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LONDON, United Kingdom — While total sales of women’s designer clothes continues to outpace men’s globally, the appetite for men’s designer fashion and footwear is growing steadily, with the market projected to reach $46 billion by 2023, according to data from Euromonitor International. Growth can be attributed to two main drivers: a global move towards more casual, fashion-driven clothing and a rise in sales in Asia — especially China — where men are more fashion-forward than anywhere else.
As men’s fashion month closes for another season, speculation continues regarding the potential evolution of the men's calendar. This season, the schedule for London's men's fashion week was stripped back, while renowned market critic Angelo Flaccavento believed Milan's menswear schedule was “slim[med] down to the point of starvation.” While London and Milan's schedules might have been sparser than previous iterations, Pitti Uomo's 30-year anniversary in June saw more than 30,000 visitors from over 100 countries descend on Florence for the four-day event, according to its organisers. At Pitti, American artist and first-time designer Sterling Ruby debuted his line S.R. Studio LA CA at Pitti Uomo 96 in June, dubbed by Flaccavento as an “electrifying experiment in fashion-making” that was “perfectly truthful to what fashion was back when it was really inspired and inspiring.”
However, it is in Paris that key players are focusing their attention. LVMH, which generated about $17.6 billion (€15.5 billion) from its fashion and leather goods businesses in 2018, has noted that future growth will not only come from emerging markets, but new categories of consumers within those markets. At LVMH’s top brands, Louis Vuitton and Dior, men’s categories — including ready-to-wear, shoes, watches and leather goods — now account for approximately 25 percent of sales, according to Citi Research estimates. Similarly, Kering’s fastest-growing brand Balenciaga, says men and Millennials are now among its biggest sales drivers.
The luxury sneaker drives this commercial momentum for many brands. WGSN reported a 30.2 percent year-on-year growth in men’s luxury sports shoes in 2018. The streetwear aesthetic adopted by numerous luxury menswear brands continues to successfully draw in the male consumer's attention, buoyed by the likes of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton Men’s and Off-White, with the latter taking first place for the Lyst Index’s Hottest Brands Q1 2019, Samuel Ross at A-Cold-Wall and Matthew Williams at Alyx.
“The market worldwide is going to convert from the classic men’s business to [being] more fashion-oriented, and the country that is going to weigh a lot on the market is China,” Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive of the LVMH Fashion Group told BoF last week. “Chinese men are crazy about fashion,” he continues.
A new generation of male icons is also changing the face of menswear. The craze of “little fresh meat” — handsome, often androgynous or effeminate-looking men — spread across China and neighbouring Asian countries last year. This form of masculinity is exemplified through Korean boyband BTS, ambassadors for the likes of Puma and VT Cosmetics, and western personalities like musicians Troye Sivan, a Valentino ambassador, and Harry Styles, a favourite of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. This interaction of masculinity and femininity is found too in the designs of JW Anderson, Martine Rose and Grace Wales Bonner, while more brands adopt the trend into their show casting.
Indeed, the influence of the male Chinese consumer on the evolution of menswear will continue to grow as brands seek new growth levers through the introduction of new product lines catering to emerging tastes and needs. Due to the commercial opportunity of many new product being dependent on their success with Chinese consumers, the emerging aesthetics fashion brands are exploring are informed primarily by their preferences.
The menswear schedules might be thinning out and growth rates slowing, but the commercial potential the industry sees in the menswear businesses, and the creative opportunities its emerging aesthetics are creating are greater than ever.