NYFW: Men’s Came And Went… But Did You Even Know It Happened?

By BERND FISCHER
06 February 2019
Style, New York, Fashion Week, Fall/Winter '19
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
The dedicated menswear week in New York is still struggling for relevancy, but following the outlook this season, this could very well signal the end.

We love The City That Never Sleeps… but unfortunately, its standalone men’s fashion week that follows the shows in London, Milan and Paris doesn’t have the staying power the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) hoped it would when it embarked on the journey back in 2015.

Just this week, the CFDA revealed that the men’s calendar had been merged into a long 10-day event together with the existing womenswear and co-ed shows, with only the first three days allocated wholly to menswear. On top of this announcement came the news that the CFDA would no longer fund the exclusively men's show week it launched.

The initial reaction to a New York Fashion Week: Men’s was mostly positively received – the other three fashion capitals have had a dedicated men’s calendar for years – as designers could finally show their collections without being overshadowed by the massive attention women’s weeks have always boasted.

The investment from sponsorships in a singular American men’s week looked promising, too: along with Cadillac, Amazon Fashion was one of the first heavyweights to sign on as a principal sponsor. However, only two years later, the fashion retailer withdrew.

But there's an even bigger challenge facing the CFDA: the lack of designers showing in New York – an existing problem not only concerning the men’s shows but affecting the city’s overall status as a fashion powerhouse that once prided itself on hosting all-American brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Many of these high profile names have moved their shows abroad. And although there was excitement about Raf Simons for Calvin Klein on the New York schedule, it was short-lived when the Belgian designer ended his tenure at the company in December, just months before his three-year contract ended, resulting in the brand deciding to pull out of showing altogether this season.

Tom Ford remains a highlight, however, the designer is following in the footsteps of brands like Burberry, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Celine, Gucci and Ralph Lauren who’ve combined their offerings into co-ed shows, a move that’s long been hailed as not only a more cost-effective direction, but also one more in line with the current cultural zeitgeist.

There’s no doubt that the support these separate shows offer new talent is crucial, but the reality is simply not sustainable. As highlighted by The Business of Fashion last month: “When the market landscape changes, the industry must change with it … [T]he men's shows should be integrated into a more tightly curated 7-day calendar that shows the best of American fashion, from both men’s and women’s designers."