2011 Fashion Forecast from The Ethical Man: Dan Mims

Dan Mims The Ethical Man
If you haven’t yet been introduced the The Ethical Man, get ready for some bold, crisp style refreshment as founder Dan Mims takes us into the future of men’s fashion. Less then two months into the site’s launch, The Ethical Man has cultivated an impressive and well-deserved following as the first men’s vegan fashion shop with an equally dapper blog to match. I caught up with Dan to find out where he thinks fashion is going in 2011 – and let me tell you, it’s looking good! Our interview below…

2010 was a big year for vegan fashion. Where do you see it going in the next year?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about — by necessity, as a vegan fashion business owner, but also by passion, as somebody who is fiercely determined to promote both veganism and personal style for underserved men.

Veganism in general and vegan fashion in particular really emerged as a broadly palatable concept in 2010. You could feel it. The reasonably achievable market share for explicitly vegan apparel is a lot larger than it was even just a year ago. With the increased opportunity, every aspect of the process is becoming more vegan-friendly. On the design side, more excellent vegan or vegan-conscious designers are coming out of the woodwork. On the production side, more and better-quality vegan fashion pieces are being made. On the distribution side, those vegan fashion pieces are selling faster. On the marketing side… well, I would hope that we vegans are scrappier than average, simply because we’ve had to be — just to be heard.

All of this contributes to the reality that we’re getting closer to achieving what sounds like a rather bland goal — creating economies of scale for various vegan product types. But I really can’t overstate the importance of that achievement as a means of mainstreaming vegan fashions. Consumer studies consistently establish price and, relatedly, value — certainly not morality — as the most important factors driving purchase decisions for most people. Price is self-explanatory, while value is a function of price weighed against an item’s attractiveness, functionality, and durability. But morality becomes a key decision factor for any given individual once price and value are no longer an obstacle. So, by enhancing our price points and both real and perceived value, we free individuals to really consider the vegan proposition, whatever the market. And I’m very confident that many otherwise average consumers will say yes.

So there are a lot of forces that are combining to create this incredible inertia towards a more compassionate fashion ideal and practice, and whereas fashion is so often described in the language of trends, veganism is anything but. Those of us who adhere to a vegan lifestyle aren’t just vegan for Winter 2010/11. We’re vegan for life, and our ranks are only growing. Will all our vegan fashion dreams come true in 2011? No. But 2011 will see vegan fashion accelerating towards that glorious and inevitable realization.

How about men’s fashion in general? How do you see it evolving?

First, I’d like to offer some advice to men out there: When it comes to the particulars — e.g. colors, patterns, or accessories — cultivate your personal style, pay attention to the needs of your body type, and don’t be too worried about keeping up with the season. Men’s fashion at large tends to gravitate towards playing with the classic, and that’s what I expect to continue happening in 2011. In 2010 we saw tapered jeans and dress shirts come into their own as a more mainstream ideal for men’s basics. I think we’re going to see that extending out to chinos, khakis, and corduroys, as well as more casual shirts from polo to flannel. Since more men are wearing ties these days as a matter of routine, designers seem to have been emboldened to create more thoughtful and daring patterns — brighter colors, more interesting palettes. Ties used to be fat, then they were skinny, and I think we’re settling on a happy medium at roughly 2.25″ to 2.75″ at widest point. It’s a modern cut, retaining some edge, but it’s not overly rebellious. After all, at the end of the day, tie width is a rather silly thing to be rebellious about. Also, I think men are relearning to wear accessories in a sufficiently masculine manner. Watches will come back in a big way, and cuff links and tie bars will see the light of day a lot more often.

Additionally, there are some longer-view trends for men that began before 2011 and will end well after, I hope. For one, baggy will remain out in 2011. There seems to be a resilient paradigm shift towards fitted clothing among non-alternative and professional straight men. I guess we’re finally secure enough in our bodies and our sexualities — you know, we’re finally “man” enough — to show off some shape! I’ve heard some rumblings from some fashion-minded folks who think it won’t last, but the fitted paradigm is already outlasting those predictions. I know I’m certainly going to do my best to keep it up. I mean, even Brooks Brothers has groaned into action with slim fit alternatives to their traditional offerings, so that’s a good sign in terms of the longevity of the trend.

Another bigger-picture trend I can get behind is that young men are increasingly reacting against (a) their baby boomer parents’ proclivities towards casual dress and (b) a bad employment situation in general by upping their game when it comes to personal presentation. We’re beginning to realize that our appearance matters all the time — not just at an important meeting, not just on an important date, not just at weddings and funerals. And once a man makes that change, he realizes that there’s no downside to it. He’s confident. He’s more successful in all aspects of his life. Even down to the petty: when a man knows he looks good, he’s quite immune to any jabs about his supposed over-dressing or the like. Short of wearing a tux at less-than-extremely-formal occasions, there’s really no such thing as over-dressing for a man in 2011.

The Ethical Man Skinny Tie

An Ethical Man Staple - The Skinny Tie

Well, I’m all about shift away from all-the-time casual. Definitely glad to see the guys stepping it up and retailers reacting by slimming down and modernizing some of their styles. What are some of your favorite brands for achieving these looks?

I really like TopMan and Uniqlo. Those are my staples for the subcategories that haven’t really cracked the explicitly vegan market yet — e.g. cardigans. Naturally, I like the designers who have been sourced for The Ethical Man store, which is curated to include only items that we love. That includes Vaute Couture, which is doing great things with winter coats (our collective lack of surprise about that need not diminish the greatness of VC’s accomplishments). For men’s dress shoes, I like NoHarm. But until I have a higher footwear budget, I go to their polar opposite — Payless. They’ve got some surprisingly stylish and durable vegan options that are of course very inexpensive. Meanwhile, a lot of vegan men seem to swear by UK brand Vegetarian Shoes, though I haven’t been satisfied enough with their dress shoes in the past to continue shelling out $100+ per pair. At least one of their boot models this year is styled really well, though I can’t speak to durability. I’ve also been pestering  vegan women’s shoemakers OlsenHaus and Cri de Coeur to create some men’s shoes, and I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to do that in 2011.

Dan, your site is already opening plenty of eyes to the limitless style possibilities in the world of vegan fashion.  What can we look forward to from The Ethical Man in 2011?

The Ethical Man launched in November, so we’re sort of putting a brave face on as we stare into a future without precedent. We launched with winter coats, slim ties, bow ties, belts, and wallets. In December we added a couple of original accessories — dog tags and a wristband, or what I like to call a “brace.” Early in 2011 we’ll release a couple more original accessory pieces, including tie bars and cuff links. Beyond that, we’re certainly going to expand the breadth of our curated offerings — both sourced and original — but I can’t give you too much information, can I? Everyone will just have to wait and see!


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