What’s Driving the Menswear Sector?
“Manbags are becoming increasingly accepted by men in Britain,” says Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at market research firm, Mintel. In fact, the menswear market is growing at such a rate, that in 2017, sales outperformed womenswear in the UK. Mintel’s 2018 report identifies that bags are currently outpacing all other menswear categories in the UK, with sales swelling by 50 percent in 2017 from the previous year.
Given that it shows no signs of abating - Mintel predict it will be worth a staggering £17.1 billion by 2020 - luxury brands are unsurprisingly focusing their efforts on the category, responding to rising demand. Stella McCartney, for one, added menswear for the first time in late 2016 and her selection includes different styles of bags. In April 2018, Prada launched its first exclusive menswear capsule collection with Mr Porter, which also featured accessories in it’s ready-to-wear line-up.
Sender put this down to the selectivity of the male consumer: “Men are favouring designer brands over own-brand bags, so we’re also seeing more and more designers investing in their menswear offerings.” Emerging designers, who usually have fewer means to expand so specifically, are now also seeing accessories as an extension of their ready-to-wear vision. As a result, their designs are often more exciting and unexpected, with the bags acting as an extension of their collection’s concept. ORDRE takes a look at five menswear labels upping their bag-game in distinctive ways.
British label, Matthew Miller, merges sportswear, workwear and military influences, which has earned him numerous high profile international retailers such as L’Eclaireur in Paris, Lane Crawford in Shanghai and Harvey Nichols in London. For SS’19, Miller collaborated with Peli, a British manufacturer of heavy-duty plastic travel cases, reimagining the company’s signature utilitarian cases for the modern fashion consumer. Watertight, dustproof and chemical resistant, they come in convenient keychain sizes and lunch box sizes, worn across the body or hooked to a belt. Price points range from an accessible GBP£90 to GBP£250.
“There is a growing trend for backpack-style bags, many of which are unisex and therefore appeal to young men,” adds Sender and Miller is clearer tapping this trend. Larger sizes, transformable into a backpack, are available for up to GBP£525. For those less inclined to spend upwards of GBP£1,000 on a coat, a practical case becomes a must-have item.
Parisian accessories brand, Côte&Ciel, has been in the business of bags since 2008. Characterised by a minimalist, sports aesthetic, practicality remains at the core of designs. The label is available in top retailers like Ln-cc in the UK, Henrik Vibskov in Paris and Ssense in Montreal, as well as multiple stand-alone stores across Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok.
For SS’19, unisex bags with multifunctional details cater to the demands of the modern nomadic consumer. A coated canvas bag transforms three ways: vertically, horizontally, or adjustable by volume; a nylon briefcase turns into a simple backpack; a crossbody bag fastens to belt loops or luggage for convenience. Engineered to balance fashion, form and function, price points are highly attainable: smaller bags range from USD$95 to USD$250, whilst larger backpacks sit between USD$300 and USD$400.
Looking to what’s ahead, Virgil Abloh’s highly anticipated runway debut as Louis Vuitton’s artistic director brought the fashion world to a standstill. The Off-White founder’s background in streetwear brings a refreshing ease to the monolithic luxury house. Working to amplify its street credentials in recent years – including collaborations with skatewear brand, Supreme, and pop artist, Jeff Koons – the new appointment seems like the perfect pairing.
For SS’19, signature LV bag designs are turned on their heads: duffle bags, with the quintessential flower logo pattern, are reimagined in white, transparent green, caramel and a holographic hue, each finished with exaggerated porcelain-like chains. The pattern also surfaces on functional rucksacks with large front pockets, weekend bags with long chain straps, cylindrical sports bags, and rigid shopper bags. A standout piece is a belt bag with three individual compartments – circular, rectangular and a mini version of the classic LV travellers trunk – a practical but elevated design that’s so on trend.
Bags were featured heaving for AW’18 collections too, like Scottish-born designer Nicholas P. Elliott who launched his eponymous menswear line in New York in 2013. Drawing influence from music, art and youth subcultures of the city, his collections are laidback and heavily sports infused. The designer’s latest AW‘18 collection however is an ode to his Scottish roots, where he translated these cultural references with ease on the runway via a strong offering of bags and accessories.
His collection featured classic and traditional Scottish motifs including horse hair sporrans, a pocket-like pouch often paired with a kilt, modernised here with bright orange and neon yellow tassels. More wearable designs included velvet forest green tote bags with gold chain crossbody straps, and waist bags with front pockets in the same finish and available soon.
Based in Beijing, Sean Suen launched his namesake brand in 2012 and now regularly shows at Paris Fashion Week Men’s. Infusing traditional Chinese dress codes with classic tailoring, Suen’s aesthetic has landed him a global audience as well as diverse retailers such as Galeries Lafayette and Joyce in China, and H.Lorenzo in the US.
His utilitarian themed SS’19 collection extended this season to include two compact bag styles, fashioned in a variety of colourways. In collaboration with leather accessories label, Totem Collective, they are made from stiff plaid nylons, patent cotton and paper textured linen – the same materials used throughout the lineup. A waist bag with a detachable strap wears across the body or over the shoulder, and a mini wallet version attaches to a belt or is handheld with a shorter strap. Functional and unassuming, they cater to the less adventurous consumer who is keen to tap the manbag trend more subtly.
Inspired by Nordic youth culture, Niels Gundtoft Hansen established Danish streetwear label, Haervaerk, in 2016. It has since partnered with prestigious stockists such as Henrik Vibskov in Copenhagen and Luisa Via Roma in Rome.
Haervaerk’s SS’19 collection stays true to the brand’s trademark industrial aesthetic, which feeds into a variety of unconventional bags and accessories. An oversized leather rucksack with rubber tube straps comes in blinding highlighter yellow. On a smaller scale is a PVC cylindrical crossbody bags, wrapped with grey duct tape, reminiscent of a toxic waste barrel. A satirical shoulder pistol holster, big enough to fit a smartphone, adds a rebellious twist to the lineup, suggesting technology is the modern weapon of choice.
Examining the nuances of contemporary British society and street culture, London-based label, A-Cold-Wall*, is characterised by utilitarian sportswear references and unexpected technical details. Launched in 2015 by Samuel Ross, it now counts numerous distinguished retailers amongst its stockists, like Dover Street Market in Beijing, Boon the Shop in Seoul, L’Eclaireur in Paris, and Machine-A in London.
Entitled, ‘Human. Form. Structure’, Ross’s SS’19 collection deconstructs the basis of sportswear, examining these concepts in unconventional ways. This is no exception for bags, which draw from modern architecture and brutalism. Structured leather handheld bags come in a variety of abstract shapes: curved, angular, geometric and square. Hanging from a waist-length vinyl strap like a pendant is a square leather coin purse the size of a tape measure. Adding a playful edge to the lineup are plastic toolbox briefcases emblazoned with ‘hardware*’ on the surface, alluding to the industrial construction theme of the collection.