Menswear has had quite the decade.
It is predicted that next year it actually will surpass womenswear in terms of sales. In fact, over the last 10 years, the line between menswear and womenswear has become increasingly blurred. Since 2012 with the introduction of LCM, the menswear shows have been steadily garnering the same amount of interest as their female counterparts.
And in 2016, Burberry became the first major brand to meld their fashion week offerings with a mixed catwalk, highlighting the importance of menswear in the fashion calendar. It wasn’t an instance success. As Charlie Porter reported for the FT
“putting men’s and women’s on the same catwalk, and it can easily fall into stereotypical gender norms…A unified catwalk needs to be just that: unified”.
But having the men and women walking together has forced designers into giving menswear the same care and consideration, to create them as one collection, rather than 2 halves of a whole.
Where once Saint Laurent’s menswear show consisted of 25 suits, in 2019 it was a cacophony of colours and patterns and textures, with over 100 looks, including black-lit glowing neon. I can imagine that dropping the house lights for those final looks would have been a dramatic climax, but it also serves to further blend the gender of clothing. In the dark you can’t tell male from female, and quite frankly who cares, it is a theatrical spectacle. and I for one was entertained.
A savvy businessman knows that clothing is expensive to design and produce so the real money comes from branded accessories and perfumes. Last decade, men’s accessories consisted of glasses and trilby hats. But not so now. Now the men’s accessories editors are almost as busy as the women’s, with eyewear, jewellery and bags. So many bags. Dior, a house which is still one of only 15 members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, sent no fewer than 9 men down their Fall ’19 catwalk sporting cross body bags. What would Cristian make of that I wonder.
It has been a decade of pushing boundaries for menswear. Even a designer like Paul Smith who has always been known for producing tailoring with a little more colour and whimsy than most, has taken it further. Rather than colour being hidden alongside neutrals, great blocks of yellow, pink and electric blue hit his ’19 runways. Could it be that the a rejection of the darker side of this decade, the austerity, the dire political landscape and the constant stream of general negativity on social media, has caused this rise in colour? Despite what detractors may say, fashion has always been more than clothes. It is a living breathing display of the social issues plaguing the time. It should be looked at in context.
For example, take the tailoring house Ermenegildo Zegna. It has always produced beautiful suits with a little something unusual about them - workwear for people who don’t want to be a faceless drone in a navy worsted. But now workwear doesn’t just mean suiting. Technology has allowed the working environment to adapt and become more flexible. Informal offices encourage a more informal uniform. And that is reflected in Zegna’s ’19 show. Where once there were shirts, there’re now jumpers. Blazers have given way to bomber jackets. Greatcoats to anoraks. This was the decade in which even tailoring stalwarts did away with the traditional rules of menswear.
And that leads me onto arguably the men’s brand of the decade. Gucci. Oh how far it has come. The 2010 show is everything I had come to expect from the Italian brands of old. White skinny jeans, tan leather jackets and loafers with no socks. But then in 2015, Alessandro Michele was appointed Creative Director and there was an explosion. The maximalist trend which had been quietly growing in interiors was brought to the catwalk in a sea of pussybows, clashing prints and 70’s colour palettes; the tight trousers of Mick Jagger, billowing silk shirts of Adam Ant mixed in with the pastel tailoring of David Bowie - there are no gold stars for guessing Michele’s inspiration. And never have the gender-bending days of yore felt more relevant than now, as gender identity is being questioned and redefined. It seems only natural that the next decade will see a greater development of androgynous dressing. And I for one cannot wait.