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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Dedicated followers of fashion

Menswear is a growing sector worth about £21bn globally, and this has not gone unnoticed by designers and retailers: more than ever clothes maketh the man.
More than 130 designers showed off their wares at London’s men’s fashion week to international press and buyers from 37 countries. Above, assistants dress a model backstage during the event. Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters
More than 130 designers showed off their wares at London’s men’s fashion week to international press and buyers from 37 countries. Above, assistants dress a model backstage during the event. Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

If your man’s idea of fashion is putting on a clean T-shirt and buying a suit once every three years, you may be surprised to hear that global menswear sales are growing at about 10 per cent a year, and are set to overtake womenswear within five years.

Indeed, so important is men’s fashion becoming that last month the rival fashion centres Florence and London had a falling-out, when they each picked the same week in January to showcase menswear collections.

More than 130 designers showed off their wares at London’s men’s fashion week to international press and buyers from 37 countries. The event generated more than £40 million (Dh239.2m) of national and international media coverage, according to the British Fashion Council.

One of the most high-profile designers to show his menswear collection was Tom Ford, who is now based in London. That the former Gucci designer moved his show from Italy to London was considered a major coup.

A recent survey by Westfield showed that UK men spend an annual average of £988 on fashion — only 10 per cent less than women (in the 18-34 age group that gap narrows to just 1 per cent).

One anecdote from the London favourite TopShop underlines how men’s shopping habits are changing. According to Gordon Richardson, the design director at Topman, men are queuing up to use the store’s personal shoppers, which were introduced in 2011.

“That’s a big sign of change, as they were only ever a women’s thing. But there has never been this amount of good, fashionable menswear available, and men need the advice.”

And in another sign of the growing importance of menswear, property owners are trying to turn a street close to Covent Garden, in the capital, into a menswear hub. It is hoped that Henrietta Street will become a new destination for those seeking men’s fashion. The street is set to host a mix of trendy street-wear brands and contemporary labels. There are rumours that Whistles, the fashionable contemporary women’s boutique, will open a store with its first menswear range there.

According to the market research agency Mintel, the UK menswear market has grown by 12 per cent in the past five years and is worth £10.4 billion. Mintel believes the market will maintain this growth and rise by 11 per cent between 2012 and 2017.

Such levels of growth are reflected internationally. Figures are expected to show that global menswear sales jumped by 10 per cent from 2011 to 2012 to be worth about £21bn, according to Bain & Company, the management consultants.

Between 2009 and 2013, men’s luxury spending increased 55 per cent, compared with 37 per cent for women, according to Bain.

One of the reasons for the growth of global menswear is the emergence of China as a major force in luxury retailing. Men make up at least 55 per cent of China’s enormous luxury market, set against a global average of 40 per cent.

When luxury brands first opened in China, men wanted to show their rising social status and wealth though their clothes.

As sales in China and in womenswear slow, men are emerging as followers of fashion, and the suit – with its high cost and margins for the industry – is making a comeback.

The Italian and French fashion houses that have ruthlessly exploited the Chinese desire for luxury and western labels, are now pushing more menswear items to Chinese buyers.

Versace, which opened its first store in Shanghai in 1983, says that China, India and Brazil are all booming when it comes to menswear, in which its sales have soared 46 per cent in the past year.

Burberry, the British brand with a global following, has also highlighted the success of menswear in helping to push revenues higher. In China, it said, menswear sales were particularly strong and ahead of the global average.

The British brand, led by a woman – Angela Ahrendts – for the past five years, is now under the stewardship of its former chief creative officer Christopher Bailey. The company said last summer that there was “a real growth opportunity” in men’s tailoring.

One way that the Italian and French high-end fashion houses are responding to this surge in interest in menswear is by developing men-only stores and developing new luxury lines for men, in particular in beauty and accessories.

Prada, the fastest-growing luxury label, has opened several dedicated menswear shops in the past year.

Louis Vuitton is spending more than €100m (Dh496.2m) on turning its Berluti brand from a small maker of luxury shoes into a full menswear and accessories brand. Berluti’s first New York store opens this week on Madison Avenue.

Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH’s Bernard, who built the fashion house up into a global brand, was also behind LVMH’s recent €2bn acquisition of Loro Piano, the exclusive cashmere brand that already has a substantial male clientele.

The growth potential for menswear has also led to a recent spate of deals across the sector. Fosun, a privately held Chinese company, has bought a 35 per cent stake in Italian brand Caruso, while Fung Capital, the private equity vehicle of Hong Kong’s Fung family, bought the British tailor Kilgour, which it plans to add to Hardy Amies, best known as Queen Elizabeth II’s dressmaker, which it bought in 2008, and other Saville Row brands it is eyeing.

But there is still some way to go for these brands to catch up with Asia’s favourite menswear labels – including Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Hugo Boss, Dunhill and Ermenegildo Zegna, which makes just under half of its  €1bn turnover in Asia.

Meanwhile Kering, Gucci’s parent company, bought the menswear tailor Brioni, whose suits have been worn by the last two James Bonds, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

Brioni recently revealed to the Financial Times fashion writer that it had a Middle Eastern male client who spends about £6,000 on each suit and orders 30 new suits every two years. With spending like that going on, it’s not surprising that every luxury brand in the world has alighted on men as a potential growth opportunity.

business@thenational.ae

Updated: February 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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