It is somewhat ironic to know that Men’s Fashion Week is coming back this year for its second run because it was the first major event we covered (we owe much gratitude to the team behind MFW for allowing our debut). The hallmark event ain’t slowing down either. This year, MFW is jam-packed with 19 shows with the latest collections from British and Asian designers, plus a music week profiling some of the top J-Pop and K-Pop artistes yet. With a budget of $8 million (double from last year), MFW is set to be bigger, better and more badass.

If you are a fashion insider, you would most probably know the labels showing for MFW 2012 inside out, especially household names that have shown in other fashion weeks. However, there may be a couple of interesting things you may not quite know about these labels since their inception. I’m going to help you out here. With Googling skills that border on sheer insanity, I’m going to employ my deft fingers to uncover some of the quirkier elements that make these brands who they are and why you should pay attention to them.

Here we go.

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L to R: Spencer Hart, Songzio, Beyond Closet, D.GNAK

Spencer Hart (opening gala night): The British label is set to make its Asian debut here. Incepted in Savile Row in 2002, designer Nick Hart was inspired with jazz music in the ’50s and ’60s from luminaries such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. He noticed how musicians brought an attitude that was slightly twisted yet pristinely sharp. At a time when loud was in, Spencer Hart brought menswear back to classics with a Brit dandy twist, taking age-old colour palettes and finishing them in moderately modern slim cuts. The bespoke label received much acclaim for dressing more than 5 celebrities at this year’s Oscars week, including P. Diddy, Adam Levine and Kate Bosworth.

Songzio (opening gala night): The label showed last year and has chosen to show here this year instead of closing for Seoul Fashion Week 2012. Last time we met Songzio, we were enraptured by the traveller-meets-warrior-meets-sentimentalist approach of the label. He graduated from ESMOD Paris in 1987, majoring in design patterns. He returned to ESMOD Seoul 2 years later to serve as professor until 1993. His womenswear collection launched in 1992 before his menswear line debuted 7 years later. Since his first showing in Paris in 2007, he has received much publicity for his understated approach to avant-garde clothing, with wide pants and obi belts.

Beyond Closet: Designed by Tae Yong Ko, the label is decidedly a mash-up of Korean kitsch and Americana swag. Launched in the first half of 2008, the label seeks to integrate prep and military elements into traditional menswear for men in their 20s and 30s. A California vibe is present with circular sunglasses, gingham buttoned-up shirts and short shorts. Look closer though (once you’re watching the show) and the oddity of Korean-style pairing is seen with camo prints, cargo pockets and checked capes. The label is stocked in Idiel Showroom in New York City, besides in Korea. It showed at Seoul’s 10 Soul Fashion Night at last year’s Asia Fashion Exchange.

D.GNAK: Also stocked in Idiel Showroom (which Singapore label sifr is also stocked at), D.GNAK was launched in the first half of 2006 by Dong Jun Kang (nickname: KANG.D) focusing on tailored menswear with a penchant for subversive detailing. The label reinterprets casual life by showing a grown-up youthfulness to staples such as turtleneck sweaters, double-breasted hooded puffer jackets and trenchcoats in high-tech fabrics and colours like ash, cream and tangerine. He also has a recent diffusion line, D by D.

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L to R: General Idea, Resurrection, Vandal, Diet Butcher Slim Skin, Factotum

General Idea: You may have heard of this label quite a number of times from its showings at New York Fashion Week. Launched in Spring 2004, the label first showed in New York for Fall 2009. Designer Bum Suk Choi was the youngest designer to join the Seoul Collection in the Republic of Korea, at age 26. Besides the bright colours and cheery vibes of his collection, the designer also designed Renault’s Formula 1 team race car in 2006 and launched an Asian collaboration line with Puma in September 2010. He is also a published author on inspirations and travels. His third book will be released later this year. General Idea showed at Seoul’s 10 fashion night and is stocked in Idiel Showroom as well.

Resurrection: The label, designed by Lee Ju Young, takes inspiration from Christian art from the 3rd to 7th centuries. The times of yore are interpreted into a holier-than-thou take on modern goth inspired by the Victorian and Renaissance eras. A pacifistic yet subversive element of appearance is seen in mesh stockings, leather shirts and frayed capes. The label showed in New York 2 months ago during a Concept Korea presentation by South Korea’s culture ministry and fashion research institute, in a bid to globalise Korean fashion. The label got its big break in 2007 by designing Marilyn Manson’s outfits for his album art, music videos and world tour for his sixth full-length studio album “Eat Me, Drink Me”.

Vandal: Designed by Heemin Yang, the label was launched in Fall 2006 in Korea with a focus on playing up deconstructionism. Heemin creates his own runway music depending on the collection’s look and feel and you can expect his own music to play at his show here in Singapore. In 2009, Heemin published and directed fashion magazine Just Keep Going and was selected as the Korean representative artist for VANS’ global campaign one year later. In that same year, Vandal took part in ENK NYC as part of global fashion collective ENK to spot future designers in menswear. Gap Press Men spotted the label and called it a up-and-coming brand to watch.

Diet Butcher Slim Skin: Founded in 1997 by designer Hisashi Fukatami, the Japanese label is well-known for standing by the value of freedom in their modern street-meets-punk apparel. DBSS is also known for their crazy high tops (that’s shoes, in case you were wondering) that have become an intrinsic part of the DBSS man. Cosmic, urban and glam rock references make this label one for the streets. DBSS is part of Metalburger, launched in 2002. The label participated in Tokyo Fashion Week from 2006 and has a womenswear and children wear line under its arsenal. The label is stocked in TANGS Playlab.

Factotum: Designer Koji Udo started the label with Manabu Yaegashi and Tatsuya Togo in 2004, after coming back to Japan from his studies in London and launching previous label Lounge Lizard. Factotum is named after the classic 1975 novel by cult American writer Charles Bukowski. Its first shop opened in 2006, which was the same year Factotum made its debut in Tokyo Fashion Week. The label is known for infusing layered wear into a workwear aesthetic, with a carefree vibe associated by earthy tones and a throw-over feel. Most inspirations come from Udo’s travels, such as backpacking in Nepal that lent the mood to SS11 collection Exile. This label is also stocked in TANGS Playlab.

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L to R: Jun Hashimoto, Pascal Donquino, Bodybound, Reckless Ericka, Alexis Mabille

Jun Hashimoto: The label focuses on classic utilitarian wear for the everyday man. Although the label started in 2009, Jun Hashimoto has had much experience in fashion, having apprenticed under Italian clothing brand Carpe Diem for designer/artist Maurizio Altieri in 2000. He established Japanese clothing brand wjk in 2004 and branched out into furniture and interior design items in 2006. After withdrawing from the label in 2008, Jun Hashimoto set up his eponymous label in a bid to be more focused on the design with his signature brand on street-workwear fashion. He also set up label AZ for Japanese online stockist Zozo.

Pascal Donquino: Designer Akira Taekuchi set up the label in 2009. He is the male half of Tokyo mainstay label Theatre Products with designer Tayuka Nakanishi. Both graduated from ESMOD Japan. Pascal Donquino attempts to bring back the dandyism and whimsicality of Japanese fashion into staid work classics by reintroducing historical elements into the fabrics and cut. Shirts are made of cotton by Thomas Mason which have been producing high-quality fibres since locomotive innovation flourished in the early 1800s. With a label that belies a hint of flamboyance shrouded in a darkly romantic look, the label is sure to appeal to the romantic set.

Bodybound by Kim Choong-Wilkins: The label that made headlines and buzz on microblog Tumblr with its porcupine sweaters and devil-may-care aesthetic is back for showing numero dos. Since we last saw the label, Bodybound has been part of Vauxhall Fashion Scout’s “Ones To Watch Men” initiative during London Fashion Week, where it shocked with transparent PVC overalls and metallic knits. Kim-Choong-Wilkins graduated from Central St. Martins and is half-Singaporean, half-British. He worked with the late Alexander McQueen and most recently was the menswear designer for Matthew Williamson. I am prepared to be gleefully provoked by his collection once again.

Reckless Ericka: The only Singapore label to return for MFW this year, Reckless Ericka is back to bring its European influences on the runway. Launched by Afton Chen, Diorelle Sy, Ruth Marbun and Louis Koh in 2009, the brand debuted at Audi Fashion Festival that year with multi-label fashion boutique Blackmarket. The label now has Afton and Louis at the helm. Its projects include the Go Red For Women campaign in 2009 and the Heineken Aluminium Bottle campaign in 2010. The avant-garde label launched diffusion line ODDS by Reckless Ericka in June 2010. The label’s flagship store is in Orchard Central.

Alexis Mabille: The designer launched his label house in 2005 after receiving his diploma from Paris’ Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1997, undertaking apprenticeships for Ungaro and Nina Ricci and being with the Dior team for nine years. Under Dior, he made jewellery for John Galliano and was part of the Dior Homme line under Hedi Slimane. He is most known for his bowtie motifs and his luxurious and imaginative couture creations, of which the first collection impacted the Paris runway barely a couple of years after his label’s inception. He has also been recently appointed as the artistic director for Cointreau Prive. His menswear label also reflects the same opulence in his ready-to-wear and couture options. His MFW show will also showcase a capsule underwear range in collaboration with HOM.

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L to R: Casely-Hayford, Matthew Miller, Richard Chai, MCM

Casely-Hayford: The luxury label was recently launched in 2009 but designer Joe Casely-Hayford, OBE, has been a mainstay in British fashion with his own eponymous label since the mid-80s. He has styled and written for magazines and was the first designer to be approached by Topshop for a collaboration line. His popularity is also evident in Japan, of which a majority of his designs stock there. Since 2005, Joe has been creative director of legendary Savile Row house Gieves and Hawkes which has existed for more than 2 centuries. He launched Casely-Hayford with his son, Charlie Casely-Hayford, to combine tailoring and sportswear.

Matthew Miller: The designer graduated from the Royal College Of Art in 2009 and has been showing for the past three seasons at London Fashion Week as part of Fashion East’s menswear installations, and in Paris at the British Fashion Council’s showrooms. He famously broke out as a designer to watch from last year’s MAN show with Topman and Fashion East. His work focuses on mixing tailoring and sportswear with digital prints to bridge the worlds of fashion and technology. His previous collections have juxtaposed traditional fabrics such as wool and gabardine with high-tech neoprene and he even accompanies QR codes with his line.

Richard Chai: The designer famously made it to headlines by ending up as a top 10 finalist in the revered CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2008. He was then awarded Designer of the Year in menswear by the CFDA 2 years later. The man, who used to design for Marc by Marc Jacobs, clearly has not stopped since his label launch in 2004. Amongst the new Asian influences on the runway with Derek Lam, Peter Som and Jason Wu, Richard has held his own with his kitschy yet minimalistic mix of fabrics and architecture. His menswear label launched in 2008 and his diffusion line, Richard Chai Love, 2 years later.

MCM (closing gala): German luxury brand Mode Creation Munich will close off MFW on April 22nd showcasing its signature artisanal leather goods, footwear and apparel for the first time here. Founded by Michael Cromer in Munich in 1975 under the name Michael Cromer Munich, the label is now based in South Korea and headed by chairman and CEO Sung-Joo Kim after a hush-hush period where the brand slowly retracted from the fashion scene. Designer Michael Michalsky joined the house in 2005 and the label is coming back fast with the sophistication and toned-down approach of it bags today.

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MEN’S FASHION WEEK PRESS CONFERENCE 2012 from MFW on Vimeo.

Men’s Fashion Week will happen from April 18-22. Log on to their website for more details, including show schedule, music acts and ticketing information.