Suited and booted, London chases global menswear crown

By Brenda Goh LONDON (Reuters) - Britain, birthplace of the three-piece suit and leather brogues, is stepping up efforts to establish London as the global capital of menswear with its designers chasing dominance in the fastest growing fashion sector by sales. Playing host to London Collections: Men, a three-day event that started on Monday, the British capital will see more than 130 brands such as Topman, Burberry and Alexander McQueen showcase their latest collections to fashion buyers and the media from more than 20 countries. The city has dressed its train stations with posters featuring real Londoners showcasing fabled British looks such as brogues and tartan. And it kick-starting the menswear collections internationally, with shows to follow in Milan, Paris and New York. "We have the heritage that none of the other cities have," model and fashion committee member David Gandy told Reuters. "We have Savile Row and we have the history, we set so many trends here, from the Burberry coat to the three-piece suit, from herringbone to Harris tweed." The menswear sector has emerged out of womenswear's shadow in recent years thanks to rapid sales growth that analysts say is being driven by the Internet and an increasingly sartorially aware generation, particularly in Asia. Market research firm Mintel estimates the men's fashion market grew by 2 percent to 10.4 billion pounds ($17.1 billion)in 2012, and the market is forecast to grow 16 percent between 2011 and 2016. Consultancy Bain & Co reported in 2012 that the international luxury menswear market was growing at an annual rate of 14 percent, almost double the rate of the womenswear segment. "Our goal is to ensure that London remains ahead of the world fashion pack, and to support an important sector that creates thousands of jobs and generates 10 billion pounds each year," London Mayor Boris Johnson said. British designer Lou Dalton kickstarted the event on Monday, sending models down the catwalk in farm workwear-inspired corduroy and faded denim outfits. The event will also host brands such as Marks and Spencer, which will stage its first men's fashion show pegged on its "Best of British" range at a time when the retail giant is battling falling clothing sales. Topman, a chain belonging to the Arcadia Group of British billionaire Philip Green, showcased models with slicked-down wet hair and outfits from oversized coats to cable-bonded slouchy turtleneck sweaters walking down a runway through a staged rain shower. "This was my romantic notion of tough northern (England) boys going to work in shipyards of old," Design Director Gordon Richardson said. "They would just have been like that, they would have worn donkey jackets, peacoats, they would have braved the elements." (Reporting by Brenda Goh, additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark Heinrich)