AR­I­OUS THE­O­RIES

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

abound for the in­ex­orable rise of men’s fash­ion. Among them: men are mar­ry­ing later, with more money and time to prac­tise pea­cock­ery be­fore cre­at­ing prog­eny; the ad­vent of on­line pur­chas­ing means the drudgery of schlep­ping from store to store has been elim­i­nated; and met­ro­sex­ual style icons such as David Beckham, Daniel Craig, Kanye West and fic­tional char­ac­ter Don Draper have had a last­ing in­flu­ence. In­creas­ingly, de­sign­ers have be­come the icons, with the likes of Tom Ford and Thom Browne be­com­ing role mod­els to a group of hy­per fash­ion­able men.

What­ever the rea­sons for the up­styling of men, or what man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm Bain & Com­pany calls the “men-isa­tion” of the luxury re­tail land­scape, there has been an as­ton­ish­ing boom in stores cater­ing specif­i­cally to their needs.

Nowhere has that growth been more jet-pro­pelled than in Main­land China, where the very as­so­ci­a­tion of the words “men” and “fash­ion” can still look a lit­tle oxy­moronic. It is, af­ter all, a na­tion that is less than a gen­er­a­tion away from new-mon­eyed in­di­vid­u­als wear­ing name-brand la­bels on their suit sleeves, and where the lead­ers still wear iden­ti­cal garb—ei­ther bland Western­style suits or, when em­pha­sis­ing their grass­roots cre­den­tials, Mao suits.

Rad­i­cal change is in the air—or rather, on­line. Fash­ion re­tail­ers sell­ing on the in­ter­net say that men in China, and in Asia in gen­eral, are not the least bit afraid to splurge big time on cloth­ing—for them­selves and their wom­en­folk. “Glob­ally, women spend more than men. In China, how­ever, women and men have sim­i­lar spend­ing [habits],” says Maia Guar­nac­cia, group global brand mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Yoox Group, a com­pany that pi­o­neered on­line fash­ion sales. “Glob­ally, for the Yoox Group, al­most a third of our cus­tomers are men. But in China, we have no­ticed an in­crease in male cus­tomers in the last years—it has reached more than 50 per cent.

“Men care more about their ap­pear­ances then they used to. The key fac­tors of growth are higher in­come, cul­tural fac­tors, and in­creas­ing de­mand for luxury and high-qual­ity prod­ucts. In gen­eral, men demon­strate a clear pref­er­ence for pur­chas­ing ac­ces­sories on­line, with some in­ter­est­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween Asian and West­ern coun­tries. For ex­am­ple, Chi­nese and Ja­panese male cus­tomers pre­fer ties, while Amer­i­cans pre­fer bow ties. Chi­nese men, on the other hand, have a spe­cial love for the scarf. Celebrity styles are very in­flu­en­tial in the Asian mar­ket.”

One of the re­gion’s most celebrity-stocked cities, Hong Kong, is, of course, an in­cred­i­bly fash­ion-con­scious place—and the ar­rival of spe­cialised out­lets that ex­clu­sively sell menswear (or of­fer ex­panded space for it) re­flects the trend. The city’s first On Ped­der men’s store opened in late 2014 in Land­mark, cater­ing to those look­ing for a care­fully cu­rated se­lec­tion of items, and re­flect­ing the cur­rent trend for mix­ing and match­ing.

“Asian men are more ad­ven­tur­ous in brands and styles—they are will­ing to ex­per­i­ment,”

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