DYLAN Jones, the driving force behind London’s men’s fashion week, is in typically effusive mood when it comes to his home town. “Milan and Paris have established men’s fashion weeks and they do it very well but honestly, if you had the opportunity, wouldn’t you want to be in London? It’s the most interesting city in the world. It’s got more life than the others.”
He has good reason to be bullish: the upcoming London Collections: Men showcase, which starts on 16 June, promises to be the biggest yet.
Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen were added to the line up in January and will now be joined by a string of heavyweight labels including Paul Smith and Burberry, who will showcase their respective spring/summer 2014 collections in the capital for the first time.
New York-based label Rag & Bone, helmed by British designers David Neville and Marcus Wainright, is following suit, as is Jimmy Choo.
The big question is: why now? “Some people were looking at the first season to see how it was and liked it, so they joined the schedule for the second season. Others were waiting to see what would happen in the second to season to see whether it has legs.
“Burberry has been fantastic in its support in moving from Milan to London but it wouldn’t have done so if it didn’t think London Collections: Men was a great event.”
There is also a compelling business case: “Nobody wants to send 30 people to a foreign country for a week and have to pay for train fares, hotels, meals plus production and hair and make-up, so we’re trying to create an environment in London where’s it easier and cheaper.”
The London Collections: Men committee is now being forced to turn people away due to a surge in interest: does this mean we can expect the event to expand from three days to five (making it the same length as the women’s London Fashion Week)?
“No,” he says without hesitation. “As someone who sends a lot of people to fashion shows around the world, I object to it. I hate the fact I can send a team of 10 people to Paris and they can be there for a whole week, seeing four shows in the morning, followed by a four-hour gap that you can drive a bus through, before four shows in the afternoon. It’s not good business.
“Paris is like being on holiday, it’s ridiculous. I appreciate that people’s time and budgets are finite, so we’ve got to keep it three days. We’re having some events the night before to open London Collections: Men, but I wouldn’t like to be involved in anything that lasts four days. It’s just too long.”
Starting his career editing Arena and i-D magazine, Jones has been in the hot seat at GQ for over a decade. This is why the British Fashion Council (BFC) called on him to help launch the inaugural London Collections: Men.
“There used to be a day of men’s shows at the very end of London Fashion Week that we supported for many years. At a committee meeting we discussed whether we should try and move the day to a more appropriate part of the calendar and when it was decided that this would happen, they asked me to steer it.”
The change ruffled a few feathers among the more established fashion capitals. “The only room for London Collections was right at the begining of the men’s fashion week schedule, which annoyed a lot of people.”
The success of the event thus far begs the question of why the creation of a designated menswear showcase in London has been so long in the making.
“Firstly you have to decide to do something, then people have to want to do it,” he says. “It has been tried in the past but it didn’t feel right or there wasn’t enough critical mass or people were too scared or, possibly, we hadn’t had as many big British brands as we do now.”
The timing is perfect. The past few years have seen the menswear sector grow exponentially. “It’s such a big part of people’s businesses now. You speak to anyone in the fashion industry, and that means high street, bespoke and luxury, and they’ll say the same thing: menswear is growing.” According to a study by Mintel, the UK menswear market has grown by 12 per cent in the last five years and is worth £10.4bn, with a potential to grow a further 11 per cent by 2017.
Jones is now looking beyond British waters and has shifted his attention to attracting the top crop of international labels. “It needs to be a platform for British designers who have been showing abroad, but also an international showcase. There are lots of American designers who show in Europe and there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be in London.”
Burberry and Paul Smith attest to this: they tested the waters in past seasons, throwing parties during the event before deciding to join the schedule now. Jones keeps tight lipped about which labels are on his hit-list for January – but he definitely has one. “There are still a few that are showing abroad that we’d like to have here so hopefully we’ll have success with them.” With him at the helm of the committee for the forseeable future, it’s pretty much a done deal.