was new york men’s fashion week worth it?
As the first NYMFW comes to a close, Garmento Zine’s Jeremy Lewis analyses what worked - and what didn’t.
In recent years the global menswear market has exploded and New York's menswear community has grown right along with it. Traditionally showing with the city's women's collections, menswear designers have always gotten the short end of the stick, promoting their collections with expensive runway shows and presentations well after the European shows and the buying for the season had closed. This week marked the inaugural New York Men's Fashion Week, a new initiative by the CFDA to put American menswear on equal footing with all the other fashion capitals. As the week wraps we ask the lingering question: was it worth it?
Much of New York's menswear culture is defined by the large corporations (The Philip Van Heusens, the Kellwoods, the Perry Ellis Internationals) who make fairly conservative clothes for the mass market. With deep pockets and considerable influence, they have largely defined the attitudes which have not necessarily made for exciting collections worth traversing the Atlantic for. Their influence on NYMFW did not go unseen, and many of the designers who showed during the week were largely forgettable. But having a proper time to show worked in the favour of some select talent, designers who, without the distraction of the women's collections, and with unprecedented attention from international editors and buyers, were able to shine through.
There are perhaps no designers who define the current state of New York menswear quite like Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School. Anointed by Anna Wintour as the designers to watch and recently tapped to oversee DKNY, they are the city's menswear darlings. Presenting a fine collection of street and athletic inspired fashions. Urban, stylised and wholly accessible, they are the perfect barometers of the mood of the moment. Osborne and Chow cast American menswear guru Nick Wooster and New York style icon Waris Ahluwalia as models for their presentation, further defining their clout within the city's local scene. The designers did not miss a beat.
Steven Cox and Daniel Silver have been slaving away making menswear collections under the label Duckie Brown for nearly 12 years. Their collections, high in concept and skill, never seemed to get the appreciation they deserve. With all eyes on them it was exciting to see the pair present one of their strongest collections to date. Their virtuoso abilities in handling extreme volumes and proportions were on full display. They did not hold back. They showed wide-cut trousers with exaggerated drawstring paper bag waists with oversized tunics and tops. The line was languid and luscious, clever and directional. It was a strong silhouette buffered by a totally authentic vision and it was the kind of show needed to make NYMFW a real destination.
But what is the new New York look? Daisuke Obana of N. Hoolywood and Tim Coppens seemed to help nudge the idea forward. Each showed collections dripping in modernity and rooted in a specifically sport language. They offered a rather compelling idea of modern American dress: functional, practical, extreme in their subtle luxury (both designers source incredible fabrics be it military grade technical materials or traditional silks and cottons). And they both updated standard streetwear and sports styles like the hoodie and the track pants with details that were more designed than referenced. Obana's take drifted towards the minimal while Coppens' was more pop. Both designers offered compelling glimpses of the future.
Over 10 years ago, when Hedi Slimane was still making a name for himself in menswear, Alexandre Plohkov and Robert Geller were design partners and the sole bastions of avant-garde menswear in New York under the cult label Cloak. The pair eventually went their separate ways but it was emotional to see both showing this week after so many of their peers have gone out of business. Geller presented one of his best collections ever, advocating a loose fluid line that maintained his provocative romantic vision with an unprecedented sense of ease. Plohkov was in fine form, reprising his brooding vision with a greater clarity likely gained after a consulting gig with Versace and a collaboration with Uniqlo. His aesthetic, vaguely nomadic though cleaned up and refined, was more relatable than it has ever been. Both designers served as important reminders that New York is capable of sustaining a progressive fashion spirit.
Siki Im showed one of his most courageous collections yet. Known for his meticulous tailoring, this collection was more disheveled than it was deconstructed. Im has relaxed and let himself go and the freedom was notable, its irreverence and studied awkwardness, an homage to youth, caught the eye of at least one editor who had previously never heard of him. Im has a had a hard time gaining acceptance in New York, a fact he seemed to directly announce by opening the show with a live opera cover of LCD Soundsystem's "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down." When the show ended you wondered if any local editors got the message as they rushed away to go see John Varvatos.
So, was NYMFW a success? I suppose we'll know if the European editors and buyers decide to come back next season or if the extra attention leads to an increase in business. But if NYMFW is to really thrive is must be able to offer something no other fashion capital can. It must bring its own unique voice to an international audience. With labels like Jack Spade and Band of Outsiders ceasing operations it is clear the classic and heritage looks New York has been known for can no longer suffice. A new identity needs be forged. It's an exciting time to be a menswear designer in New York City.
Text Jeremy Lewis
Photography Kate Owen