For years, a staple of the St. Croix collection has been their sport shirt. They are the popular supporting player for the knitwear collection—adding a shot of interest under the sweaters. Also standing on their own, the sport shirts offered variety in colors and patterns, more often in bold designs that are perfect for casual wear. And they’re flying off the retailer’s shelves.
But the St. Croix Brand wanted to offer a shirt that is perfect for the guy that needs or wants to dress up, but doesn’t want to have a completely separate wardrobe for his “down” days. “That’s our new Crossover Shirt Collection”, says Design Director Dave Gebhardt. “It’s a refined look to wear with suits, but also looks great worn with khakis and denim”. According to Eddie Gricius, St. Croix Sales Representative, this is the perfect new collection. “With wovens doing so well in the marketplace, it’s a terrific way to bridge a classic dress shirt & sport shirt to our Crossover wovens, which really are timeless. Well, timeless with just a little bit of an edge to a classic look,” says Gricius.
The Crossover Shirt Collection for St. Croix is never going to be trendy in design. It’s comprised of neat, tidy patterns. Fine details. Tattersals and small stripes or checks. “Five years ago, no one was buying sport shirts with checks. Or white backgrounds. The market was all about stripes,” says Gebhardt. But lately, customers are looking for variety and flexibility, so brands have responded by lightening up the formal look of their dress shirts—giving them some personality, “so that when you take the tie off, your smart-looking work shirt becomes more fun,” Dave tells us. What makes this exciting for the St. Croix brand is that those flexible crossover shirts will perfectly coordinate with the rest of the collection—all the knitwear, pants and jackets. “It’s really a great expansion for us,” Gebhardt notes.
It’s a great expansion for the retailer too. Tim Sitzmann, owner of Mr. B Clothing in Clive, IA tells us why: “Our customers want value. They want the high quality fabrics and style, but they want the flexibility too, so there’s a true value to this Crossover Shirt Collection. The Crossover Shirt brings the woven shirt into the current living style,” says Tim. “Our customer can dress it up with a tie, or take off the tie and throw on a sweater or sport coat for a more casual look. Customers are asking for this kind of shirt. St. Croix is listening to what the customers are asking for, and that’s why we’re excited to offer it.”
And for St. Croix, the element of quality is never overlooked, and indeed, is just as important as the design. Since the early days of the company, the design team has travelled to Europe several times each year to scout trends, styles, and the very best manufacturers. And for their Crossover Shirts, it was no contest—these shirts had to be made in Italy. “We have the highest quality Italian shirt manufacturers,” says Gebhardt. Legguno, Canclini, Albini and Oltolina are some of the fabric manufacturers that St. Croix is working with, whose “quality is unparalleled”, according to Dave. The design team looks for 2-ply yarns in the fabrics, as well as yarns that have a natural stretch or Lycra stretch. The material has to look the best, perform the best and feel great. There is no other choice, and never has been, as far as St. Croix brand Founder Bernhard Brenner sees it. “When we take our trips to Europe and attend the tradeshows, we are surrounded by thousands of vendors. Everyone is there. But we only work with the very top tier suppliers, maybe 5 or 6 vendors out of thousands”.
The design team attends these tradeshows with their color palette in mind, which is based, in part, on the world forecasting for color (which is in sync with trends in Italy), and partly based on their own research and development. “Probably 95% of the time, our designers are right on target when we go to Europe—because they know the trends and our customer so well, which gives me great confidence in the design”, says Mr. Brenner. “We get further reassurance when we shop what we consider the elite stores”, Dave says. “We have stores all over the world that we have confidence in for different reasons. Places in Milan such as Via della Spiga, Via Monte, Napoleone streets…. these are important places for us.” The design team confirms their plans for color, pattern and texture in multiple countries. “The stores we visit are 2 years ahead of the masses, so when we shop them for affirmation, we know we’ll be right on trend when our collection goes to market.” And for the record, “on trend” is different than “trendy”.
Once the fabrics from the chosen vendors were selected, much more work lies ahead for the team. They carefully culled down those selections over a three-day period—literally starting with thousands of options—and eventually choosing about 50 offerings for the new Crossover Shirt Collection.
It’s an interesting process to watch. It’s like a masculine version of the scene from “The Devil Wears Prada” movie, where the Editor in Chief of the top fashion magazine and her team are pouring over the subtleties of clothing choices that are almost unnoticeable to the untrained eye. The St. Croix team produces a stream of consciousness conversation, filled with references from years past. They know what sells, and what doesn’t, and they have keen eyes.
“That pattern is useless without a blue option”.
“That’s an elegant material.”
When asked what goes in to determining the final choices for the collection, Mr. Brenner is quick with an answer. “A lot of passion. A lot of agreements and disagreements. It’s good to have young designers to keep things fresh, tempered with the classic nature of our customers”.
That level of commitment to detail, quality and workmanship has always been the cornerstone of any St. Croix product. And now with the Crossover Shirt Collection, they’ll add flexibility and dressier shirt options to the mix.
The St. Croix Crossover Shirt Collection is available Fall 2015.