Backstage at Gucci RTW Spring 2018

The European runway calendars are steadily shrinking as a growing number of brands opt for coed displays.

Balenciaga earlier this month became one of the latest brands to scrap separate women’s and men’s shows. The brand, led by artistic director Demna Gvasalia, plans to stage its first such dual runway show during Paris Fashion Week in March for the fall season. This brings Balenciaga, owned by luxury group Kering, into line with its sister labels Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, which have already adopted mixed shows, staged during women’s fashion weeks in Milan and Paris.

Etro, Missoni, Jil Sander, Dsquared2, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Kenzo, Moschino, Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford and Cédric Charlier are among others to have already jumped on the coed bandwagon, and, most recently J.W. Anderson and Salvatore Ferragamo joined the pack. The latter revealed this month that it will hold its first coed runway show to unveil its men’s and women’s fall 2018 collections, designed by Guillaume Meilland and Paul Andrew, respectively. The show will mark the ready-to-wear debut of Andrew, who was previously women’s footwear creative director of the women’s line and was appointed creative director of the women’s line last October, succeeding Fulvio Rigoni.

Generally, having one display instead of two per season allows brands to reduce costs, while presenting a cohesive fashion message that works for many labels in an increasingly gender-blurry world.

In the case of Etro, however, it involved the unusual situation of bringing together two collections that are helmed by different designers. Veronica Etro is creative director of the women’s division and her brother Kean leads the men’s category. Jacopo Etro, global communications vice president at the family-owned company, said that, “precisely because the two creative directors are different, the decision strengthens the brand’s unity of message with the same themes.”

He emphasized the importance of having a strong brand message, which must be communicated “in a single, cohesive and unequivocal way. If you don’t have a strong message, you risk succumbing,” (In January, though, Etro will present its men’s collection during Milan Men’s Fashion Week, as it launches the 50th anniversary of the brand.)

More labels are generally opting to show on the women’s calendar, presenting challenges for men’s buyers and editors, although show organizers are taking it in stride, accepting the fluidity and focusing on coordination. The coed momentum is leaving the men’s calendar somewhat sparse. For example, the latest Milan Men’s Fashion Week schedule reflects the changes in the men’s wear industry, according to Carlo Capasa, president of Italy’s Camera Nazionale della Moda.

“The concept of how men’s wear is shown has changed and so has the concept of the calendar — everything is combined together and there is more and more cross-pollination,” Capasa contended. “The shift is real.” The shows will start on Jan. 12 with the Ermenegildo Zegna evening show and will end on Jan. 15, anchored by the Giorgio Armani and Fendi shows. Overall, the runway shows will be 31 in total.

Capasa said the evolution has led the association to create a new format for the calendar, which now “combines presentations and shows in a single tale that each brand offers in line with its own aesthetic and vision.” The first chapter of coed shows, as Capasa called it, will take place in January, followed by the second chapter in February. Milan Men’s Fashion Week is positioned right after Pitti Uomo, creating a sort of continuum. On the other side of the Atlantic, New York Fashion Week: Men’s has shifted its dates slightly to run just before NYFW: Women’s.