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Menswear may have been nicknamed the ‘dark horse of fashion’ in the past, always having stood second to womenswear in the market, but in recent years that notion has been abandoned for good. According to Business of Fashion, the demand for luxury menswear has been expanding at a faster rate than womenswear with brands such as Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga courting more male shoppers in a competitive market lurching towards streetwear.
For instance, Balenciaga, a one-time couture house popular for its line of chunky sneakers, is now Kering’s fastest growing luxury brand in the world. BOF reported that men are among its biggest sales drivers along with millennials (20 to 35 year olds). Going by the global demand for menswear, especially for street style, market research firm Euromonitor International has forecasted men’s lines to outperform women’s between 2017 and 2022, with sales expanding by a compound annual growth rate of 2 percent.
And in the Indian luxury menswear market, Louis Vuitton and Dior having launched ready to wear menswear in India clearly indicates a demand in this sector. According to a report by Technopak, the demand for occasion-specific clothing is also on the rise in the menswear segment in India with people’s preferences varying from workwear to casualwear. Many brands have forayed into ethnic clothing too, to cater to this demand.
But while international Fashion Weeks such as Paris, New York, London and Milan put out dedicated menswear shows, there’s a serious lack of this format in India. For instance, a platform as large as Lakme Fashion Week, a bi-annual phenomena that takes place in Mumbai, still lays heavy emphasis on womenswear. You can literally count the number of exclusive menswear shows – Asa Kazingmei put out a strong biker collection and Ujjwal Dubey’s Antar-Agni displayed sustainable menswear in its signature style. Apart from these designers, you can expect menswear mavericks such as Raghavendra Rathore, Narendra Kumar, Kunal Rawal and Shantanu & Nikhil to bring their A-game on the runway. But barring these few exceptions, Indian designers still seem to be predominantly showcasing womenswear with a few menswear pieces to add to the mix.
And to top it all, considering that every year a new wave of designers, namely Gen Next, make their fashion week debut, this season didn’t witness a single exclusive menswear show in the lineup. Which kind of makes the bias towards womenswear all the more evident. Apart from a few designers such as Kazingmei and Dubey who have evolved from co-ed shows to doing exclusive menswear, others don’t seem to want to experiment. And while androgynous fashion and gender fluid shows are increasingly keeping up with global trends, designers also need to cater to actual wearable fashion for the masses.
However, in an effort to tone down the imbalance, Lakme Fashion Week sure makes a great case for co-ed shows. There’s no denying that co-ed shows are definitely on a rise, giving menswear more visibility on the fashion map now more than ever before. Gaurav Gupta who launched menswear just over a year ago opened LFW SS19 with a spectacular co-ed show. Then there was Anita Dongre extending her womenswear focus to highlight some key menswear looks. Even Ruchika Sachdeva’s Bodice made its menswear debut this season.
But for India to even stand in comparison with International fashion weeks, Indian couture designers should look at expanding to ready to wear menswear for a more indigenous consumption of the demand in this segment. With menswear no longer a niche segment in fashion anymore, it’s time it got its due at fashion weeks in India.
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