Whether you’re a style maven or a casual observer of clothing, there’s much to be learned from the seasonal runway circus
THERE’S NO BUSINESS like show business—certainly in the men’s fashion industry, which is putting on some 140 fashion shows across London, Florence, Milan and Paris this month. To spectators outside the fashion box—the male consumers who keep menswear in business—the personal relevance of this seasonal conveyor belt of collections can seem minimal. Yet, for the average, mildly style-curious man, there’s more to be taken away from fashion week than you’d think.
“They’re trade shows meant for press and buyers to dissect and edit,” says Isabelle Kountoure, fashion director at Wallpaper* magazine, “but what is presented at the shows trickles down to the broader industry and becomes trends that all men inevitably buy into. What we’re wearing reflects where we are in society—that’s what makes the men’s shows so interesting.”
With 40-or-so looks per collection, a menswear season means roughly 5,500 outfits shown over two weeks, begging the question of how clear-cut said trends can be, with so many garments on the radar.
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But the overall mood of the catwalk shows creates a global vision of colors, fabric combinations, new fits and styling ideas—making fashion week invaluable for the menswear spinning wheel, explains Katherine Yoo, head of merchandising at online retailer Thecorner.com. “[The shows] are essential in order to understand new moods, through the most iconic pieces,” she says, citing the bomber jacket, reinterpreted in new ways at Kris Van Assche, Marni and Kenzo for spring.
But if you browse runway pictures on Style.com or watch live-streamed shows on brands’ websites, it’s not just specific garments that identify what will look on-the-money this season. “Looking at tailoring in runway pictures is the easiest way to identify trends,” says Ms. Kountoure. “Jacket lengths, whether they’re single-breasted or double-breasted, how the trouser is cut—these are tangible indicators of changing trends.” Pay attention to styling, too, she adds. “If you dissect a runway look, you’ll usually end up with several very wearable pieces, which can look more extreme when put together.”
Fashion shows have more significance for designers whose visions change each season than for those who stick to the same aesthetic, Ms. Yoo notes. But either way, they “communicate a specific vision and identity through the location, choice of music, the models and their styling.” These elements can help anyone identify labels with a personality or attitude akin to their own—their “spirit labels”—which provides focus and, ultimately, takes the pain out deciding how to dress.
By ANDERS CHRISTIAN MADSEN, The Wall Street Journal