Thursday, 11 September 2008

Addressing the balance

Thom Browne is one of the few designers pushing menswear in a different direction whilst bringing some theatre to the show - Image taken from Dazed Digital's excellent coverage of the shows across the pond.

In modern society (as I live it anyway) there is a welcome questioning of the balance between the sexes throughout all aspects of society be that at the office in terms of promotions or sexual harassment, or in Sport, with the of the allocation of prize money or even participation itself being debated and addressed. This is a good thing. However, as the majority of men enjoy their hegemonic status, in certain arenas they simply don't. Fashion is one of these arenas where men, or atleast menswear, is shunned into the shadows. Yes, there is has been a great deal more attention afforded to it but it still perceived to be the ugly sister, both in it's treatment within the media and even (most dishearteningly) by the designers themselves. Two recent posts have forced me into writing this and I would like to continue the debate with all of you and ask for your opinions on the subject. In his recent podcast with enc (which is well worth a listen, if you've not done so already) The Sunday Best mentions how he is frustrated by a number of designers seemingly approaching their menswear lines halfheartedly, giving the example of Nicolas Ghesquière (which is a great example). The treatment and perception of menswear and womenswear is inherently different, but why? Can designers change this, would you like them to? There are few contemporary menswear designers who confront the conventions of the genre. While notable visionaries such as Rei Kawakubo, for Comme des Garçons, and Martin Margiela are revered for their radical approach to fashion, their main focus is still womenswear... the men's line is something of an afterthought.

One of the few - James Long. Graduating from the Royal College of Art with an MA in menswear and accessories, Long's signature fabrics include leather and sheepskin. He fuses them with modern materials such as netting and plastics, to create hard, graphic silhouettes.

Similarly Jaiden James wrote about his boredom of the current state of fashion, in particular menswear - "Even menswear is tiring me gone are the days of Slimane, Lang,Sander and with every designer either using colour and failing or neutral colours and boring the over used minimilistic approach to design is now making alot of designers clothes look the same." One look at the current crop of shows and one has to agree that there is a somewhat predictable theme running through the collections. Menswear rarely gets the theatre, the surprise, the forward momentum that we see frequently in womenswear. Jaiden James then goes on to describe how London has a wealth of talented designers "from Longs exo skelton harnesses, Throups conceptual designs, Mundanes neon monster pixialated world, eurlers furturistic approach to contemporary menswear, madsens sculptrual knitwear etc etc", however there s a lack of support for the new breed of designers, which needs to be nurtured and showcased. Let's look at London Fashion week and the options for menswear. The MAN Show is one of the few options available to these menswear designers and it can only support 3 a season. "All MAN is trying to say is that menswear has been grossly neglected," says Gordon Richardson (design director of Topman). Unfortunately, it still is being neglected (The Man show is now in it's seventh season), despite the growth of menswear (in terms of sales and attention) why are the powers that be so fixated on womenswear. If this element of the industry isn't prepared to change something else has to. Maybe one day Men Represent can join MAN show in supporting menswear in the way that it should be supported.

Men Represent update: The lovely Isabelle (editor of Brandish) posted about the cause today and I'm really feeling a sense of community right now. Fingers crossed we get sent lots of Essentials which we can share with you to start the ball rolling. We've already received a few and we will begin posting them soon.


ediot said...

oh, my that wooly sweater to the right. its just amazing. like a fairytale

KLA* said...

I have long been unhappy with the state of men's fashion. This was a major point of discussion for a Fashion Class I taught last summer. Often, I simply buy women's clothes and make them work.

TheSundayBest said...

I'm really hoping London Fashion Week kills New much as I love Band of Outsiders and their ilk, they are not the stuff of catwalk dreams. Everything looks so...marketable. (except the dresses, and cmon - that's what we get for glamour???)

numerocuatro said...

very interesting blog!
i'll be checking it out
from now on.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Ediot - The James Long jumper is amazing isn't it?

Kla - Menswear is improving, I just feel it's stuck in a phase, the consumer needs to demand something else and then things will change. I agree that sustomising womenswear is something the smaller framed man shouldn't be afraid of.

The Sunday Best - I understand it to be the reverse unfortunately (in terms of womenswear atleast), hopefully if this is the case it will have a positive effect on menswear!

Numerocuatro - Thanks, it's so nice to extend the readership of the blog, keep commenting!

Lost said...

Not sure if the jumper on the right is wearable apart from anywhere but your home!

I'll either send you an Email or set up another blog, and show you my recent scrapbookings Savage, not that interesting but hey, something to do!

Jonas Fred said...

I agree with you in the fact that Thom Browne is doing something different and push menswear to a more theatrical and different way but he tends to repeat some of his ideas and I am starting to get bored of it. What I would like him to do is do his signature collection with different fabrics - I would like to know what a leather jacket and jeans are in his eyes. Maybe the leather jacket would be shrunk and so would be the jeans but its still different from his usual.

The support has to be given to new menswear designers. Men are more into fashion now or atleast want timeless clothes with a twist. It seems almost impossible to start a brand for designers if it is only menswear. I would love to see children now who say they want to be fashion designers when they grow up to say I want to be a menswear designer.

Jonas Fred

ryder said...

Thom Browne is for real something totally different.

i like when mans clothing is crossing the limits og "classic" outfit, for like that it's even more intersting even for me, as a women, to play and work that clothes as well.
dior homme with slimane was something on my radar... i say was. ;)

btw. hello! :)

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure that although some of these young designers are producing some pretty visually striking stuff, most of it is, to put it bluntly, unwearable without looking like a total fashion victim. Therein lies the difference - women will experiment massively with shape and colour and usually be applauded for it. Men are more conservative. I agree the Throup's collaborations with Stone Island are brilliant - it's about rethinking the old shapes into somwething that looks new rather than creating a woollen exoskeleton which no-one will ever wear. or am I completely wrong? xS

Style Salvage Steve said...

Lost - I love Long's jumper and I personally feel it could be worn outside of the runway. I might just be crazy though?
Jonas - I would love to see Thom Browne experiment more with fabrics and textures. In terms of your second point I will post an email I received this week written by a person who wants to become a menswear designer who wants to push things forward. There is hope out there!
Ryder - hello there, I agree with you completely. Thanks for reading.
xs - Why should men not experiment in the same way as women? There aren't many women who wear creations of the runway...they wear toned down interpretations and menwswear should in my view follow suit.

j said...

Yes, well, the fashion industry works like everything else in a capitalist economy, it goes where the money is. Unfortunately, there still is not a critical mass of men willing to buy or wear anything interesting. Women's attitudes have as much to do with this as men's. You're just not a man if you wear anything other than jeans and a t-shirt.

Style Salvage Steve said...

I'm a dreamer J. There are murmerings of this new market though, just look at how quickly the latest topman lens sells out! I agree that there are a number of factors influencing menswear but some can be changed, are you with me?

Lost said...

the Aitour Troupe (pardon my spelling) trousers part of the "black trouser project" by Topman were first to sell out, I wonder if this was because they had a good write up in August's GQ?
(I went to check out the other trousers and to be honest they looked awful in quality)

It's fine playing about with style, however the most stylish people I know probably don't read gq!

Do reading fashion mags, and other associated magazines stop us from truely being stylish as we are being told what to wear?

Also totally bummed that my student loan is being delayed until the end of the month. I doubt that lens collection especially the plaid green jacket and this beauty

Will last!

Lost said...

Ok I suck this should be with the going away post..

Style Salvage Steve said...

Lost - Dont worry, it makes sense here aswell! I agree with you in terms of the quality of the fabrics used within the Black Trouser Project. I hear your pain in terms of the lens collection, fingers crossed you don't miss out, I have high hopes for this collection and I doubt I'll be disappointed!

Brad Silk said...

Forgive me for not knowing many names, I am interested in fashion, butnot invested in it. But still, I can note there is a large separation between mens and womens. Menswear seems to have two facets: boring and costume. When designers create some interest in their line (James Long, John Galliano etc) it becomes unwearable. These items above, of James Long, are nice. But highly unwearable.

Anonymous said...

I have the same sentiment as Thom. What I seemingly don't like about New York is about how marketable (errrrrrrrrrrrrr commercial) the shows really are. I have my eyes on London Fashion Week. Looking forward to see a menswear presentation from James Long and someone like Aitor Throup...

But ultimately my heart belongs to Paris hahahaa.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Brad Silk - I have to disagree with you with regards to Long, I know I could and indeed would wear them. Even if they are unwearable they can have a considerable effect on more wearable designs.

Giancinephile - Paris offers so much sentiment and rightly so but London is the future.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in this article in the London paper today.


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