You’ve probably already heard. Or you might not have. Either way, you should know that this July, New York will finally be getting it’s own men’s fashion week, dubbed (appropriately) New York Fashion Week: Men’s. And you might find that to be really exciting. Or you might not. If you fall into the latter camp, you may want to rethink your position—even if you don’t care about fashion week in general. Because you should care. A lot. This is a major step for American men’s fashion in general, and we’re here—along with a couple of industry insiders who know the landscape better than most—to explain why.
We’ve Finally Arrived at the Party
For a long time, Milan and Paris were the only two global fashion centers with separate fashion weeks for men and women. Then, in 2012, London got on board with the launch of London Collections: Men, a guys-only showcase that’s proven to be quite successful. The move left NYC as the only one of the four major fashion capitals—Paris, Milan, and London being the other three—without a men’s week of its own.
Now that’s finally changing. And we’ve got London to thank for it, at least in part. “I think when London was successful a few seasons ago with creating their men’s collections, that was kind of eye-opening to some menswear industry people,” says Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which you probably know as the CFDA. “They said, ‘Look, London was able to showcase their great talent, we’ve got equally great talent, and we should work to showcase our talent.” He’s careful to note that LC:M wasn’t the only reason, though, citing the increasingly loud cry within the industry for a men’s-only week as the biggest driver in launching NYFW:M.
Shimon Ovadia, one-half of the twin-brother design team behind Ovadia & Sons, sees things similarly. “I think up until now there wasn't much happening here and it was still being built up to get to the point where we needed a dedicated men's week,” he says, explaining that NYFW:M is necessary now because, “there are enough new and exciting designers here now that have something to offer.”
It’s (Much) Better for Business
Despite sharing a similarly cyclical show schedule, the men’s and women’s markets aren’t directly aligned in terms of timing, with women’s buying season generally falling a month or two after the men’s. “So men’s fashion shows that happen during women’s fashion week are irrelevant in that the designer has already sold that collection to whoever buys it,” says Kolb. “The value of showing during women’s is just really a PR and marketing thing. So by creating a standalone men’s fashion week in July, it aligns with that [men’s] market.”
“Everything makes more sense with the new schedule,” adds Ovadia. “Before, most buyers would have seen all of the collections in the showroom and spent most of their budget, if not all, by the time NYFW rolled around.”
Essentially, in its previous iteration, men’s New York Fashion Week was pure theater, without a lot of direct business tied to it. Sure, it’s important to get eyeballs on your work, but as Kolb points out, “From a business perspective, it makes more sense to be showing your clothes when you’re selling them and gives more opportunity to those American menswear designers.”
It’s a Stamp of Approval—From an Institution That Really Matters
While it’s important to remember that the reason why New York is getting a men’s fashion week is largely because of a groundswell of support within the fashion industry—“The decision really wasn’t ours, “ says Kolb. “It was more the CFDA’s response to the industry”—the fact that the CFDA has come on board at all is a major feather in the cap of the new show schedule.
If American fashion is the body politic, the CFDA is its head—the governing council keeping things in order. Smaller guy-centric shows like New York Men’s Day were able to exist independently within the old schedule, but launching a full-fledged men’s week without the CFDA would have been nearly impossible. Not only were they able to secure vital sponsorship dollars from major players like Amazon and Shinola, but they wield the authority and legitimacy to bring all the players together and create a men’s fashion week that has the legs to keep going into the future.
“I remember taking a marketing course in college,” says Kolb, “and it was like, ‘If you build a good mousetrap, you’ll catch a mouse.’ I think we’re building a pretty good mousetrap, so I think we’re going to catch the mice. And we’re not trying to be Europe. We’re just being New York, we’re being American. And I think that the way we’ve done this will stand by itself, and we’ll be able to build on July for the future.”
This is American Menswear’s Coming of Age
Up until now, the men’s shows have played second fiddle to the women’s shows in New York. But with the launch of NYFW:M, American men’s fashion is getting its own spotlight. That means that some major U.S. menswear designers who have previously shown in Europe (John Varvatos, for one) will be coming back stateside, reaffirming the idea that New York is a credible and vital global men’s fashion center. It also means that domestic labels that either can’t afford or choose not to leave the States for show season will be getting more well-deserved attention.
Though both Ovadia and Kolb agree that the men’s market won’t be eclipsing the women’s anytime soon, the larger implication of the shifting show schedule is clear: American men’s fashion is coming into its own, and the industry is making moves to ensure that it gets the recognition that it deserves.
“I think it’s finally getting the due credit for what has been under-recognized,” says Kolb. “It’s definitely a coming of age. If you look at the market of menswear, while it’s not like the women’s market is and probably never will be, it grows accordingly year after year after year. So I do think it’s kind of a coming of age, or finally getting credit for being something interesting.”
Ovadia echoes the sentiment with an extra dose of hometown pride. “We're not only a New York-based brand, but this is where we grew up,” he explains. “Naturally, designers until now would take their collections to show in Paris or Milan to reach a larger audience with press and buyers. With a dedicated slot on the calendar, American designers will have the opportunity to show their collections at home with the focus and spotlight they deserve. It’s exciting, and a start.”