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Has London Collections: Men Finally Hit Its Stride?

With five seasons now under its belt, can we call London Fashion Week's menswear counterpart a success?

Back in January 2012, the British Fashion Council (BFC) announced plans for a brand new menswear showcase. It would be a standalone event, replacing what until then had been a  solitary and over-packed ‘Men’s Day’ at the end of London Fashion Week. 

Two and a half years later, the fifth London Collections: Men (LCM), which comprised 68 shows and presentations, has come and gone. The event doesn’t have the three decades of experience that London Fashion Week boasts, and yet it can no longer be described as new. So now that we’ve given LCM a reasonable period of time to work out the kinks – can we call it a success?

One of the event’s first selling points was that it made seeing menswear far more manageable for press and buyers. Jesse Hudnutt, men’s buyer for Opening Ceremony, has been a regular since the very first season. “I actually remember coming to Men’s Day at London Fashion Week and it just being a little too much – it was so hectic. So there was a real conscious push by the BFC to spread it out over three days, and I think they have definitely succeeded.” From the get-go, attendees found LCM more relaxed than the womenswear week; and on top of that, the shows tend to be within a short walk of each other, making the whole thing significantly less stressful.

But not all buying teams have attended with the same regularity as Opening Ceremony. The fall/winter shows are held in early January, which seems to present a problem for some – the BFC reports that there were fewer US buyers in London in Jan. 2014 than the previous June. And that hasn’t been easy to resolve; speaking to me for The Cut back in January, BFC chairman Natalie Massenet pointed out that the ever-accelerating cycle of the fashion industry means that events have to fit in wherever they can. “The time of year is tricky, but that’s the business,” she said.

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And yet, next season could present a happier picture. The BFC has pushed the dates for fall-winter 2015 back to Jan. 10-12, four days later than usual. For the first time, LCM won’t overlap with the Italian menswear event Pitti Uomo, thereby alleviating a scheduling clash that may have discouraged editors and buyers from attending both.

In any case, if international visitors find the New Year shows offputting, they seem to be much more willing to attend in June – the BFC reports that there was a 30.7% increase in US buyer attendance this season compared to January. Those buyers included Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, which was at LCM for the first time. In total, buyers and press attended from 53 countries, from major business locations such as China and India, to perhaps more surprising places like Afghanistan and Nigeria.

For those international visitors who don’t know their way around, Hudnutt says the BFC is a great host: “Oh my god, they’re the best. The first few seasons, when you don’t know where anything is, they’re waiting for you outside your hotel with a Mercedes to take you there. And they really care about the designers – they’re like ‘Oh, did you see Nasir [Mazhar]’s show? Are you going to the after-party?’ And then we’ll run into them at night.”

Within the international industry, London is known for this support of new talent, and there’s no doubt that the edgier menswear brands are given the time and support to flourish at LCM -- perhaps more than anywhere else. One of the most talked-about collections of this season, for example, was young designer Craig Green’s first solo show. “There’s definitely a youthful energy,” says Hudnutt. “There are a lot of opportunities for brands that are just getting started to have great venues and access to resources. It’s cool for Opening Ceremony, because in London everything’s kind of flashy and fun and streetwear – and we actually carry those brands. It’s a priority for us to be here.”

But it’s not all about the young designers. As the past five seasons have ticked by, LCM has lured in a handful of big name fashion houses. Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford joined the schedule for January 2013; Burberry moved its presentation from Milan in June 2013, as did Jimmy Choo. This season welcomed Moschino to London, and the removal of the Pitti clash could attract even more fashion heavyweights in the future. So with five seasons down, and plans already forming for the next, we’ll say it cautiously: LCM could be about to hit its stride.