Thursday 2 October 2014

What menswear can learn from womenswear (maybe)

So SS15’s fashion shows have finally come to an end, with Paris’ stragglers ending yesterday. Slightly outside of the magazine world, it’s hard to believe that it went on for so long – how can an entire industry take two collective months a year to view new product? It seems like an age since I took my Mum to a few shows at LFW.

Anyway - while the fashion elite are in recovery (and the rest of the industry gears up for the torrent of press days, launches and industry tradeshows), it’s time for observers to pull together overarching ‘think pieces’ on ‘trends’.

I know I said just last week that I wasn’t going to look at broad brushstrokes, but I’m contradicting myself: the joy of being in charge and all that. I’m going to try and look at womenswear from a menswear perspective: what can menswear designers learn (if anything) from the way womenswear was presented?

I’ve often said that menswear and womenswear are totally different industries. Like live telly and on-demand (or DVD and film), they are two separate industries with different consumers, different habits, different approaches, different teams, different marketing campaigns etc etc, united solely by a single medium: in this case, clothes.

Actually. That’s not strictly true. They’re also united in the way in which the clothes are presented: catwalks and presentations. One thing that really stood out about this season’s shows was the sense of spectacle and occasion that the shows – particularly the Paris shows – had.

Karl Lagerfeld ‘s Chanel is the obvious proponent of this here. You don’t need me to tell you how much of a shift in ideas that the Chanel supermarket was for AW14. SS15’s dubiously-motivated ‘feminist’ ‘demonstration’ (‘inspired by May ‘68’, I mean, c'mon!) was all about the sense of occasion – or more cynically, the Instagram moment. Bailey’s Burberry might have had all the digital bells and whistles, but Chanel trended much more successfully by putting on a proper spectacle.

Back in the day designers like Galliano and McQueen used their clothes to evoke a sense of drama. This season though saw a micro-trend of fresh takes on presenting clothes: Opening Ceremony’s Spike Jonze-scripted play at NYFW, for example; or Gareth Pugh’s beautiful balletic drama (in collab with, bizarrely, Lexus); or even Meadham Kirchhoff’s tampon-adorned tree installations.

Though OC’s show was devoid of cameras (and let’s be honest, designers have played with subverting the catwalk format for years), it seems like this reworking of a clothing presentation is mostly about creating a social media ‘moment’: giving a seasonal shove to a more established brand that brings them back to the forefront. Rick Owens did a great job of this with the step-dancers for SS14’s ‘Vicious’ collection.

But would January’s menswear shows benefit from these bells and whistles? Not yet. But I reckon designers would do well to keep the idea in the back of their minds. Creating a moment that defines the brand has worked for someone like Craig Green, and as the world’s Instagram users get used to regular floods of catwalk images (aside: please no more fuzzy finale videos), they need the occasional shot of something different to punctuate those shots.

In the age of Instagram, shows are no longer just for buyers or top press; they are the first way that a designer’s clothes are presented to the world, so you want to make the most noise. Shows cost so much money…etc etc; you get what I’m saying.

The way that fashion weeks work has been revolutionised over the last five years. So why not change the way that designers show their clothes? I expect some designers are already plotting some exciting things for the men’s shows in January.

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