The official relaunch of a dedicated men’s fashion week in New York kicks off in earnest today, as brands including Thom Browne, Public School, Robert Geller, and Calvin Klein Collection show off their spring-summer 2016 collections.
While Europe has long had its own weeks dedicated to menswear, New York has not since the 1990s. That’s all changed this year, and for two very good reasons: sales and timing.
Let’s start with sales. The menswear market has been growing at a rapid clip over the last decade, reaching $440 billion globally in 2014 and topping $60 billion in the US alone. Its growth is even outpacing that of women’s clothing, though in terms of dollar sales women’s is in the lead by far.
In fact, a survey by research firm IbisWorld found that online sales of menswear grew more than any other retail category they looked at over the past five years. The reason is the e-commerce market for menswear isn’t yet saturated, so there’s room to grow. IbisWorld also projected that menswear would continue to lead for the next five years.
A dedicated week of menswear in New York testifies to the size and viability of the men’s clothing market. Indeed, a whole men’s week couldn’t exist without a critical mass of labels producing substantive collections, even if on the whole they don’t have the same creative and commercial power as the shows in Paris and Milan.
That brings us to timing. For years showing at New York Fashion Week has been awkward for the men’s designers, primarily because the schedule wasn’t conceived with them in mind.
New York did once have its own men’s week. But such was the influence of the designer Helmut Lang in the ’90s that, once he decided to show his women’s collection ahead of Europe rather than trailing after, it changed the whole New York fashion calendar. The new schedule left the men’s and women’s shows close enough together that the men’s shows were basically absorbed into the women’s shows, which were a few weeks later.
But it also put them weeks after Europe’s men’s shows, where retail buyers would tend to blow much of their budgets before the New York’s shows took place a month later. That meant New York designers had to fly to Paris or Milan to sell their wares before even showing them on the runway, and without the excitement and energy a show creates. And then they’d still have to come back and present in New York, where the women’s shows overshadowed them anyway.
It was a mess, but this week’s shows should solve it, since buyers and editors will now go straight from Europe to New York, allowing New York designers to stay put. Those fashion editors and buyers aren’t all happy about the new men’s week. It’s more travel time when they could be on a beach in Europe somewhere.
But for New York’s designers, it’s long overdue.