Nick Graham Pivots

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COVID-19 has caused a lot of shakeups in the retail and fashion industries. Though retail has experienced some bounce back with online sales, the fashion industry continues to suffer. Several fashion brands have closed shop, with others on the periphery of bankruptcy and extinction. What is a fashion brand/designer to do?

The verdict is still out on what some brands are doing or adapting to this dramatic downturn. However, American menswear designer Nick Graham has pivoted his company toward something new and environmentally friendly.

Nick Graham spring 2017 show images courtesy of Getty Images

Since 2013, Nick Graham’s menswear brand has been one of the go-to menswear brands for those consumers who want stylish affordable suits. His New York Fashion Week (NYFW) shows during New York Fashion Week: Men’s were one of the most coveted fashion shows of the season. His theatrical fashion shows that have featured Brazilian samba dancers, astronauts, and a variety of birds were not only a hit for fashion industry professionals, but his dress shirts and suits were virtually jumping off the shelves.

All that is gone now, with NYFW going virtual. These virtual fashion weeks are a huge adjustment for the industry and fashion brands have had to do a quick pivot. And Nick Graham has also had to adjust.

Still, pivoting is something that Nick Graham is accustomed to and very good at. In fact, his initial interest in fashion was something of a pivot. “I do recall buying a sewing machine at a church auction. I am originally from Canada. Alberta to be exact. There was a girl who lived up the road and I really wanted to meet her, so I thought, ‘what if I made her a dress.’ I was 14 and had no idea how to sew. But, interestingly, I taught myself how to sew from that experience,” explained Graham.

Image courtesy of Nick Graham

That early experience, whether Nick Graham knew it at the time, shaped his future. In 1985 Graham launched his famous under brand Joe Boxer. “I moved to San Francisco, and started Joe Boxer in 1985, because I needed underwear at the time. I saw an opportunity and ironically the first customer for Joe Boxer was Bergdorf Goodman, detailed Graham.

Joe Boxer eventually was carried in major retail stores with K-Mart coming on board in the early 2000s. However, Graham wanted more. “I got out of the business of men’s under garments for a while, in 2013, I decided I wanted to start a menswear collection. Before I started my menswear collection I had worked with a lot of retailers, but I always wanted a label in my own name with men’s suits and dress shirts. I have an English background so, I like the English style, Paul Smith, Savile Row, but very approachable and affordable.”

Nick Graham spring 2019 images courtesy of

As much as Graham’s menswear was popular, COVID-19 has put a halt to almost everything. Pandemia, as we call it, accelerated the expansion of menswear into atheleisure wear and streetwear. That expansion was already happening before the health pandemic,” explains Graham. “The suit business is not good right now, and the dress shirt business is also soft. Who wants to get dressed up to go to dinner in their kitchen? All the big menswear companies on seventh avenue are struggling with that. It is down to what do you wear for your ZOOM calls … And the evolution of working from home is never going to go away.”

So, how has Nick Graham adjusted? “I have started a company called Airband, which is creating respiratory and fabric technologies. We also make masks. Product from Airband is just rolling out right now. I am also branching into air filtration,” details Graham. “Air quality is a big issue around the world because of pollution and climate change. It is the fashion business at all; however, we are working with hospitals and fire departments. I like it and for right now for me, it’s cool.”

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Nick Graham’s pivot is a move in the right direction, a pivot toward what communities need!! However, the fashion community misses his theatrical runway shows, and his menswear collections.

Maybe, when things normalize, whatever that means, Nick Graham will be back, accelerating pulses with his menswear perspective on what cool dapper men want to wear. Nick, we miss you!!

—William S. Gooch

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