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Why Men’s Fashion Shows Are Back

With its return to Milan Fashion Week Men’s next January, Ferragamo is the latest brand to step away from the co-ed show trend. But what’s the strategic rationale behind this?
Salvatore Ferragamo Spring/Summer 2020 men's fashion show | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Rachel Deeley
BoF PROFESSIONAL

LONDON, United Kingdom — Menswear shows are making a comeback.

Following a stint at Pitti Immagine Uomo for Spring/Summer 2020, Salvatore Ferragamo announced it is returning to Men's Fashion Week, presenting a collection in Milan in January. The company declined to comment beyond its initial announcement.
Ferragamo is the latest luxury brand to announce a standalone menswear show for Autumn/Winter 2020. Earlier this month, Gucci said it would also be showing at Milan, after several seasons of co-ed shows. Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller has also made a conscious shift to showcasing menswear, teasing a 36-look collection during Paris Fashion Week Men’s in January 2019 and going on to make her men’s runway debut at Pitti Uomo in June.

The mini-trend marks a 180-degree turn for the fashion industry. At the start of 2019, insiders were debating whether there was a point to men's fashion week at all, particularly in cities such as London and New York where menswear designers have struggled to gain traction. 

Plenty of major brands had combined their men's and women's collections into co-ed shows on the women's calendar, including Burberry, Balenciaga, Calvin Klein and Bottega Veneta.
“Men’s is becoming such a bigger, faster growing part of the business,” said Moda Operandi Men’s Fashion Director and Buyer Josh Peskowitz. “There’s more men to convert into caring about fashion that have not yet been converted; there’s more room to grow there.”

There's more men to convert into caring about fashion that have not yet been converted; there's more room to grow there.

For the Spring/Summer 2020 season, New York Fashion Week Men’s was reduced to a day-long affair filled with mostly obscure labels. Brands with enough clout to show on Paris’ bigger stage, including Sies Marjan and Bode, did. But for companies big and small, fashion week strategy involves weighing up factors of cost and consumer interest.

"The harmony of co-ed shows has not only grown due to gender fluidity and brands wanting to create a single creative vision, but because it ultimately makes commercial sense," said Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter.

But even as fashion shows provide diminishing returns as a way to win over buyers and editors, brands are doubling down on the power of the runway as a marketing tool. As Moncler's monthly drops, Chanel's ostentatious cruise shows in far-flung venues and Versace's internet-breaking celebrity guests show, the release of a collection is an unparalleled opportunity to generate hype.

Louis Vuitton, which has held separate men’s and women’s shows for years, has been able to generate maximum consumer excitement and social media engagement thanks to its hyped-up fashion shows, novelty venues and, of course, star streetwear designer Virgil Abloh masterminding its menswear offering. As a result, the brand achieves more spikes in social media engagement than rivals such as Gucci, according to Tribe Dynamics. 
Men are also buying more luxury goods. According to market research firm Euromonitor International, men’s designer apparel sales grew 4.5 percent in 2018 to $32.2 billion, compared to a 4.3 percent increase to $53.9 billion for women's. Euromonitor projects designer menswear sales will hit $39.1 billion in 2023. 
If you do an evaluation of co-ed shows, “of course you have less cost, but you [also] have less attention to menswear,” said Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive of menswear trade show Pitti Immagine Uomo. "When you put [the two collections] together, you lose something.” 
Beyond the Pitti’s status as the tradeshow leg of the men’s fashion circuit, it makes strategic sense for a brand like Ferragamo to return to a show calendar that is not subsumed by the noise of women’s fashion week, he added. 
There is a shift in the kind of looks making their way down the catwalk. Logomania and athletic-inspired silhouettes are on their way out, while sartorial pieces are making a comeback — a trend from which brands like Ferragamo could stand to benefit. Even Gucci’s trademark maximalism has, in the last two seasons, pivoted towards monochromatic, tailored looks, particularly on its male models. 

Co-ed shows are still very much here to stay — Jacquemus' 10-year anniversary show is a triumphant example of this, and on November 5, 2019 Versace announced that it would present its men's and women's Autumn/Winter 2020 collections in one show during women's fashion week. However, Peskowitz also predicts that a shift to standalone men's shows doesn't mean the end of dual-gender collections from the same brands. 

"I'd be very surprised if brands like Gucci, who are showing men's collections in the men's calendar, then refrained from showing [men's clothing in] the women's cycle as well," he said. "Strategically speaking, you'll be seeing more menswear everywhere, meaning more deliveries, meaning more newness."

This article was updated on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

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