Thursday, September 11, 2008

Addressing the balance

Thom Browne is one of the few designers pushing menswear in a different direction whilst bringing some theatre to the show - Image taken from Dazed Digital's excellent coverage of the shows across the pond.

In modern society (as I live it anyway) there is a welcome questioning of the balance between the sexes throughout all aspects of society be that at the office in terms of promotions or sexual harassment, or in Sport, with the of the allocation of prize money or even participation itself being debated and addressed. This is a good thing. However, as the majority of men enjoy their hegemonic status, in certain arenas they simply don't. Fashion is one of these arenas where men, or atleast menswear, is shunned into the shadows. Yes, there is has been a great deal more attention afforded to it but it still perceived to be the ugly sister, both in it's treatment within the media and even (most dishearteningly) by the designers themselves. Two recent posts have forced me into writing this and I would like to continue the debate with all of you and ask for your opinions on the subject. In his recent podcast with enc (which is well worth a listen, if you've not done so already) The Sunday Best mentions how he is frustrated by a number of designers seemingly approaching their menswear lines halfheartedly, giving the example of Nicolas Ghesquière (which is a great example). The treatment and perception of menswear and womenswear is inherently different, but why? Can designers change this, would you like them to? There are few contemporary menswear designers who confront the conventions of the genre. While notable visionaries such as Rei Kawakubo, for Comme des Garçons, and Martin Margiela are revered for their radical approach to fashion, their main focus is still womenswear... the men's line is something of an afterthought.

One of the few - James Long. Graduating from the Royal College of Art with an MA in menswear and accessories, Long's signature fabrics include leather and sheepskin. He fuses them with modern materials such as netting and plastics, to create hard, graphic silhouettes.

Similarly Jaiden James wrote about his boredom of the current state of fashion, in particular menswear - "Even menswear is tiring me gone are the days of Slimane, Lang,Sander and with every designer either using colour and failing or neutral colours and boring the over used minimilistic approach to design is now making alot of designers clothes look the same." One look at the current crop of shows and one has to agree that there is a somewhat predictable theme running through the collections. Menswear rarely gets the theatre, the surprise, the forward momentum that we see frequently in womenswear. Jaiden James then goes on to describe how London has a wealth of talented designers "from Longs exo skelton harnesses, Throups conceptual designs, Mundanes neon monster pixialated world, eurlers furturistic approach to contemporary menswear, madsens sculptrual knitwear etc etc", however there s a lack of support for the new breed of designers, which needs to be nurtured and showcased. Let's look at London Fashion week and the options for menswear. The MAN Show is one of the few options available to these menswear designers and it can only support 3 a season. "All MAN is trying to say is that menswear has been grossly neglected," says Gordon Richardson (design director of Topman). Unfortunately, it still is being neglected (The Man show is now in it's seventh season), despite the growth of menswear (in terms of sales and attention) why are the powers that be so fixated on womenswear. If this element of the industry isn't prepared to change something else has to. Maybe one day Men Represent can join MAN show in supporting menswear in the way that it should be supported.

Men Represent update: The lovely Isabelle (editor of Brandish) posted about the cause today and I'm really feeling a sense of community right now. Fingers crossed we get sent lots of Essentials which we can share with you to start the ball rolling. We've already received a few and we will begin posting them soon.

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