A week or so before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia began, an industry frenemy wrote that the business of menswear in Australia is on the rise.
From a retail and brand perspective, Australia's menswear scene is going gangbusters.
But as far as MBFWA was concerned I'm not entirely sure I can jump on board.
Cancellations, a performance that felt more like a sideshow than fashion show and collections that were in reality capsules, it's hard to feel that menswear still has a place at what is meant to be the country's preeminent fashion event showcasing the coming seasons of Australia's top designers.
When there are more menswear brands succeeding outside of the MBFWA network – P. Johnson, M.J. Bale, Neuw Denim, Venroy, Commas, Jac+ Jack, P.A.M. – the question needs to be asked what's the incentive of being part of it.
Not bad, hey
It's not all doom and gloom though. Twin pillars of Sydney's style scene Double Rainbouu and Ten Pieces made sure as hell that attendees had something to Instagram about. And the batches for blokes shown at cult labels Hansen & Gretel and Aqua Blu were quality clobber.
But perhaps the bigger discussion should be how the industry can support more emerging designers, especially when there is clearly a thriving audience for quality local menswear.
"I won't get into detail, but starting out a label is a really hard slog, anyone can tell you that," says Mikey Nolan, co-founder of Double Rainbouu.
"The creative industry could use a leg up in many ways, support for start up brands and businesses is a definite weakness holding back the potential for a more thriving industry."
Since its first appearance in 2016, Double Rainbouu's Nolan and Toby Jones have maintained their original premise of creating clothes for beach babes and pool punks but they've also let it mature somewhat in their expansion from Hawaiian shirts.
"Our Resort collection prints and colour palette are a little darker, more moody...we were wondering how a rainbouu would look at night? We're pushing evening shirts as a move on from the Hawaiian shirt as the PM party shirt."
No trend zone
The Boaz to Double Rainbouu's Jachin, Maurice Terzini and partner Lucy Hinckfuss have been a highlight of fashion week since their inaugural show in 2015 thanks to a killer location (Terzini's Bondi Icebergs is ground zero) and designing clothes that they would wear themselves rather than attempting to ride a "trend".
"We don't really design for a consumer in mind," explains Terzini.
"We design for what we feel at the time I really believe that we are establishing a core group of loyal followers that share the same aesthetic and lifestyle values influenced by art, music, parties, food, real wine and great drinks!"
Maybe that's the secret ingredient to creating a showstopper runway – create the kind of party you would want to attend with everyone wearing the style of clothes you would wear.
Then again if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.
Hansen & Gretel
This year, cult Sydney label Hansen & Gretel presented their first menswear designs. A selection of knitted tops, Cuban shirts and loose trousers that were inspired by, according to creative director and head designer Ainsley Hansen, golf legend Arnold Palmer.
The pick: White bucket hat and matching white shirt. Gone fishing, permanently.
The Melbourne brand was part of the St George NextGen runway and considering the quality of founder Brian Hyunh's work this felt like a big shark swimming in a small pond. But since the cost of putting on a show are allegedly huge, staying part of a collective show could be just good economic sense. Draping fits, cool graphics that lifted the mood and sandals with suits – from design to styling, Hyunh is lightyears ahead of even some of the more established menswear brands.
The pick: Suits with socks and sandals are this writer's breakfast, lunch and dinner but a monochrome printed short- sleeve shirt and black trench were undeniable standouts.
Reef oiled-models wearing more bronzer than the drag queens seated front row. And boardshorts. Lots of boardshorts and speedos clocking snakeskin and palm tree prints. Literally did what it says on the box.
The pick: Parrot print boardies.
The only sole menswear-focused collection was held offsite at Luna Park and promised to be the biggest show of the entire week. Instead it felt like we were at a recording of an X-Factor episode with all the dancers and performers.
The pick: Hard to say since the clothes were impossible to see. There were some coats.
Memories of school excursions came flooding back as guests wandered through the Chinese Friendship Garden in Darling Harbour while models draped themselves across the rocks and benches. This time, we moved - not the models. How novel. Mikey Nolan and Toby Jones again succeeded in creating a collection that carries all the fun of Australian backyard bbqs, only this time hosted by Wong Kar-Wai.
The pick: Oil-slick print lounge pants for the win.
Bombers and speedos are a look and Fitzroy swimming pool is about to get a lot more colourful. Psychedelic prints made for an eye-catching runway. Summer body starts now.
The pick: Acid green jungle and leopard print jacket and budgie smuggler combo.
What can be said for the drama that Ten Pieces provides to fashion week other than hook it to my veins. The collection itself remains stoically stark and monochrome with the odd flash of red and we got our first look at Ten Pieces denim. It was fun, wearable and proof that great clothes don't need gimmicks, just quality cuts that make you feel as great as they look.
The pick: All of it. But shout out to the custom-made uggs.