Today marks the beginning of the first ever New York Fashion Week dedicated solely to menswear, but its arrival seems slightly unnerving. In an era when fashion is becoming increasingly genderless, creating a separate event from womenswear almost feels culturally counterproductive. Although fashion is built to reflect the times as something that’s constantly evolving, NYFWM oozes with archaic intentions—something that would’ve been passable in years leading up to 2015, but definitely not now.
This week, more than 50 menswear shows will be shown to a 3,000-person international audience over the course of four days—a skimpy setup in comparison to womenswear, though it’s impressive for a premiere production. From a lucrative perspective, NYFWM will give menswear designers a great opportunity to work closer with buyers and gain greater exposure from the press than ever before. According to The Cut, designer Todd Snyder said he thinks U.S. menswear has been an “afterthought” for years, so this move will certainly provide designers with undivided attention.
But, what about the sea of androgynous collections popping up with gender bending, sometimes transgender models cast for campaigns and catwalks? Where does this pocket fall into New York’s two separate fashion weeks? CFDA CEO Steven Kolb reminded The Cut that the fashion industry is still incredibly segmented, despite subtle bubbling that suggests otherwise. “The men’s floor is different than the women’s floor,” he said to The Cut. “The men’s buyer is different than the women’s buyer, the men’s magazines are different than the women’s magazines.” While crossover is finally occurring, Kolb suggested complete intermingling wouldn’t exist until years from now.
Rising NY-based unisex designer Wesley Berryman agreed with Kolb, despite having created full collections that disregard the gender binary. “Truly genderless or unisex clothing has a long way to go before being really accepted in the industry,” Berryman said. “You have to be realistic and realize that men and women’s bodies are very different sometimes, and to design a single garment for them both is very difficult.”
Travis Weaver of NY-based unisex label One DNA agreed, saying NYFWM would ultimately help with more commercial brands like Rag & Bone. While differentiating menswear from womenswear is counterproductive in terms of social development, he said it’s much needed, considering the impressive size of New York’s existing menswear market.
Buzzing designer trio Moses Gauntlett Cheng—known for promoting genderless standards of dress—strongly disagreed, adding that such separation is entirely redundant. “Men’s fashion in New York seems super traditional and separating it from women’s doesn’t interest us,” MGC said. “We don’t think it would interest the new generation of fashion creators in NY, right now, either.”
More Underground NY-based brands like Vejas and Eckhaus Latta are focusing on gender fluid fashion, according to MGC, which is a growing community they’re more excited to indulge in. “You watch menswear shows nowadays where there’s women walking and vice versa, so why make the two more disconnected?” they said. “Gender categories are set up for buyers and stores, and that’s not interesting to us.”
This may be rose-tinted criticism that happily ignores the realities of modern-day business, but change cannot happen unless we actively resist what’s considered easy and normal in order to pave a more progressive lane for the future. Sure, fashion is commerce, but fashion can (and should) also be a vehicle for revolution.