Why Men’s Fashion Deserves A Serious Platform
Recently there have been a couple of snitty pieces by uninformed trade hacks about the viability of standalone men’s fashion weeks, attacking both London and New York specifically. As some brands have temporarily decided to show their men’s collections during women’s fashion weeks (saving money in the process, but inevitably lessening the power of their menswear), so all the men’s weeks have had to change in order to cope with this. London has become a platform for the young and the vital, while New York is focusing more on commerciality.
From the heady days of Studio 54 and the style abandon of its young and beautiful devotees, all the way through to the Nineties domination of the big four (Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis), New York has not only helped shape the global style vernacular over the past 70 years, but it’s also been responsible for many of fashion history’s most important moments. More recently, New York’s seasonal fashion weeks have played a vital role on the world stage, showcasing clothes from designers who help define what much of the middle classes with money to burn choose to wear. A bubbling stew of red, white and blue commercialism and wholly accessible creativity, in 2016 the American clothing industry was valued at $292 billion, accounting for almost ten per cent of the global fashion industry’s $3 trillion worth. Stands to reason, then, that for America not to have its own men’s platform from which to present its wares to the world, would be a sorry (not to mention fiscally irresponsible) state of affairs.
London, meanwhile, continues to produce some of the best menswear designers the industry has ever seen. The talent here is quite extraordinary.
And it deserves a serious platform.
When these trade journalists criticise the men’s week in London, they do so, unfortunately, from a position of ignorance, misunderstanding the very nature of these events. One of the things they fail to understand is that if we closed men’s week (I am chairman of London Fashion Week Men’s and sit on the board of the British Fashion Council), then most of the participating brands would receive no publicity at all, and because of the crowded schedule of London Fashion Week – which is obviously full of womenswear designers – would probably be pushed off the schedule completely. Maybe this is what these journalists would like, but it would deny these young designers a platform from which to show their clothes. There would be no oxygen of publicity. It would also make it difficult for visiting journalists and buyers to attend the shows, seeing that their travel schedule is already crowded, onerous and expensive.
What they also fail to understand is that if the week collapses, then so does the financial sponsorship, taking all the vast amount of ancillary support with it: infrastructure, show venues, show support, publicity, buyer and journalist outreach, international buyer and journalist outreach (including flights, hotels and cars), support from local government, individual mentoring, business support and – when needed – financial support.
It’s easy to criticise something if you don’t actually know how it works.
At the BFC we have for some time now tested the water regarding the dates of all our fashion weeks (the two London fashion weeks for women, and the two for men), and while we have not yet reached a decision most menswear designers it seems, based on the findings so far, would prefer to stay where they are. This may change, of course, but not for the foreseeable future.
I write this as I leave for the Paris men’s week, which has an extremely busy and exciting schedule dominated by many of the big luxury players. Paris seems the one constant in the ever-changing nature of fashion weeks, the grand old dame of fashion. Yes, it is glamorous, and yes it still dominates in many respects, particularly with womenswear. But like all fashion centres, it has its problems and its critics, being seen as old-fashioned, intractable and still rather bourgeois. But it will always be important, in the same way that Milan, New York, London and Florence (which hosts the successful Pitti trade shows) will always be important. What should never be forgotten or undermined is a city’s DNA – and London’s DNA will always be creativity. New York is all about the commercial and the branded; Milan will always have the big family-run businesses; Paris is old-school luxury. And London is all about creativity, always has been, always will be. London is one of the most culturally rich cities on the planet, with world-class institutions and globally renowned talent and London Fashion Week Men’s pays homage to the ever-expanding creativity of our capital by bringing together the most talented individuals and innovative brands in the fashion industry.
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Source: GQ Magazine