A separate New York Men’s Fashion Week may be on the calendar as soon as next July — but there are still some significant hurdles to overcome.
Fueled by the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s recent acquisition of the Fashion Calendar, which will streamline the scheduling of fashion shows and events in New York, momentum has been building to set up a distinct men’s fashion week in the city to mirror those in London, Milan and Paris. Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the CFDA, acknowledged that there is much interest and support surrounding the idea.
“We have a lot of boxes we can check off as of now,” he told WWD. “We have enough designers who could be a collective of talent in both emerging and established that would make a strong statement for American designers. The Mayor, New York City and the New York City Economic Development Corp. are very supportive of our work around all the collections. And we have enough venues and locations around the city to hold it.”
There is still one major box left unchecked, however.
“Funding. Without the money, and a substantial amount of it, it’s not going to happen,” Kolb said. He noted that he and the CFDA have been “actively engaged” in the last 18 months in securing sponsorship, but still have a way to go.
“We need more funding for venue rentals. Travel for international editors, it takes marketing promotion, production costs and more. I feel like I’m halfway there, but I need to get a little bit more there,” he said.
The event also may need a media partner like what British GQ and its editor in chief, Dylan Jones, have done for London Collections: Men. Jim Moore, American GQ’s creative director, who in the past has been vocal about the need for a men’s fashion week in New York, declined to comment about the push for one now. But Kolb said the CFDA has reached out to all the major men’s magazines.
“We are open to a media partner. We involved men’s magazines early on in our initial discussions. We got input from editors at GQ, Details, T magazine and Esquire, and also the American retailers,” he said.
American men’s wear designers have been complaining for years about being on the women’s schedules during New York Fashion Week. While the timing is less of a problem in February, since it is only a few weeks after the shows in London, Milan and Paris, the schedule is unworkable in September. Because the men’s buying cycle begins in June with the London runway shows, moves to Pitti Uomo in Florence, then Milan and Paris before returning to New York City for the trade shows in July, waiting until September to show their collections becomes a virtual roadblock for designers and their businesses.
“By the time you get to September, buys are put to bed,” said Billy Reid. “It would be extremely helpful if we were able to get a slot in July.”
Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, agreed.
“July is critical from a retailer’s point of view — any later than that and there’s no chance for new designers to get into the store,” said Jennings. “If you want to get press, that’s fine, but if you want to do business in a retailer, it’s impossible. If we’ve been in market since June — to wait for September is ludicrous. It makes no sense for the men’s calendar. It kicks [designers] so far past the men’s calendar, the brands get zero retail business.”
Jennings said Saks’ team of buyers do not attend September men’s fashion shows in New York because their time to place orders has passed.
“There is no point of going to these shows for our buyers,” he said. “It’s not efficient and not a good use of their time.”
For this reason, quintessential American men’s wear brands like Calvin Klein and Thom Browne have chosen to show in Europe. Others including Michael Kors, Rag & Bone and Michael Bastian have recently opted out of September New York Fashion Week for their men’s collections, choosing to hold presentations of their men’s lines in July.
“Look, I love a good show and I would hate to say that we’d never do a show again,” said Bastian. “If we could figure out a men’s week happening in July I’d be the first onboard. I have no intention of showing in Europe. I love New York. We’re a New York brand, we love the models here, the casting directors here. It’d be weird to show outside of New York.”
But would a New York show entice any brands to return across the Atlantic?
Representatives for Klein did not respond to requests for comment, but Browne said, “I am an American designer no matter where I show. But, of course, I am supportive of a men’s fashion week in New York. I am not sure yet what I would do, but I intend to support it in one way or another.”
Even so, timing would still be critical. With the European runway shows nearly blending into the New York trade shows, planning could prove a challenge — especially for European editors and press unwilling to make the trek to New York after a fatiguing summer fashion season.
“I think that it’s quite feasible for this to happen come next July,” said Tommy Fazio, president of the Project trade show. “We always talk about perfect timing, but I think we all agree that the week of the men’s trade shows is the best time, when Europe couture is over and before the August holiday for Europeans.”
Fazio proposed that the trade shows could happen by day, and men’s shows by night.
“Unifying the marketplace is my number-one concern,” he said.
According to Nick Sullivan, fashion director of Esquire, “I’d say that if we were to have a men’s week, which is necessary, my personal opinion would be holding it after the Fourth of July. I know that the earlier you can do it, the better. Some people say maybe before London but I think it’s too early then. But in either case, there is immense interest worldwide regarding American fashion brands, and international buyers and editors would be very supportive.”
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman’s, said a men’s fashion week in New York would create more excitement than ever because of the international interest in American men’s wear designers.
“People have admired the tradition of American sportswear for years as it’s an important and vital part of the men’s wear fashion landscape,” he said. “New York is the fashion capital of the world. Americans invented the entire sportswear category. That being said, American men’s wear is only growing and there’s been so much buzz internationally about what’s going on here.”
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