Business is “booming” for men’s stylists — and many have Netflix’s Queer Eye to thank

Queer Eye

Style By Sally's Sally Mackinnon says her business is "booming" on the back of Netflix's Queer Eye. Source: Supplied.

The global success of Netflix’s Queer Eye program has been a huge win for the streaming giant, but as the show airs its fourth season the five stars aren’t the only ones benefitting.

Sally MacKinnon runs a personal styling business in Melbourne and says the men’s side of her business is “booming” on the back of the show’s success.

“It’s really brought the personal styling concept to the masses,” MacKinnon tells SmartCompany.

“People are realising how you dress and present yourself isn’t just for the rich and famous, it’s really powerful for every single person.”

Starring Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Jonathan Van Ness, Netflix’s makeover show has attracted a cult following, helping various men with personal confidence issues.

In the process, the show has sparked a renewed appreciation for men’s style, similar to how Tidying Up with Marie Kondo preceded a flood of decluttering.

MacKinnon says her styling business has been increasingly honing in on the male market as awareness has increased.

“It’s planting a seed in people’s heads who would have otherwise not thought about it.

“A lot of women are watching the show as well and thinking how amazing their partners, brothers or fathers could look,” she says.

David Butcher, director of online menswear retailer Kent & Lime, which specialises in selling customers personalised outfits, says technology is underpinning the shift.

“Ironically, tech icons wearing hoodies to work has dramatically increased the acceptance of smart casual in the office,” he tells SmartCompany.

“Digital transformation of the fashion value chain by companies like Zara, H&M, ASOS and Uniqlo have made designer fashion-focused looks available at mass-market prices.”

Butcher’s business connects customers with their own stylists, who utilise a proprietary e-commerce platform to help customers pick outfits that work for them.

One-to-one customer engagement has helped the business increase its retention rate four-fold in the first 12 months since he and partner Allen Zelden bought the business.

“This is the most exciting time to truly connect one-to-one with your customer … if your business has already got its fundamentals in place, offering personal shopping and style advice is a great way to grow profitability,” Butcher says.

Imagine consultant John Michail, who runs his own personal branding business Image Group, says the show has also boosted his industry.

“We’re grateful for the awareness of the importance of this … the angle they’re coming from is vulnerability from the point of view of being confident about yourself,” he tells SmartCompany.

“It’s about owning who you are and not being in denial. Most guys have been afraid to bring out their inner and outer essence.”

Men taking the stage

According to IBISWorld figures, rising image consciousness will help drive expansion in Australia’s hair and beauty industry over the next five years, with annualised growth slated to increase from 0.8% to 2.6% through to 2024.

Those figures are all-encompassing, but menswear retailing more broadly has proven more resilient than womenswear over the last five years, IBISWorld research shows.

While industry growth has moderated somewhat amid a broader slowdown in the retail sector, analysts say increasing style consciousness is helping savvy operators take charge.

Men’s formalwear retailers such as Ed Harry and Roger David have collapsed in recent months, but University of Tasmania retail expert Louise Grimmer says those agile enough to capture trends will succeed.

“Increasingly, men are starting to make more purchase decisions themselves and shows like Queer Eye certainly have a role to play in guiding and influencing men’s interest.

“We will see fashion stores and grooming and accessories retailers and service providers refining their offerings to appeal to this new type of male shopper.

“Even stores such as Mecca are increasing their men’s ranges, and you do see more men shopping in Mecca stores. There is no doubt that shows like Queer Eye are having some influence on this trend,” Grimmer says.

MacKinnon adds the increasing prevalence of Men in Melbourne’s famous fashion week is a sign of a broader change in the market.

Is the idea men don’t like shopping dead though? MacKinnon doesn’t think we’re there quite yet.

“I don’t think we’ve got to that point. There’s more focus and attention on men’s style, but there’s still a lot of men that come to me and have no idea or interest, they just want it made simple,” she says.

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