Male models strut the runway, sporting everything from bright pink tops and man-bags to shiny, see-through smocks and shorts. Men in the crowd indulge in the details and eagerly snap shots of their favourite looks.

Times have changed since men’s clothing was relegated to the department store basement and "dressing up" for men meant donning a tie and jacket. Now, Toronto is celebrating its first ever Men’s Fashion Week, TOMFW for short.

It’s all about men’s fashion and designers. TOMFW’s founder, Tom Rustia, said the time is ripe for a men’s fashion week because "there’s an incredible boom in menswear globally." 

Growing market

He credits the modern man "who is unashamed about loving fashion" and social media which has turned average folk into paparazzi: "At the turn of the eye, you’ll see what you’re wearing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, [so] men are definitely more conscious about how they present themselves," explained Rustia.

The most fashion-conscious appear to be millennial men, ages 20-35. They are settling down later and so have more disposable income to spend on their appearance, Sandy Silva from market research company NPD Group says.

'The number of men caring about their clothing and looks is growing'- Torontonian Yashar Fatehi 

The proof is in the sales bill. According to NPD Group, in the 12 months from June 2013 until June 2014, Canadian apparel sales for millennial males went up a whopping 30 per cent in department stores and rose nice per cent in general. The women’s clothing industry still dominates in Canada, raking in $13.4 billion over the past year. But that figure is shrinking — it's down one per cent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, men’s overall apparel sales gained ground, climbing two per cent to $7.6 billion. Silva explained the women’s retail market is already saturated with numerous options so men’s clothing has become the new frontier.

"Retailers have recognized the opportunity for men and are really going guns blazing," said Silva. "They have an increased presence of menswear on the floor. They’re paying more attention to the shopping habits of men." 

Male-only stores coming

Last year, prominent Canadian men’s retailer, Harry Rosen, kick-started a $100 million project to expand and upgrade its stores and build new locations. Luxury department store, Holt Renfrew, will open its first all-men’s store in Toronto this fall.

"I am excited," said Torontonian Yashar Fatehi about the notion of shopping at a men’s-only Holts.

On this day, the 34-year-old is sporting slicked-back hair, a grey Boss leather jacket, a crisp off-white shirt, designer jeans, and sleek, pointy brown leather shoes. "The number of men caring about their clothing and looks is growing," said the commercial developer who estimates he spends about $10,000 a year on his wardrobe.

Fatehi said even if he’s heading out for coffee, he takes time "to make sure what I wear goes with each other and that my hair is good." When asked why he makes the effort, he responded, "it’s a human need to be accepted and complimented." 

Traditionally, women felt the pressure to keep up with appearances. But it seems men are now buying in big, even in the grooming department. "This industry is targeting even that part of the man, with lotions, potions and everything else that can make us feel good," said 30-year-old hair and make-up artist Esteban Ortiz.

In 2013, according to market research company Euromonitor, men’s skin care, excluding shaving items, was the fastest growing segment in men’s grooming products in Canada. Sales of the products, which range from men’s anti-aging cream to moisturizers, jumped 11 per cent over the previous year.

Oritz says he is one of the statistics, and likes American Crew Products and L’Oreal’s men’s skincare line. "We take care of how we look on the outside. Of course we’re going to take care of our skin, our hair." 

Jade Hassouné also dabbles in men’s lotions and funky fashions. On this day, the actor whose credits include CBC’s drama, Heartland, is dressed head-to-toe in black and white graphic designs. But the 26-year-old said don’t call him a fashion victim.

He said he and his peers like to dress up not because of societal or marketing pressure but because it’s fun and creative: ”It is art on the body, it elevates everything and inspires. It makes day-to-day life just elevated and uplifting.”