J.Lindeberg SS16 Backstage by Jae Foo

The menswear shows in London, Milan, and Paris signify the start of the lengthy 12 months of fashion we come to await every year. Many American designers have no choice but to trek to the other side of the world to show among the rest of their peers, where editors, buyers and journalists all congregate for the shows. Many a year were these American designers more or less forced to show at any of the three European cities instead of back home. The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) were secretly planning to have a fashion week for its mens designers in New York for some time. The result? NYFWM, abbreviation for New York Fashion Week Men’s, a fourth week added to the monthly circuit. It felt right to have another week where menswear brands could show closer to or right in their home base. The first event, in June of 2015, aimed to welcome international industry members to support these brands. Right off the bat, more than 60 presentations and catwalk shows were scheduled and spread out over four coherent days. Rangled up were a mix of up and comers, contemporary favourites, and a few established designers. It was clear the CFDA meant business by so ambitiously presenting the event, but was it successful?

Tim Coppens SS16 Backstage by Jae Foo

Well, yes and no. For its first season, it was expected there were going to be few labels choosing to present back in the states after everyone would be pioneering through three weeks of shows in London, Milan and Paris. The first season of NYFWM was in June, off schedule. This meant battling conflicts with resort previews in Europe right after the menswear spring/summer collections, preoccupying editors and buyers. Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors, who usually integrate their men’s looks with their womenswear presentations, were some of the only well established designers who agreed to show with the showcase. Not even Thom Browne, who shows his women’s collections in New York, moved his men’s show from his usual slot in Paris back to the other side of the pond. Strangely, Calvin Klein Collection will host their menswear show in Milan in January then again in New York. With only a handful of large, reputable designers on the schedule for the first season, the divide between the quality in New York and in the other cities was undoubtedly huge. There’s little reward for brands to show in New York unless they would be up against brands of their own caliber. New, young designers occupied almost the whole schedule for the first season. In fact, it was the reason some designers even considered putting on a show. Compared to the European slots, lacking were the prestigious designers with the kind of heritage that attracts the necessary press to their show. Maybe that’s why the New York edition felt more like a tradeshow than a fashion week. At best, the clothes from several designers shown were excruciatingly contemporary; compared to the competition across the world, the creativity was lacking and stifling. Truthfully, most of the clothes would’ve done just fine on mannequins. If some wondered whether this fashion week would intrude on the European slots, they should have no worries. It’s very clear that it wouldn’t.

Duckie Brown SS16

The menswear industry has generated more profit through the years; it’s understandable for the CFDA to want a platform to proudly present and support its own talent when interest in the menswear industry is becoming less and less uncommon today. But apprehensions of another showcase when the annual schedule is already so packed were expected. Not just the scheduling conflicts, but the claustrophobic schedule of lacklustre talent didn’t exactly generate the excitement the CFDA certainly hoped for. Certainly, with only the very few established designers showing, they provided the stepping stone for other labels to take notice of what could be New York Fashion Week Men’s in the future. The sophomore season in February will host Coach, Michael Kors, Tim Coppens, and once again, Tommy Hilfiger. Still, with those confirmed, it’ll take more to convince the Western based designers to switch back. The brands and the press influence each other—bring in the talent and the attendance will welcome those crucial industry members. Founded and still run by the CFDA, there’s no doubt there’s the potential and resources for triumph. New York is a commercially obsessed city, and it’s talent represents that, but as fashion keeps us working faster and faster trying to keep up, taking time to do things well is important. It took a lengthy five years for London Collections: Men to really get off the ground as an international showcase for menswear. The CFDA would do well to make radical changes, and fast. They should know just as well as we do, the clock is ticking.