New York City is celebrating the return of a dedicated fashion week for men this week, after years of planning and quite a lot of debate as to whether it would really work here. But judging by the hundreds of people who traveled to the far reaches of Chelsea on a muggy Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. to see a Thom Browne presentation, it seems that if you simply say “fashion week,” they will come.
I don’t mean to belittle Browne’s presentation, in which male models wearing variations of the same gray suit – with elongated jackets and clam-digger-length trousers – standing inside a large box designed to look like an office space, only with the walls, ceiling, floor, and desk rendered in a shiny mirrored surface (pictured, above). It was more like performance art than fashion show, with just a taste of a collection, since Browne had already shown his spring collection in Paris and was participating in New York Fashion Week: Men’s as a sign of solidarity with American designers.
But only a few people were allowed in the box at a time, resulting in long waits for most guests to see such a small show. At the same time, the infinity office space was as interesting as those clothes, offering a perhaps unintended statement on the status of men’s fashion in contemporary times. There are endless possibilities, but in the end, there aren’t many ways to improve upon a gray suit.
And it would be hard for most of Manhattan to miss the excitement happening around the men’s shows this week, which resulted from a group of buyers and editors working with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to address a longstanding complaint that men’s wear designers were being underserved. They used to show their collections during fashion week in September, but were overshadowed by the star powers of women’s wear.
No longer will that be the case. On Tuesday alone, there were more than a dozen presentations and shows, including the hot label Public School by designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. They organized vignettes of models (including some New York notables like Nickelson Wooster, Waris Ahluwalia, and Twin Shadow) as if they were in a criminal lineup. It was a clever presentation, well attuned to the social media demands of its audience, and although not entirely unprecedented (the cult Japanese label N. Hoolywood did a similar show in 2010), the concept was a hit. Even amid the throngs of people who turned up to see the collection, it was easy to see the appeal of Public School’s hybridization of athletic wear and tailoring, particularly in a grouping of shiny blue-black wool, rendered as a bomber jacket, a long vest, a tailored jacket, a double-zippered windbreaker, and more (pictured, below).
For other designers who showed on Tuesday, the event was an opportunity to familiarize editors with clothes they had already shown elsewhere. Calvin Klein’s men’s creative director, Italo Zucchelli, had a runway show in Milan, but in his showroom you could see the fabrics up close, and they were incredible. The star of the collection was “faux denim,” actually a jacquard jeans jacket that looked like the real thing, but exponentially more luxurious. Rag & Bone, meanwhile, presented a collection on stick-figure mannequins that had a far more athletic look than their usual tailoring, with lightweight nylon jackets, track pants and loose shorts, a sign that the athleisure movement has now conquered men’s (pictured, below).
And some designers had full runway shows, including N. Hoolywood, which was surprisingly one of the more demure collections of the day, rooted in sportswear classics and easy suits with matching T-shirts. At the other extreme was Duckie Brown, where designers Steven Cox and Daniel Silver showed see-through organza tops with voluminous pants, cinched at the waist with ribbon belts, some in outlandish lavender or highlighter yellow (pictured, below). So there's something for everyone.