After months of anticipation since the official announcement from the CFDA was made back in February, we finally got to experience the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men's. It was the first time since 2001 that the guys showed separately from the women's collections, making the event a coming out of sorts for American men's fashion.
The reasons for the shift are manifold, but the short version is this: The men's market is growing, and it's gaining ground at an even faster clip than women's. Plus, the talent pool in the States is stronger than ever, with young guns and established players alike garnering increasing attention as men have started paying more and more attention to how they present themselves. It was time for a separate men's fashion week.
So, there we have it. New York Fashion Week: Men's. And with all eyes on American menswear, we have to ask: Did the guys in New York deliver? Was the debut NYFW: Men's a success?
"Absolutely," says menswear guru Nick Wooster. "I think it was a great start. And it really shows how, in spite of the competitive nature of the industry, retailers, publishers, and brands, all came together to make it happen."
Eric Jennings, VP and fashion director of men's for Saks Fifth Avenue, is equally enthusiastic: "For all of us who have been to each of the fashion capitals over the last month, this was very impressive. They did a great job, and they had a tremendous roster of designers. The caliber of the product that we were seeing, the balance between the edgy and the commercial, was probably the best among all four cities: New York, London, Paris, Milan."
Which isn't to say that the week wasn't without its challenges. Wooster cites the busy schedule as one thing that surprised him. "There were many things layered on top of each other that I did not expect to happen the first time out," he explains. "So personally, I missed a couple of things that I would have liked to have seen, and that's always disappointing."
The logistics of the central location at Skylight Clarkson Square also required some maneuvering, says designerJohn Varvatos, who notably moved his runway show from Milan to New York for the first NYFW: Men's outing. "We're much more pressured here because of the time constraints," he says, quick to caveat that he's deeply impressed with the event as a whole. "You have four hours to import everything in and set it up, versus in Milan, where we were building, and doing construction, and all these kind of things. It's different, very different."
Regardless, designers, editors, and industry insiders all consider this first effort a huge step in the right direction. "I think it's absolutely the right thing for menswear in New York, for menswear around the world," says Wooster. "It puts us on the same world stage as everyone else."
The caliber of the product that we were seeing, the balance between the edgy and the commercial, was probably the best among all four cities: New York, London, Paris, Milan. – Eric Jennings, men's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue
Also a boon to the week, says Varvatos, is the home court advantage. "I feel at home," he notes. "I feel super comfortable. We're a global brand, but we're New York-based, and our families, our friends, everybody's here. And there's something kinda cool about that."
In gauging the success of the effort, everyone is quick to explain that increased orders and press will prove to be the most important metrics. But when you think about the fact that, in seasons past, the spring/summer shows were presented in September, well after the buying window for stores closed in June or July, an uptick in sales seems almost inevitable. Ditto press coverage, considering the industry-wide excitement surrounding the event.
So now, all that's left is to look to the future. Jennings, for his part, is optimistic. Because it was the first event of its type, he explains, "This was a sort of 'watch and see' season for a lot of folks. But I think everybody was genuinely impressed, and next season, they're going to step up their game."
Of course there will always be detractors, but the very existence of an independent men's week is a victory in and of itself. Says Wooster, "There are always going to be naysayers and complainers. But at the same time, how amazing is it that it actually happened?"
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