One of my goals for fashion this year is to be more up-to-date and involved in menswear. I see menswear as a booming segment of the fashion industry and it’s about time that we paid more attention to it. I find that in my own observation of guys around me – both my friends and peers – there seems to be more emphasis placed on clothing and wanting to present themselves in a certain way. I have to say, it makes me proud as a fashion girl to have guy friends that are so well-dressed! The menswear boom is just beginning, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.
Let’s start with the red carpet, shall we? In recent years, men have given more attention to the way they dress on the red carpet. This has to do with the greater emphasis on internet and gossip culture, where a photo taken at an awards show circulates through hundreds of websites, blogs and social media. There is more scrutiny now than ever on what these young (or old) celebrities wear. In their own way, they are becoming style icons. Just look at the gents of One Direction – their style has evolved significantly since they began, and now, not only are they heartthrobs, they are style icons. Men have a love-hate relationship with fashion, as they don’t want to come off vain or seem interested in anything less than their craft. The British, however, are different; take Eddie Redmayne for example: as a former face of Burberry, he shows that men are eager to be ambassadors for major European fashion houses such as Gucci and Prada.
Fifteen years ago, men wouldn’t even come close to having a stylist, but today, that all has changed. Men are in a sense, becoming the “new women,” as they are becoming more aware and educated about clothing and fashion, and communicating that enjoyment. It should only make sense, considering menswear was the first segment of the industry to provide ready-to-wear to its customers. They are also the only segment of the fashion industry to have standardized sizing; what’s a 38 in on store will fit almost exact as a 38 in another store.
The influence of menswear is spreading so far as to inspire a separate fashion week for men in New York. New York Men’s Fashion Week, if it were to happen, would take place after the Fourth of July, seeing as menswear is typically shown during the summer months in London, Paris and Milan. America produced many great menswear designers such as John Varvatos, Thom Browne and Phillip Lim. All have moved their shows to overseas, to close the gap between showing and selling, since selling men’s spring collections happens in the summer. Some designers show menswear alongside womenswear in September during New York Fashion Week, but the attention is unevenly distributed, more focused on womenswear. London was one of the first to experiment with doing a men’s fashion week, beginning with setting the last day of London Fashion Week to show exclusively men’s collections. Now, it has expanded to a four day spectacle. The success first came with the press and then in the sales. Since menswear is a seeing a rebirth in the way its customers respond to it, I think it should have it’s turn in the spotlight, having its own show in New York.
Menswear was one of the top selling categories of 2014, and the momentum is not slowing down. Forecasters see menswear as coming out in the forefront over women and teens, since there is a huge opportunity to grow and expand the category. One of the biggest winners in menswear was athleisure, as that category constantly gets attention, especially by athletes who want to look as such off the field. Outerwear will continue to dominate, but it’s just scratched the surface compared to the progress of athleisure. Popular categories this year will include athletic-inspired sportswear, performance clothing, and tech inspired pieces. To spark sales among young men, manufacturers aim to blur the line between dresswear and sportswear, wearing pieces from both categories together. This phenomenon began with young men discovering the power of getting dressed, wearing something other than oversized sweatpants and Nike slides out, but rather choosing khakis and Sperry’s. It has become an expression of personal style.
There are no more rules of personal style, but the one thing menswear has that womenswear doesn’t is a more defined definition of what counts as men’s clothing. The industry has moved much slower than womenswear, often containing the same articles of clothing as it did 200 years ago. It’s much harder to integrate or provide variations of clothing.
That being said, menswear is becoming more contemporary, in the sense that designers are designing clothing to fit into a much more conservative price zone. This price zone can range anywhere from $100-$500 for pieces of clothing. It falls anywhere between “bridge” (Rebecca Taylor) and “better” (DKNY). The reason behind this is because men are exhibiting “lifestyle buying,” picking up anything from suits to socks at a single store. The contemporary zone has expanded to be more designer-aspirational, being about the lifestyle rather than just a sea of denim and t-shirts.
Many London designer brands have shifted to sell to the contemporary market. Brands such as J.W. Anderson have adjusted their price levels to mimic that of Acne, a more contemporary, affordable market. This has opened up the men’s clothing market tremendously, as it was previously dominated by designer brands such as Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss. By doing this, it will help make fashionable menswear more affordable to those who want to dress up and dress well. Retailers are pleased with the contemporary offerings of many of these brands, as they are selling well in their stores. Men want something that is somewhat affordable, since they are more conservative in their price choices and what they spend their money on than women are, which give the contemporary market the opportunity to thrive.
Designers are looking to London Collections: Men (LCM) to display their more contemporary lines. Menswear is the first to kick off the fall 2015 shows, followed by haute couture and then womenswear. J.W. Anderson, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Moschino and many other designers have been showing their men’s collections in London over the past week. In many of the shows, there is an emphasis on outwear coming through as a trend. There is also a lot of mixing patterns and wearing pieces of clothing rather unconventionally.
I’m excited to see the direction menswear is going into. I think the progress it has made in the last few years is only just the beginning to what it can achieve going forward. I think that making designer level clothing at a more contemporary price point will drag men who want to be stylish out of the shadows and into the stores. We are reverting back to an era where men like to dress up and are interested in fashion and the expression of it. It’s no longer something to be ashamed of, but praised. It’s starting in high school and continues to the professional world. The boys we have all known have finally grown up into men.