Menswear boom provides opportunities for designers

It was only a matter of time before menswear once more became a focus for retail designers.

Readers old enough to remember the last big push towards men in the ‘designer’ days of the late 1980s and the 1990s will recall the excitement a new-look Woodhouse brought to the high street and Jigsaw’s foray into menswear. Interest was fuelled by the new breed of wealthy young men – enriched by work in City dealing rooms and the like before bust followed boom – the subsequent discovery of ‘lifestyle’ as a marketing phenomenon and the growing strength of an increasingly ‘out’ gay community.

Who knows what is prompting the current interest in men among clothes retailers, but it follows hard upon the expansion of male grooming as a retail sector. Chances are the fashions on sale will be more casual than previously, when City suits were required kit, but the interiors concepts will be interesting to see.

The idea of Burton, for example, shifting its focus to 24-year-olds is a wonderful challenge for all involved. We eagerly await the designs put forward by the successful contender for the job.

Marketing to men is no new thing, but retail experimentation has been geared more to technology-driven products such as cars, computers or electronics. Take Apple Computer’s UK flagship in London’s Regent Street. Though not overtly aimed at men, the sparse interiors by Gensler, working with Eight Inc and ISP Design, make product and service the heroes, and the store is largely frequented by youthful males.

Top Shop remains a favourite with young men on limited budgets, with Next in there with a shout for the slightly richer and Timberland a favourite with the more monied fashionable set.

The good news for design is that here at last is a retail sector being revisited. Interior designers have had a tough time in recent years, and it could be their chance to flex their creative muscles again and show how important environments are to the success of a brand.

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