Are Men’s Fashion Events Just Another Tick On The Social Calendar?
A man with the right sartorial sense always has an edge on both the professional and personal front. While menswear in India has slowly but surely seen an upswing — especially when it comes to the sheer size of the market — it’s miles away from witnessing the high octane quotient that the womenswear segment demands, especially in designer wear. Whoever said that retail therapy is strictly a woman’s domain was somewhat right.
Having said that, there’s good news for the not-to-be-left-behind gents as well. After all, the era of the man cave has finally (and hopefully) reached the threshold of doom. When men are at their dapper best (and by that, I mean well-groomed and dressed to the nines), you know menswear is headed for greener pastures. Which is something we wholeheartedly appreciate and endorse.
A model showcases an Abhishek Paatni creation at the GQ Fashion Nights
This past weekend, GQ India hosted the second edition of its Fashion Nights, which saw some veteran and budding designers (including Rohit Bal, Shantanu & Nikhil, Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, Abhishek Paatni, etc) take the runway among an array of a spiffily dressed, primarily male audience in the Mumbai suburbs (read tux, bandhgalas, layering done right). But men’s fashion shows are no newbies on home turf.
The first-ever dedicated men’s fashion week was held back in 2009 (the Van Heuesen India Men’s Week) backed by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), in the capital. However, VHIMW came to an abrupt halt after a few seasons.
Veteran fashion journalist Vinod Nair opines, “India Men’s Fashion Week wasn’t commercially viable. And when the title sponsor backed out, FDCI couldn’t find a replacement sponsor. One of the prime reasons is probably because the menswear segment, in general, lacks the glamour that womenswear easily boasts of.”
However, only as recently as March 2016, under the guidance of FDCI Chairperson Sunil Sethi, an (half-hearted) attempt was made to revive the lost glory of menswear through a day dedicated to the category at the Amazon India Fashion Week, something that Lakmé Fashion Week had attempted several seasons ago.
The question really is, unlike the international menswear fashion weeks in the Big 4 fashion capitals (New York, London, Paris, and Milan), where menswear is as fashion-forward, experimental, and eclectic as their womenswear counterparts, attracting businesses rolling into millions; is India truly ready for the ‘leap’ in men’s fashion? Has the home-grown male audience actually evolved in terms of understanding and appreciating style, and willing to pay for Indie brands and designer labels? Do events like GQ Fashion Nights actually help in scaling up business?
Anushka Sharma, Hrithik Roshan, and Yami Gautam at the GQ Fashion Nights
Have Indian Men Actually Evolved In Their Style?
Most Indian designers, including the enfant terrible of Indian fashion Rohit Bal, believe that menswear is a “challenging” market, but increasingly, Indian men are more open to experimentation, thanks to global travel, a young and captive audience, information explosion, and inspiration. The Indian man is gently, but gradually, coming of age as far as impeccable and edgy dressing is concerned.
Who would’ve believed (even 5 years ago) that a guy could look hot AF in a dhoti trouser and a Shantanu & Nikhil drape as much as in a Tom Ford tux? We’re talking about Ranveer Singh here, folks.
Veteran designers Shantanu & Nikhil say, “Men’s fashion in India, more so in the ceremonial and occasion wear segments, have undergone a dramatic shift in the last 3-4 years. The fact that an Indian man wants to dump the traditional classic western two-buttoned suits and tuxedos in favour of something more contemporary and relevant is a reason to celebrate. This celebration has, in turn, led to experimentation in evening wear and occasion wear.”
GenNext designer Abhishek Paatni has a more practical view, however. He confesses, “Honestly, a major portion of the menswear audience still shops with conventional sensibility, and tends to experiment only when there’s an event.”
Experimental menswear fashion does not amass the masses. Nair explains, “Practically speaking, I can’t see regular men wearing androgynous fashion. While it’s great to be creative on the runway, at the same time, you need silhouettes that people can actually wear and, therefore, sell.”
Another important factor that Nair stresses is pricing. “You cannot demand the same pricing as your western counterparts. Especially in silhouettes that Zegna or Canali have mastered.” That majorly sets back indigenous business. However, he’s quick to add, “With the induction of younger menswear designers, that is slowly changing.”
The Menswear Market
Amazingly, the menswear market actually owns 43% of the segment, as opposed to women’s 38% in RTW (ready-to-wear). So it’s a bit surprising when womenswear, in most cases, takes precedence, especially when it comes to social events (read: fashion shows).
Nikhil Mehra of Shantanu & Nikhil aptly puts it: “I think in India we are still stuck in a time warp where only womenswear collections seem to be understood to be the glamorous way of enjoying fashion on the runway. Men have lost out primarily because of this lack of sheen, notwithstanding that India has a strong, young menswear community and diaspora that has the wherewithal to spend and boost consumerism.”
Paatni adds, “The menswear market is mostly confined to metropolitans. Till the time the market expands further, one needs a clothing line that caters to wider demographics exploring multiple business channels, with online being most important.” It’s interesting that Paatni mentions online as a significant channel for scaling business. Considering the Indian consumer base is young and under 35 years of age, it’s natural that copping men’s products through e-shopping is big. Whoever wants to get dressed to shop, right?
Designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil with showstopper Sushant Singh Rajput
Social Calendar, Anyone?
While bookmarking your social calendar, exclusive menswear shows are still few and far between. And even when you do have a few cherry picked ones, do they really push through business?
While it’s interesting to see RTW brands like Van Huesen sharing the stage with designer labels, Mehra believes, “As designers, ready-to-wear is an extremely tough segment and requires a lot of mass awareness and accessibility. This is a tough proposition knowing that corporatisation hasn’t fully geared itself towards designer fashion. Niche products with niche market needs with Indian crafts will have the last laugh and stand its own in a country like India.”
And as Nair succinctly explains, “You know a fashion night or a fashion week is a success if there’s relevant buyers and relevant media.”
But until such time that we reach the sweet spot, at least in terms of business transactions, events like these are always great places to spot trends, mingle, and bask in the glory of marketing menswear as the one to watch out for.
Business, however, hardly happens at a seaside lawn.