ASOS has become something of a destination for the young male peacock. The UK e-tailer showed a portion of its eclectic FW18 menswear collection during London Fashion Week Men’s most recent outing (5-8 Jan.). Following the unveiling, we sat down with Nick Eley and James Lawrence – ASOS’ two heads of menswear – to pick their brains about the rapidly changing consumers habits of young men and the type of products they lust after.
How has the way men shop and dress changed over the past few years?
Nick Eley (NE): The biggest difference we’ve noticed is how confident men are now. The products they buy today are very different from the ones they went for only two or three years ago. And they’re far more comfortable wearing color these days. Black and khaki have given way to pastels and pop-colors, which makes things a lot more exciting for us designers.
James Lawrence (JL): There’s a lot more experimentation going on these days. In the past, men wore a uniform more or less everyday, whereas they play around with different looks and style references freely now. Social media is behind a lot of the changes we’re seeing. In the past, women led in the style-stakes as they were prepared to put in quite a bit of effort to find fashion inspiration by reading magazines. Today, style influence is everywhere – you can’t avoid it, hence men’s increasing awareness and desire to dress more interestingly, perhaps taking cue from someone cool they’ve seen on Instagram – and feeling comfortable dressing in a similar way.
Has social media brought with it any other shifts?
NE: Yes. Generally, fashionable people used to be confined to bigger cities. This is not the case anymore – now you’ll see just as many guys dressing trendily even in small provincial towns, be it in the UK or in other countries. Kids share the same influences now, whether they’re part of the London crowd or a community up north. It’s nice to see that small-town kids aren’t fazed by fashion that’s a bit different.
JL: That was certainly not the case where I grew up (in Hull)!
How has this changed the way you work in the ASOS design department?
NE: In the past, we had to look quite carefully at the demographic of our customers, differentiating between the north and the south of the UK, as well as other countries. This is not necessary anymore, at least not to the same degree.
Kids tend to dress the same way now, regardless where they’re from. So it’s more about identifying specific groups and the style evolution within these tribes.
So which are the dominant style camps at ASOS at the moment?
JL: Streetwear and skatewear are huge, influenced by brands such as Supreme and Stussy, which have even affected how high-end brands design and style their collections – silhouettes have become a lot more casual, and formal trousers are worn with sneakers, creating a new hybrid. Streetwear of yesteryear was casual and quite stealth, consisting of black jersey hoodies and tracksuits – now we’re seeing a lot of high/low dressing coming through. This stems from what we discussed earlier about men’s newfound love of experimenting with their wardrobes. I think the mix-and-match way of dressing is here to stay – whether we’re talking skater style or the clean Scandi look, guys will want to shake things up a bit.
“The biggest surprise for us has been how guys have taken to partywear… we’ve started working with full-on sequins, velvet and tassels.”
Apart from street and skate, what else does well at ASOS at the moment?
JL: We’ve definitely become a destination for opulent tailoring for young guys who want to stand out from the crowd. They come to us to pick up statement suits in all-over prints, embellishments and tassels. They ’ll go to weddings or big events wearing these, but they’ll dress the look down a notch by adding a pair of trainers.
Any surprise hits in terms of specific items?
NE: Cross-body bags are doing really well – guys have realized how practical they are. It may be a bit of a trend item at the moment but we believe it’ll end up sticking round… But the biggest surprise for us has been how guys have taken to partywear; they’re so into properly dressing up now that we’ve started working with sequins, velvet and tassels. It started with detailing and now guys do full-on lace and fringing. They’re just having fun. Even the way we shoot our looks for the site is about making the models look as if they’re having fun at a party. You can’t wear these pieces stony-faced.
Finally, tell us a bit more about the AW18 collection, and how you’ve designed it to appeal to the ASOS peacock.
JL: Vintage is a big thing for us at the moment and it’s all very eclectic. You might look at the collection and think it doesn’t quite go together, but it works. We’ve mixed up patterns and textures, adding western influences and a general mash-up of decades to create a diverse mix. As for the footwear, we’ve had success with the Chelsea boot and the next thing will be a bit of a Cuban heel or a full-on western boot with embroidery. Denim-wise, there’s plenty of embellishment and we’ve widened the side-stripe to make it appear almost like a panel in contrasting color. We’ve had a really good reaction to our elaborate denim styles so we wanted to go one step further.