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New year, same old designers. GQ's annual Best New Menswear Designers in America program turns 10 this year. It's supposed to find the best new American menswear talent and set them up with a Gap partnership, offering young designers mass exposure while offering consumers more affordable designs.
Which is an excellent idea. But in 2016, GQ ditched the "new" thing and invited back four of the top designers the magazine has worked with through the course of BNMDA, meaning one more Gap collaboration for Michael Bastian, John Elliott, Steven Alan, and Saturdays NYC.
While the change in concept from GQ could be taken as a, "Hey, we're great at championing designers who are still kicking years later," it makes the whole thing kind of boring. "We wanted to go big this year, to revisit some of our most significant alumni over the decade," GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson says via a press release. "We're calling them our All-Stars. Together, they show the breadth, growth and promise of American men's fashion."
And while each does seem to represent a slice of American fashion, they also represent the parts that are decaying. GQ seems to have traded in relevancy for guaranteed profit margins. Who needs another Michael Bastian polo in 2016? Where are the new guys? Saturdays NYC does not represent the same exciting parts of menswear that a brand like Second/Layer or Richardson does. GQ has created a great platform to help expose not completely famous designers to the mainstream audience that shops at the Gap, they should use it.
John Elliott was exciting when he was announced two years ago. En Noir's Rob Garcia was another designer whose collaboration with Gap we couldn't wait to see. And I wish GQ had at least tried to recapture that excitement in some other way than just going back to what was exciting before.
Of course, they're probably excited by the fact that everyone will sell — and well. Elliott specifically speaks to the power of getting his clothes into Gap. "One of the most incredible experiences of my life was going to the Gap near where I live in L.A. to look at my first GQ collection, and they didn't have anything left," Elliot says in the press release.
The designers' collaborations with Gap will release this fall.