Gentlemen, if your look solely consists of t-shirts and jeans, you might want to step up your game and take a cue from Nautica, which showed its Back Sail Spring 2014 collection built for the style-savvy waterman at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Friday.
As the high-end counterpart to Nautica, a now timeless megabrand that has been around for some 30-odd years, Black Sail, by Vice President Design & Creative Chris Cox, challenged the outdoorsy man to split his time between his rugged voyages on the sea and his polished social life, perhaps lounging or partying on a yacht.
Cox, who took over the role of creative director in October 2008, struck the balance of the brand's iconic seafaring heritage but added in a functional, polished aesthetic in the 50-look collection. After all, every man needs some stylish duds because no woman wants to have dinner with a man in a wet suit smelling like a fisherman.
With the "modern waterman" in mind, the Spring 2014 collection of a whopping 50 looks was not just purposeful with sail pants, board shorts and trunks, and modern scuba gear, but stylish with cargo shorts and pants, linen shorts, pleated trousers and performance crews. Still, pieces like sweaters ranging from crew necks to cable-knits to terry pullovers made it possible for the Black Sail man to casually dress up for that care-free vibe a lover of the outdoors would want. Through subtle, but technical, luxe trimmings, the a neutral palette of black, white and grey with pops of bright colors like bright navy, ocean blue, yellow and red, was effortless enough for the seafarer but still emanating the all-American classic a loyal Nautica shopper seeks.
And just because it's the spring/summer collection, doesn't mean Black Sail didn't include outwear, which had a strong presence in the show with anoraks, utility bombers, windbreakers, trenches and springy parkas.
The stand out piece, though, had to be the leathery board shorts in look 30, which appeared to be leather, but were actually rubberized cotton, as Cox explained to me backstage after the show.
Find out what Cox really thinks about those "leather" shorts, where he finds inspiration after personally working in the business for 17 years (beginning with his father then moving to Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger and Victorinox) and what the Black Sail collection means to Nautica.
IBTimes: What is the difference between Black Sail by Nautica and Nautica proper?
Cox: “Black Sail is really a separate brand compared to where we are at Nautica, different distribution, different price points. It's going to be something we build going forward. It's going to be like the halo, the guiding light for the rest of the brand. It's really about figuring out where you separate those lines, how we modernize this collection and do something new and different and innovative. Eventually, maybe a year from now, some of this will dribble down into the core collection. So we use it almost like as an innovation lab for us.”
IBT: The inspiration was "modern waterman," but how did you come up with this idea?
Cox: "Last runway was about celebrating 30 years, and when we sat together it was really about, 'O.K. where are we going to go and how are we going to take something we love as a brand and just celebrate it in such a new modern expression?' The idea of performance for us, and for a modern guy, is so important. It's versatility. It's kind of taking innovating fabrics and performance fabrication and putting them into new shapes and taking things for us that we love like, water inspiration, surf inspiration and putting it out with a modern edge. It kind of just felt really natural. It's taking our core beliefs and pushing it as far as we can go."
IBT: Where do you find inspiration? Many designers find it through travel.
Cox: “I travel, I surf, I ski. I'm a water man. In the outdoors, I pretty much do it all. It's something I love to do.”
IBT: The Nautica man goes from the sea to the slopes, very outdoorsy. What kind of man would you say is Black Sail by Nautica? From this collection, he appears to be sophisticated at one point, and then the next, he's hopping on a surfboard.
Cox: “He definitely likes to have fun. It's all about, for us, having amazing opportunities around the coastline. Whether you're on the water, in the water or just kind of relaxing, it's all of those different moments that make it exciting to work on a brand like this. Here, it's really about kind of that modern, active, every day look. Versatility is super important. We play off of all those things and push it as far as we can go.”
IBT: I think you really pushed it with the leather shorts. They were amazing.
Cox: “No, those are rubber coated cotton.”
IBT: You're kidding.
Cox: “They're pretty cool. I love those.”
IBT: Nautica is such an iconic brand, you have 150 stores worldwide. But how do you keep it fresh but still give the loyal customer what they want?
Cox: "It's interesting, especially with menswear. How do you keep them coming back for more? How do you keep it wearable? How do you keep it different? I think there's been just so much going on with color, fabric, proportion lately. Prints exploding again. There's a lot of new ways to do it. It's just about, in the presentation, balancing it. You need to make it interesting but you can't scare them either. So I think it's about celebrating each of those moments in the right way with the right balance. Because then, it will look either amazing or not that hot."
IBT: What's next in terms of international development and expansion?
Cox: "We just opened Turkey, Russia. I think Brazil is coming down the pipe. I think we announced that, oops. There's a couple things in the channels, countries we're surprised we're not in. Or that we used to be in. But now that we feel our mix is right, we're going to go back. Stay tuned."
IBT: You've had a very impressive career in the fashion industry, but what has been the highlight for you?
Cox: "The last two runways have been pretty good highlights. I've been fortunate enough to work with really great people, starting with my dad. I've been doing this since I was 14. The highlights are just be in the right place at the right time. Tommy [Hilfiger], Victorinox was great. Learning how to work with the consumer, actually selling clothes on the floor is where I started. Now I'm in the back room sketching them. It's understanding all levels of the business, which I find exciting. You're always learning. If you're not learning and you're not pushing, that's when things could start to feel bad and you've got to wake yourself up and say, ‘What am I going to do now?’”
IBT: Do you have a professional goals left, personally, as a designer?
Cox: "Everyone dreams about doing their own line. I know how much time it takes. I know how much time I spend now making these collections. I don't think I'd do that to my family right now. Family is really important to me, so I look for that balance as well."