The Birth & Shaky Future of Men’s Fashion Weeks

Models present creations by Balmain, during the men's Fashion Week 2016-2017 Fall/Winter collection in Paris on January 23, 2016. / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
Models present creations by Balmain, during the men’s Fashion Week 2016-2017 Fall/Winter collection in Paris on January 23, 2016. / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

 

Fashion season is well under way – exhausting, exciting, and dictating what we will all be wearing in the coming season. Menswear, the relative new-comer to the fashion season, has quickly been gaining its own rightful place in the media spotlight, putting a focus on the oft-neglected designers who cater to the increasingly dapper male demographic. Men’s Fashion Week was London-born in January of 2012 for the Autumn/Winter 2012 Shows. With male consumers’ quickly growing interest in fashion, it simply made sense. Menswear, when shown during the fashion season, was often lost in the womenswear shows. Menswear collections were not given the same recognition or media coverage, with the general thought being that there was not enough of a draw to make it worthwhile. But with the style savvy surge of bloggers, celebrities, and notable figures taking over the internet, men were becoming more educated and interested in what they put on their bodies.

 

 

According to Business Insider, from 2009 to 2015, US online men’s clothing sales grew at an astonishing average annual rate of 17.3% to $9.6 billion. In-store sales in the US grew at an average annual rate of 4.1% to $10.9 billion from 2010 to 2015.  At last season’s TOM* Talks, Melissa Austria of GotStyle shared that men have grown as consumers. They are more interested in fashion, well-informed, carefully research their garments, and understand cuts, tailoring, and quality textiles. With the growing interest and demand from consumers and the fashion crowd, it made sense that the Men’s Fashion Weeks would spread from London to other fashion capitols: Milan, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto. In addition to receiving some over-due recognition, menswear designers were finding some much needed support in an industry that has historically ignored them. While there are grants and other support systems for womenswear designers (TFI’s New Labels, Mercedes Benz Star-Up, etc.), menswear was left out in the cold. 

 

 

Menswear awards are not the only financial gain for designers at Men’s fashion weeks. Previously, showing in the regular fashion weeks did not sync up to the buying times for menswear in the industry. For instance, New York designers like Calvin Klein would show internationally in such capitols as Milan to better fit into buyers’ schedules and secure their collection’s financial future.

Of course, aside from the financial benefits to designers of a separate fashion week, it is about time that the spotlight was given to this facet of the talented design community. It is also a wonderful opportunity to check out the supremely dapper and dope street style that would not be spied at the typical fashion showcase.

 

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Attendees of the Y-3 AW16 show in Paris / Image from High Snobiety

 

But as Men’s Fashion Week spreads, the original and traditional shows are battling to stay relevant and alive. Fashion burn-out has become THE topic of conversation in the fashion crowds with designers stepping down from prominent roles, and industry pros sharing the challenges of their overloaded lives. Buyers admit to skipping shows due to fatigue and scheduling conflicts. The ever-quickening fast fashion cycle and immediate social reach of the shows and collections has had its impact. It’s quickly become clear that the fashion week as we know it is due for a significant overhaul.

Rebecca Minkoff led the movement towards “buy now, wear now” show formats that are geared more towards consumers and buyers, with collections shown in the season they are intended for. Burberry quickly followed suit as did Tom Ford who cancelled his February fashion show last minute, announcing he would show it in the season-appropriate fall. In conversation with Forbes, New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis shared her view on the shifting tides: “There is a lot of discussion within the industry about the future of fashion week. There is a movement considering cutting back to much smaller, tighter, less media-driven shows that are really about the industry, and then doing a big, fabulous, bells and whistles fashion week as consumer shows, where you sell tickets, you do it when the clothing hits the stores, and make it completely consumer driven. I support that idea. It will evolve.”

 

 

With the industry shifting quickly, what does the future hold for Men’s Fashion Week?

Burberry announced that they would combine their men’s and women’s shows for season-less consumer driven shows. If other fashion houses follow suit, Men’s Fashion Week may be short-lived. Whatever the future holds, our hope is that menswear will be given its deserved recognition in the industry and not be relegated back into the shadows.