Since Victorian times, menswear has been the poor cousin of womenswear. It’s widely accepted that womenswear accounts for 70% or more of apparel sales, compared to a measly 30% for menswear. The scope of the woman’s wardrobe, from intimates to coats, is so much wider than that of men and, due to fashion pressure, is updated and replaced on a regular basis.
After cosmetics and perfumes, women’s collections and accessories hold pride of place in department stores and hog the window displays. Menswear is usually found in the basement or up a long flight of stairs. Move-ons in menswear fashion have never involved much more than inch differences in trouser, shoulder and lapel width. And men, traditionally, have been more basics-oriented (socks for Christmas!) – when it comes to a big buy, it has always been left to the wife or girlfriend to choose.
In the same way, men’s designer shows were a pale imitation of the womenswear equivalent, with lower awareness and far fewer celebrities, the odd footballer and NBA player aside. Some models, some clothes, some music and a catwalk to parade on; and sometimes not even that, as quite a few companies opted for static displays.
These old stereotypes could not be further away from today’s world of menswear. The shows are not just a parade of clothes anymore, they are super events with DJs and ballet companies. The settings and productions are amazing and then there’s the new big audiences and crowds to consider. It’s not just the celebrities, who now have to fight as hard to get a front-row seat at a men’s show as at a woman’s, that matter, but also the crowd outside, which is blogged and snapped as much if not more than the clothes on stage. Pitti Uomo has become a peacocks’ paradise, with hundreds of its flamboyant visitors dressing to kill and completely outshining the merchandise on the stands.
During Milan Fashion Week, teenagers were jostling with the press at the Calvin Klein show as they waited for the male models to arrive. Forget all that supermodel hype built around Naomi, Kate and Claudia. It’s the men who are commanding the attention now, as they seek to build serious social media followings.
So what’s behind this seismic shift in the world of menswear? In our Publisher’s View in Textile View Magazine #108, November 2014, we wrote about Menaissance. We looked at how men are busy reassessing work/life priorities, relationships and family responsibilities, how they are carving out a new agenda that allows them to recast masculinity in a positive post-recessionary light. Men are now freer to express their emotional side. Taking pride in a well-groomed appearance now defines what it is to be a man in today’s society. Thanks to the growth in fashion-dedicated websites, the shy can follow their interests without fear of embarrassment. For the already daring, the growing acceptance of gay and transgender attitudes together with a demand for gender-neutral looks can only encourage them to adopt still braver approaches to fashion.
For the past five years, menswear has been outpacing womenswear in sales growth and it shows no signs of slowing down. According to a report by Euromonitor International, in 2014 menswear sales in the global apparel and footwear market grew by 4.5%, reaching sales worth close to US$440 billion, compared to 3.7% growth in womenswear to sales worth US$662 billion.
This radical realignment of men’s fashion needs to be taken seriously. The dynamics and the extremes of some of the merchandise currently being shown by catwalk designers might seem “irrelevant” and “non-commercial” to many. It is a grave mistake, however, to dismiss these collections as publicity stunts designed to garner accessory sales or drive up social network ratings. They are a symbol of our times.
No should we forget that we are living in the most narcissistic of times. From how you eat to how you dress, from personal grooming to hardcore running, today everything is about creating an impression and self-curating – something the men of 17th-century Versailles knew a lot about.
The question is not how long or how serious this menswear renaissance is, but how the women will ever keep up…
AUTUMN/WINTER 15/16 (54)
Haute couture is like a beacon, a beacon that shines on the true beauty in fashion, allowing us to assimilate the hours of painstaking work by the ateliers and the perfection of fabrics seemingly woven and embellished by angels. 
Despite all the hoo-ha on the catwalks, this season is not about nakedness, rather about being in good shape, being trim, working out to stay toned for a fashion silhouette that has become lean, slim-fitting and, most important of all, reserved.
A resolute stance creates a mood that is full of strength and raises the bar for a new era in women’s fashion. Current design notions embrace a discourse, an interdisciplinary fusion, a strong aversion to categorisation.
Our colour circle for this season highlights the relational aspect of our chosen shades. Each hue converses with the next and the unique placement of each forms fresh opportunities.
Silhouettes follow the headline message for winter of defying limits, challenging conventional codes and reshaping the design future. The body is used as a framework on which to experiment with form, stretching, gathering, hitching, layering, reconfiguring or draping in an inspired fashion.
Cross-overs are something we have been talking about for seasons. But for Winter 16/17, the concept reaches new heights. They are a consequence of continued innovation in fabric design and technology and growing consumer demand for the seasonless, genderless and boundary free.
This season, we are inspired by the processes of hand-made and crafted products, which emanate love and personality. We seek the human touch and a sense of the personal, in a reaction to the legions of anonymous, mass-produced, throw away items.
This season, we see both subtle and daring relationships highlighted throughout the season. For example, natural and synthetic mix in both fabrication and detail become the norm, while natural tones marry with digitalised high optic contrasts,
Subtle rather than dramatic are the movement in shirting design for A/W 16/17. Key efforts move on: fewer stripes and more checks and clever, more refined print effects; developing mélange looks in all areas; dripping red to renew classic blues; and moving blues into the dark zone.
We are in search of something that is more permanent than seasonal, more pro slow than anti fast: a soft, but serious activism that re-shapes fashion perspectives. We are creating for the inspiration generation that is in search of a narrative. Materials should enable these stories, helping to re-shape personal profiles as well as the world.
We present five directions for S/S 2017: the first seeks the solitude of Crusoe’s island; night and day dreams follow next; the third concerns spiritual blue symbology; the fourth, the quest for well-being through contact with the earth; and the final trend deals with creative freedom.
The overflow of experiences, images and inspiration, that the digital world is offering us, is changing the way we experience and see beauty. The physical and digital have blended: virtual effects, combinations of light, movement and colour are making physical things become intangible.