Sep 20, 2019 | By Athena Chen
Apr 07, 2018
For the launch of the Barometer Menswear Survey in the UK, our proprietary consumer brand tracker, we interview influencers in the menswear space to better understand menswear consumers and trends.
The hype around brand collaborations, especially in streetwear, is still going ahead. Where do you see this going?
Nick: It won’t disappear. This is how young kids bond together. If you’re into a certain product, it’s a quick signifier of the type of music you are into, the sport you like, the type of tribe you’re into. There are other things to challenge it, however. The more brands dilute what they do into collaborations, the more they cheapen it for those who were into the brand from the offset. Collaborations have changed so much from the pre-internet era – it used to be about discovery to get the item before anybody else. You were into something and you had to research it for yourself. Also, it didn’t necessarily have to be expensive like it is now.
Volker: Brand collaborations are still a great way for two brands with different niches to come together and create something truly original. It still also works quite well as a means of bringing established, older brands to new generations – for example, take Fred Perry x Raf Simons. However, there’s a bit too much out there at the moment. Talking about streetwear, the hype will stay but the trend of everyone wanting the same item will go down if the collaboration isn’t meaningful enough. And for this, product is going to be key. Collaborations like Supreme x UNDERCOVER x Public Enemy or Black Panther still have a great pulling power.
Menswear consumers have changed. What’s important to know?
Volker: Today’s menswear consumer is more educated. After all, menswear has been a big subject in media for a few years now. Street style has played a big role over the years, every menswear-focused feed features an occasional street style post. However, there’s a generational divide of men who buy clothes for their function and those who buy them because they are a fashion item.
Nick: Men are able to access so many more channels and opportunities to take in information on how to dress that you can’t fail to be affected by that, really. Men are getting to grips with styling a lot more than in the past. Women have been exposed to styling for many years now, they have become expert at mixing styles and combining items in an interesting way. Men are so new to that, but it’s growing fast – so menswear retailers should keep that in mind.
In a nutshell, menswear is getting closer to womenswear. Then, there’s a massive revolution happening in grooming.
What’s the role of fashion influencers in changing the way men look at clothing?
Nick: Fashion influencers in menswear are still rather new and, certainly, their influence is nowhere near the one they play in womenswear. Celebrity culture is having an impact, too. Young male consumers used to mainly look up to sportsmen and music artists but, recently, they’ve started to look at celebrities too. However, in men there’s still a sort of embarrassment to go with something like: “I want to dress exactly like this person’, as there’s still this sense that men should not be so style conscious.
Volker: Yeah, men have still this dilemma of wanting to pick something to wear that is a level down from when your peers make jokes about what you wear. They are very conscious of that.
So, who or what influences men when it comes to shop for clothing?
Volker: The menswear market is less item-driven in terms of trends. Men tend to think more ‘brand’ or ‘retailer’ and less ‘item’ when they do shopping, unless it’s a replenishment purchase. In that case, they start with a specific item in mind.
Nick: Yes, and men do not talk about ‘items to buy’ that much with their friends. Unlike a few years ago, male consumers are now bombarded with brand messages. Brands should tailor their message to their audience. This is obviously true for any brands out there, but when it comes to men, it’s even more important.
And what about e-commerce? How has it affected menswear?
Nick: Online has obviously been a disruptor also in the menswear space. Online shopping works pretty well for men, given that they notoriously hate changing rooms. There are brands like The Chapar or Nordstrom’s Trunk Club that were born to address exactly that pain point. You are basically offered the convenience of ordering a set of clothing items, recommended by online personal stylists based on your taste and lifestyle, and try them comfortably home. You keep only what you like. You may say that the rise of affordable, made-to-measure also addresses men’s hate for fitting rooms.
Brands play a big role in online menswear shopping. If you can’t judge the quality of an item because you can’t touch the fabric, you shop at Mr Porter and you are less likely to be disappointed.
What should menswear brands do to appeal to this new fashion male consumer?
Volker: Menswear brands should never forget to stay relevant. Men do not buy brands in isolation – they need brands to connect into a few other things they are into.
Nick: Authenticity is always very important for men. They tend to question everything, including messages coming from brands. Being true to who you really are as a brand is essential to connect with this new breed of consumers.
Barometer is WGSN’s daily retail consumer intelligence tool across menswear and womenswear.
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For more insight from Nick and Volker, head to the Menswear section of WGSN.
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