Fashion Disruption: Will Menswear Make The Cut?
Despite the disarray and disruption plaguing fashion that erupted last year, cracks in the erstwhile paved and predictably seasonal catwalk appear to be casting light on new opportunities for menswear.
The tectonic shifts that began to disrupt the hidebound fashion system last year showed signs of ongoing slippage at last week's London Collection: Men's Spring/Summer 2017 show, presented by the British Fashion Council.
Absent at LCM SS17 were lynchpins Burberry - which has recast it's schedule and orientation and will be combining men's and women's collections during September Fashion Week - and Alexander McQueen, given that Sarah Burton is on maternity leave.
Yet, despite, or maybe owing to, 25% fewer designers showing at LCM this year, the opportunity was created to showcase new young and promising talent, as well as the comeback of the 75-year-old American heritage brand Coach.
Coach, primarily known for it's leather goods since it's inception in 1941 in New York City's Soho, had seen declining sales since 2013, until British wunderkind Stuart Vevers stepped in as creative director to help burnish the brand.
A Louis Vuitton veteran, Vevers has been instrumental in restoring Coach's prestige through store renovations and repositioning Coach as an upscale lifestyle brand by introducing high-end clothing. In fact, in the Forbes 2016 Most Valuable 100 Brands study, Coach, classified as luxury, ranked #78, just above Chanel at #80, despite Coach's one year -13% value change ranking.
Vevers strong menswear Americana interpretations of biker rebel, presented at LCM SS12, have proven wildly popular. Coach sales, owing to Vevers pursuit of lifestyle and apparel, are resurrecting the brand, which had an 11% increase in sales last year.
To gauge Coach's digital media prowess, Localspeak analyzed the brand's one week owned vs. earned media LCM performance in the NetBase analysis below, revealing a robust near 89% earned vs. 11% owned media position.
Notwithstanding, he grab-bag shifts in menswear shows have raised questions as to the currency and relevance of the now decade-old global Men's Fashion Week. Some in the industry predict the end of separate men's and women's wear shows, anticipating instead, combined even less frequent runways displays.
Others still, presage the demise of seasonal catwalks altogether-men and women's wear-as fashion-tech savvy labels adopt and defer to efficiencies inherent in digital marketing.
But any decision to hastily pull back from investing in men's fashion would be precipitous, according to the British Fashion Council and Mintel, who report that men's fashion and grooming is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK.
In fact, according to Mintel, growth of menswear outpaces womenswear in UK.
The UK study reports that sales in men's clothing grew by 4.1 per cent last year to reach £14.1 billion, compared to a 3.7 per cent rise in women's clothing sales. Growth in menswear in the UK is also forecast to grow by 22.5% between 2015 and 2020 to reach £17.2 billion.
To illustrate some of the prevailing LCM themes and their relative social media weight, Localspeak analyzed five themes-tailoring, applique, rebel/punk, leisure wear and gender fluid-against mature luxury brands Coach and Belstaff, established UK gender fluid trendsetter J.W. Anderson, Japanese street style maven Mihara Yasuhiro, and emerging menswear designer Grace Bonner Wales.
Analyzed on the NetBase social analytics platform, the results below display the designer/thematic breakdown.
Collectively, the five menswear designers analyzed at the LCM SS17 show stimulated 62% of the week's social discussion on tailoring, compared to applique (18%), rebel/punk (10%), leisure wear (6%) and gender fluid fashion (4%).
Well known for its bespoke heritage, and in spite of London's legendary punk deconstructionist fashion tradition of distressing iconic luxury garbs, social commentary on sartorial tailoring and mien shouldn't astonish. In fact, in Localspeak's analysis of London Collection Men's SS 16, where punk was a dominant theme, tailoring commentary prevailed in social.
It seems no matter how divergent, distopian or distressed the aesthetic bent, craft and tradition in the distinctly British bespoke citadel shall not be breached.
The only female designer in Localspeak's analysis, Grace Wales Bonner, age 25, dominated LCM SS17 social commentary on tailoring (44%) and applique (47%) in her first LCM show.
Wales Bonner, the break-out star of LCM, whose gender fluid designs explore black masculine identity through historical and cultural references, just won the distinguished LVMH 2016 award for emerging designers.
On the themes of tailoring and applique, Wales Bonner was trailed only by J.W. Anderson, known for his gender pushing menswear aesthetic, garnering 21% and 23% of the social commentary for tailoring and applique, respectively.
Luxuriant applique in menswear is another strong theme appreciated in social media and recurrent in the LCM SS 17 shows.
There is, it appears, more than a hint of nostalgic craving in fashion for the Americana rebel biker, a theme several LCM designers in Localspeak's present analysis may be riffing from Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 16 show last year.
Notably, among the five designers analyzed, renegade biker fashion was a recurrent theme, with Mihara Yasuhiro's show earning 94%, closely trailed by Coach's 91%, and Belstaff's 54%. Slimane's intricately appliqued 1950's biker jackets of last season had a strong bad boy rebel comeback this season.
Predictably, in Localspeak's LCM analysis, J.W. Anderson, stimulated the largest share of social conversation (31%) on the theme of gender fluidity. When he's not designing commercial successes for Loewe, Anderson strengthens the imprint of his eponymous label at the forefront of boundary pushing gender neutral British fashion. Notably, the overall LCM social discussion on androgynous design was down from last year, perhaps a sign of an expectation that the aesthetic is already integral to the fabric of the London scene.
While the seams of fashion may be stressed, perhaps the biggest irony of the industry shakeup and reduction in men's shows this season is the vigor with which newly anointed young designers are gaining traction by tightening the seams.
Follow Candida McCollam on Twitter