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Ragtrader magazine – Then & now, 31 July 2009, Pg. 20

OC OSCARCALVO | ESSENCE KNITWEAR 2009/10
Ragtrader magazine, 31 July 2009,
Pg. 20

Then & Now

EACH EDITION RAGTRADER TALKS TO A PREVIOUSLY FEATURED BUSINESS TO CHART ITS DEVELOPMENT IN THE INTERVIEWING YEARS. THIS WEEK, IT’S THE TURN OF MELBOURNE DESIGNER OSCAR CALVO.

How many stores/wholesale accounts did you have when you started out? How many do you have now?
Originally, I had 30 stockists throughout Australia. 1 then decided to stop wholesaling and focus on opening my first store, which l did in March 2007. ‘The store closed earlier this year due to the effects of the global recession. I’m now focused on relaunching the brand in September with an emphasis on basics. I will also have an interactive online store.

What were the key issues or challenges for your company back then? What are they now?
The biggest challenge 1 faced was going out on my own. As an independent operator, you are responsible for all areas of the business, from design to sales and marketing. You have no one to motivate you or pick up your shit when you hit a brick wall. Nothing has changed. Financing has also always been a challenge. The unpredictable nature of the fashion industry has prevented me from securing bank loans, yet I am obliged to invest significant capital for materials, manufacturing and marketing. The fees for models, showrooms and runway shows can cost me as much as $10,000 – $20,000 per season. This seems like a large amount but quite small when considering the amount that successful fashion designers spend (sometimes millions of dollars per season). That outlay doesn’t even count the cost of advertising or hiring public relations and business development staff – luxuries I can’t afford.

What was the/most significant development in the life of your label?
I have a few. Awards and fashion industry accolades – including Victorian finalist in the ‘Mercedes-Benz Start Up Program’, designer of the year at the ‘End Of Year Designer Showcase’ and opening my first store in 2007.

How many staff did you employ then? And now?
I contract staff such as pattern makers, sample machinists and makers but I’ve always been a one-man show. I’ve had to line my pockets by working for other brands as a contractor – as well as applying for government grants and benefits (such as NEIS) and loaning money from an amazing network support of family and friends.

What has been the worst experience?
It’s always difficult to launch a high-end brand when you are completely unknown. The hardest part is getting funding, cash flow and staying consistent in your vision, despite market attempts to make you compromise. Production not meeting deadlines is also stressful – I hate delivering late especially when it’s out of my control.

What was the range like back then? What is it like now?
My range has always been playful and incorporated a deliberate sparring of styles. The label can be best described as tailored streetwear, positioned at the top end of the market. it’s funky, directional fashion with attitude and quality.

Men’s fashion is generally moving to a leaner cut: shrunken single or two button tailored suit jackets with high hip wool skinny trousers or pre-washed jeans; low V-neck knits showing the bare chest and inspired wool nerd knits in stripes.

Any other significant comments you’d like to make?
It seems like designers and artists everywhere struggle with similar challenges. Despite many obstacles along the road I am committed to working towards a viable and successful business.

Ragtrader, Menswear magic, 27 July 2007, Pg. 29

OC OSCARCALVO | BOUTIQUE

Ragtrader, 27 July 2007, Pg. 29

Menswear magic

Hotshot menswear designer Oscar Calvo celebrated the opening of his first menswear boutique in the edgy new fashion precinct of Johnston Street Collingwood last month.  His was a stylish bash featuring a red-carpet dress code and a roving magician, who – given Calvo’s enticingly fresh take on men’s style – was by no means the only man casting a spell that night.

OC OSCARCALVO | BOUTIQUE

Ragtrader, Bringing class to Collingwood, 27 July 2007, Pg. 26

OC OSCARCALVO | BOUTIQUE

Ragtrader, 27 July 2007, Pg. 26

Bringing class to Collingwood

OPENING A FIRST RETAIL OUTLET IS BOTH EXCITING AND HAIR-RAISING FOR ANY YOUNG DESIGNER BUT, AS BELINDA SMART DISCOVERED, OSCAR CALVO SEEMS WELL EQUIPPED FOR THE TASK.

THE INVITATION WAS UNAMBIGUOUS. “Dress for the red carpet” it read; and something about the statement implied this was a command rather than a suggestion, for Oscar Calvo is a designer who firmly believes in doing things with panache. Quite simply, half measures will not be tolerated.

The opening of the designer’s first retail outlet last month made a splash. And if Calvo’s hunch about the outlet’s locale on Johnston Street Collingwood proves true, the ripple effect looks set to keep on rippling.

Collingwood is deeply imbued with Melbourne’s ragtrade heritage, while the low rent chic of Johnston Street – home to edgy eateries and galleries – makes the perfect location for a new player.

“In [Johnston Street] the choices of outlets for men and women to purchase local high end street apparel are more limited than many other markets in Melbourne as there are no independent high end boutiques to speak of,” says Calvo. “It offers high exposure to passing trade and is also within walking distance of both Smith Street and Brunswick Street.”

Calvo describes his label as “easy to wear”, and it clearly packs a punch through the use of vintage-inspired shapes; a look particularly evident in the inter 2007 collection. Reflecting Calvo’s main source of inspiration – ”everyday life in metropolitan Melbourne” – the range deliberately contrasts retro and modem styling. Key looks include comic printed shirts at $150, graphic tees at $80, a 70’s inspired merino wool v-neck jumper with striped sleeves at $300, fine cut classic Italian wool pants at $200, straight-leg cotton cords at $160 and casual cotton cargo pants with funky detailing at $140. Jackets include a cotton bomber with merino wool trim and a detachable hood at $375 and a two button tailored jacket lined in comic print at $350.

The range – made entirely in Australia – is designed to be exclusive and varied, so Calvo limits runs and frequently injects the collection with exclusive one off pieces. For this self-confessed “one man show” and perfectionist, moving into retail will doubtless prove a boon via terms of reinforcing the Oscar Calvo brand.

“I change the window at least twice a week, sometimes more if l sell out of the line or look I’m promoting. I make sure that my window and mannequins are looking immaculate and pushing a look. I am also constantly changing the wigs on the mannequins so they can take on another persona.”

Inside the store, Calvo takes inordinate care with ambiance and service.

“My boutique is efficient and stylish with a classy atmosphere. The store is fitted out and illuminated with cutting edge designs and light fittings. [It has] aromatherapy oils burning, a huge round fish tank complete with gorgeous goldfish as well as funky tunes playing at a reasonable level. Visual merchandising ultimately boosts sales, not by talking to you in person or writing an advertisement, but by making a store’s products look so appealing that they’re irresistible to you and your cheque book.”

OC OSCARCALVO | WINTER 2006

Good merchandising and store ambience are not the only way to promote a brand, as Calvo knows only too well; evidenced by strong relationships with fashion editors that have allowed him to consistently clinch opinion-swaying editorials. He is also one of a growing number of younger designers who have moved quickly to harness web power, not just for promotional purposes but for the internet’s multi-channel capabilities.

“The increasing opportunities of the internet offer my customers a more convenient way of knowing what’s in store rather than travelling or receiving mail-outs in the form of catalogues or brochures. Consumers like the convenience of being able to shop from anywhere and at any time they wish. My website is a professional and effective site, which is fully interactive and has the ability to generate sales. In future this will be one of the primary distribution channels for my label.”

Founded in 2004 and comprised of high-end tailored street wear, the first Oscar Calvo collection launched in March 2005, a moment which clearly has a place in the designer’s mental scrapbook. There are other favourites too, including becoming a Victorian finalist in the Mercedes-Benz Start Up Program 2005 and designer of the

year at the End Of Year Designer Showcase, at Federation Square in 2005. All have now been topped by the opening of the store, the mark of a new chapter for any young designer. However Calvo is happy to concede his rapid progress has not been without glitches.

“My worst setback was a $10,000 Sydney order that pulled out at the last minute. Garments were just about to go into production. I have definitely become much more business savvy after that experience. 1 make sure that 50 per cent of any order is paid up front just to cover my costs.”

With any luck, this ability to learn from his mistakes and move on looks set to allow some of Calvo’s greater dreams to materialize.

True to form, there’s no point dreaming little dreams. “Long term l would like to secure international accounts from specialist boutiques throughout Europe and the US. My dream would be to open up my first Oscar Calvo boutique in London.”

Oscar Calvo Ragtrader magazine – All hail the hermaphrodude, 7 October 2005, Pg. 12 & 13

Oscar Calvo | SUMMER 2005/06

Oscar Calvo Ragtrader magazine, 7 October 2005, Pg. 12 & 13

ALL HAIL THE HERMAPHRODUDE

Easily the most overlooked of all clothing sectors, menswear has sharpened its manicured toenails and is preparing to kick back.

A tentative Sue Cartledge takes a peek.

IF YOU BELIEVE respondents to a recent Ragtrader category survey, men are taking fashion more seriously. Stubbies and RM Williams have been confined to the wardrobe, replaced instead with sharper, more stylish and infinitely more colourful, fodder. It seems the hermaphrodude (who replaced the metrosexual) is alive and well.

At present, the Australian menswear retail sector is believed to be worth about 4.4 billion annually. However industry sources say this figure is set to soar as more men get increasingly picky over what labels they choose to buy.

“Today, men are interested in looking good,” says Melbourne designer Oscar Calvo. “The trend can be attributed to many things, including an increase in men’s style magazines, influential male celebrities in the media, and more designers catering to male customers.”

This ties in with advertisers and marketers finally waking up to the “new man” of the 21st century. The future of men, co-authored by Marian Salzman, from advertising agency JWT Worldwide, focuses on smart, positive portrayals of the modern man.

“Instead of relying on lowest-common-denominator, stereo-typical solutions, we are striving to depict ‘balanced men,’ ‘men of the world with conscience,’ and other positive portrayals of men,” Salzman says.

“[menswear is] a sleeping giant. It’s not so subject to fashion trends as womenswear so it’s a lot safer stockholding.”

It is a theory Myer menswear business manager Andre Reich also agrees with.

As the biggest retailer of menswear in Australia, Myer’s share of menswear pie “is in double digit figures” Reich says. The estimated value of this is merely the tip of the iceberg, he says.

“[menswear is] a sleeping giant. It’s not so subject to fashion trends as womenswear so it’s a lot safer stockholding. Rather than changing with every season, it’s more an evolution.

“But men are becoming more fashion conscious than ever before – they are coming into the store more frequently and they are staying longer. They’re thinking more about what they’re wearing – how they look, how they present themselves. This extends to cosmetics, fragrances [and jewellery], as well as clothes.”

Reich cites role models such as Russian tennis player Marat Safin as leaders in encouraging men to wear more jewellery. He credits Safin and his mates as also being responsible for the interest in looking fitter and wearing shirts and polos that better show off their physique – whatever that may be.

“We are selling more slim-fit business shirts than ever before. Men want a shirt that presents their body shape more, rather than the standard business shirt which has quite a lot of fabric. Polo Ralph Lauren spotted this two years ago; now Country Road and Nautica are also offering slim fit versions of their polos.”

Reich says the trends towards slimmer tailoring, brighter colours and mix and match patterns are more prevalent in the youth category than elsewhere, but declined to define the age at which youth stops.

“We define youth as starting at 16, but it’s really a mindset. We’re seeing men buying brands we class as youth, and wearing block stripe polos or printed tees with board shorts and thongs, where before they would probably have worn tailored shorts, short –sleeved shirts and sandals.”

By far the most influential trend has witnessed men becoming more adventurous with their use of colour.

“Men’s fashion is all about colour and not so much about fit. We’ve seen a strong uptake in the pink palette over the past two seasons. It works well with the blues and browns they probably have in their wardrobe already, and it suits most skin types, so it’s accessible.

Oscar Calvo | SUMMER 2005/06

“In fact, last summer we couldn’t keep up with the demand of pink business shirts – business shirts would be the most conservative category – and we couldn’t meet the demand.”

Calvo agrees colour is important, both in tailored wear and streetwear. In its attempts to get livelier, the male segment has moved to hot pinks and neon shades as their colour of choice, he says.

“Pink is easy to coordinate with almost any colour in your wardrobe. It goes fabulously with greys, tans, black, navies and other blue tones.”

Reich predicts that now the pink hurdle has been cleared, the colour will move into lilacs, purples and plum shades for the winter. The other new colour is green – crisp apple green and softer pastel shades.

Stressing Myer targets the mass market in “aspirational males,” Reich says there’s a strong uptake in patterns, stripes and, to a lesser extent, bold checks.

“Stripes have been very strong for the past four seasons – stripes are very easy to wear. We’re seeing diagonal striped ties with striped business shirts, which once was never worn. Bold checks are coming back; the early adopters are wearing them already.”

Calvo says the patterns and colours are moving out from niche seasonal trends to mainstream, combining retro and euro trash – “vintage tees, floral and patterned fitted shirts, knit tops with skinny hipster trousers, or torn prewashed denim jeans teamed with diamond adornment and colourful euro shoes.”

The layered look

The other big trend blurring the age groups is layering. The demand is growing for lightweight and more fitted garments that can be layered. “They can wear a fitted shirt with a light-gauge knit and than a shell jacket over the top for the cooler states, instead of a heavier knit sweater,” Reich says. With a lightweight blazer and a checked or striped shirt and a light knit, they can wear the blazer and the shirt, the knit and the shirt or just the shirt. It gives them more options to dress up or dress down.”

However, he warns the layered look creates potential traps for retailers and customers alike.

“It’s exciting, it’s a big trend – but it also comes with a risk. You can sell all the items for layering, but you have to trust that your customer can put them together the right way. So you have to help him not to make mistakes. If the look is not coordinated, he might not look as good as he’d hoped, and then he won’t come back.”

The models in Myer’s menswear section are all dressed in the layered look, showing how to put more extreme patterns together – a striped tie with a striped shirt, a printed tie with a checked shirt. “My primary goal is to improve the dress sense of the Australian male. If he looks better, he feels better, he has more confidence, and he comes back and buys more.”

The Suit is back

Melbourne-based menswear manufacturer Berkeley Apparel argues the return to masculine styling seen in Milan earlier this season, indicates the suit is back in mainstream wardrobes the world over. Berkeley marketing director Robert Morris says there is a definite consumer shift to something more valued, with more emphasis on differentiation.

“Consumers want a modern feel, look, great fabrics, styling and cut.”

To try and cash in on this global trend, Berkeley is launching three new locally produced suit brands for the Australian market – Tallia Uomo, Oscar Jacobsen and Kenneth Blake.

“These new brands follow the emergence of Paul Smith, London tailoring and the influence of New York as a design and fashion centre, and enable us to offer this sophistication in this new brand portfolio,” Morris says.

“Consumers want the modern feel and look, great fabrics, styling and cut but at mid-level prices,” he argues.

Young men will be wearing fitted dark suit jackets in cord or velvet according to Calvo, who predicts the dress code for the younger suit wearing guy will be a leaner look, but not overtly tight. “Shrunken single or two button tailored suit jackets with high-hip skinny trousers and slip on shoes in dazzling colours.”

“My primary goal is to improve the dress sense of the Australian male. If he looks better, he feels better.”

Oscar Calvo | SUMMER 2005/06

Streetwear

Calvo predicts casual wear will be “more conservative”, but at the same time have a mix and clash effect. “You could almost say eurotrash hits the street,” he says. While he hopes the “overkill of printed raw edge tees” will die, he predicts the graphic component will remain strong. Pale wash denim torn hipster jeans and pants that look demolished will continue to be big. At the same time , the leaner , skinny look will apply to tops, with tailored, fitted floral and patterned shirts, low v-neck knits showing a bare chest, and “inspired nerd knits in stripes” worn with skater sneakers in bright colours.

Accessorise-wise

As well as splashing out on colour, patterns and florals, today’s man is comfortable choosing jewellery and accessories to emphasise his look. Both Reich and Calvo point to the influence of sports stars such as Thorpie, English soccer international David Beckham and Safin driving the “massive interest” in men’s jewellery. However, Reich says most accessories (apart from ties) have a technological edge or feel to them. “We’re seeing stainless steel bracelets, leather wrist straps, and those rubber charity bands. Men are wearing multiple charity bands; it gives them the feel for wearing bracelets. Necklaces are very strong, in bold leather and raw metal ingots, or heavy metal crosses.”

Reich says satchels (shoulder bags for men) are growing increasingly popular. “They have pockets for the mobile phone and the iPod, plus enough room to stash that extra layer for when the days gets cool.”

The old-fashioned cufflink is also back with a twist – as a collectable. “There’s a big resurgence in cufflinks. They’re an inexpensive little trinket that men can collect.”

Performance counts

Underwear is big in Australia, and Australia, and Australian underwear is big overseas. At least that’s the opinion of aussieBum director Sean Ashbury.

“Australia has the biggest ranges and diversity than any other country. Go into [UK department stores] Selfridges or Harvey Nichols and you’ll see maybe six brands, where in Myer or David Jones there are 20 to 25, even if several are from the same company.”

Ashbury believes the big push in underwear is heading towards lycra or microfiber instead of cotton blends, with a sporty look that promises “performance.” Knitted microfiber with no seams is part of the trend towards more comfortable underwear, the hype around the new styles suggest comfort isn’t based on being crammed into a sweaty bus or train and sitting in an air-conditioned office, he says.

“The new sporty styles, from Jockey, modeled by sprinter Matt Shervington, offer ‘wick absorption,’ antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties and sun factors,” Asbury says.

The move to lycra in men’s underwear is a natural progression from its use in women’s intimates. Ashbury says at Lyon Mode City recently, Lycra was the biggest fabric in menswear.

While there will always be white and black for the traditionalists, men’s underpants now come in pink and next season probably apple green, as well as other colours. Digital printing has enabled mare patterns to be printed on Lycra and Ashbury predicts next summer will see men wearing hibiscus and other floral prints on their jocks. He argues knitted stripes in different colours will make a come-back in microfibre and other knits.

“Victoria’s Secret encouraged women to wear more intimate apparel, and now men, know they can get into intimates too,” he says. “They don’t have to stick to the one brand and the one style.”

 

Oscar Calvo Ragtrader magazine – Learning to fly solo, 9 September 2005, Pg. 38

OC OSCARCALVO | SUMMER 2005/06

Oscar Calvo Ragtrader magazine, 9 September 2005, Pg. 38

Learning to fly solo

As a child, menswear designer Oscar Calvo hated sharing a bedroom with his older brother. It wasn’t until he launched his own label that he learned to appreciate just how comforting it was to have someone watching his back, as Tracey McEldowney reports.

OSCAR CALVO’S future was sewn up almost from the very minute he took his first breath. Born the youngest of two in a middle-class Spanish family, he learned from an early age to appreciate the correlation between hard work and quality clothing. While other kids were playing footy in the streets with scuffed shoes and ripped t-shirts, the young Calvo worked tirelessly at his afterschool job, hoping to bank enough money to fund his penchant for exclusive, and therefore expensive, high street fashion. He made his first garment – a long sleeve cotton jersey top in lime – at age 12 and, by his own admission, has succeeded in looking “pretty cool” in his own attire ever since. Though, when pushed, he will attest that he didn’t always get it right. “My biggest fashion faux pas was in the ‘80s. Imitating [English boy band] Bros, wearing 501 faded, ripped jeans with a 501 metal buckle and steel cap Dr Martens.” Last year, having completed a threeyear stint studying fashion at Kangan Batman TAFE followed by a spell as area manager for race wear specialist Barbara Wilson, the ambitious 25-year-old swallowed hard and made the brave decision to start his own self titled menswear label. It is a gamble that has clearly paid off. A finalist in the 2005 Mercedes-Benz start-up programme and a veteran of last year’s FASHION EXPOSED preview show, the Oscar Calvo label is now stocked in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra in boutiques ranging from Husk to Parliament Clothing. Positioned at the higher end of the market and fashioned from pure merino wool and cotton blends imported from Europe, Calvo’s range of tailored hoods, pants and tees are priced at between $120 and $300 – a deliberate move which Calvo claims “reflects the quality and exclusiveness” of the label. While the 25-year-old freely admits his spring/summer 2005/06 collection draws heavily on the influence of his favourite designer Jean Paul Gaultier, he claims as a brand, Oscar Calvo has developed its own distinctive flavour in somewhat of a niche market. “It’s funky directional fashion with attitude and quality, styles that clash and [is] strictly for the wildest imaginations.” His range is presently manufactured in both Hong Kong and Australia, but eventually, Calvo says, he would like to get all manufacturing done at home.

OC OSCARCALVO | SUMMER 2005/06

He cites production hold-ups in one of the least enjoyable aspects about working in the sector, along with not making money and enduring long hours.

“The biggest challenge I have faced is going out on my own. You are responsible for all areas of the business from design to sales and marketing. You have no one to motivate you or pick up your shit when you hit a brick wall.”

“I hate delivering late, especially when it’s out of my control.” Calvo admits that as a relatively new player in the fashion business game, he has had a rather hard and fast education. Not all of it enjoyable. “I guess you have to throw yourself in the deep end and do it hands on to really understand every facet of running a business. The biggest challenge I have faced is going out on my own. You are responsible for all areas of the business from design to sales and marketing. You have no one to motivate you or pick up your shit when you hit a brick wall. I’m so tired [but] I overcome all obstacles by keeping positive and ambitious even when I look and feel like crap” The odd grumble aside Calvo, who has always shown a strong interest in fine art and design, says it is his passion for fashion and people that keeps him coming back. “I admire all the young ambitious designers out there working the long hours and hand-to mouth jobs to keep their label alive. What I like most about working in this industry is being surrounded by other talented, creative people. It’s an ongoing network [where] I’m continually meeting colourful people in all areas of the arts. It’s encouraging on a personal level to work with and see other amazing talents.” And his advice to would-be designers thinking about venturing out on their own? “Don’t, just kidding. Stay focused and motivated and do not lose sight of your dream. Things fall into place if you work hard.”

 

 
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