LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s leading fashion brands are hoping to give menswear sales a lift by targeting younger, digitally savvy male shoppers with live streaming and social media to promote the twice-yearly mens fashion week that began on Friday.
London is looking to establish itself as the leading menswear fashion capital over Paris, New York and Milan by dedicating four days to showcasing the latest trends - and designers and retailers are hoping to turn the catwalk buzz into cash.
“Menswear is evolving at a phenomenal rate,” said Darren Skey, Head of Menswear at luxury department store Harvey Nichols.
“We get customers coming into the store with images from the catwalks, inquiring when or if we are getting certain styles and looks in,” he said.
Menswear, long considered the least profitable segment of the fashion industry, is expected to rack up sales of 16.4 billion pounds ($25 billion) by 2018, still little more than half the 30.4 billion pound forecast for womenswear that year, according to research firm Mintel.
Annual sales of womenswear in 2013 came to 24.9 billion, far outstripping menswear sales of 12.9 billion.
The move to tap in to the power of digital services follows an increase in the proportion of men shopping for fashion online, jumping from 52 percent to 65 percent in 2013, from a survey of 2,000 consumers aged over 16.
MR PORTER.COM, a luxury online retailer whose website attracts around 1.6 million visitors a month, will launch a clothing collection designed exclusively for the film Kingsman.
“Projects such as Kingsman are developed to reflect our pioneering nature and to ensure that we are providing our customers with something that they cannot get anywhere else globally” said Toby Bateman, Buying Director at MR PORTER.
“They are also essential in developing brand awareness,” he added.
Similarly, Topman - part of British retail billionaire Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, will create a video with London-based artist Natalia Stuyk to be screened at its catwalk show and shown online simultaneously as part of its live-streaming.
Heritage brand Burberry will enable its customers to order clothes online right after watching a live-stream of its show on Monday.
Fashion brands will also be relying heavily on the use of social media to generate excitement around brands by collaborating with app developers and tech firms to create installations, online content and wearable technology.
Danish menswear brand SOULLAND created an app allowing users at its show to share it on social media, while youth label ADA + NIK will unveil a ‘Narrative Jacket’, a leather jacket with a built-in camera.
Harvey Nichols, which will showcase its collaboration with clothing brand Trapstar and artist Harif Guzman, said it expected its menswear department to continue to grow in the next few years, with a new focus on domestic customers.
“Over the past few seasons everything had been geared towards the international customer but I feel it is now time to reinvigorate our local consumer” said Skey.
($1 = 0.6621 pounds)
Editing by Hugh Lawson