The case for New York Fashion Week: Men

Published 16th July 2015
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The case for New York Fashion Week: Men
Written by David Hellqvist, CNN
In fashion, as in life, the unknown can be scary. But newness is also exciting: fashion is after all a cyclic business that renews itself twice a year. To introduce a whole new standalone American fashion week for menswear is a leap of faith, a statement of intent.
The entire fashion world is watching, wondering if the domestic US market is big and mature enough for this. It took London many years of supporting and nurturing fledgling designers, and making them show on the back of London Fashion Week when hardly anyone paid any attention, before they were awarded with their own show case.
It is, of course, London Collections Men's success story that New York Fashion Week: Men will try and emulate.
There's no doubt America is a major fashion player, there's plenty of giants out there playing for your buck. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs etc dominate the market but - like with Milan and Paris - the Big Apple isn't known for producing exciting new designers. Instead, London has taken that place in the geographical fashion board game.
"The buzz around the new generation New York men's fashion scene is still relatively in its infancy," says Simon Chilvers, style director at online retailers
"The difference with LCM is that London is very much celebrated for being the capital to go to for newness and, as a capital, has very much invested in this. That said, the schedule in London is still pretty avant-garde for many buyers and press who attend those shows."
Chilvers has a point. London has always been seen as a wild card when it comes to generating money on the back of creativity. That, on the other hand, is not the case in New York.
A model takes the runway at Todd Snyder.
A model takes the runway at Todd Snyder. Credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
"Based solely on American menswear history, I would say it's defined by a mix of modernity and functionality. And, of course, business savvy," says Anders Christian Madsen, fashion features director at iconic style rag i-D Magazine. Money is essentially what New York fashion is known for, that and sporty utilitarian clothes.
"What seems to be interesting in terms of the American scene is that New York definitely captures that urban-utility spirit that has been at the heart of all the luxurious sports chatter of late, so all the monochrome, sporty zip-ups, sneakers etc, with vocal cheerleaders, such as Alexander Wang and the Public School boys, Chilvers agrees.
So, in a way, New York does have the fundamental foundation for a successful menswear week: buyers with cash and an aesthetically solid image that we can associate the city with. Diversity is, of course, vital but a strong sartorial launch pad like New York's athletic and luxurious sportswear gives them an all-important USP.
But what about the third ingredient, the one which is arguably even more critical: an never-ending stream of new and exciting talent to replenish the old and tired brands? Well, look at the schedule and there's plenty of names that, to European press at least, seem fresh.
Once this fashion week has worked its magic for these young designers, the international guests won't want to miss it.
Anders Christian Madsen, i-D
"As a Londoner I can't say I'm familiar with all the labels on their schedule, but if you'd asked the New Yorkers the same question when the London men's shows launched, they'd probably have said the same. And I knew all those London designers. So I can't say how mature these businesses are on average, but I think a big part of these young men's weeks is the fact that it's the individual city doing it for their city," says Madsen.
"Once this fashion week has hopefully worked its magic for these young designers, the international guests won't want to miss it." This is true for London, to a certain extent. But, seven seasons in, LCM is still trying to find a balance between commerciality and creativity.
Both Madsen and Chilvers, representing press and buyers here, seem excited about the birth of NYFWM. Though none of them are currently in New York, both have team members on the ground. Madsen has a list of brands he'd like to check out in person, perhaps next season.
"Yes, Greg Lauren seems to capture the global spirit that's very much going on in menswear right now. John Elliott is really embracing a new age of American minimalism, and labels like Fingers Crossed and DDUGOFF have great potential."
Chilvers seem more interested in mid-layer designers, brands that are already known to dedicated shoppers in Europe but now given their own platform to show off their SS16 collections.
"New York has a strong emerging scene of designers - Public School, Tim Coppens, Long Journey, Simon Miller, Orley, Baja East, CWST and so on."
Yes, the unknown can be frightening, and starting up a major event like this, which relies on the bigger, cash-heavy brands to come home and show their collections, is a brave adventure - but fashion would be boring without daring and bold initiatives like this...