VMAN'S ELLIOTT DAVID ON MENSWEAR IN NYC
29-year-old Elliott David is editor of premier US male fashion magazine, VMAN. Smart as hell and a guy who likes to talk, we wanted one of New York’s bright, young editors to rant, rave and cut-to-the-chase on Big Apple menswear on the one day that menswear moves into the spotlight at MADE Fashion Week. Elliott David, take the floor…
MILKMADE: Can you give us a memory from your first NYFW?
ELLIOT DAVID: Probably not, because my first NYFW experience was as a freelance writer and contributing editor to a couple of publications. I was fresh out of grad school (MFA in Fiction at The New School), the Beatrice had just opened, and it was a rich and bacchanal period for the industry—a lot of self-congratulatory revelry going down i.e. sick parties, bro). So, no, I don’t remember much. But if you’re looking for vivid New York-centric fashion memories, that’s easy: the Cloak and Number (N)ine stores. For me, those environments elicited far more stark memories than what can be communicated via runway. Like any beautiful narrative, the sensations of those places remain quite vivid. This is why I’m a big proponent of the presentation over fashion show.
MM: Sunday is the unofficial day for menswear designers to show at NYFW. What is New York to menswear?
ED: Okay. Journalists and rip-off-artists will always be able to cull trends from fashion weeks, no matter the region or season or even existence of said trend—pattern recognition is really just a trick by the eloquent and conmen. Which stick, which trickle down, which originate on the streets and which are born on the runway—it depends on who you’re asking, who stands to benefit, other stuff—a clusterfuck of the deliberate, the coincidental, and the arbitrary. But any statements about contemporary menswear being made respectively and or collectively by our beloved domestic designers is, right now at least, a less significant NYFW phenomena than the strides being made toward tangible applications of social media on consumerism, or bridging the gap between designer and customer. For the past several seasons, Fashion Week has served as one of the most active testing grounds for social media and mobile cross-brand experimentation.
Companies have always allocated a lot of their marketing budget to Fashion Week visibility, and much of that money has been diverted from events or the show itself or whatever to some really ingenious digital creative firms and some really awful ones. It’s a fruitful period of trial and error. Not to take away from the fact that the fashion show is a wonderful canvas for a designer to emote an aesthetic concept, and look at them all happening at once.
An argument could be made that the future of menswear has as much to do with design as it does consumer interactivity, particularly at this moment, when men’s fashion and luxury retail markets show healthy exponential growth. Remember: fashion week was once a time for an industry to gather itself, re-calibrate, peacock, push its wares, and keep the machine fantastically and glamorously pumping along. Today, it’s a capital spectacle that millions of people around the world can and do watch due to the massive online and mobile presence: practically-obligatory live-streaming, instantaneous runway reportage, and the post-blogging blasts that fly out of so many social media platforms instantaneously by designers, models, editors, photographers, and often the brands themselves. The curtain hasn’t been pulled back, it’s been gladly disassembled.
There’s no doubt that a massive, global audience wants to watch and vicariously digitally participate in the debut and surrounding social theatricality of the latest works by the best artists in this particular medium and trillion dollar industry—regardless of whether or not they’re potential consumers when the clothes finally hit stores nearly half a year later. The question is: what do we do with that knowledge? Will it reveal expired methods in which the industry operates? What will change, and how can that change be a good thing, especially for small businesses and younger designers? I’ll stop now.
MM: Can you pick out one New York menswear designer you like and tell us why?
ED: It’s difficult to pick just one. There are a lot of great “New York” menswear designers producing collections that are very thoughtful, with pan-global production techniques, fabrics and tailoring. There are young designers doing innovative things, and emeritus designers who’ve stepped back up to the plate and prove they can still run the game. But if I had to pick just one? Perhaps Olivier Theyskens, who’s more an artist who also happens to design clothing. He’ll be a leader of the industry as long as he wants to be.
MM: What could NYFW do to support emerging menswear designers more?
ED: Give them money.