Robert Geller Men's Fall 2019

New York Fashion Week: Men’s is on life support.

Less than three weeks until the start of the men’s spring runway season, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has finally released its calendar — and it’s not pretty.

There are fewer than 20 men’s designers showing and half are with Agentry PR’s New York Men’s Day. Absent from the calendar are some designers who have been active supporters of the men’s shows since they were launched four years ago, including Todd Snyder, Robert Geller, Ovadia New York, Carlos Campos and Bode.

Instead, the calendar kicks off on June 3 with Agentry’s presentations of small and emerging designers only. The following day, N.Hoolywood will show at 6 p.m., followed by Frere at 7 p.m. The final day on June 5 will see presentations from Hecho, Freemans Sporting Club, Untitled Collective, Dyne and Linder, as well as shows from Private Policy, NIHL and Grungy Gentleman.

The reasons for the lack of participation are several. First, this marks the first time the men’s shows have moved from July to June to coincide with women’s resort. That timing is early for a lot of brands since the men’s market in New York is generally in mid- to late-July around the time of the trade shows.

But perhaps more relevant is the fact that the CFDA has lost its sponsorships and is no longer able to support the shows financially. That was the kiss of death for many small and medium-sized brands that don’t have the wherewithal to pay upward of $100,000 to stage their own shows.

The weak women’s resort calendar doesn’t help matters, either. Although some brands have already shown and others will continue to present on their own timetable, the official calendar shows only Monse and Alexander Wang shows on May 31; Johanna Ortiz, Lorod, Victor Glemaud and Greta Constantine on June 4, and Tre by Natalie Ratabesi on June 5. Other brands such as Dennis Basso and Badgley Mischka will be holding appointments that week.

Last June, big women’s names such as Diane von Furstenberg, Narcisco Rodriguez, Cushnie et Ochs, Anna Sui, Saint Laurent, Cynthia Rowley, Christian Siriano and Viktor & Rolf Soir were all part of the official women’s resort calendar.

Mark Beckham, vice president of marketing for the CFDA, said the slim calendar comes down to “an economics question. Doing an independent show is very costly and we’re not underwriting any designer shows anymore. We don’t have the sponsors.”

However, Beckham said CFDA is not giving up on men’s wear. “We’re exploring several avenues to support the men’s wear industry.” He said he’s planning to have talks with UBM/MAGIC, the operator of the Project and MAGIC trade shows, to see how they can possibly work together and intends to “put together a men’s committee to see what’s next to support these designers outside of traditional runway shows.”

He said the spring season is a lot less important than fall to the men’s wear community and may just not have “a strong enough message to support runway shows.”

And without large corporate backers, it’s unrealistic to expect small brands to participate. Beckham pointed to Todd Snyder, who was among the largest men’s brands to show — and is now owned by American Eagle Outfitters — saying that spending upward of $100,000 on a show was “not a wise investment of his money. And if he can’t do it, how can smaller brands do it?”

Snyder agreed it is “not inexpensive to do a show,” and although he’s not ruling out participating in the future, “we chose not to show in June.” In fact, he said he’s pondering doing something in September during New York Fashion Week. But it would be for purposes of attracting press during the more-attractive women’s calendar. “I go to market regardless of when the shows are,” he said. “We didn’t use our show as a launchpad for wholesale.”

Snyder said since the beginning, he has been “a huge supporter of men’s week in New York City, and we’re not abandoning that, but we’re refocusing and looking at what makes sense.”

He said more than 80 percent of his sales today are direct-to-consumer and while wholesale continues to be important, “it’s not front and center.”

But more than that, he’s disappointed that the large American men’s designers have decided to show in cities other than New York, notably Paris, where Thom Browne and, this season, Sies Marjan, and others have opted to present their collections.

“That seems to be the trend,” he said. “And because you don’t have the bigger brands showing here, it makes us make tough decisions. That’s the crux of the problem: not having enough big guys to help the small guys, and the fact that the business is changing. I believe New York is still the epicenter of fashion, but I may be the only one who thinks that. The men’s wear ecosystem is broken and I hope someday we all get on the same page.”

Robert Geller said the date change was an issue for him in deciding whether or not to show this year. “To move from July to the beginning of June is a huge jump,” he said. “Getting samples here with the right quality just wasn’t possible. And losing the CFDA support made it really difficult from a financial aspect.”

He said NYFW: Men’s was “born with great enthusiasm and financial support,” but a lack of support from the large American designers led to a declining interest from editors. He said compelling small designers were overshadowed by “big commercial brands that didn’t need to be on the runway, so they [editors] stopped coming.”

He may do “some sort of show or presentation in July during men’s market, or wait until September and show with women’s, but that would only be for press because the selling season is over.”

Willy Chavarria, a buzzy New York-based designer, said he showed at NYFW: Men’s for four seasons but opted out this time. “I deeply love doing shows and love working with the CFDA. As a New York brand, showing in New York is very personal. The city is our family,” he said. “This season I’m putting effort into expanding more into the European market so I have thoughts of creating more of a presence in Paris this June. I’m also launching a new collaboration which needs a bit more time to prepare for a show.”

Chavarria said he’s moving away from the traditional runway format and toward more of a “guerrilla style.”

“It is very fulfilling to be able to present the story or our mission to cameras and people,” he said. “It is the most concise way for the public to gain an immediate understanding of the expression. But there are many ways to tell the story that isn’t on a traditional catwalk that seem more exciting. My favorite show we did was inside the entirety of a leather bar. It was like ‘Sleep No More’ without masks. The shows seem to be taken a bit more seriously in Europe. The excitement is heightened and the crowds are more discerning. I think the challenge of making a statement in Paris is rather attractive.”

Erin Hawker, founder of Agentry, is still supportive of the men’s show calendar. “There’s no lack of designers looking to show, they just need support,” she said. And because Agentry has a “smaller footprint,” it is able to be more nimble. “We don’t have to hire huge production companies to come in. We do both events and p.r., so it’s all built in.”

Beckham stressed that despite the lack of men’s wear participation on the spring calendar, it is “not the end of New York Fashion Week: Men’s. We’re seeing a whole transition of New York Fashion Week period and we’ll have to see what February holds. We’re hoping there will be men’s shows.”

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