WGSN Barometer: Jian DeLeon on streetwear, gender and the evolution of menswear

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 first influencer we meet is Jian DeLeon, ex WGSN-er, now Content Director at Highsnobiety.


We are still seeing the streetwear hype going ahead. Where is this going go in the next few years? Do you expect kids to still queue up in front of Supreme stores in 2019?


The thing about the queue is that it’s not strictly about buying products, it’s the modern meeting place. People make friends in the queue. With brands like Nike, for instance, it’s becoming an increasingly digital space. Take their sneaker app – the queue is digital, but through geolocation they invite people to go to physical spaces to do scavenger hunts. Consumers then to tend to stay in the area after the purchase and talk to each other. It’s about being part of a community based on shared passions, particularly important for streetwear and sneaker fans.

How is it going to evolve in the future? It will stay pretty much the same, as people want to befriend other people. The product comes second. The young generation is more interested in dressing the mind and not the body.

What does this tell us about consumers?


Today’s young consumers are hyper aware of brands. However, it’s less about what they are buying and more about what they’re buying into. Also, clothing is part of a more holistic lifestyle vision that people then communicate on Instagram. Communicating about taste is as important as owning objects or clothes. Not many people can own a Klimt, but openly sharing your appreciation is a real living testament of your personal values and aesthetics. Clothes are often a starting point, but there’s a limit on what people want to spend and, in fact, spend has been declining. People want their home to reflect their taste, the hotels they go to, the food they eat.


What does this mean for brands?


If it’s about what consumers buy into, then brand messaging, and storytelling are so important. This is why a lot of brands are clear on what they stand for and are increasingly transparent on where they make their products.  In such a saturated market, consumers just want brands they can trust. The previous generation were raised by TV – this generation is raised by brands.


NYFW street style

Talking about fashion, with a lot more brands showcasing menswear and womenswear at fashion shows, the gender conversation is still very relevant. On the consumer front though, men and women like to shop differently, especially in fashion. Where do you see the gender debate going and what does it mean for menswear?


It’s hard to scale genderless as a concept. Selfridges launched their Agender pop-up; you’ve got some brands that are reportedly unisex. However, you’ve still got women and men sections in stores, it’s going to be hard to break that. In the end, the power is in the hands of consumers to interpret a garment and decide if it works for them or not, regardless the category they belong to. Social media platforms such as Instagram have certainly empowered men, normally a bit reticent about what to wear, to choose the clothes that fit their style and personality. It’s about self-expression.  As a consequence, a lot more men today check women’s departments and decide what works for them.


Thinking of the recent evolution of the menswear consumer you’re talking about, which brands are getting it right and why?


Vertical labels like Noah in NY get it. What they mainly understand is the power of slowly building a brand based on a vision. We talk a lot about Supreme, of course, and Engineered Garments is another fantastic example: they launched 20 years ago and year after year, they built an audience of men who are passionate fans. They know what their core is and consistently live by it. At a product level, this means consistently serving variations of best-selling items season after season. Dickies, The North face, Carhart are other brands with a very strong core that touch different worlds through collaborations, from streetwear to fashion. They elevate their lines through limited editions, which then grow demand for their basic products. Wardrobe.NYC is an interesting case study as in they sell start-up kits: a wardrobe full of essentials in the purest form. It works perfectly for consumers with a need-fulfilling policy.


 How do you see menswear evolve in the future?


In the future, menswear brands will go in two different directions. Firstly, brands for men that look at clothing shopping as a gap to be filled. From the perfect t-shirt to the ideal version of a denim pant, this is what they’re after. The other category of brands includes high-end, truly directional fashion brands with specific vision aesthetics. These brands will speak to those male consumers that see fashion as wearable art. This second category of menswear brands mirror what womenswear fashion is all about, creating these cult brands that consumers cannot stop buying.

Any suggestions for menswear brands out there?


Go back to your core: what are you known for? Think of the elements that are intrinsic to your DNA and own them.


Barometer is WGSN’s daily retail consumer intelligence tool across menswear and womenswear.

Every day, we interview 260 consumers on 300 fashion retailers across 150+ measures, allowing you to fully understand where you’re winning and failing in the eyes of your consumer. Get in touch to know more

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