TOM* Talks | The Business of Men’s Fashion
As part of TOM* Fashion Week in Toronto, the event hosted a panel to discuss the business of men’s fashion on Tuesday. Held at the College Park show venue, the discussion was moderated by Roger Gingerich (expert on the Business of Fashion with CBCTV & Radio, Co-chair of Fashion Group International Toronto, Director of Holiday Group). Guests filed in, sitting alongside the runway, to hear from the panel: Melissa Austria of Gotstyle, Paul Mason (infamous male model and icon), Dr. Ben Barry, and Anja Potkonjak. Roger Gengerich deftly guided the conversation through the changes happening in men’s fashion, the evolution of the male consumer, and the direction the industry is headed.
Can you spot our Director of Marketing Anna? Hint: She has purple hair.
Over the past 100 years, men’s fashion at its very core has not changed much. Suits still bear the same fundamental design with construction details adapting to the trends and era of the garment. It’s really only the past decade of fashion that has truly been revolutionizing menswear, creating a more exciting and dynamic array of pieces.
The rise of the fashion blogger and the prevalence of the internet in our daily lives may be partially accountable for this style shift, resulting in a more informed, style-conscious and bold male consumer. Melissa Austria (Gotstyle) commented that more men are now buying their wardrobes for themselves and coming in with inspiration images on their phone that speak to the look they want to achieve. They don’t necessarily want what is on the runway which may be too extreme outside of the fashion crowd, but are instead concerned with fit, quality, and textiles. These men are perhaps the most informed consumer in the marketplace at this moment. They carefully research where their garments come from with an emphasis on ethical production, they know their lapel options, suit cut names, and quality textiles. They are more likely to support local talent which is something that menswear designers in Toronto can tap into.
Dr. Ben Barry brought attention to how men expressing themselves through fashion is changing the gender norms of masculinity. We’ve seen this “androgynous” wave with Prada’s floral suits, Rick Owens apocalyptic skirts, and the growing popularity of men’s accessories (scarves, bags, bracelets, etc). We’ve seen an influx of gender-neutral designers and collections, and let’s not forget the genius Agender concept shop at Selfridges in London.
With the rising interest and stronger buying power of the male consumer, the fashion industry is quickly learning to adapt. Garment sizing has been changing to cater more to the average male shape, with larger sizes being created to satisfy customers. Bolder choices are being offered that allow men the ability to explore and experiment with fashion. Suit designs, while still retaining classic design lines albeit in a more streamlined fit, are embracing pattern, unique textiles not normally associated with suit making, and bold detailing.
Men’s Fashion Week is a recent addition to the fashion show circuit but is quickly expanding to fashion capitals around the world. Toronto boasts a slew of incredibly talented menswear designers that range from street-wear to black-tie that would be a boon to any dapper gentlemen’s closet. Sadly the business of fashion needs to catch up to support this portion of the industry and its consumers. There are still no grants or backend logistical support for menswear designers, and without assistance to firmly launch their label, many talented brands will flicker out of the spotlight which would be a great loss for our community. The government needs to follow suit of the fashion capital countries of the world and inject more funding into the fashion industry in general, but especially to our menswear designers. Boutiques need to carry and promote more of our up-and-coming local labels. But most importantly, the male consumer needs to purchase and support our Toronto designers!