of who they are and they’re looking for things — that idea of discovery that we hear so much.”
While unique store experiences are becoming increasingly common to lure would-be customers in a crowded retail space, brands like Bodega — the Boston boutique disguised as a convenience store who once thrived off obscurity — don’t think the influx of social media take away from the magic of being in their shop for the first time. “I think [Instagram] adds to it because it just raises awareness. Have you ever tried capturing the Grand Canyon in a photo? It’s just awe-inspiring, all encompassing, you smell things,” explained Mak, one of three co-founders at Bodega.
“So many things that don’t come through a [phone] screen, so it raises awareness and once you come into the space and you experience something that was meant to be performance art and installation art, you connect with a community. Those things amplify what you’re curious about, and you’re curious about that because you saw it on that channel on Instagram.”
This season PROJECT N:OW returns with a few familiar brands alongside several refreshing new labels, including Alphastyle, Born x Raised, Bristol Studio, Chinatown Market, Dumbgood, and XLARGE. You can check out some of our favorite pieces from their upcoming collections above and look for PROJECT N:OW to hit Las Vegas next between August 12-14.
- Photographer: Josh Sobel