There is a great divide between menswear and womenswear, and it’s one that hasn’t got to do with gender or clothes. Comparing the fashion weeks of the two, menswear always strikes me as the calm before the womenswear storm. It’s not that the menswear shows are lacking in excitement, ideas or well-deserved hype – on the contrary, menswear is steadily gaining major momentum and producing some truly spectacular clothes. It’s just that so far, they thankfully haven’t reached the levels of hysteria and maddening spectacle we have come to associate with the womenswear schedule.
Without wanting to jinx anything days before SS14 kicks off, the menswear show season generally feels like a really friendly school outing. Unlike the life-or-death battle scene that is womenswear (where it’s not uncommon for show goers to make the mosh pit at a Marilyn Manson gig seem like a really courteous place) the mood is laid-back and civilised. You get a lot less bitching and a lot more people who actually seem to enjoy themselves at menswear.
As menswear continues its well-deserved quest for world domination, will it turn into a frenzied spectacle? Or can the menswear show season maintain its brilliant feel of being the industry’s best-kept secret?
There’s also less of a disconnect between runway and reality: menswear designers offer up plenty of exceptional showpieces, but in contrast to womenswear, a much bigger percentage of what’s shown will go into production, something which gives the whole thing a very palatable sense of amicable, lust-worthy realness. What you see is what you actually get, and nothing tends to put the fashion crowd in a good mood quite like making unbridled mental shopping lists.
But most importantly, menswear’s zen comes from the fact that it’s still about what’s walking down the runway rather than what’s parading around outside. There are street style photographers at menswear too, but the phenomenon is at a much more manageable and less intrusive level, which is probably to do with the show goers. Sure, there are some who go all out, like the sartorialists who tend to peacock around Pitti wearing articulated, dandyish tailoring and carrying umbrellas as walking sticks, but viewed as a whole, it’s a well-dressed yet subdued crowd. When London Collections: Men was still a humble Wednesday added on to the womenswear week, I always noted the relaxed mood in the way female editors dressed. Outfits were generally dialled down a notch, or heels were swapped for flats.
Of course, part of the reason menswear feels like less of a drama queen has to do with sheer scale. While menswear items now account for 50% of the luxury apparel market, the menswear show season hasn’t grown to anywhere near the size of the oversubscribed beast that is womenswear. Menswear is still the fashion industry’s little brother in terms of the number of brands showing and people flocking to cover them, and we should be thankful for that. In fashion, bigger definitely isn’t always better.
The question is of course whether this chilled-out vibe can continue. As menswear continues its well-deserved quest for world domination, will it turn into a frenzied spectacle? Or can the menswear show season maintain its brilliant feel of being the industry’s best-kept secret? In London, the sense of community that permeates much of fashion will hopefully help to keep things at a congenial level even though LC:M is getting bigger and busier by the season. I for one hope we’ll get to keep menswear a circus-free zone.