Men’s FW 2015: A Look-back at the Controversies and the Impact it Generated

The recently gone-by Men’s Fashion Week 2015, could be best described as a wave of mixed messages alternating between controversial shows, new designers in houses like Gucci, and a showcase of well familiar classical cuts and styles. Some brands like Louis Vuitton opted to collaborate and pay tribute to artists proving that fashion is a product of a form of expression, and that no matter how commercial some items may seem, the depth of the research and work of talent are the basis to which most heritage brands strive in the fashion industry.

#MFW

Milan was all about androgyny, several of the big brands in Milan’s fashion week were playing around mixing different aesthetics and borrowing looks from women’s styling while keeping a masculine edge to the collections. Gucci was a much-awaited show, especially, after Frida Gianni left the maison and its design team took over the job of defining the new set of styles for the Florentine brand. Away from the atypical style of luxury chic vacation style loafers, the collection presented had more of a Bohemian style. Models flaunted long hair with looks that left some confused on whether they were actually male or female. Change was definitely apparent but as for the future outlook of Gucci’s new creative direction: It is still vague and somehow abstruse.

Prada on the other hand left little to the ambiguous. It was apparent that Muccia Prada wanted to also in her turn emphasize on the androgynous aspect of her collection: Female models made their way among their male counterparts. The collection was very minimal which subtly blended the appearance of both sex models on the catwalk. A printed manifesto with an explanatory note: "Gender is a context and context is often gendered," was a clear message to the inspiration behind the collection. Giorgio Armani was also on the same length of thinking with tailored suits and ties as well as couple models walking down the catwalk. Could this be a manifestation of the intermix of fashion and is this inspiration originating from the evolvement of culture or are social trends mirroring the spirit and looks of the catwalk?

#LFW

London’s main feature was John Galliano’s return. The designer, which was the center of fashion news headlines for his controversial anti-semetic statements four years ago, is back with his debut collection at Maison Martin Margiela after 4 years of being expelled from the helm of his creative direction at Dior. His biggest supporter for his come back was none other than Vogue’s editor in chief Anna Wintour. Other collections featured the usual eccentric aspect of London with plastic bags in Christopher Shanon’s collection. Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen was also a note worthy show with attention to details using printed subtle roses mixed with leather and fitted jackets. Christopher Bailey for Burberry presented a collection with the usual extravagant show of Burberry having singer Clare Maguire to animate the show, which ended in a confetti extravaganza. The collection was Bohemian inspired and reminded of Gucci’s show later in Milan.

#PFW

And then came Paris, the French capital that was still struggling with the latest political developments made very strong statements in its latest fashion shows. There was a sense of rebellion more than the mere revolutionising aesthetics we are accustomed to in the French capital: A sort of a London feel but keeping the subtle French set of aesthetics. Hermes and Louis Vuitton are two French pillar brands exhibiting in Paris and they themselves redefined street wear into a chic affaire through their latest collections.

Rick Owens, on the other hand, is the designer which left the audience in a state of certain unease which is usually hard to apply on a fashion crowd typically poker face and hard to surprise. But the exposed full-frontal male nudity was a first on the catwalk and it left invitees nudging and whispering in confusion. Has Owens gone too far in this particular display of flesh, was it another gender statement that goes along the androgynous styles seen in most of the fashion shows, or was it a mere attempt to create buzz and attention to the brand through controversy? If the latter is true, Rick Owens has definitely earned a big share of social media buzz with a fairly new hashtag used in the fashion industry: #dickowens with a total of 38 occurrences in the fashion industry (on Twitter).

As can be shown in the above graph from Fashionbi reports database, there has been a peak in mentions which started its increase on the day of the fashion show on the 22nd of January and which stretched out to the week after. Which shows the conversation that sparked up following the fashion show. Even though every brand experiences a certain peak in mentions and follower response during and after its show compared to the market average shown in the below table, Rick Owens has 81.4% more brand mentions than the premium market average.

Looking also at Fashionbi Index ®, it is also obvious the peak that the brand witnessed on the week of the fashion show, also demonstrates the importance of social media on the brand’s performance in general and in this case the effect of controversies and out of the norm brand actions and the repercussions they have on the brand. However, it is important to note that Rick Owens in this case must know how to sustain this attention and develop it into long-term brand loyalty and follower retention.

Benchmarking Rick Owens with Dries Van Noten also in the premium apparel market, one can notice the difference of follower response across social media between a brand creating controversy and a brand which has only displayed regular brand activity during the show.

Compared to the market average the percentage of mentions is negative even though those results were taken during the period of the fashion show. Keeping in mind that Dries Van Notten is not consistent in their social media activity and the most posts and brand actions were seen mostly on the day of the fashion show. This inconsistency makes the brand loose credibility and the connection that it possesses vis-à-vis its fans. By stating so, it is not an obligation for a brand to be controversial to gain exposure but it is crucial to spark up a conversation with their followers and to be relevant to current social issues.

Whether controversial or not, this men’s fashion week was packed with social political, and cultural statements which all mirror society and affected it at the same time like a vicious circle. Social media is an outlet of expression, which monitors society’s response and is a valuable tool to measure how much a fashion show can actually have an impact on a brand’s follower base.

With the Women's Fashion Week 2015 on a start already, let's hope for the better and that not only the brand consideration, but as well the positive perception could be generated across the established and upcoming fashion labels!

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