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River Island’s new head of menswear on the return of ‘smart’

Nearly a year into his role as the high street retailer’s new head of menswear buying, Nick Tahir talks to Drapers about River Island’s new direction in tailoring and the opportunities in the market.

Nick Tahir, head of menswear, River Island

Nick Tahir, head of menswear, River Island

Nick Tahir, head of menswear, River Island

Former head of global menswear at F&F, Nick Tahir joined River Island in July 2016 and has spent the last year driving the high street retailer’s new strategy of expanding its menswear category. Key to this has been the evolution of River Island’s men’s tailoring offer: Tahir’s new smart brand direction is in effect for spring 17, and is growing for autumn 17.

Can you talk a little about River Island’s new direction in tailoring?

We’ve introduced a new variety of fits, quality, design, fabric interest, cut and colour, which you can see across the collection. It’s all about the return of smart. Tailoring is a key opportunity.

Why is tailoring a key focus for you?

We feel that with the trends being casual for so long, there is time for a change and the tide is changing. Just look at someone like [singer] Harry Styles – he’s wearing a lot of suits at the moment. So I feel that there is definitely a change in men going smarter in terms of trends, which is an ideal opportunity for the River Island customer.

We’ve also acknowledged that there is a guy who doesn’t want to be in a hoodie and a pair of jeans on a Friday night any more – he wants to dress up a little bit, and that gives us another opportunity with tailoring. So we’re thinking about “day to bar” dressing.

Guys are more open to the mix-and-match way of dressing now, too – whether it’s a smart trouser with a bomber jacket, or a standalone blazer with denim jeans.

It can still be occasion dressing, but can just be about dressing up and making an effort at the weekend. And it’s also all year around.

What changes have you bought it?

For me it’s all about product and design. It’s about attention to detail. It’s understanding the customer more and their needs, and understanding the marketplace and what is going on with fashion. What I’ve done is to challenge the buyers to bring in the best product, and be first to market within our arena.

River Island spring 17

River Island spring 17

River Island spring 17

What’s new in tailoring specifically?

Our entry price-point suit at £100 is really key, and we’ve introduced stretch to it, which is new and unique at that price on the high street.

We’ve also extended our fit offer to tailored, slim, skinny, super-skinny, and we’ve recently launched Big and Tall tailoring too, capturing more of an audience.

In terms of design, we’re introducing double breasted, looking at new fabric interest, 1 sb [one-button single-breasted] and 2 sb [two-button single-breasted] blazers, double vents, single vents and interesting lining details. We’ll still have the key, core collection but also those more special pieces.

We also want to show that there are different ways to wear tailoring. It’s not just about a work suit. We want to demonstrate that there are different ways to pair different product categories with tailoring, which is new.

For autumn 17 fabric with interest is key, with textures, warm handles and checks. What we also see coming through is a look at the old 1980s power suit in oversized shapes – we’re working on this, so that might come through for spring 18.

Have prices changed?

This has allowed us to stretch the range, but it’s still important to offer the right price for our customers. We currently have a very clean pricing architecture: we enter at £100 and exit at £150 for a two-piece suit.

Spring 17 has already arrived in store, how is tailoring performing?

The response has been great. We’re very pleased with the performance already.

Readers' comments (1)

  • With respect, River Island's move towards 'smart' as they call it, flies in the face of almost every other retailer and the quotes sound as though they could of come from 09' or '10. The younger end of the market has got totally bored of the cleaner look and have looked elsewhere. The last six months has seen a huge move towards sportswear/ath-leisure and brands that have that look in the heritage are cleaning up. The suit business is very tough as consumers young and old look for pieces they can wear everyday for any occasion, but these pieces aren't it. Best of luck to River Island, but this contradicts the way the trend is going for S18/A18.

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