Last week, Harry Rosen, Canada's leading menswear retailer, opened a brand new 18,000 square-foot store in the heart of Toronto’s downtown shopping complex, The Eaton Centre. TORO sat down with Larry Rosen, CEO of the ever-burgeoning company, to chat about the new space, the state of the industry and how to dress like the quintessential urban man.
Menswear seems to be on the upswing. Shopping is no longer a women’s sport, so to speak. Is this store expansion part of a larger initiative?
Definitely. The market is asking for it. This is the first expansion of a major national project. Within the next three years we will be expanding eight to 10 stores — about 100,000 square-feet — and investing nearly $30 million in the process.
Will all your stores look the same or will you be capturing the essence of the surrounding environment in each outlet?
Well, by way of example, here at the Eaton Centre, which is the prototypical urban mall, we challenged our designer to come up with a look for the store that is at once high end and urban. I think he achieved that very nicely. As we move forward we expect to take cues from our environment in the same way and make each store reflect its market uniquely.
In terms of market reflection, I imagine the Eaton Centre has a markedly different customer base than, say, Yorkville. How does this affect the stock that you carry?
Of course our buying varies between outlets. Here, downtown, there is a love of ‘city dressing.’ It’s more fashion forward than ever before and very modern. This store buys with these notions in mind. We’ve added fashion lines to this store like Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Zegna, Versace and expanded many others like Hugo Boss and Canali.
You've clearly made the decision to make the Eaton Centre store another flagship for your brand. When the Eaton Centre shooting happened were you concerned about the new positioning?
Listen, it’s a terrible tragedy what happened. But Toronto is a big city. When you look back, we are really one of the safest cities in the world. I think that’s why when these types of things happen they hurt us so much. It’s just so out of the norm for us. But, hopefully, the awareness and the steps taken by the police and by the city and by the mall will make these scenarios continue to be out of the norm. Since the horrible event, the mall is functioning well, tourism is up and our sales are strong here. Of course we were shocked and frightened, but the reality of urban living is it could have happened anywhere. No reason for a stigma to develop.
Let’s talk about the urban male for a moment. Layering is certainly the look again for fall. How can you achieve the look without breaking the bank on a whole whack of new pieces?
The starting point of a great fall fashion look is a soft jacket. Without the soft jacket, whether it is a less structured piece or a form fitting one, the look just isn’t there. If you’ve got the jacket all you need is a good shirt, a dark denim pant and a scarf to tie the outfit together.
Is there a trend in menswear — now or in the past — that you can’t stand?
You know, we’re lucky in menswear. Proper trends are really not that prevalent. For men, fashion moves at a pace slow enough where we don’t get the mistakes that you often find in women’s fashions. Women’s wear is very revolutionary, something can come into style and then a year later it looks ridiculous. With men’s fashion that just doesn’t happen. And to be honest our buying team knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff and we don’t run in the direction of things that we consider frivolous. So, my short answer is no, not really.
Trendy or not, what would you say is the must-have accessory for the modern man?
I would definitively say the messenger bag. It’s the modern way to wear … well … a murse (laughs).