Focus | February 6, 2017

Gender Neutral

The gender-bending trend is about to get huge. Metropolitan society is moving fast toward a neutrality of genders and fashion is moving toward a genderless aesthetic, resolutely blurring the masculine-feminine divide

words Sandra Battistel

Despite the latest developments in global affairs may suggest differently, the world is not going backwards. For instance, when it comes to gender, we are seeing a social pull, particularly from generation Z, towards wider inclusion. Fashion, as a mirror of society, often more than art and other cultural expressions, because of its strong relation with identity, is the first manifestation of this social change and one of its main drivers. When fashion is at its bravest, it leads the way to a new aesthetic and changes in mainstream taste.
While gender has become a buzzword in fashion recently, designers question pre-conceived notions of gender or simply recognize that menswear collections are appealing to a female consumer, and viceversa. Looking back at designer JW. Anderson’s collections and his latest art exhibition, Disobedient Bodies: J.W.Anderson, the designer explored ideas of gender and identity that have been an ongoing part of his work and part of his vernacular for a while. Ever since he burst onto the London fashion scene in 2008, Anderson has defied traditional notions of masculinity with collections that have been labeled androgynous and gender-bending.

One of the biggest changes brands are making to the fashion week formula is mixed-gender catwalk shows. A wide spectrum of fashion houses, from heritage Burberry and Gucci, have recently merged men and women collections on the catwalk, while Vetements took things one step further and often cast men and women, for their shows. Some designers also conceive their men’s and women’s collections from the same ideas and inspirations, so showing them together makes sense from a creative standpoint.
This may either be an influence from the latest ’90s revival or the other way around where Millennials’ desire for a more gender fluid society mean the time is just right for the reappearance of the androgynous look.

Think Jaden and Willow Smith, challenging gender norms through their unique style and who choose not to have any kind of gender attachment. The stars seem to be perfectly aligned towards a world of gender fluidity. With the rise of China as a luxury shopping super
power and Asian brands emerging on the fashion scene, this signifies a redefinition of old design codes, also relating to gender.
Some Japanes and Korean eyewear brands have gender neutrality at their core, think of eyewear brands like Gentle Monster, Eyevan 7285 and Thai brand Jida Watt, though their collections may have some purely feminine or masculine styles they are disrupting the codes of what is the norm for men and women, both in shape and detail, to the point where you cannot imagine these collections being split by gender.

Some other brands, like London based Blyszak launched their first collection based around a singular, oval style, with broad gender-neutral appeal. Did these aesthetic shifts drive the global trend towards genderless fashion, or have they become more popular because of changes in society? With men buying into women’s brands and women buying into men’s collection, maybe we will even start to see retail environments that are much more focused on identity and personality. One thing is clear, gender is a construct that is ending, and once it does we can be
more relaxed about our fashion choices and embrace a new sense of fluidity and freedom in what we wear.