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State Of Retail: Three Custom Menswear Designers Give Us Their Take On The Pandemic

State Of Retail: Three Custom Menswear Designers Give Us Their Take On The Pandemic

State Of Retail Akief Angel FE Castleberry
Three of America’s talented custom menswear designers weigh in on the state of retail

As we grapple with a potential second lockdown due to the Coronavirus, the state of retail is completely up in the air. As some big box brands falter, the heart of America, the individual retailers are fighting tooth & nail to stay afloat.

No business has been hit harder than the custom menswear specialist. Many have adapted to the changing state of the country but other are still finding their footing. So, we spoke with three designers to get their take on the current state of retail and their thoughts on the future.

Akief Sheriffco-founder & designer at Mokief

MSP: “With so many major retailers claiming bankruptcy or completely shuttering their businesses, is there still room for the brick & mortar shopping experience?”

AS: I would probably say, yes. I think the vast majority of people still enjoy the human interaction of shopping. The one thing I will probably say that most people enjoy about going to a store, is having that one-on-one conversation with a sales professional surrounding the product knowledge of what you are inquiring about, which is very unique! I happened to be one of those people that will go into a deep conversation about textile, design, and details.

MSP: In the world of menswear, experiential shopping has become the in-store trend, how can brands adapt that experience to the online shopping market due to the pandemic keeping people out of stores?

It is difficult for small brands to keep the culture and tradition during the mix of coronavirus pandemic. But, I’ve seen some big brand transition into virtual shopping. As well as, Zoom call trunk shows and “Live” social media product presentation — so consumers can be more involved. (For example) Ralph Lauren has turned one of its flag ship store into a virtual shopping destination. Which has been successful into the new way of selling and connecting with consumers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more brands trying to adapt into this new method of selling.

MSP: As a designer in the pandemic era, how have you used this time in regard to working on your brand?

AS: It was very hard for us at first because we were in the mix of rebranding, as well as, working on our classification design and have scheduled to travel to our manufacture to work on some product development before going to production. Surrounding ready to wear, when we realize that wasn’t gonna happen due to the pandemic, we had to come up with a new approach of how we can communicate with our manufacture in order to take advantage of the current situation that the entire world is facing. Which is working from home. So we are using this time to continue to get better as a small menswear company.

Angel Ramos – founder & creative director of 18th Amendment

MSP: With so many major retailers claiming bankruptcy or completely shuttering their business, is there still room for the brick & mortar shopping experience?

AR: The brick and mortar experience should now be an extension of the world you create digitally though social media and your online channels. Due to the fact that consumers now digest, learn and are inspired through digital means first, the importance of brick and mortar lies in the continuation of this relationship in person. 


MSP: In the world of menswear, experiential shopping has become the in-store trend, how can brands adapt that experience to the online shopping market due to the pandemic keeping people out of stores? 

AR: The level of engagement and point of contact digitally through social media and online have to elevate and celebrate the relationship that has begun in brick and mortar. The importance is to still inspire emotion and engagement through the ease of reviewing and experiencing our product digitally and constant engagement through social media. 

MSP: As a designer in the pandemic era, how have you used this time in regards to working on your brand?


AR: We have become a digital 1st brand, where we have launched our first E-Commerce collection with an elevated, yet value conscious offer. Historically we have offered a highly personalized and intimate custom experience with products that start at $2,000. We now are also offering product that can be bought digitally where one-on-one experience is not needed and customers can engage us remotely.
This new Made to Order assortment starts at $695 for jackets and $350 for trousers, with a ready to wear collection aesthetic with key looks and defined mood. 

See Also
Shacket & Chore Shirt

F.E. Castleberry – founder & creative director F.E. Castleberry

State Of Retail FE Castleberry
Photo via Coveteur

MSP: With so many major retailers claiming bankruptcy or completely shuttering their business, is there still room for the brick & mortar shopping experience? 

F.E. Castleberry: As a country, we’ve been over-shopped for decades and I think we’re experiencing our retail reckoning in 2020. Too many malls, too many chains. There is absolutely room for the brick & mortar shopping experience. It has to be special though…and fiscally feasible/responsible. I think it has to have to ability transport people into a different world. The service has to be knowledgeable and experts in their product.

MSP: In the world of menswear, experiential shopping has become the in-store trend, how can brands adapt that experience to the online shopping market due to the pandemic keeping people out of stores? 

F.E. Castleberry: That’s the trick, you really can’t to a large degree. But what we’re doing at F.E. Castleberry while we wait to open our brick & mortar is focusing on the packaging of our product. That’s the physical retail experience that happens when your customer buys online—the unboxing experience. How can you communicate your brand with that unboxing experience your customer is having in their own home. We also publish our brand’s soundtrack to the various streaming platforms so folks can sonically enjoy our world. 

MSP: As a designer in the pandemic era, how have you used this time in regard to working on your brand? 

F.E. Castleberry: I took this time to launch our new website, introduce new sportswear/ products, and we established an atelier in Greenwich Village. The atelier was the last thing I thought I would be doing this summer during quarantine but opportunity knocked.

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