Financially speaking, it's been a difficult year for David Jones – but in the menswear department, the mood is strikingly upbeat.
This season's menswear collection is brightly coloured and adventurous, challenging traditional assumptions about what Aussie gents are willing to buy. Playful styles abound.
The range was showcased, along with womenswear, at a lavish lunch for 100-or-so VIPs at the Sydney Opera House last week. Key looks included sharp suiting in arresting pink and brilliant blue plus boldly printed shirts paired with formal trousers and gleaming sneakers.
David Jones's tagline for spring 2019 – 'On the Bright Side' – certainly seemed fitting.
"This season is all about being optimistic and positive," says David Jones ambassador and former AFL star Tom Derrickx, who walked the runway at the Opera House. "The looks you'll see are fun and vibrant."
According to Chris Wilson, David Jones' General Manager for Menswear, Australian men are increasingly willing to make statements with colour.
"These bright colours are a continued evolution of the summer palette that we've seen coming through for the last couple of years, whether it's at the races or at weddings," he says.
"We are also seeing the evolution of 'mix and match': guys pairing bright, contrasting colours for a really striking overall effect. Men continue to get more and more adventurous and we are responding to that with our store buys."
He adds: "We've seen a lot of prints coming through in the past 12 months, too. Even within traditional suiting, there's a lot more texture coming through."
Local clothing brands are responding to this new mood with previously unseen styles and colours. "Calibre is a great example of that," says Wilson. "A few years ago, it was a really traditional suiting brand. Now, we've got a pink Calibre suit on the runway."
The new Crew
David Jones has been introducing new menswear brands at a steady clip this year to better reflect current trends and to remain competitive with main rival Myer. "Menswear is moving quite quickly, and you need to move with the times," says Wilson.
Last season, those new additions included Scotch & Soda, MSGM and Alexander McQueen. This season, DJs is bringing American apparel giant J Crew to the Australian market.
"Brands that represent American heritage are performing really well for us at the moment, and J Crew is a great mainstream brand that plays on that American heritage," Wilson says.
"They're reliably excellent with print shirts, and they also have a whole range of basic chinos and shorts, in different colours and cuts, that are really well priced."
Further bolstering the American offering this season is Tommy Hilfiger's smart Tommy Tailor range, which will compete in store with Calvin Klein's recently introduced business attire.
From Europe, DJs is introducing upstart Italian brand Eleventy. "I'm really excited about Eleventy," says Wilson. "It represents a new sort of career attire: it's product that you can wear both to the office and casually. It's a brand from Milan, so the aesthetic is really clean. And it's well-priced from a quality point of view."
David Jones is midway through a $200 million renovation of its national flagship store on Elizabeth Street in Sydney and will unveil a brand-new womenswear department there within weeks. The Opera House event served as a preview for that Elizabeth Street launch, and as a result about three quarters of the runway looks were women's.
But Wilson says menswear will be front and centre next season, in preparation for the March 2020 launch of a new menswear floor at the Elizabeth Street store.
"We've secured some incredible menswear brands exclusively that will launch at Elizabeth Street in 2020," he says. "I can't wait to tell people all about that in a few months."
On the bright side
Wilson admits: "It's been a tough couple of years for David Jones."
But he believes the company's investment in bricks-and-mortar retail is timely and will help it rebound. "Online is always going to be a big focus, but customers still want to come in and look, touch and try," he says.
"What really resonates with me is the investment that we're putting into our shops. We're really well placed to provide an even better menswear experience in the future."