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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Men's wear finally grabs the spotlight on the biggest U.S. fashion runways on Monday, as New York City catches up to other global design capitals already giving men's styles their due.
More than 50 designers will unveil their looks, hoping to catch the eye of discerning buyers and critical editors who will choose their favorites for next year's spring and summer seasons.
The four-day event by the Council of Fashion Designers of America is the New York debut of Fashion Week: Men's. Until now, men's wear shows traditionally have been mixed in with hundreds of women's shows in twice-a-year events in the city.
"We all felt for years that we took a backseat to the women's business," said Kevin Harter, vice president of fashion for men's and home at Bloomingdale's department stores.
"Also, based on the growth you have seen in menswear, it was just an organic decision to that you had to play it up a little bit more," he said.
U.S. men’s apparel sales totaled $62.7 billion in the 12 months ending May 2015, according to the NPD Group, a trend and sales tracking company, just over half the total for women's apparel over the same period.
Men's apparel sales grew 2 percent, just short of the 3 percent rate for women's.
"People have said for a long time that men's wear is having a moment, but it’s proven that it’s not just a moment," said Matt Feniger, brand marketing manager at Matiere, a men's wear brand making its first official presentation at Men's Fashion Week.
London, Milan and Paris already hold separate men's Fashion Weeks. Recent men's styles in Europe ranged from a fanciful see-though black lace jumpsuit to crinkled nylon jackets and shoes with light-up soles.
"It was time for us to follow suit in order to highlight the exceptional talent coming out of the U.S.," Feniger said.
Feeding the trend, more public figures and celebrities are now style icons, younger workers have transformed workplace attire and technology gives consumers quicker access to styles, they say.
"I always blame social media because you're photographed so much, you have to care what you look like," Harter said.
The blurred, if not altogether disappearing lines, between athletic wear, casual wear and street wear in contemporary fashion are helping make men's styles less exclusive, Feniger said.
"The long-standing stigma toward men caring how they dress is long gone," Feniger said.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Christian Plumb