In the world of fashion, New York City often rubs elbows with the likes of London, Paris and Milan. But those cities have something that Manhattan has yet to have — a fashion week devoted to all-things menswear to spotlight the work of established and emerging designers who are making a splash in this ever-expanding space.

But that’s changing. Under the direction of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s kicked off Monday with more than 40 menswear designers participating in the four-day affair. Runway shows and presentations featuring trends for spring/summer 2016 will take place across the city, with the hub of the action to be headquartered at the Skylight Clarkson Sq., a former terminal for the High Line in west Soho.

“American menswear has never been stronger or more creative,” says CFDA CEO Steven Kolb. “The design talent is diverse, from tailored to street to swim.”

Until now, many of these men’s designers have presented their latest looks at the bi-annual New York Fashion Week shows each September and February (which are in the midst of their own makeovers now that Mercedes-Benz is no longer the title sponsor). But they often were overshadowed by the women’s ready-to-wear collections that tend to dominate the runways and media attention. Meanwhile, in recent years international fashion capitals have launched their own men’s-focused fashion weeks with great fanfare. So it was only a matter of time before New York City’s fashion scene followed suit.

The CFDA announced last winter the news of New York Fashion Week: Men’s debut and has received an “overwhelmingly enthusiastic” response ever since, Kolb says. Amazon, Cadillac, Tumblr and Shinola are a few of the major sponsors that have signed on to support it, and several design powerhouses — Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Thom Browne, Michael Kors and Hickey Freeman, to name a few — are on the schedule. Another early success came when contemporary menswear designer John Varvatos said he’d show his collection in New York City for the first time since spring 2008 as part of men’s fashion week.

“From the time I started my brand in 2000, the timing between New York Fashion Week and the menswear calendar was never truly aligned,” Varvatos told media earlier this year. “After eight years of showing in New York, I moved my show to Milan and gained a global audience.”

This year the brand opened a store in Detroit (the designer’s hometown), which prompted him to want to bring his show back to America, he says. His runway show will close the week’s events on Thursday night.

This lineup of A-list designers will be complemented by a crop of aspiring ones handpicked to participate in New York Men’s Day, a concept created a couple years ago by Erin Hawker, founder and owner of the Manhattan-based Agentry PR agency. At the time, she noticed the lack of resources and platforms for up-and-coming menswear designers to present their work. With input from buyers and editors, New York Men’s Day compiles about a dozen of menswear’s rising design stars at one venue for a day of presentations. To help shoulder costs, men’s day organizers cover facility, hair and makeup expenses.

“All (the designers) really have to pay for is the models,” Hawker says.

To date, the timing of New York Men’s Day has aligned with the New York Fashion Week shows, but now it’s shifting to be part of New York City’s men’s week. Carlos Campos, David Hart, Garciavelez, Kenneth Ning and Cadet are among the brands slated for the men’s day showcase that were to open New York Fashion Week: Men’s on Monday at Industria Superstudio in the heart of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Cadillac is the title sponsor for the event.

New York Men’s Day organizers worked closely with the CFDA to make the collaboration possible and to ensure that both groups’ missions go hand in hand, Hawker says.

“They’re kind of supporting the bigger brands and the CFDA members. We’re sticking to this emerging space and trying to help in any way that we can with America’s next emerging menswear designers.”

The addition of New York Fashion Week: Men’s to the calendar has the potential to generate big business — and not just for the designers.

New York Fashion Week’s bi-annual shows that total 16 days each year bring in nearly $900 million — close to $550 million of which consists of hotel stays, cab rides, restaurant visits and other kinds of visitor spending — according to a recent Congressional report led by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney. (To put this in perspective, the 2014 Super Bowl in Rutherford, N.J., raked in about $500 million.) If New York Fashion Week: Men’s proves to have staying power, there’s even more money to be made for the city.

On the retail front, the dates of the men’s shows are better suited for stores’ buying schedules, says Lisa Slesinger, co-owner and buyer at Larrimor’s, Downtown. Many fine retailers get their first glimpses of trends for upcoming seasons on the European runways. But for some, by the time New York City holds its shows they’ve already closed their orders. New York Fashion Week: Men’s is wisely scheduled to be back-to-back with other prominent fashion trade shows and markets taking place in July in New York, so a lot of retailers’ buying staffs will already be in the city at the time to scout trends and plan their inventories. For those who can’t make it to see the shows in person, the ability to see footage from runway shows on the Internet is helpful when it comes to monitoring trends and seeing what’s available to buy, Slesinger says.

And even for the next generation of designers and fashion retail merchandisers, an emphasis on men’s style could have an impact on career paths and plans for the future, says Stephanie Taylor, who heads the fashion departments at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

“Focusing on menswear sends a message that menswear remains a strong influence in the business of fashion and always will.”


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