In the face of a fashion calendar in flux, New York Fashion Week: Men’s is betting on the booming business of menswear in the U.S.
Men, of course, have always worn clothes. But it’s only in the past few years that a tide has turned, and more men have taken an interest in style. Athletes like Cam Newton and stars like Kanye West have been given some credit for killing off the 2000’s term metrosexual.
“It’s a recent thing that men are becoming OK with the idea of shopping, basically,” said Jian DeLeon, menswear editor at trend forecasting company WGSN. “But still, the general American men’s consumer is not someone who takes risks — that’s more on the international scale. What does Europe have that New York doesn’t? One of the main things is that the idea of fashion as the aspirational construct is more fully embraced there.”
Menswear designers have reacted in kind. Up-and-coming brands like Public School, Off-White and Hood By Air have previously fled New York in favor of cultural hubs, like Paris, where a cutting-edge approach to menswear might be more appreciated. But the menswear industry is ballooning: According to Edited data, by 2019, the menswear industry is expected to reach $40 billion in sales, up from a projected $18 billion in 2016. In 2014, it officially outpaced growth of womenswear, growing 4.5 percent compared to 3.7.
And as fashion shows turn to be more consumer-facing, New York Fashion Week: Men’s is hoping to build a global showcase for American menswear at the right time.
The fourth season of men’s week started on Sunday and runs through Thursday, and will feature collections from 69 brands, up three from the last event in July. The event will include up-and-coming brands, core designers like John Varvatos and Zachary Prell, and established anchors Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Raf Simons, who will each bring their namesake menswear labels to New York this season.
“We believe there is a strength in this week that is relevant to a core group of designers — about 60 every season,” said Mark Beckham, the business director of fashion weeks for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which organizes the major fashion weeks in the U.S. “We’re here to support the menswear designers to provide an established global platform. Before this, they were all on their own.”
In fashion, an every-man-for-himself approach has swept through the calendar as New York designers flee for other cities like L.A. and Paris, close collections to everyone but press and buyers only, or ditch formal runway shows for party-presentations. For many brands who carry both men’s and women’s collections, a calendar reassessment led to singular runway shows that included both.
The state of the fashion calendar has been, thus far, haphazard and hard to keep track of, but one pattern has emerged: Designers aren’t wanting to take on the effort of pulling off more fashion shows than they need to. The CFDA is hoping that a concentrated effort on putting menswear on a pedestal in the U.S. will give designers a reason to do the same.
“Menswear in the U.S. is a fairly new and growing business,” said Beckham. “Our effort is to raise the profile of the designers who are coming out of New York, and the U.S. has tremendous growth potential. Before New York Fashion Week: Men’s, designers were trying to do it by themselves. There’s much more power to have a collective of designers together to stick a flag in what American menswear is.”
Chris Bevans, the founder and creative designer of technical menswear brand Dyne, is showing his collection for the first time at this year’s men’s week. Previously, he had said that spending the “$10,000 or so” on a runway show wasn’t worth it, instead choosing to display his collection at a communal showroom in Soho. This year, however, Dyne’s new collection will launch at Platform 3, New York Fashion Week: Men’s space for emerging designers, where production, lighting and hair and makeup is taken care of through a partnership with Samsung and Axe.
“A focus on menswear is happening globally,” said Bevans. “We show in New York and Paris, and do a lot of our business in Japan. The point of joining New York men’s week is to get the brand positioned in the United States.”
This season, New York men’s week has gathered enough established designers to draw international interest from editors and buyers. Beckham said that while the goal of the week is to support the future of the American menswear industry, big names are necessary to attract enough important players from the industry, who will then stay for the rest. Sponsorships for emerging designers, like Platform 3, help cover the costs of a fashion week presentation.
Other sponsors include Amazon Fashion and Cadillac, which hosts the CFDA-operated Retail Lab at the Soho Cadillac House. To make it a more appealing business play, the CFDA has aligned this season’s men’s week to Capsule, an international menswear trade show.
“The trade show and presentation aspect of men’s week is important to a lot of buyers,” said DeLeon. “In menswear, construction is so important, and that’s the irony: New York has a history of leading design in menswear. We have great American designers, they just need a reason to come back.”