Yes, there were hot K-Pop stars and Japanese actors, yes, there were even hotter male models – especially the underwear models – and yes, Daniel Henney, Shawn Yue and Ron Ng were super cool … but the real reason why Men’s Fashion Week 2012 was worth attending was the fashion.

At herworldPLUS we focus, naturally, on women’s fashion, beauty products, shopping for women and when we talk about Men and Sex, it’s almost always in the context of sexy guys, male celebs and relationship issues.

While personally I find menswear way more exciting than the same-same stuff that’s happening in womenswear across the board – from high end to high street everyone is peddling the same trends at the same time – menswear is not generally our focus at herworldPLUS.

BLOG Mens Fashion Week 2012 SONGZIO
Top male models & top menswear brand: Korean stars Lee Soo Hyuk (above far left & far right) and Heo Min Ho (above centre in blue) and Japanese actor Tanihara Shosuke (above left centre in hat) all walked for major Korean brand Songzio. Images: Wesley Kow

So, why did I spend five days last week – wearing progressively higher and more painful heels (for fashion, darling, of course)?

It wasn’t just for the hot guys, K-Pop stars and Hong Kong celebrities – although, admittedly, they did have a lot to do with it. It was because the actual fashion labels that were on show were not only interesting in their own right, not only because they were Asian fashion stars, but because I hadn’t seen it all before.

In these days of major brands tweeting images of their newest collections before they even hit the oh-so-exclusive-invite-only catwalk shows, live-streaming of runway shows and websites like ours and Style.com rushing up “first look” images almost as quickly as the models walk off the catwalk, I really don’t need to see a collection twice.

Being able to see labels I can’t download from the wires or have never heard of was the highlight of Men’s Fashion Week. Hopefully the organisers, Fide Productions, will keep this in mind when they start planning for their Women’s Fashion Week – which, reportedly, will run at the end of this year.

Of all the brands that showed at Men’s Fashion Week 2012, the stand-outs were definitely those from Korea. Just as K-Pop appears to have overtaken J-Pop in the Asian entertainment stakes, so too have Korean fashion designers taken a step ahead of their Japanese counterparts.

Songzio was the strongest of all the brands; I’ve been describing it to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen, as “Celine for men”. It was all rounded shoulders, long-lines and minimal leather detailing. The fact that Songzio brought in a number of Korean male supermodels – yep, they exist and they’re amazing; read about them here: Asian male models rule the catwalk at Men’s Fashion Week 2012 – also added to the brand’s catwalk impact.

Other interesting Korean brands included Lee Juyong’s Resurrection with its rock ‘n’ roll, almost steampunk vibe; the draped, artistic but restrained aesthetic from Heemin Yang’s Vandalist and the tailored but quirky suits of Dong Jun Kang’s D.Gnak label.

Of the Japanese labels, Diet Butcher Slim Skin from Hisashi Fukatami stood out for its mix of a strong street aesthetic with more feminine details – he was also the only designer to fully integrate the whole “music x fashion” concept of Men’s Fashion Week 2012. While the underground jazz pianist H Zett M performed, Fukatami DJ’d and the models sauntered down the runway.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the entire event – apart from the non-appearance of some of the bigger name Korean stars like  Lee Jung Shin from band CNBlue who had “scheduling issues” – was the lack of Singapore labels on the bill.

Of the some 19 shows only one was of a Singapore fashion label, Reckless Ericka. The collection from Afton Chen and Louise Koh was an innovative look at “uni-sex” fashion with guys and girls both wearing the same, or similar, outfits that had been cut differently to suit the different body types but when worn in a variety of ways managed to suit both.

There are actually a huge number of Singapore menswear labels; last year the line-up at the inaugural Men’s Fashion Week included Elohim by Sabrina Goh, ATZU and even Singapore’s top international fashion label Raoul – none of which participated in 2012.

Other labels that could have been on show include Sifr, Coupé-cousu and SUNDAYS or even a collective show of some of the newest labels now at Parco Next Next – the fashion incubator. Fair enough, these newer labels may not have the production quality of the more established brands, and they certainly can’t match up to the big names from Korea, Japan or the international labels like Casely-Hayford, Matthew Miller, Richard Chai, Alexis Mabille and MCM.

Still, an opportunity for them to show in the same environment is only going to help them see what they need to match up to in levels of fabric quality, production and design. And they’d certainly be well-supported. The only entirely full house before 8pm was for Reckless Ericka’s show; Singapore’s fashionistas came out in complete support of the homegrown brand.

Another high point for this year’s version of Men’s Fashion Week would also have to be the increased number of Asian models, in general, and Singapore models in particular. According to Sam Yeo, one of the event’s show producers, of the 35 male models who walked, there were 15 Asian or Pan-Asian guys, not including the “superstars” from Korea and Japan.

As mentioned, the Korean brands brought in top Korean actor, model Lee Soo Hyuk, long-haired stunner Heo Min Ho and his slick compatriot Kim Han Soo; and top Japanese actor Tanihara Shosuke also walked the runway to great acclaim.

Singapore was well represented by six male models, all locally born and bred (Read our story Singapore’s next top ‘male’ models for all the details) and despite being relatively new to the industy, impressive enough to have international magazines wanting to use them for editorial spreads. Two of the guys, Ian Luah and Conrad Ho, walked 15 shows between them – that’s more than the VIP imports did.

In its aim to raise the profile of menswear, and fashion in general, in Singapore and within Asia, Men’s Fashion Week is an important event. Sure, there were things that didn’t work – the idea of mixing performances between the shows didn’t always work; they’re better when held at the end of the night – but the concept of tying music to fashion is a good one; it certainly raises the event’s profile and increases attention – even The Guardian wrote about it after all.

However, for lovers of fashion and Singapore fashion designers what matters is not so much the finer details but more the access to eye-opening designers and fresh opportunities to spread their fashionable influence.

Men’s Fashion Week Singapore 2012 was held from April 18-22 at Marina Bay Sands. For more information about the various labels and events that happened, go to www.facebook.com/FideFashionWeek.