In a time when in-depth fashion reporting is increasingly ceding ground to fleeting coverage on Instagram feeds, a hard copy print book examining menswear is something of a rarity. Enter Contemporary Menswear: The Insider's Guide to Independent Men's Fashion, a new title from Thames & Hudson written by Steven Vogel of Black Lodges, along with his co-authors Nicholas Schonberger and Calum Gordon. Arriving seven years after Vogel published Streetwear, his first fashion book, Contemporary Menswear takes a look at the designers and labels shaping menswear today - think Monitaly, Mark McNairy and Engineered Garments - accompanied by essays on the state of the market from industry voices like Jian DeLeon, Jeff Carvalho, and Capsule's own Minya Quirk.
We spoke with Vogel about the book and his thoughts on independent men's fashion today.
WATM: It’s been 7 years since the release of your first book, Streetwear. What about the climate in the market now made you feel that the time was right for a new title?
Steven Vogel: Truthfully, it really had nothing to do with anything as significant as the market per se – really, it came down to Thames & Hudson and I working quietly for a few months to decide what sort of book I should be doing to follow up my last one. Two years ago we agreed on this book and that’s really all there is to it. Granted, books, especially ones such as this one, should and could play a relevance to the subject matter, but if that is the case here, it’s happenstance.
WATM: How much was the decision to focus on contemporary menswear based on the industry growing up, versus your own interests as you grow older?
SV: It is a good mix of both. For one, both professionally as a writer and personally, I didn’t think there was a need for a second “streetwear” book - which isn’t to say that there isn’t room for one. There certainly is. In terms of the subject matter it felt “right” to do, which is really what I base most of my writing on.
WATM: You touch upon this briefly in the afterword of the book, but how did you and your co-authors go about deciding which brands to include?
SV: Nick, Calum and I looked at the different niches within “menswear” and picked those brands we all felt were best at what they did within that niche.
WATM: Are there any you had to cut for any reason that you would love to acknowledge, as well?
SV: Certainly, even though it wasn’t a case of us authors cutting them out. In a few cases some brands chose not to be in the book. A decision I personally disagree with, but respect.
WATM: Jeff Carvalho of High Snobiety contributed an essay in which he suggests that the action now isn’t so much on traditional menswear blogs, but on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Do you agree? Are there any newer blogs that you think stand a good chance of surviving and building a big following?
SV: That’s a tough question to answer. I really appreciate a good website, one with a good design and content. Fact is, I derive most of my information from my phone and social media platforms such as Instagram are a great, easy to access starting point for research. They certainly are not the one and only platform, but they have replaced the starting point for me. Plainly, if you have an engaging social media platform - and IG would be my choice here as I dislike Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest, etc. greatly - your chance as a brand to entice me as a writer and consumer is high.
WATM: On a more logistical level, what was the process of writing the book with your co-authors like, given that you’re each based in a different country?
SV: Very simple. Nick, Calum and I have in one capacity or another worked with each other for several years now. We are used to this form of working. Granted, throughout the writing period we met a few times, but mostly everything was done through our respective mobile offices. There are pros and cons to this, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this case.
WATM: The designers included embody where the industry is right now – if you were to write another book in seven years, are there any you feel certain would still be included?
SV: I highly doubt I will be writing another book on menswear in seven years time, but hypothetically speaking, I can see a few brands in there that have the potential for longevity. I am uncertain whether longevity is on anyone’s radar these days so I am not quite willing to put the pressure on anyone.
Contemporary Menswear is out November 12 from Thames & Hudson.