NEW YORK — With the British government providing tax breaks of 50 percent to start-up brands, the United Kingdom has become a destination for burgeoning labels.
“A lot of design talent is happening right now in London,” said Dan Rookwood, U.S. editor of Mr Porter. “It’s a great home for us with a lot of design talent and it’s dynamic.”
Rookwood was one of the speakers at a presentation at the Core Club here last week titled “Savile Row to Dover Street Market: Changes in British Menswear.” He was joined by Alice Walsh of Alice Made This; Josh Peskowitz, men’s fashion director of Bloomingdale’s; Edward Green, and Samuel Bail from the men’s handbag line, Troubadour. The event was moderated by fashion consultant Matthew Singer.
According to the Core Club, the British men’s wear market grew 18 percent between 2008 and 2013, reaching 12.9 billion pounds, or $20.2 billion, so far this year.
But while it’s a growing market, Peskowitz said it’s still a hard sell for Bloomingdale’s.
“Is it commercially viable for Bloomingdale’s? No,” he said. “But it’s a great platform for younger brands and the home for tailored clothing.”
British fashion conjures many notions of what its aesthetic should and does look like. Rookwood described the market in the U.K. today as a mix between West End and East End.
“When we talk about British fashion, it’s London fashion,” he said. “The West End is all about traditional Savile Row, the East, about contemporary fashion — it’s fashion-forward while being directional. When those two meet in the middle, it’s a lovely fusion and it’s produced quite a different look than anywhere else in the world.”
Peskowitz agreed, saying that the market in London is changing rapidly and dynamically.
“The relaxation of tailored clothing is great,” he said. “I like the idea of wearing a suit and showing personality and being able to get more life.”
He explained that having a London Fashion Week for men has only helped spark interest in British brands. And the 2012 Olympics was the momentum the movement needed to push it forward. “And it worked,” he said. “Though Milan has frowned and Pitti is like, ‘Why the squeeze?’”
Peskowitz agreed, saying it was only a matter of time before New York followed suit with its own separate men’s fashion week.
“I think New York will have a men’s week in the next year,” he said. “It’s possible, for sure.”
Regardless of where the brands are from, the panelists agreed that men are avid and voracious shoppers who are becoming hyper-aware of what they wear.
“The brand certainly has to have a story, though,” said Bail. His line is produced in Italy by local artisans. “Guys want to know what they’re buying, why it’s how much it is, and where it’s from.”