Why the catwalk calendar shake up is great for menswear

Runway: Menswear designs from Burberry, Lou Dalton and Craig Green

Believe, if you will, the fashion buzz (aka a few panicked editors + a slew of fashion blogs +headline grabbing stories + some heightened social media thrown in for good measure) and you’ll have decided quite clearly that men’s catwalk shows are over.

You’ll equate men’s catwalk season with that time you dabbled with leopard print, excited about it for a season, before quickly abandoning it.

Except, is that the real story? Are men’s catwalks over? Have they been dropped by the fashion industry so it can focus on a genderless agenda and invest in financially-savvy single catwalk shows instead? Well, if you take a minute to talk to some designers, buyers and even our WGSN editors who just got their extended London Collections: Men catwalk calendar through – then suddenly, a different story emerges. It turns out menswear designers are not sitting back in a corner crying because no one is coming to their shows this summer, in fact the opposite is true. Because of this buzz: the ‘who will show where? Are you merging your men’s and women’s offering? What’s happening to the traditional catwalk format?’ Menswear is winning in this debate, not losing.

“There’s actually more of a buzz around menswear – both from consumers and the media alike – now than at any time in recent memory, with more designers showing off as well as on schedule. The mere conversation about men’s and women’s collections sharing the catwalks means column inches for menswear go up too,” says WGSN’s London based Senior Menswear Editor Nick Paget.

“Better still, the conversation is prompting the industry to look in the mirror and think about what this means for them and even if the answer is that only a nip or tuck is needed rather than a full face transplant, it feels like the kind of healthy debate that all businesses need from time to time. The interesting part will be to see what’s left after the sensational headlines blow over and we can really assess if the menswear landscape has changed much at all.”

London Collections: Men’s was started in June 2012, as a new showcase to promote the city’s menswear designers. From a small gathering of designers, it’s grown in popularity, and since been promoted by everyone from Prime Minister David Cameron via a fashion reception at Number 10 Downing Street to teaming up with key popular culture figures Dermot O’Leary, David Gandy & Tinie Tempah who became ambassadors of the men’s schedule. But then last year, after a successful men’s catwalk season in London (where Craig Green wowed the crowds, and JW Anderson dominated the headlines with his catwalk livestream via dating app Grindr), luxury brand Burberry announced plans to ditch their men’s catwalk and incorporate it into its September womenswear show. Other designers followed suit including Tom Ford and Vetements, with plans to amalgamate their menswear and womenswear shows into one offering.

But this catwalk shift doesn’t mean the end of menswear, or the interest in buying menswear. As we revealed in a recent WGSN report “The menswear market isn’t just growing; it’s stratifying,” and in the US specifically, male consumers are spending $10 more on clothing and accessories than women per month.

“I think a lot of the analysis about integrated shows overlooks the men’s buying calendar. It’s a possible logistical nightmare for larger retailers to send so many buying teams abroad in one go,” says WGSN’s New York based Senior Menswear editor Jian DeLeon.

“And while silhouettes and directional designers will embrace genderless styling more and more, genderless as a retail concept is infinitely harder to execute. Most male consumers like the sense of validation of shopping in a “men’s section,” and while some are cherrypicking pieces from the women’s side, I believe we’re still a long way off from a genderless consumer at a mass level—most guys are just warming up to the concept that shopping can be masculine,” he adds.

For menswear designer Olaf Hussein, (whose menswear line is going from strength to strength in his local market of Amsterdam, and growing globally through a successful online retail platform and strong Instagram presence) he believes that in light of this catwalk shift, there has never been a better time for young menswear designers:

“I’m always thinking about how we can evolve as a young menswear designer and brand, and that doesn’t have to include a catwalk show or trying to compete with big brands, who are competing with fast fashion. These shows are increasingly seen as a creative outlet to showcase design and vision, rather than sell clothes to buyers. Everything has its time, and we as young menswear designers are still paving our way in the industry, and therefore have different goals, and newer ways of getting the consumer excited about our product.”

So the morale of the story is don’t bet against your menswear designers just yet, this is actually the moment when they are going to shine the brightest.

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