Weird, wonderful and worth a lot: London men's fashion week
Men who 'shop like women' light up catwalk shows in British capital, as some predict world's fashion-conscious males could outspend women
Gazing over the road at the crowds streaming into London’s fashion week for men, construction worker Carl, dressed in a fluorescent safety bib, wondered: “What’s going on? They all look weird.”
For fashion lovers, buyers, journalists and bloggers, the four days of the London Collections Men SS16 are an opportunity to show off their finery -- the more eccentric the better.
Outside the venue, a huge long-haired man teetered in a pair of yellow high heels, carrying a school backpack.
Not to be outdone, his friend sported a polka-dot suit. Behind them, another impeccably-dressed guest paraded around in a hat resembling two cherries.
“I used to wear hoodies and T-shirts and jeans, not making any effort,” said 35-year-old blogger Zokaya Kamara, looking slick in shorts, jacket and tie, with a camera slung over one shoulder. “But since making the effort, I get compliments every day.”
He added: “More and more men are making an effort in the way they dress -- you see it in the street, at the bus stop.”
The very existence of London Collections Men - previously an appendix to London Fashion Week, which is dominated by women’s fashion -- bears out his observation.
The event, which started in 2012, is now in its seventh edition. Some 77 designers and ambassadors, including Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, are in town for the programme’s 32 shows.
“This weekend is starting to establish itself, which is really good, because there’s a lot of competition -- there’s Paris, there’s Milan, it’s great that they’re bringing people in,” designer Paul Smith said after watching the latest creations of Craig Green, one of Britain’s rising fashion stars.
Dylan Jones, chairman of London Collections Men, added that the ”enthusiasm... has completely outstripped any expectations”, reflecting an awakening for men’s fashion.
“We now have a generation of young men who are far more interested in fashion than any previous generation,” he told AFP. “They’re more sophisticated shoppers, they shop more like women.”
The figures support his remarks. In 2014, sales of menswear generated US$440 billion in worldwide revenue, 4.5 per cent more than the previous year.
In comparison, sales of women’s clothing rose 3.7 per cent to US$587 billion.
Half of British men aged 16-24 purchased at least one garment in the last three months of 2014, as many as their girlfriends, according to market research institute Mintel.
Some even believe that men’s fashion could eventually achieve the unthinkable and outstrip women’s in sales.
“I think so, absolutely,” independent fashion designer Payzee Mahmod said. “Men are becoming more expressive, wearing bolder colours, experimenting with shapes. Demands are changing.”
“Everything has changed so much and become more metrosexual. If you have style, you can go everywhere,” added Jonas Oliver, fashion specialist at Bond Magazine.
Geraint Donovan, author of the His Name Is Fashion blog, believes the best is yet to come.
“With womenswear, everything has almost been done,” he said. “There is nothing really shocking left, whereas in men’s fashion, there’s still a lot to be done”.