Stella McCartney is dipping a toe into men’s fashion, but needs to up her social game

Stella McCartney is looking at you, boys.

The high-end designer announced a couple of weeks ago that she plans to move into the mens’ space with a new collection slated to launch in spring of next year.

In a way, it is a return to her roots: Before she was appointed as Chloé’s Creative Director in 1997, the London-based designer worked for Edward Sexton of Savile Row (who happened to be tailor to her father, Sir Paul.)

It may seem like a strange move for an established women’s designer, but industry watchers think it can work. “The menswear market is increasing in size, and notable department stores are allocating more space for menswear,” said Rony Zeidan, founder of branding agency Ro New York. “The womenswear market is beyond saturated, while the men’s market still has room to grow.”

Menswear will contribute $40 billion into the global apparel industry by 2019, according to market research firm Euromonitor International, which makes this the perfect time for luxury brands to expand into this market. Jorge Martin, a project manager at Euromonitor International specializing in apparel, said that global sales for men have outperformed womenswear in terms of growth rates in the last two years. “With higher disposable incomes in most markets and an increasing appeal for fashion, the vast majority of womenswear brands moving into male territory managed to succeed in the past,” he said.

But first Stella is going to have to get social media savvy. Millennial are more fashion-literate than their forebears — a fact that retailers have glommed onto: Fashion has become more accessible, and men are willing to shell out money for high-end goods. Social media also had a hand in bringing menswear fashion to the masses. “Category extension and gender extension are two natural ways to drive revenue growth,” said Luca Solca, the head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas.

When it comes to digital ventures, men are “responsive to simple straight forward email communications, and the fashionista male consumer will venture in discovering what bloggers have to say about a brand and their recommendations,” said Zeidan.

With brands like Forever21 creating separate social media outlets for their men’s collections, McCartney will not be without competition, either. One brand that McCartney may want to emulate for their social media extension is luxury department store Barneys. On Instagram, for example, they have the mother brand @barneysny and then a separate men’s account @barneysman. “Launching a men’s line will require a completely separate social media outlet by keeping it tied into the existing channels catering for women to feed the audience into the men’s brands,” Zeidan said.

McCartney will following in the footsteps of other British designers like Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders who have successfully broken into the menswear market. Italian brand, Marni, launched its menswear line back in 2007 and says it has already seen a major increase in overall sales. According to WWD, “the brand’s menswear division has grown more than 50 percent each season over the past year and now represents around eight percent of total sales.”

Balmain launched into menswear in June last year with a Spring collection. In an interview with Numero, creative director Olivier Rousteing said that the menswear line accounts for 40 percent of the brand’s turnover.

But Stella McCartney may be challenged by her feminine brand name, and a certain type of image. To be sure, some brands, like Lululemon, have managed to cultivate a growing male clientele. But it’s hardly a guarantee. “Male consumers are significantly more brand oriented than women,” said Martin. “As such, a brand name that resonates is a key purchasing factor and a key driver for many male consumers looking for the reassurance that an established name offers.”

Homepage image via Stella McCartney for Adidas

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