FGI-HOUSTON PRESENTS: Men's Style 101 : Beyond the Suit & Tie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A few weeks ago I attended FGI-Houston's Men's Style 101: Beyond The Suit & Tie event at The Classroom. I can't believe that this was my first time stepping into The Classroom! I mean, I know it's a men's store, but they also host tons of events, so I'm still surprised. Anyway! This was the last event for this season of FGI-Houston, and I'm so happy the board of directores decided to do a men's style event! Men's fashion is huge right now and it's becoming a big movement. No longer are men bottle-necked into styles for the fear of having their sexuality questioned. Now men can enjoy fashion just as much as women! 

Panelists (L to R): Clinton, Fola, Alan, & Vico
The event featured a panel of expert male Houston trendmakers; Alan Javillonar, Style Director for The Classroom, Clinton Wagoner, Training Manager at Suit Supply, Vico Puentes, Stylist & Creative Consultant, & Fola Lawson, Fashion Blogger and Men's Accessories Designer for Southern Gents. The panel was moderated by Keith Luther, Co-Founder of Marketing firm Jaxon, EP. It was great to hear the guys talk about fashion from a men's perspective! I also appreciated each panelist's unique style from Clinton, who admitted he stays in a suit 99% of the time, to Vico who just likes to wear black. The first part of the panel featured the panelists answering the scheduled questions and then the event opened up for Q&A. I had tons of questions, but unfortunately, I couldn't keep asking forever! HAHAHA! After the panel, guests mingled and took pictures with the panelists! 

Below I have transcribed for you some of the Q&As during the panel:

Keith: Alan, what made you want to start The Classroom? 
Alan: Passion, fear and the pursuit of happiness. Passion, because ever since I was 16, I've been working in retail and it's something that I've really enjoy. Fear; when I turned 28, I had been working in corporate America for almost 7 years and I just felt unfulfilled. I was never fulfilled with what I was doing and the only thing that made me happy was working in retail and helping service other, and Cabby came to talk to me about the shop, and it was like the stars aligned and we were able to form this. I didn't want to be 20 years down the road asking "what if?" I wanted to have this and do something that I was passionate about. 

Keith: Clinton, what made you want to work for Suit Supply and specifically as their Training Manager?
Clinton: Prior to Suit Supply, I worked in bespoke clothing for six years and I also have my degrees in fashion design and textile engineering.  Bespoke clothing, is very, very slow. We'd maybe see 5 people a day, if you were lucky, on a fast-paced day, but I wanted to go into something that was a lot faster paced. Suit Supply felt a lot faster paced and also it's a growing company so I knew that there would be a lot of room for me to grow with the company.  As far as becoming the Training Manager for Suit Supply, I wanted to teach people everything I know because once you're dead, or once you're finished and you're retired, and you haven't taught anybody anything? There's nothing left for you to do with that information, so you have to pass that along, to everyone.

Keith: Vico, what made you want to become a stylist?
Vico: I was in the industry prior to going to freelance styling. I was a buyer and then I did marketing operations for an agency and I loved the industry altogether. That was very business, very operational, with reports and dealing with vendors and at some point I wanted to crossover to the creative side. This effectively worked out the best for me because I was able to obtain creative clients. However, if you're in the business, you're going to need to make money for someone, so when working with someone creatively, there's still a bottom line, and you still have to produce sales. You need to have the understanding of, "Sure we can create a campaign" but are people actually going to purchase something from it. I guess, just trying to balance both the creative part and also being business driven, it was more of a natural progression for me to jump into something that brought the two together. At first it started going very commercial and at that was difficult. You may have a vision, but you have Art Directors, the owners of the brand or the CEO that will send an email that says, "We want this, can't they just execute it?" Once I learned that that was going to happen if I wanted to make a living from it, I was able to say "Okay, I'm going to do editorial either on my own time or through collaborations." But to go back to the original question, just the creative fuel.

Keith: Fola, how did you get started in becoming a male blogger?
Fola: In regards to a male blogger, I'd always worked in corporate America and everybody would tell me,  "You have great style. You should do this, you should do that." I was probably one of the last people to join Instagram. I always had one friend tell me, "You should get an Instagram account, you would love it." because I liked pictures. So one day, I set up an account and I just started posting outfits that I would wear to work. I mean this is something that I did everyday, anyway {putting a look together for work} so now I just shared it with everybody else in the world.  It kind of took on fire. From there, a couple of friends and I had an idea to not just reach out to people and showcase style but build a community that began with style. The first thing anybody notices about you is through your dress. We thought the way to send a message to the community was to have men start dressing better and start caring about their personal appearance. We started a blog, not just about style, but it's about lifestyle, it's about clothing; How to buy a dress shirt?, How to iron a dress shirt?and people liked it. We continued later on and transitioned it into an accessories company called Southern Gents

I want an "H" for Houston fitted! Are they still called fitteds?

Keith: Alan, How does e-commerce transform the male shopping experience that you have at the classroom. 
Alan: Ecommerce, it's really capturing a totally different market globally. Not only are we able to capture sales here {in Houston}, but we're able to capture sales elsewhere, whether it be California markets, to Tokyo. We're able to capture other kinds of customers through social media. I's a good way to touch base and communicate with others without having to leave Houston.

Keith: Cabby works with the classroom and he does more of their e-commerce.
Cabby: How has e-commerce transformed the male shopping experience? I think, like any industry, it just makes things easier and faster and opens up your store to a greater audience like the world wide web. I think more specific to male shopping and to the male purchasing experience I think the internet has created a menswear culture.  A menswear culture that has come up because of blogs and because of Instagram and has gotten more men interested in clothing and style; specifically into clothing. There's guys that really get into it and they kind of nerd out about specific things.  For example on reddit, on the raw denim thread people got really technical about the denim. I think the interest in menswear and specific niches in the menswear umbrella have really increased because of the internet and blogs.

Keith: What's the most important marketing tools? 
Clinton: I mean one of the best marketing tools is sex. I mean, if you look at the top Ford ads, or ads that Suit Supply did in the Spring, that's what was selling it. But once you get a guy into the store you have to really provide that excellent customer service, and you have to be fast-paced with it. Because men; we don't have a very long attention span when it comes to shopping.  If you aren't providing that great customer service and are just letting the man wonder on his own, he's probably not going to return to your store. He's definitely not going to tell his friends about it because after 15 minutes he's lost interest in your store and he's out the door and you'll never see him again. Really great customer service and make it simple for a man.

I love the bike!
KeithHow much of an impact, have men's style bloggers had on the fashion industry?
Fola: I think they've made a tremendous impact.  I think men bloggers today, influence many of the trends around us and it's probably been that way for years. I think the difference is, in the past we probably just weren't aware of it. Today the world is flat, we can see everything. You don' have to wait for something going on in the West coast to find out about it 6 months later. You can log onto your computer, Facebook account, log into instagram, go to your favorite blogs and you can see the latest trends. I think in the past, brands managed trends picked from bloggers, not bloggers but street wear. Everybody knows that fashion originates from the streets. It's very original, it comes from people. In the past it's been able to be managed and packaged to you as a consumer, but now you're able to see it raw, on the street before it's packaged and delivered to your door as a product. 

End Transcription

That was just a tidbit of the awesome information and discussion that occurred between the panelists during the event! During Q&A I asked the question about men mixing high and low and received some interesting answers! Check out more photos from the event below: 

Some great men's looks in here! I want my future boyfriend to shop here!

Cherise Luter opening the event!

Keith Luter, the Moderator.

Presents for the panelists!

You already know I was getting a photo with these stylish men!

FGI-Houston Board of Directors with the Panelists!


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