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Menswear: a market on the move

Competition in the menswear market is heating up as brands and retailers expand their offering. Drapers looks at how the sector is shaping up for the new season.

Menswear is on the march. London Fashion Week Men’s – launched in 2012 as London Collections Men – gave designer menswear a global platform, which has since filtered down into many high street retailers and brands launching standalone collections and even stores. 

Previously seen by many as a supporting act for womenswear, today an increasing number of retailers and brands are banking on menswear to drive growth in an otherwise sluggish market – taking a punt on new product launches and expanding their offers.

The UK menswear market has grown by 7.8% from $14.1bn (£10.4bn) in 2012 to $15.2bn (£11.2bn) in 2017. And although it makes up a smaller proportion of the domestic and global clothing markets, its growth is set to outpace womenswear this year (table, below).

High street retailers are increasingly looking to menswear to boost sales. Nicholas Tahir, head of menswear buying at River Island, says this is the chain’s fastest growing category, partly because of an “increased appetite for value and mid-market players” among men, as well as a wider trend towards buying branded clothing.

However, he points out that the market is becoming increasingly crowded, putting pressure on retailers to differentiate their offer.

Mennace 1604


On the branded side, new entrants have appeared at both ends of the market in recent months. Among them, Missguided founder Nitin Passi launched a website for his new menswear label Mennace last September, while premium etailer Mr Porter launched its own contemporary brand, Mr P, in November. 

Nick Eley, head of menswear design at Asos, agrees that competition is heating up: “With more and more online retailers establishing themselves in the market, the biggest challenge for Asos is staying ahead of the curve – in terms of the product we produce, the way we serve it up on site and how we deliver it to our customers.

”We’re working more closely with our suppliers and partners  to improve our product offer and have invested into our inhouse design and print team.”

Eley says menswear “continues to be strong” for Asos, with side-striped casual and formal trousers and textures such as corduroys and borgs – faux shearling – among its bestsellers. 

David Aquilina, head of menswear buying at department store Harvey Nichols, which stocks around 220 menswear brands including Moncler and Valentino, and relaunched its menswear department at its London flagship in 2016, says the category has enjoyed solid year-on-year growth for autumn 17 and spring 18, “despite all that is going on in Britain at the moment”. This has been fuelled by brands including Balenciaga and Stone Island.

”There has been a consistent evolution in menswear over the last few years. Men are becoming more confident in their buying choices, hence the opportunities for growth are [getting higher],” he explains.

”Designers have also picked up on this consumer confidence within menswear and have expanded their ranges to cater for this, [by] offering strong core products all the way up to more conceptual products. This [contrasts with] the woman’s market, which has seemed saturated with product for a long time, with some brands presenting up to eight collections a year. The men’s market is nowhere near that level of saturation.”

As more big-name retailers expand their menswear offerings, Andy Tompsett, head of UK at contemporary menswear brand Merc, which has around 40 to 50 accounts in the UK, highlights that there is now a “plethora” of sizing and styling choices for male shoppers, both online and on the high street. “Men have never had such a great choice in what they buy in terms of price and quality as they do now,” he argues.

Those recently extending their sizing ranges include Joules, which will expand its autumn 18 shirting and padded gilet ranges to include sizes up to 4XL, currently going up to XXL. River Island made a similar move when it launched its first big and tall men’s ranges in February last year, while Asos debuted plus-size men’s collections in spring 17. Etailer Boohoo, which launched separate menswear site BoohooMan in 2016, debuted an activewear collection at the start of the year.

While the evolving nature of menswear presents opportunities, it also brings challenges. Jason Gerrard, co-founder of men’s tailoring brand Without Prejudice, which has more than 50 stockists in the UK, US and Canada, says the market is undergoing a “period of dramatic change” in terms of product and pricing, as brands strive harder to stand out from the crowd.

Mrporter index

Mr Porter

“Men, particularly within the 18-to-25-year-old bracket, are becoming more fashionable as accessibility to [trend-driven] product increases,” he explains. “Everyone will need to work harder to differentiate their brands and take more risks to attract younger demographics. It will require more creative thinking going forward.”

Some observers point out that the menswear industry is increasingly dominated by big brands, and 2018 could be particularly challenging for smaller, emerging businesses.

“I think this is down to social media’s [growing] influence on customers,” says Martin Schneider, managing director at Drapers’ Menswear Independent of the Year 2017, Accent Clothing in Leeds, which counts Replay and Belstaff among its bestselling brands. “Customers are turning more towards clothing with all the badges, and to branded trainers. It’s becoming more difficult to bring new brands through as a result.”

Fiona Firth, buying director of premium menswear etailer Mr Porter, which stocks brands such as Gucci and Prada, says this could be exacerbated by the growing trend towards combining men’s and women’s wear catwalk shows. JW Anderson, Balenciaga and Moncler are among the brands planning to present their men’s and women’s collections simultaneously in 2018.

“Menswear brands are not necessarily receiving the spotlight required to meet the growing market demand,” Firth argues. “This could be particularly challenging for small rising menswear brands in 2018.”

On a more positive note, Firth says 2017 was a “fantastic year” for Mr Porter, as it added to its men’s clothing, accessories, sports, grooming and lifestyle categories, and launched Mr P. Outerwear and knitwear performed particularly well over the autumn/winter season.



Yet many point out that the year ahead will bring challenges in terms of the macro trading environment – including the ongoing weakness of sterling and low consumer confidence.

Gerrard says: “As confidence goes down, invariably menswear will feel the pinch faster than womenswear. Consequently retailers’ budgets for the traditionally ‘bankable’ global brand powerhouses are shrinking, spreading more to smaller brands with younger, edgy product that might not normally see the light of day.”

Edinburgh-based men’s lifestyle indie Quarters, formerly known as The Brotique, rebranded and relaunched with own-brand ranges and a new website in August. Founder Richard Murphy says the business cautiously expects “steady”, if “incremental”, sales growth in the coming year: “Customers are looking more to buying products piece by piece, rather than outfits, which I think is partly down to the current economic situation.

“While we’re inching towards more certainty, I don’t think the pound will be changing drastically any time soon. That said, I don’t think we’ll see a massive change in performance, and while it’ll [continue to have] an impact I don’t think spending will be fundamentally affected.”

Despite the challenging economic climate, the UK menswear market is expected to grow at a modest rate in 2018. Clothing and footwear options for men have widened even further as retailers across the board up the ante on their collections. Menswear evidently offers opportunities, but brands and retailers will have to work hard to shine in an increasingly saturated market.

 Predicted growth in the men’s and women’s wear markets


Global womenswear market

$642.8bn (£475.6bn)

$671.2bn (£496.6bn)


Global menswear market

$419.3bn (£310.2bn)

$439.1bn (£324.9bn)


UK womenswear market

$29.3bn (£21.7bn)

$30.3bn (£22.4bn)


UK menswear market

$15.2bn (£11.2bn)

$15.8bn (£11.7bn)


Source: Euromonitor


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