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Benjamin Fitzgerald
Aug 30, 2016
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'Genderless' fashion rocks the luxury sector

Translated by
Benjamin Fitzgerald
Aug 30, 2016

Gender fluid, genderless, no gender, transgender, non-gendered, unisex: all words to define a relatively new concept that is sweeping the fashion sector.

From unisex collections to mixed men's and women's fashion shows, the luxury industry is experiencing a revolution. Genderless is now firmly set and is redefining the rules.

Transgender model Hari Nef stood out at Gucci's last AW men's show - © PixelFormula

The gender lines are blurring, where only sizing and minute details make the difference. It's symptomatic of the times, given the number of new brands born out of this genderless-ness. This includes Avoc, Lucio Vanotti, J. W. Anderson, Public School, Andrea Crews and Hood By Air.

When launching a womenswear collection in 2014, menswear brand Y/Project highlighted its unisex and androgynous side, upholding comfort and the freedom of movement. Elsewhere, Ami, the menswear brand by Alexandre Mattiussi, released specific items in extra small sizes, suitable for women to wear.

There's a 'no gender' wave in fashion right now, which is touching the next generation, explains Barbara Franchin, the founder of emerging design competition ITS, who for 15 years has examined the creative process in fashion. "Among this year's 935 received candidates, 31% of the collections defined themselves as genderless or unisex, compared to less then 1% in 2015." 

"Cultural differences between countries are less visible. Fashion represents a sort of common language for these newcomer designers," Franchin added.

The unisex collection presented by Anna Bornhold at ITS 2016 in July

The genderless trend isn't new. Androgynous style was pioneered during the 20th century by certain pop culture celebrities and design houses, from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent. But beyond the style, which has been brought up to date in recent seasons, no gender is cementing itself as society evolves.

"Today, there's a clear coming together between the two sexes. And also masculine taboos have fallen away. To wear a floral blouse with a pussybow isn't shocking for a man anymore. We are seeing a softening in the man and a toughening of the woman. In fact, both are dressing more and more in the same manner," decodes Alice Pfeiffer, a specialist in the study of gender and anthropology. 

"People are affected more by their profession or social class than by their gender. We prefer to belong to a tribe rather than a gender. The classic codes are melting," continues Pfeiffer, who is also a fashion journalist and completed a Master of Gender Studies at the London School of Economics. 

On the right, a young Jaden Smith poses in a skirt for Louis Vuitton's spring/summer 2016 campaign

This new attitude, which accompanies today's trending topics such as homosexual marriage, hasn't eschewed major players in fashion either. In June last year, the Florentine men's trade show Pitti Uomo inaugurated a space called Open, set aside for unisex fashion where brands offered products for both men and women.

Multibrand boutiques are also in on the change. There are more and more stores offering genderless clothing. Last year, Bon Marché opened a corner in its women's section selling men's pieces in a smaller size. In March, British department store Selfridges launched 'Agender', a section dedicated to unisex fashion, which allowed customers to "dress themselves outside all constraints and stereotypes."

Some initiatives, however, appear to be juicy marketing, as fashion houses gain a better understanding of getting something out of the concept. A t-shirt or a pair of jeans sells a lot better if it identifies as gender fluid, simply because of the good publicity. 

In these hard economic times, brands are reducing costs by fusing together their men's and womenswear show, less money, and more publicity for doing so. So, runway shows for these brands are held two times per year instead of four. 

Vetements has extolled the mixing of genders since its debut - © PixelFormula

A number of labels are already mixing feminine and masculine looks on the runway, but this season will mark a radical change with the first fully-mixed shows.

Vetements set the stage in July at Paris haute couture week. Created as a women's ready-to-wear, the Russian brand founded by Demna Gvasalia mixed genders, showing men and women in androgynous, oversize and deconstructed silhouettes.

There is high anticipation for Burberry and the British brand's very first men's and women's combined show, scheduled for September 19 in London. Gucci hopes to follow in the same vein, much like the luxury streetwear label Public School -- helmed by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne -- who are also unifying their runway show this September.

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