Men the world over are now more conscious about dressing well and fashionably. And that has translated into higher sales for top men's brands. CHEAH UI-HOON asks some fashion houses about their outlook on luxury menswear.
Men too, want to look good. The younger set today (read: 25 to 45) are fast getting 'fashionable' – what is oft thought as a feminine folly. According to projections on the men's luxury fashion industry, this segment of fashion is expected to almost double within the next five years, according to industry estimates. Among the gung-ho men's fashion labels is Dunhill. 'We believe we will see a faster growth in the men's section of the global luxury market,' according to Benjamin Comar, Dunhill's marketing director (worldwide), at a press conference in London to launch the label's new identity – complete with logo change and the opening of a new flagship store. The men's market currently makes up 20 per cent, or 12 billion euros ($19.1 billion), of the 65 billion euro global luxury fashion market, he says, citing financial reports. 'In five years, the amount could be 25 billion euros, with half of it coming from Asia.'
Regardless of the recent global stagnation in the retail market, the outlook is smart and spiffy for top men's brands.
The menswear division for Gucci has been reporting growth of 30 per cent a year, roughly twice that of its much larger women's operations, according to a Forbes report late last year. Gucci's annual revenues last year were US$1.5 billion (S$2.7 billion), up 26 per cent over 1999.
Rome-based luxury menswear Brioni, with its US$150 million revenues, has also been growing 25 per cent a year since 1998.
German label Hugo Boss expects a double-digit growth for its markets from Europe to Asia this year, says Calvin Ong, its brand manager for Singapore, as consolidated sales are already up 22 per cent worldwide for the first quarter of this year. And thus underscores a noteworthy retail and behavioural phenomena – that men the world over, including here in Asia, are getting more conscious about dressing well and fashionably. 'As our brand evolved through the years, I think our customers have also become trendier. Hugo Boss' recently launched Orange Label, which carries trendy and sportier casual wear, has been doing extremely well. However, suits are still a bestseller, with sales ratio of 60:40 for formal business wear and casual wear. 'This could well reach 50:50 in a few years,' he says. Business is so good that Hugo Boss wants to expand, but as always, space in Singapore is a constraint.
Karen Tan, Ermenegildo Zegna's marketing manager, agrees that contrary to what one might think, the dressing down trend has not affected the fashion house's sales even if men have the option of wearing less formal clothes to work. Casual wear, alternatively called city wear, will top sales in menswear for the next three years, says Ms Tan. Last year's sales closed 25 per cent higher than the year before with the introduction of a line of active wear called Zegna Sport. Formal wear made up 45 per cent of sales, with informal wear following at a close 25 per cent. Even with the current soft economic situation, Zegna hasn't cut down on its autumn/winter orders, signalling its optimism.
The dressing down culture might have affected tie sales across the world, but accessorising is on the rise. So, is it time to tell the fashion brands to beef up their men's lines – as men might soon be on par with women as the top fashion shoppers? Anthony Khoo, general manager of LVMH fashion group, says not really, pointing out aptly that although the rate of menswear is growing fast in absolute percentage terms, it's also because it's growing from a low base of 20 per cent (of the total market) anyway. The fashion house brought in their newly-launched men's line last year, and since then, sales have been 'phenomenal', says Mr Khoo. But he cautions: 'We can't be used as an example in the industry, because taken in context, we went into this line so recently which means we were starting from a very low base anyway.'
While some find it hard to survive, word is that the Italian men's brand, Canali, is making a comeback to Singapore soon. 'Even if the market is slightly slower and smaller here, it would be good for Singapore to get a cluster of men's top fashion brands, like in Hong Kong,' Mr Khoo says. However, looking at the Asian market as a whole, one will also be hard-pressed to generalise because each country has different buying patterns and tastes, he says.