Throughout sartorial history, inequality has been ever-present for us men. In fact, the fashion world is one area where the female of the species and what they choose to adorn themselves in has always outshone and overpowered us. But finally, after years of struggling against the overabundance of womenswear designers and female fashion collections at the institution of London Fashion Week, menswear is finally garnering some much-needed, long-overdue attention with this year’s launch of LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN – a three day men’s fashion event to rival the already well-established Men’s Fashion Weeks of Paris and Milan.
Announced by the British Fashion Council just last week, LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN will run for the first time later this year, from Friday 15th June to Sunday 17th June. Helmed by a committee consisting of a who’s-who of British sartorial talent – including GQ editor Dylan Jones, hugely successful and influential designers Tom Ford and Christopher Bailey and Mr Porter’s Jeremy Langmead – the three day event will be a showcase of menswear shows and presentations. Harold Tillman, Chairman of the British Fashion Council says:
‘The menswear industry has been growing from strength to strength in past years and this is true testament to this. LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN will not only be a showcase for brands and designers but will form a cross cultural programme creating a festival for menswear in what will be a truly exciting year for the UK.’
The ultimate aim of the event is to attract already-established menswear designers and fashion labels into showcasing their seasonal collections alongside fresh, up-and-coming designers, the finest tailors of Savile Row and the best in British high street fashion. Labels who have already jumped on board the LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN ship include Oliver Spencer, Aquascutum, Margaret Howell, E. Tautz, TOPMAN and James Long – and the committee plan to attract even more names before the first show later this summer. There are high hopes that designers such as Paul Smith and Burberry, who normally showcase their new collections at Milan or Paris Fashion Week, will show some faithful allegiance to their British roots and return home to be involved in the new London equivalent.
In the past, menswear at London Fashion Week has suffered from much under-exposure. Whereas Milan and Paris regularly have several dedicated menswear days in January and July – menswear at London Fashion Week has always been neglected. An element of progress was made in 2009 when MAN – a group fashion show featuring TOPMAN’s high-end collection alongside three fresh, new designers – was launched, leading to an entire day dedicated to menswear which has featured on a regular basis since its inception.
However, although undoubtedly progressive, this single day of menswear was simply tacked onto the end of the traditional womenswear London Fashion Week in February and September, with the timing meaning that this day overlapped with the initial opening days of Milan Fashion Week. This inevitably led to the notion that menswear in London is not as valid or as important as its European equivalents, and it is true that menswear still remains to be viewed on the same scale as womenswear – something that Dylan Jones feels has needed to be addressed for a long time:
‘Men consume like women now. Even 20 years ago there were issues about men spending money on clothes. Ten years ago there were issues about men spending money on beauty products. But all that’s changed now. It’s almost like a level playing field for the first time.’
The choice of timing for LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN has also been cleverly chosen. By holding the three day event regularly in June and January, it will immediately precede the traditional Men’s Fashion Weeks of Paris and Milan in February and September, making it the first stop on the fashion calendar. It also means those editors and buyers who could not make the single day event in the past will now be able to attend, which in turn will give the designers and labels showcasing their collections more exposure to the people that really matter in the industry.
Dylan Jones and his fellow committee members are passionate about making LONDON COLLECTIONS: MEN a veritable success. They want to provide a more accessible platform for menswear in this country and wish to emphasise its creative and commercial importance to the sartorial industry – whilst at the same time offering a rival to the more established menswear days in Paris and Milan.
All eyes will be on London this year with the 2012 Olympics – so the timing couldn’t be better for this fashion event to take advantage of the limelight and reinforce the belief that menswear in London can be just as important to the industry as the menswear focus from our European cousins continually proves to be.
The truth is that menswear is continuously growing in stature and the influence this is inevitably having on the validity of menswear for London on a mass public scale is organic and positive. The fact we have such a high profile team of premium sartorialists and stylish fashion-botherers at the helm of the project means it will be well-directed and can only be a positive thing for men’s fashion moving forward.