For an industry that mostly markets towards women, fashion is dominated by men. Despite more women entering the industry, the top positions are overwhelmingly male — one study found that between 1981 and 2013, the CFDA awards recognized 98 men and only 29 women.
But on the flip side of this, a lot of women are designing clothes for men (and that’s not to mention legends like Jil Sander, Vivian Westwood and Rei Kawakubo who have been designing for both genders for years). While men have traditionally headed up fashion houses marketing to women (and obviously still do), it’s refreshing to reverse that idea and have women make clothes for guys.
Clear-cut notions of what divides womenswear and menswear are fading. Women are just as likely to be shopping in the men’s section — especially if they’re into streetwear (which is still severely lacking in female representation, but that’s another story) — so more women designing menswear is a natural step forward.
For International Women’s Day, we decided to shine a light on three women who are killing it in the menswear game right now. Far from just succeeding in the industry, these three designers are proposing forward-thinking new ways for guys to dress, cementing themselves as future classics in the process.
The founder of her eponymous line in 2007, Martine Rose has been working in menswear for over a decade now. The designer actually studied womenswear at University but as she told The Guardian last year, “it was girls in boys’ clothing, so it was always menswear, really.”
Inspired by her upbringing in South London, Rose merges ’90s rave, hip-hop and reggae influences in her work. The result? Voluminous ‘fits, bright colors and retro sportswear-meets-tailoring. Rose’s collections may be influenced by subcultures, but she really shines when she showcases the everyday. For SS18, Rose brought the fashion crown to an indoor climbing wall in Tottenham, where models walked the runway in a mix of ’80s inspired suiting and cycling gear that wouldn’t have looked out of place on your regular office worker. As the designer told Vogue, the collection “was about making the ordinary extraordinary again.”
Examining the ordinary is an aspect of her work that can also be seen at Balenciaga, where Rose serves as a menswear consultant for Demna Gvasalia.
Emily Bode’s label Bode is only a year old but the New York-based designer has already proven herself as one to watch. Her SS18 collection was inspired by domestic textiles — think quilts and rugs — and harked back to an old-world way of dressing, without veering into costume territory.
Bode’s FW18 collection continued to explore vintage references. Called “For Homer,” the collection centered around the real-life Homer, “a Harvard-educated botanist turned quilt dealer, and featured retro details like knee-high socks and specific shades of green that were popular in the post-Great Depression period.
But Bode’s work doesn’t just look like it came from a different era — her research backs it up. Most of the clothes are even made with vintage deadstock, and when that’s not available, Bode and her team replicate the original fabric. According to Vogue, Bode is even working on an archival system that will track the origins of each piece of textile used in her work.
This attention-to-detail and dedication to craft is what sets Bode apart from her contemporaries on the menswear market.
Grace Wales Bonner
Another founder of a self-titled line, Grace Wales Bonner first emerged when she was still an undergrad in University, drawing praise for 2014 graduate collection, called “Afrique” which she described in the show notes as “Coco Chanel via Lagos.” In 2016, at just 25, Bonner was the recipient of the coveted LVMH Prize.
Grace Bonner’s work draws on her mixed Jamaican-British heritage and explores issues surrounding black masculinity, a topic which has been rarely explored in the fashion world.
Wales Bonner’s work is a tender counterpoint to other, harsher images of black masculinity in art and popular culture. It also connects to the wider historical context that has shaped modern black identity and the African diaspora.
For FW18 she imagined the view of creole sailors “looking at an island from a distance.” For SS18, alongside other references, she handed out an essay by social commentator Hilton Als. And back in SS16, her collection was inspired by the real-life Malik Ambar, a 17th-century Ethiopian ex-slave who became a military ruler of the Deccan region of India.
In other style news, Chanel brings high-fashion to the woods for Fall/ Winter 2018.
- Main & Featured Image: Eva Al Desnudo / Highsnobiety