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Gender fluidity: Fashion's new frontier

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

Sep 1, 2015

Fashion |OPINION

Fashion loves a trend. None more so than magazines and publications who expertly curate the must-have pieces on their pages each season, which swiftly filters down to the high street retailers who expertly merchandise the must-have items within their stores.

I recall one winter when grey outerwear, specifically coats, was the only coat acceptable to wear in public, and every high street store from M&S to Topshop to Zara featured grey coats in their window displays, turning Oxford Street into a sea of greige. The options came single-breasted, double-breased, in wool, cashmere, polyester and a million other variations. The point being the trend was so widely adopted, you couldn't help but notice the power and symbiotic relationship between consumerism and media exposure.

Fashion is blurring the lines between mens and womenswear

But fashion is also a reflection of the zeitgeist and a new wave of current trends is revolving around gender fluidity, a challenging concept that is blurring the lines between mens and womenswear. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have noticed a catwalk or campaign seems to no longer be interesting unless there is a crossover of gender or some reference to the masculine and feminine.

Acne this week released a campaign of founder Jonny Johansson's eleven year-old son Frasse wearing its women's autumn winter 15 collection. The reason, he said: “I’ve seen this new generation’s attitude to fashion where the cut, the shape and the character of the garment is the crucial thing, rather then seeking approval from society or to follow set norms. “I immediately pictured Frasse, since he embodies this new breed to me.

Last week & Other Stories, a sister-company owned by Swedish retail giant H&M, launched a new campaign using transgender models at its forefront. & Other Stories follows Givenchy, American Apparel, Rick Owens and Opening Ceremony, who have long celebrated gender diversity, but the 'trend' is now seeing widespread coverage. Last season Gucci presented a collection of bohemian, romantic and again gender fluid clothes down its runway. At its men's show, the first model, dressed in a strikingly androgynous red pussy bow blouse, had hair so long you could barely tell it was a 'he.'

But if the established fashion houses are only embracing the trend via their campaigns and communication, a host of new fashion labels are challenging gender norms in a more authentic way. They are, in essence, making clothes that are not solely marketed to one group of people defined by their age, race or sex.

New designers are creating true unisex collections

This new wave of young designers, like label 69 and Eckhaus Latta are making the typical gender-targeted men’s and women’s collections a thing of the past and focusing on unisex collections in its truest form. They employ models of all genders, ages, shapes and sizes challenging both the status quo and standards of beauty within the fashion industry.

Recently a new modelling agency was launched representing only transgender models. Demand for transgender models for catwalks and campaigns has never been this high, according to the company Apple Model Management.

But retailers are embracing the zeitgeist too. Ken Downing, the fashion director of Neiman Marcus stated: “What we’re seeing now is a seismic shift in fashion, a widening acceptance of a style with no boundaries, one that reflects the way young people dress.”

Miuccia Prada also had her say: “More and more, it feels instinctively right to translate the same idea for both genders.”

And here we are on the cusp of the women's SS16 show presentations. It will be interesting to see how fashion continues to embrace the concept, or whether it is indeed just a trend.


Gender Fluid