The Driving Forces Powering Men’s Fashion Today

Kim. Virgil. Riccardo. Hedi. The intense shuffling of the creative deck has fueled fresh excitement.  “All the designer movement — Kim Jones going to Dior, Virgil Abloh to Vuitton, Riccardo Tisci to  Burberry and Hedi Slimane to Céline — makes for  a great mix and has put a load of energy back into the industry,” said Browns Fashion men’s buying manager Dean Cook.

Sebastian Manes, buying and merchandising director at Selfridges, said the recent Men’s Fashion Week in Paris was a notable standout. “There was so much excitement. The shows were incredible, and the collections were strong. It was a more sophisticated man on the runway, but there were still a lot of trainers. That will be the mindset going forward.”

Beyond the buzz, Cook is banking on commercial success in the season ahead, particularly at Dior. “The feedback from our VIPs on Kim’s Dior Homme debut was that it was the best show they’ve ever been to, and we’ve been inundated by  requests for preorders,” Cook revealed. “We’ve not seen anything like it since Hedi at Saint Laurent.”

Slimane will reveal his inaugural men’s and women’s collections for Céline in September, and fashion insiders are eagerly anticipating the debut. “Hedi is one of the most creative designers out there, but he is also incredibly commercial,” said Le Bon Marché men’s director Franck Nauerz.

Cook said he is “seriously pumped” about seeing Slimane’s Céline. “The guy is a genius, and everything he touches turns to gold. We know he doesn’t do streetwear,” he said. “He is a rock ’n’ roll guy,  and Céline is a minimal brand,  so I’m super-excited to see his  new direction.”

All in the numbers

Dean Cook, Menswear Buying Manager, Browns Fashion
Dean Cook, Menswear Buying Manager, Browns Fashion
CREDIT: Browns Fashion

There’s no question that the men’s movement has been building — and retailers are looking to capitalize on the momentum with statement-making initiatives.

According to Mintel, the U.S. men’s clothing industry racked up $82.4 billion in sales in 2017, with footwear totaling $23.8 billion. By 2022, shoe revenues are expected to hit $26.6 billion, with the total industry predicted to reach $92.1 billion.

Nordstrom made a splash  with its first New York location,  a 47,000-square-foot men’s-only store that opened in April. It was determined to highlight the fast-growing men’s footwear market in  a dynamic way.

“Shoes are the heritage of the company, and the business is important to all of us,” Kristin Frossmo, EVP and GMM of Nordstrom’s shoe division told FN at the time. She reflected on how much the men’s category has evolved in recent years, with males embracing new trends and looking at shoes as a way to modernize their wardrobes.

Across the pond, Browns Fashion has dramatically upped the number of men’s labels it carries, while both Selfridges and Harrods are working on fresh men’s concepts to put the category firmly into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Printemps last year opened a five-floor dedicated men’s store at a cost of some $70.2 million. CEO Paolo de Cesare anticipates his men’s business will grow by 30 percent over the next  two years.

LVMH-owned Le Bon Marché was ahead of the curve, opening a new men’s floor in 2014. The store is constantly adding to its offering in response to the increased demand for luxury streetwear.

This month sees the launch of an Off-White shop-in-shop at Bon Marche, and Nauerz hinted that  Céline will most likely be given  similar treatment when Slimane makes his men’s debut.

Innovation Wins

Sacai x Nike, spring '19
Sacai x Nike, spring ’19
CREDIT: Shutterstock

There’s no getting away from it — the cult of the sneaker now extends way beyond footwear.

One of the biggest talking points of spring ’19 was Sacai’s collaboration with Nike, according to footwear design consultant and Studio Hagel founder Mathieu Hagelaars.

Designer Chitose Abe applied her signature splicing techniques to two innovative mash-ups involving four Nike sneakers with double tongues, double shoelaces and double swooshes. She fused the Blazer with the Dunk and the Waffle Daybreak with the LDV.

An Off-White Off-Court sneaker created by Mathieu Hagelaars.
An Off-White Off-Court sneaker created by Mathieu Hagelaars.
CREDIT: Studio Hagel

“Sacai has always been about hybridization,” the designer told  FN backstage. 

Hagelaars’ own signature cut-and-paste technique caught the attention of Virgil Abloh  — and the pair spent the last year working on fresh takes on the label’s “Off Court” sneakers. 

“Doing something no one else has done before is the way to grab the consumer’s attention,” Hagelaars said.

“With the big sports brands, it’s about technology, but elsewhere, it’s about new aesthetic combinations, like the Balenciaga Triple S. No one had seen an outsole like that before it came along, and the rest is history.”

The Shoe Kings Step Up

Manolo Blahnik blue suede Witney
Manolo Blahnik blue suede Witney
CREDIT: Manolo Blahnik

While Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin have spent the past several years building their men’s businesses, the designers took things up a notch in recent months.

While Manolo Blahnik has  been making men’s shoes for both himself and male friends like Bryan Ferry and David Hockney since he started out, he officially launched the category in 2016.

In July, the designer opened his first men’s-only boutique in London, adjacent to his women’s boutique in the famed Burlington Arcade.

The inherent male fascination with how things work also extends to footwear, according to CEO Kristina Blahnik. “A man’s shoe is like a little building; the level of construction is immense, and men are looking to learn about that,” she said.

Blahnik, who takes pride in her uncle’s designs, likened a Goodyear-stitched shoe to a car. “You can replace the entire sole without  impacting the upper — just like you’re able to change a tire,” she said. “Both purchases are a long-term commitment.”

Although men’s represents a tiny portion of global sales, the Blahnik team hopes it will reach 20 percent over the next five to 10 years.

Christian Louboutin performance to launch the Run Loubi Run sneaker.
Christian Louboutin performance to launch the Run Loubi Run sneaker.
CREDIT: Christian Louboutin

Meanwhile, Louboutin, which has already found a sizable following with its men’s sneakers, is leaping into a new market: performance running.

The designer’s “Run Loubi Run” sneakers feature house classic graffiti prints and signature spikes, but they’re also built for speed with neoprene sock-style uppers and technical foams in the soles for maximum cushioning.

The brand launched the kicks with a high-octane dance show  in Paris in June starring French  performance artist Kevin Mischel.

The Drop Phenomenon Takes Flight

Off-White x Nike World Cup sneaker
Off-White x Nike World Cup sneaker
CREDIT: Browns Fashion

While the major athletic players have been scoring with sneaker drops for years, luxury retailers  are now appropriating their own versions of the concept.

“It drives the tension. We’re doing five to six hard launches a week, said Browns’ Dean Cook. “They fall on specific dates, and we can only talk about them the week before.”

Recent success stories at Browns have been the Nike x Off-White World Cup Capsule and the Raf Simons x Adidas Osweego. Both  sold out within an hour.

Browns also applies the idea to pre-collection versions of the Balenciaga Triple S.

Nick Wooster, who recently collaborated with sneaker brand Greats, said notions of scarcity whip up excitement for a product.

“We’re in a moment where so many things are so accessible, and parallel to that, so many things are not accessible — and there’s tension between those two,” he said. “Things that are a little bit rare are also interesting to people.”

It’s a Nonbinary World

bella hadid, dior, front row
Bella Hadid at Dior.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Genderless dressing is going  mainstream.

Abloh previewed Louis Vuitton’s spring ’19 men’s collection in front of celebrities — such as Kim Kardashian West who wore a belted cargo jacket, and Rihanna, who sported a shell suit — on the front row. Similarly, at Dior, Bella Hadid sat front-row in a yellow suit from the collection. In the show, Jones referenced archival Dior womenswear silhouettes such as the Tailleur Oblique jacket — done in both black and millennial pink. He also transformed the house’s iconic saddle bag into a fanny pack and a holster for the male contingent.

Among accessories-only brands, there has always been a proportion of crossover in men’s and women’s — and now 100 percent of the styles are sold as genderless. CEO Perry Oosting said, “Clergerie has always been a brand known for its masculine femininity.”

Dior Homme spring '19
Dior Homme spring ’19
CREDIT: Shutterstock

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