Coming up to its sixth show season, London Collections: Men doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Straight off the bat the menswear event proved it was good enough to compete with Milan and Paris. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength: new brands are propping up, stars are born (Craig Green being a recent and excellent example), international designers are making guest appearances, press and buyers from far away have added LC:M to their show tour and – most importantly – big British brands like Burberry and Alexander McQueen have come back to show on their home turf. And for the Fall/Winter 2015 season, a fourth day has been added to fit in all the shows and presentations.
There is no doubt London is a creative hub, a must-see for anyone on the look out for forward-pushing and avant-garde fashion, as well as commercial bits from more established labels. But, still, there is a problem. Or rather, maybe it’s now we’re getting to the problem. Five seasons in, the honeymoon is over. We’re here, we’ve arrived – everyone knows it… so what’s next? Well, money. Business. More accounts, new doors. Bigger orders. Is that happening? Not really, at least not in London.
After their shows and presentations, many LC:M designers go on a sales tour to Paris, setting up a base in Le Marais. Throughout the year, there are several BFC-organised trips to Hong Kong and Los Angeles etc. where they meet buyers. But why isn’t that happening in London during LC:M? Sure, there’s a BFC showroom during LC:M, where brands can exhibit their collections. Great. But they’re not always in the best locations; most people run past the expo space outside the show venue in Bloomsbury House, and the Hospital Club is relatively far off and not advertised sufficiently.
One solution to this issue would be a proper trade show taking place during LC:M, like Capsule in Paris during the French menswear week. Over there they co-habit, each benefiting from the other’s presence. Buyers can pop into several trade shows in between shows. Paris, being a “fashion hub,” plays host to – except for Capsule – two other trade shows; Man and Tranoï. After the catwalk shows, brands set up their show rooms, showing and selling in a synergy that London is yet to experience. Yes, the schedule has always been tight in London, but a fourth day will certainly help create breathing space.
London has all these editors and buyers in town anyway, why not create a commercial platform for brands to sell here at the same time as we’re showing them all the creative collections our designers have produced? We have Jacket Required and it’s a great trade show, especially now that it’s back in East London. But it’s late – the February and July dates are well after the menswear shows in January and June. By then all buyers who were in town for LC:M have left or moved on to the womenswear calendar.
Another problem is that not many LC:M brands “do” trade shows. Walking around Jacket Required in July, I didn’t see a single catwalk brand participating. This fact, plus the timing of Jacket Required, indicates that the show isn’t angling itself to a high-end fashion audience. But, visit Capsule in Paris and New York and in the last few seasons you would have come across brands like Kit Neale, Baartmans and Siegel, Joseph Turvey and Katie Eary etc, all of them LC:M participants. Except for selling in their collections, these brands also benefitted from introducing their brands to a new type of buyer, one that doesn’t necessarily go to LC:M.
One obvious problem is that designers can’t expose their collections at a trade show before having shown them on the catwalk. And if you show on the last day of LC:M, there won’t be much time to join Capsule, or whatever trade show is in town. But there will be lots of other designers able to, plus other brands can sell basic parts of the collection, the classic and essential staples. There is always going to be problems, the timing is difficult and there are many loud voices claiming they know the answer. But the truth remains, London’s designers need to start selling their clothes on a bigger scale, and we need to utilize all the press and buyers who take four days out of their busy schedule to come and visit London each season.