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© Courtesy of GJO

One leg at a time

by Anna Sulimina at 12/04/2012 20:59

The Russian fashion industry has traditionally had a difficult time introducing innovative designs into men’s clothing.

While women have generally been willing to experiment with styles, materials and colors, their male counterparts have stuck to the tried-and-true: comfort was more important than trendiness, with fashion-consciousness being shown through items such as cars.

“Traditionally, for most Russian men currently in the workforce, being trendy or fashionable has not been considered a trait of a ‘normal man,’” said Maya Kaznacheyeva, the marketing director of Fashion Consulting Group.

The situation is changing as more men under 26, who take more care in shopping for clothes, appear in stores, especially in the larger cities.

Tomcatwalks

Models don creations by Grunge John Orchestra.Explosion, a Russian fashion brand

© Courtesy Of Gjo

Models don creations by Grunge John Orchestra.Explosion, a Russian fashion brand

Signs of the industry’s progress appeared at Volvo Fashion Week, which ran through Tuesday at Gostiny Dvor in Moscow. The men’s catwalks were some of the most crowded, with new collections introduced by Sweden’s Oscar Jacobson, as well as home-grown brands Shiyan, Norsoyan-Nikitin Homme, and Grunge John Orchestra.Explosion, among others.

“The trendy look is not to be afraid of mixing colors and wearing unusual items, like a woolen bow tie or a necktie of selvage denim,” said Igor Isayev, a fashion designer and the founder of Grunge John Orchestra.Explosion. “Wearing quality materials is another element to a high-end male look.”

In addition, designers and fashion experts say that bright colors and prints are in this season, as new cuts and haberdashery are also becoming popular: elegant suits with shorter trousers and retro hats are not only appearing on the podium, but also on the streets.

Steady growth

This rising popularity has resulted in a steadily growing men’s clothing market in Russia, with more fashion hubs appearing in Moscow. At the end of March, Italian house Prada opened the biggest outlet store in Europe in the center of Moscow, where the second floor is completely dedicated to its men’s collections.

“Russian men are now spending more and more money on clothes,” Isayev said. “While casual style is replacing formal style today, casual items are becoming higher-quality and more expensive. For example, an everyday pair of boots may cost up to $1,000.”

Still low sales

The men’s catwalks at the recent fashion week were the most crowded

© RIA Novosti. / Vladimir Vyatkin

The men’s catwalks at the recent fashion week were the most crowded

The total revenue of the Russian clothing market reached 8.7 billion euros ($11.4 billion) in 2011, but only 25 percent came from men’s clothing, according to a survey carried out by Fashion Consulting Group in 2011.

Despite growing acceptance of innovative designs, several factors are weighing against development in the men’s market, most notably lingering conservative tastes.

“Unlike women, most men don’t like to change their style and are suspicious of anything new,” Isayev said. “If a man has loved something, he will wear it into rags.”

Another adverse factor is the consumer behavior of Russian men, who tend not to like spending much time on shopping. According to the 2011 survey, up to 37 percent of men’s clothing purchases in Russia are made by women.

Room for growth

The traditional conservatism of male customers has had some benefits: they tend to be less impulsive when shopping for clothes than women, which means that there is substantial room for development.

“The women’s clothes market is very dense and competitive, while the men’s market still has a very high potential for growth, up to 8 to 9 percent annually over the next two years,” Kaznacheyeva said.

Ideas of what constitutes “masculine” attire, however, continue to pose a great challenge to the development of the market. In the regions, somber, modest colors still dominate, as do traditional footwear and cuts of trousers.

Still, Kaznacheyeva feels that it is only a matter of time before innovations become more widely accepted even outside the major cities.

“Today the conception is spreading that it’s not shameful for a man to be dressed fashionably,” she said. “Russian men are braver in terms of choosing colors, shapes, and mixing mass-market labels with expensive brands.”

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