Fashion in flux at close of New York Fashion Week: Men's
Launched by the CFDA in 2015, New York Fashion Week: Men's was supposed to signal the creation of a business powerhouse for designers; a standalone showcase for the best of American menswear.
But four years later, signs are pointing to the event finding itself on shaky ground. Notably, it appeared on this season’s calendar as a three-day event mixed with co-ed programming, ensnared like its global counterparts in the continuing march towards integrated men’s and womenswear. But when the dedicated New York men’s fashion week stretches to a meagre three days, whether the US fashion capital can replicate the success of the space afforded to co-ed shows on the international calendars is a question that the week has yet to answer.
What’s more, the CFDA appears to be severely lacking in funds: In a New York Times report this week, it was revealed that the organisation won’t be providing funding for future editions of the menswear week. Chief executive Steven Kolb told the publication that the CFDA has seen its budget drop by “about half.”
Nevertheless, financial fluctuations aside, the days saw brilliant design successes from up-and-coming designers and established returns alike.
Stand-out collections included South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, whose presentation showed a collection focused on natural fabrics, including mohair and raw silk, in a palette of terracottas, creams, and golds. Complemented by Dr. Martens shoes, the collection’s coats, pants, jackets, dresses, pants, jerseys and scarves were indicative of Mdingi’s increasingly polished perspective.
After several seasons away from NYFW, Robert Geller presented a space-aged runway show this fall. The high-energy show, which featured pieces from the recent Robert Geller x Lululemon collaborative capsule, told the story of a mountain climb to the moon. The show’s jackets, coats, hoodies and pants layered a range of moon greys and literal lunar prints with surges of vibrant fuchsia, neon green, pink and grape-candy purple. The designer’s collaborative boot-meets-sneaker footwear with Common Project dutifully combined the collection’s mix of performance and heart-eyed fantasy.
In a quieter affair, Ryuhei Oomaru’s Overcoat presentation in Chinatown revealed the Japanese designer’s first full menswear collection, complete with apparel like pants and shirts on top of Oomaru’s signature outerwear. Oomaru's coats still stood out as the collection's, offering outerwear inspired by New York City awnings. Pieces ranged from paired-down, trench-style overcoats in navy and military green to high-contrast, graphic designs featuring pops of teal, neon pink, cobalt blue and royal purple. Overcoat’s Fall 2019 collection will be the label’s first to launch at Japanese retailer Totokaelo.
Undoubtedly proving itself to be the backbone of the men's calendar was New York Men's Day, produced by Agentry PR. The two-part event, which took place on the week’s opening day on February 4, successfully celebrated its 11th season this week. Housed at CreativeDrive in the Financial District, the event provided a combination of up-and-coming talent in one convenient location, with 10 designers spread between two viewing periods in the morning and afternoon.
Kicking NYMD off was a vibrant presentation by Krammer & Stoudt that conjured the East Coast label's signature West Coast ethos through a series of desert-themed motifs, where models oozing sexuality and leisurely rock-and-roll confidence wore looks inspired by vintage Sunset Strip culture, Joshua Tree, and the works of musician and artist Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet). Stand-out pieces included a relaxed grey button down and matching jogger pant under a decadent light fawn fur coat, a dun-colored vintage leather Armani trench hand-painted by creative director Michael Rubin and a two-piece brilliant blue corduroy number.
In another room, Sundae School designer Dae Lim presented a Fall/Winter 2019 collection that juxtaposed the marijuana boom sweeping South Korea and the U.S. with the spirit of the American frontier's gold rush. Inspired by the recent legalization of medical marijuana in his native South Korea, the presentation aroused sentiments of positivity, aggression and greed through a combination of sharp, updated takes on traditional Korean silhouettes and pop-art design elements. Pieces like bead-fringed cowboy hats, Western-influenced Hanbok attire, denim embroidered with red flames, and garments decorated with striking illustrations by Seoul-based illustrator Yeonbun and Chicago-based graphic artist Moneymuizz were bold yet wearable.
New York-based menswear brand Descendent of Thieves’ creative director Matteo Maniatty skillfully used his spot at NYMD to celebrate the style of New Yorker’s themselves. The theme of the latest collection, which Maniatty explained as “love thy neighbor, but don’t dress like him” to FashionNetwork.com, played out in a rich array of earth tones and rust colors, shimmering sateen fabrics and regal furry collars. Jackets under loosely-draped coats and splashes of colorful camo prints dressed down the higher-brow elements, a sartorial medley to the well-dressed New York man.
On top of being a one-stop-shop for some of the industry’s most buzzworthy young labels, it’s also worth noting that NYMD set itself up for a strong performance with the support of several corporate sponsors, including American footwear brand Sperry and men’s skincare brand Lab Series (an Estée Lauder Companies Inc. brand), as well as hair care company Oribe, hair and makeup agency Augment and New York-based beauty platform Make-Up Pro, who provided hair and makeup teams to presenting designers.
The pathbreaking event comes as the season struggles to regain a financial foothold after the exit of corporate sponsors, including Amazon Fashion in 2017, following the disappearance of high-profile names such as Raf Simons and John Varvatos from the schedule.
For next season’s men’s designers, this means that they will be responsible for organizing their own venues and financing for shows and presentations. A change that falls well short of the CFDA’s initially lofty ambitions to strengthen the presence of its local designers, and is certain to disappoint the labels most dependent on the event’s support – while well-established fashion houses continue to show their menswear overseas.
Now at its close, NYFW: Men’s has at least broadly served as more of an aperitif to the New York women's programming than as a new frontrunner in the global men's scene. Spiralling public acceptance of gender-neutral fashion and the decreasing perception of relevance of single-sex fashion weeks could pose an additional challenge for the struggling event, while effectively extending the options for top-tier labels choosing to show abroad.
But for those still present in New York, the lack of security and an uncertain future hasn’t inhibited the talent. New openings brought for fresh perspectives, and agender and co-ed collections indicated that New York menswear might be refocusing for an even stronger offer – regardless of the format of its arena.
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