LONDON, United Kingdom — This season, at some of the biggest menswear shows — from Saint Laurent to Burberry, Givenchy to Gucci — more and more female models appeared on the catwalks. Are mixed-gender shows becoming the new norm? And, if so, why?
For one thing, putting womenswear on the runway pulls women’s editors to men’s shows that they wouldn’t otherwise attend, generating additional press and social media coverage. For another, mixing in women’s outfits (largely from pre-collections, whose sales schedules coincide with the menswear shows) enables brands to promote their women’s resort collections on the runway without the added expense of staging a separate resort show. Presenting men's and women's together can also result in a stronger and more cohesive brand message.
BoF spoke to a range of top editors, buyers and fashion directors to learn more.
Andrea Panconesi, Founder and Chief Executive, Luisa Via Roma
“I would like to talk about social topics and gender, but in reality it's a mere question of marketing. Merchants and producers need to sell first — those who sell first, sell twice as much. By showing women’s clothes with the men’s collection, it is possible to anticipate production and sales as early as July, rather than September when the official women’s collections are shown.”
“There is the obvious reason that brands are using the opportunity to present some of their women’s Resort/Pre-Fall looks to highlight to the consumer the excitement and importance of these pre collections. As womenswear is the dominant part of most brands’ businesses, it’s a very smart move to create four runway opportunities, rather than two. This is of great benefit to the retailers as it provides great editorial and social media content as well as drawing the attention of the luxury consumers, especially the VIP shoppers.
But apart from the commercial aspect, I believe that designers are using this opportunity to enhance their brand identity. With men becoming more feminine and women becoming more masculine, this androgynous development is allowing for one concise, powerful message from the designers. Having both sexes come down the catwalk looking like they both stepped out of the same time warp enhances this message. No longer do they need to create a male and female identity, which apart from being creatively more time consuming, it doesn’t build a true ‘direction’.
The modern consumer wants to be part of something bigger, they want to feel part of a bigger picture, a movement.”
Alexander Fury, Fashion Editor, The Independent
“I'm sure designers would like us to think there are complex rationales behind the decision, a reflection of gender politics perhaps. Or perhaps that's just what my sort — the fashion critics always plunging in search of a hidden depth — would like. In reality, I think most fashion designers, CEOs and stylists find menswear a bit dull. So they add womenswear in to mix it up.
It's also a cheap and cheerful way of showcasing the brand's pre-collections (which is what the womenswear in the menswear mix usually is) or other ranges that would never otherwise see the light of catwalk. That rings true of Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy haute couture collections, shown alongside his last two menswear collections. Less than a dozen looks apiece, they wouldn't have stood up to scrutiny alone. But in a menswear show, they became part of a larger whole.
Do I think it's a good thing? That depends on the designer and on the clothes. Burberry, for instance, showed pre-collection womenswear that looked painfully, pinched and over-designed next to the ease of their spring/summer menswear offerings. I don't know who told Craig Green it was a good idea to show a few of his menswear looks on women, but they were wrong. I think female customers, personally, can do the maths and figure out they need a smaller size. And I think buyers would buy small if they wanted your menswear for women, like they did with Hedi Slimane's Dior Homme (he never put a woman on his catwalk). But, on the other hand, Prada's married together perfectly.
Generally, however, I think it's a distraction. We press are there to see menswear. That's what the men are usually wearing...”
Josh Peskowitz, Men's Fashion Director, Bloomingdales
“I think it's a compliment to how big the men’s market is becoming. The runway shows garner enough attention to merit showing women's pre- looks in there. It's certainly cheaper than staging a big resort show in some far away locale. I like it when there is a direct relation between the men’s and women's looks, or even women wearing men's clothes. Armani comes to mind as a good example.
Caroline Issa. Chief Executive & Fashion Director, Tank Magazine
“Menswear shows now coincide timing wise with pre-collection sales schedules, so there tends to be an opportunity to speak to a wider audience than your typical menswear press and buyer contacts.
If you are a brand and you spend a lot of money on your fashion show as a communication platform, why not leverage that platform to create as much content as possible for as many people as possible? Givenchy’s sprinkling of couture looks on the likes of Kendall Jenner and Naomi Campbell spawned instamoments galore and Miuccia Prada used her menswear shows last week to show her Prada Resort collection of womenswear at the same time.
It also enables brands to connect their mens- and womenswear collections, which have in the past been designed as separate entities. With the speed of fashion fast-forwarded today, designers need to use every opportunity to share a starting point, rather than start from scratch for the several collections they must produce.”
Ken Downing, SVP, Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus
“As many luxury brand creative directors oversee men's, women's and accessory collections, and the continued importance of social media to branding, designers look to tell a full and complete story of their vision on the runway.
With the continued blurring of lines between the creative message from men's to women's, designers look to express their dream of the coming season, with the sexual tension of presenting men and women within a single show.
I applaud the new direction of many designers melding their message showing men and women on the runway, it creates an exciting and captivating presentation, showing the many moods and attitudes of a brand.”