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NYFW Proves NYFW: Men’s Doesn’t Need to Exist

Trends in the fashion industry might be NYFW: Men’s death knell.

Photo: Kris Connor

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It may be NYFW: Men’s fault that the event is on life support, but its imminent death seems to be out of its hands. The February 2015 announcement of a dedicated men’s week was met with the type of applause world-beating Olympian Katie Ledecky might give her competitors — enthusiastic and happy for them, but unthreatened. On top of recognizing menswear as valuable, the week was also a win because it made logistical sense for designers who wanted to show clothing when buyers were actually, you know, buying them.

Fast-forward a handful of seasons and we’re already in the guy-loses-girl part of this love story. Mashable didn’t wait longer than a single season to declare: "New York's first men's fashion week didn't work." Highsnobiety gave it two seasons before coming with the straight-from-the-volcano take: "New York Fashion Week: Men’s Sucks." The swift backlash makes you feel like you missed a scene.

And while others have preached patience, like WGSN’s Jian DeLeon did to Glossy after this most recent season — "It takes a couple of seasons to build a platform that highlights the right people," he said — does it really make sense in the current fashion climate to keep running this thing out just so menswear has a couple participation awards to put on the shelf? Haven’t modern-day trends diminished the need for a separation between NYFW and NYFW: Men’s?

The biggest challenge that NYFW: Men’s faces is simply the number of people paying attention. New York Fashion Week, full stop, just has more eyeballs on it, so it’s not hard to understand why brands that might seemingly be a better fit for the :M version of fashion week would want to weasel their way into the event. "Men's week is still new to New York and has a smaller audience, so while the men's calendar lines up better with NYFW:M sales-wise, they may be able to reach a wider audience [at NYFW]," Veronique Hyland, senior fashion news editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut says.

Second/Layer fall/winter 2016 Photo: Andrew Toth

Kith, which is making its fashion week debut Tuesday night, is probably the best example of this. The brand, regardless of your personal feelings on it or its clothes, has inarguably changed the way men dress with its easy basics and joggers. I walked by the brand’s store in Brooklyn this past weekend and a man eating one of the Kith-branded cereal concoctions emerged from the front doors and announced to his crew, "This shit is waaaaaaavy." You don’t get 20-somethings declaring dressed-up cereal, "wavy" with a bunch of extra a’s without a palpable amount of influence.

Yet even Kith has been seduced by NYFW’s big lights and will show its men’s clothes together with their women’s collection. Much of the conversation surrounding NYFW: Men’s tribulations center around two things: a lack of the sort of boundary-pushing creativity shown during other men’s events, like London’s dedicated men’s fashion week, and an inability for NYFW: Men’s to attract its own star hometown designers. Forget Tom Ford, the week needs to get the Kiths of the world on board.

Kith is an interesting case study because it found a way to fit at NYFW with its still-young womenswear collection. It follows a recent trend of designers who have combined men’s and women’s clothing in the interest of the future. Vetements, Tom Ford, Burberry, Gucci, and Public School have all integrated their men’s and women’s collection — does no one else see the problem that poses for NYFW: Men’s? Even during NYFW:M, brands like the popular LA-based Second/Layer and the avant-garde Baja East showed clothing that was essentially genderless — no one would have batted an eye had either shown during this week.

At some point, seemingly in a galaxy much less far away than the one those Star Wars blurbs boast of, won’t fashion week just be a glorious melange of men’s, women’s, and genderless clothing? "You see designers like Burberry bringing their men's and women's collections together into a single show, and I think the trend will continue to the point where unisex, genderless fashion weeks are the eventual reality," Hyland says. There are problems this poses for logistics and the smaller brands that utilize NYFW: Men’s as a platform to gain some exposure, but the need for a whole crop of days is waning. Look at brands like Public School that have decided to take themselves completely off the "traditional" fashion calendar. Maybe NYFW: Men’s is a good concept that’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time.