The end of the Spring/Summer 2019 men’s market season is fast approaching, with New York Fashion Week: Men’s once again serving as the curtain call. As we think back to what hit the runways in London, Milan and Paris in June, as well as what will debut in New York City this month, this is the best time to highlight White trade show in Milan, a bright spot in the arduous market schedule.
Created by Massimiliano Bizzi in 2000, White began as a section inside Moda Milano, or MoMi, that showcased 19 labels, but later moved to the Tortona area in 2002, which Bizzi considers to be the exhibition’s birth year. White introduced a men’s show six years later, which shares with women’s pre-collections, and today, White presents 1,500 brands a year in four editions.
This season, international showrooms Vold Agency, Six London, Baltimora Studio, Tomorrow London Ltd, 3rdEye Showroom and R&D Lab anchored White, showcasing brands Martine Rose, Henrik Vibskov, M.I.H. Jeans, and Leandra Medine among others. The Beauty at White section situated at the main entrance debuted Korean cosmetics, and marquee sections dedicated to special guest Matthew Miller and his collaboration with K-Swiss, special designer Abasi Rosborough, special project Sagittaire A, IH NOM UH NIT and White Mountaineering, DYNE, and BLACKBARRETT, which shared a section for athleisure brought much of the foot traffic.
The marquee labels caught the attention, but did not overshadow the likes of Art Comes First, Lucio Vanotti, Elsewhere, and Verena Schepperheyn that showcased expert craftsmanship in vibrant, youthful pieces. White saw 8,800 visitors over three days.
The brand selection this season shared many philosophies and business strategies despite being based in different countries and having different design sensibilities. Customization was a major theme, with labels like Atelier & Repairs showing repurposed and upholstered sportswear from Nike, Adidas and Champion, college sweatshirts, and camouflage military pants at the White Street Market (we’ll get to the Market portion very soon), and two brands showed overdyed Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd basketball jerseys and customized Burberry trench coats that featured designs on the back. The custom works nod to the DIY consumer, but does the work for them.
Atelier & Repairs has a seasonless production and selling strategy, which allows them to produce new styles on their own timetable and offer all of their products wholesale, a similar strategy with Avavav, the Florence-based Scandinavian label that offers its styles wholesale online and works with buyers in real-time. The strategies overlap and show where fashion is right now and where it is heading. Designers continue to adhere to the fashion calendar, but few are breaking away in favor of a schedule that better fits their needs. Could we see more labels following suit?
White also this season introduced the White Street Market, a consumer-facing weekend shopping event where labels and retailers hosted special activations or sold special products. Adidas led the event, offering its new P.O.D. 3.1 sneaker and collectable items like tote bags and posters, and was joined Patagonia, Pony, G-Shock, sneaker shop Big Soup from Rome that offered coveted sneakers, and One Block Down, which did custom dyeing on Air Force 1 and Air Max 98 sneakers at the event.
Streetwear and sneakers were the central focus of White Street Market. The fashion and street culture event also featured gaming like Mario Kart 8, the SNES Classic and a special version of Space Invaders where the player takes aim at an army of Converse and Vans sneakers with only shoeboxes to protect them, photo exhibits featuring the work of Ricky Powell and Getty Images, and a charity auction with the Grand Zero Project. Outside of the venue, attendees played table tennis on Fred Perry tables and watched bike polo. Finally, a panel discussion on the evolution of sneakers served as the main event of the weekend festivities.
White’s big bet on streetwear and the sneaker culture is another sign of the times. With streetwear darling Virgil Abloh leading arguably the biggest global fashion house, it is time for the fashion industry to fully accept streetwear’s influence on menswear and the industry as a whole. White curated its market expertly, focusing on authenticity, which is often overlooked by late adopters, and aligned itself with authority figures like Adidas, Sneakerness and nss magazine.
Whether streetwear is a passing fad or the new normal, White treated the segment with respect and was an example of how to approach new territory the right way, and we hope that is also a sign of not only the times but also a better future in menswear.