Among a trio of surprises yielded by the Paris men’s fashion week schedule released Monday was this: Gareth Pugh is launching a men’s collection.

This story first appeared in the December 16, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The avant-garde designer from London has featured male models in his carnivalesque shows before, but a dedicated men’s show signals a clear commitment to shaking up the category.

And he’s not alone. Another fashion-forward editorial favorite, Rick Owens, will present his men’s collection in a Paris show as well. He has designed men’s wear for years but has never shown it outside of a women’s show.

“The men’s collection has taken on a life of its own and needs to fulfill its destiny,” Owens said.

The Paris men’s shows will be bookended by newcomers of interest, commencing Jan. 22 with Hugo, the modern and urban Hugo Boss line designed by Belgian Bruno Pieters, and concluding with Pugh.

Pugh revealed to WWD that he will present in the Palais De Tokyo on Jan. 25. With more-solid infrastructure, women’s sales rolling and more confidence from retailers, particularly after his first Paris show this fall, the time is right to push men’s, Pugh said.

“Following the last show, the first show where I did not have any male models, lots of people commented on there not being any men’s wear in the collection….It felt like a good time to take on a new challenge and do a men’s wear collection,” he said, adding he is also working on some men’s accessories collaborations. “The collection will have all the staples of a men’s wear show, but obviously with my own slant,” said Pugh. His business is 49 percent owned by Owens’ wife, Michelle Lamy, who nurtured her husband’s business as well.

In an interview, Owens was darkly jocular about finances. Asked whether he had any surprises up his sleeve, he answered, “I don’t know how anyone can be surprised by anything anymore. Isn’t it surprise enough that I’ve picked the worst financial climate to propose men’s fashions?”

Indeed, some other European designers, including Fendi and Marni, have opted out of men’s shows this season.

Forging ahead, Owens is unlikely to temper his extreme aesthetic for the times, nor for men.

“Looking at my sketches, we have a couple of coats titled ‘exploding dominators,’ if that tells you anything,” he said. “Well, just come with an open mind.”

As for Hugo, the show will mark Pieters’ third effort for the label. The largely black-and-white fall/winter collection was influenced by German Expressionism and will feature graphic checks and herringbones. After Hugo in Paris, it will show Boss Black in Berlin on Jan. 28.

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