New York Finally Ushers in a Men’s Fashion Week

Following the immense success of London Collections Men last month, the Council of Fashion Designers of America have introduced a dedicated menswear showcase after 70 years of womenswear dominance.

The newly christened ‘New York Fashion Week: Mens’ has been hailed by the CFDA as the missing piece for New York’s fashion calendar. However responses to this new addition have assorted to a dizzying amount of contradictions as the industry debates over the necessity of a separate (and potentially segregated) fashion week.

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Up until now, New York has been the only major fashion capital not to host a menswear showcase. Steven Kolb, CEO of the CFDA, has partly attributed the move to a sleepy summer period between A/W and S/S which up until now have dominated the NY fashion calendar. Menswear in NY had been almost entirely eclipsed by the myriad of womenswear shows, where event clashes meant that menswear has had been neglected and overlooked. NYFW:M is designed to offer some breathing space.

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Considering that New York is a latecomer rather than a pioneer of this kind of movement it may seem somewhat of a redundant question to ask whether NYFW:M will be beneficial or detrimental to their fashion industry. LC:M has proven to be widely successful and respected and ultimately reflects the growing menswear industry, which is currently surpassing the growth for womenswear. However, the difficulties of menswear in NY are reflective of deeper issues within the Capital.

NY Fashion Week has long been considered to be suffering a drought of creativity. Speaking on the dwindling creativity in NY, an anonymous editor confessed to Capsule, “In general, I think the menswear market in New York is in need of more creative changes – not logistical ones. Creating an isolated week designated for menswear to give it more days does not solve the real problem: that there is a serious lack of original, progressive design in New York”.

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Gender neutrality was on show at the Berlin Fashion Week

Only a week prior to NYFW:M, Berlin Fashion Week confirmed its reputation as a pioneer in unisex fashion and a supporter of gender fluidity in both women’s and menswear. During their FW designers presented collections which adopted a co-ed approach and fostered a wealth of collections which bent and blended notions of gender. The result was infinitely more innovative and imaginative designs, particularly for the menswear category, which wasn’t restricted by conventional expectations of masculinity.

A move away from the influences of a more inclusive fashion week may render NY menswear to be even more insular, and as a result, potentially draining on its innovation. In contrast to BFW’s seamless gender-blurring, everyone’s asking whether this introduction from New York will instead just insulate and segregate men’s fashion. Certainly in Berlin’s case, gender neutrality has proved immensely successful for expression in futuristic fashion design.

Kolb has expressed his desire for the event to remain an event focused on industry and sales, so the end of buying season will see whether things have paid of. This is no question a pivotal moment for American men’s fashion regardless. However long term solutions must be fostered in order to restore and protect creativity. Perhaps it is time the major players looked towards the Germans for inspiration.