Fashion reacts to, inspires and defines social and political change. The industry faces criticism as a marketplace that highlights our obsession with wealth, image and the body. However it is truly leading the way and proving the immense power of the community in releasing the archaic iron-clad gender rules that still exist in society.
J W Anderson and Alexander Wang have forged careers on androgynous shapes. Women in well tailored suits have graced the catwalks at Burberry, Marni and Gucci proving even the power houses of fashion are willing to accept that gender-rules should no longer exist. Menswear is following suit with more feminine patterns; florals, bright colours and mixed fabrics now regularly appearing along with collections showing off skirts and looser shapes. Notably we can look to Rick Owens over-sized tunic tees and loose fitting shorts clearly exhibiting the new relaxed feminine-masculinity.
It’s not just the catwalks embracing the movement. February sees the release of the collaboration between Vivien Westwood and Opening Ceremony, a 20 piece unisex collection, and additionally, Selfridges are creating a gender neutral pop-up department that will run from March till April. “We want to take our customers on a journey where they can shop and dress without limitations or stereotypes,” they stated “A space where clothing is no longer imbued with directive gender values, enabling fashion to exist as a purer expression of ‘self’”.
Not all designers acknowledge the breakthrough in gender-neutralising fashion. Meadham Kirchhoff’s shows break all kinds of fashion rules. However, on the issue of freedom of gender expression after having faced personal attacks, Ed Meadham still asserts that “Everybody sort or exists in this fucking sick way and culture where it’s still ok to harass people like me constantly”. It is saddening that a designer whom is a forerunner for the movement, creating pieces the next generation can use to assert their sense of self, still feels so personally restricted.
Fashion is innovative and forward moving, the key to expressing ones personal style, and it’s clear it now allows for a more liberated sense of expression when it comes to gender.