We wouldn't necessarily agree, but if you ask John Jannuzzi, menswear in New York “has always been the red-headed step-child during Fashion Week.”
Not so anymore. We attended a few menswear shows this season, partly to get a feel for the scene, and partly to check out all the handsome guys in turned-out gear. And turned out they were. The crowd outside of Milk Studios this Sunday represented just about every manner of well-dressed man – from sneaker-heads to dandies, Alexander Wang look-alikes and Gatsby wannabes.
We've noticed (and noted here, here and here) that the menswear industry – and it's accompanying media attention – has grown immensely over the past few seasons, especially on the digital side. It's in
teresting to contrast the menswear scene with that of the women's side, which has always been big, but has seen a similar spike in digital coverage thanks to social media and instantaneous micro-blogging sites like Tumblr.
To find out how actual guys who actually care about fashion and style view the menswear scene during Fashion Week we talked to – you guessed it – some guys. And quite smart ones at that. On a pleasant September evening on a stoop after the Alexandre Plokov show at Milk Studios, we inquired about the state of menswear fashion week.
A smaller industry creates community…
“It's a much smaller industry because the business is smaller,” says Four Pins Editor In Chief and Complex magazine associate editor Lawrence Schlossman. “It's nice because when I think about the amount of people who work in menswear in New York and in the industry, to whom fashion week matters for what they do – it seems like an industry of 250 people, so it's often the same people at all the same shows.”
Lucky magazine's Style Collective Editor John Jannuzzi agrees that the community is more tightly-knit because the menswear industry isn't as large or varied as women's wear. “I think in the menswear blogging world that really tight knit community exists — and I think that exists in women's wear as well, but instead of one tight knit community it’s a lot of little tight knit communities.”
Sheer numbers have a lot to do with the dispersion of communities within women's wear blogging, and vastly differing tastes and styles create more avenues for perspective as well. “Outside of a few big women's wear designers like Alexander Wang, not everyone (especially when you look at up-and-comers) you're not going to see an entire industry behind that one person going to their show and supporting them – whether its to buy or give them press,” says Schlossman.
He adds, “It's sort of nice and comforting that it feels like an entire industry is, at any given time, at a one specific show to see one, specific person, making their judgements and opinions.”
The digital media presence is growing at the shows…
The online menswear media industry is feeling much of the same growth and attention that women's wear is, thanks in large part to menswear bloggers and social media.
“If I had to guess,” ventures Schlossman, “I think people in digital and online are currently out-numbering those in traditional – whether that's retail buyers or print media, and I feel like that's been going on for a while now.”
Jeremy Kirkland, a stylist and writer who runs the Tumblr Philosophy of the Well Fed and is also one of the four guys behind the small menswear line Run of The Mill says, “More and more people have been recognizing that these personalities – whether it's a blogger or the digital representation of a print magazine – are becoming more and more important. They're appearing more in the front row – as opposed to 5 years ago when they were begging for a standing room spot.”
Kirkland highlights that part of the appeal that has contributed to this growth is how fast we get results. “Following editors on Instagram and Tumblr means you can see the looks from the show about five seconds after they happen.”
The street style scene…
Believe it or not, these guys find the street style scene in menswear to be far crazier than it is with the ladies. While the styles are more eclectic in New York, the attention-grabbing ensembles are found from Paris to Milan as well.
“I think there are a lot more peacocks in menswear than women's.” says Kirkland. “There are people that just show up who wont be able to get in that are just here waiting to have their photo taken, and the majority of those people are men.”
He quips, “I like to make jokes that there are a few people I know who started smoking just so they could get their picture taken – and it's actually really true.”
Despite the pomp and preening – these three men all agree that what's happening globally at menswear Fashion Week is mainly a good thing.
“The thing is, these people are also inspiring others,” says Kirkland. “And the people who see these images are other influential people. Whether they realize it or not, and it might be annoying or goofy, but they're actually influencing people and shaping how the market and the culture evolves.”
Trying to predict the future…
When it comes to the growth of menswear coverage in the media, Jannuzzi sounds hopeful about it's growth and popularity. “Examining fashion, as a man, and paying attention to it, and particularly as a heterosexual man, is not considered traditionally ‘macho,' he says. “In the past couple of years, and I think menswear blogging has a lot to do with this, it’s become more of an accepted practice, and more something people are interested in. Someone who may be interested in sports, may be interested in clothing.”
When it comes to the industry as a whole, Schlossman feels similarly optimistic: “It would be great if menswear was bigger, but it will never be bigger than women's wear. There are more menswear shows this season than last season, and more people attending than last season, and I said the same thing then too, so that's good.”
He concludes, “I also think the stuff we're seeing is getting better. More people making a name for themselves – more designers, more bloggers, new buyers, and that's fantastic. So to me, it seems like there are more jobs being created whether you're creating them for yourself or getting hired by someone else. Its growing like crazy.”
[Image credits: Lawrence & Jeremy, photographed by Taylor; a street style shot by Taylor outside Milk Studios.]