The clothes we wear can help to construct (or perhaps more crucially deconstruct) the gender binaries that we as consumers of fashion have come to so rigidly prescribe to. But how far is gender fluid fashion the future of clothing for mass markets? And more importantly how central is its role for the LGBT community? Of course the desire to dress in a non-gendered way is, in many ways, no more related to sexuality than it is age or race. However, ungendered clothing is an example of the ways in which this generation is increasingly embracing choice. Fashion is beginning to truly reflect who we are as people, which doesn’t fit neatly into a box.
Nicola Formichetti is one of the biggest names in this scene, as artistic director at Diesel, he’s the mastermind behind the recent denim ads across Porn Hub. His next fashion foray? Genderless clothing with brand Nicopanda. Through projects such as these, designers and fashion moguls like Formichetti are proving something that seems to have been ignored for too long: fashion, sexuality and gender are related. In fact, more than related they’re practically mutually exclusive, through both their presence or lack thereof.
A recent example of the attempt to question gender binaries is Jaden Smith’s role in the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 16 womenswear campaign. The fashion houses’ designer Ghesquiere commented on the decision to include the young star, suggesting that Jaden represents a generation ‘that is free of manifestos and questions about gender’. The seventeen year old has been praised for such a bold gender fluid statement, however he has also faced criticism about the questions this kind of gender blurring creates.
One particular critic is journalist Katie Glover, voicing a trans perspective in defense of gender binaries and citing the importance of clearer distinctions between ‘men’ and ‘women’. Commenting on Jaden Smith’s LV campaign she speaks not only of her concerns that a move into genderless clothing will prevent trans people being able to fully identify as either men or women, but also that the inclusion of someone like Jaden – who has not identified as trans – in a campaign such as this is actually taking something away from the trans community – merely a boy dressing in women’s clothes.
Her criticism is in some ways understandable, but gender neutral clothing is perhaps sometimes more about non-conforming than it is anything else. The blurring of gender binaries and trans issues are potentially linked, but are by no means the same. The sooner we consider gender neutral clothing as distinctly separate from being trans; at times finding crossovers and at times finding none at all – the less this kind of criticism may be grounded in anything.
Genderless clothing is opening the doors for true self expression – we need to look no further than Martín Gutierrez for proof. Discovered by Saint Laurent, who used his single Hands Up for an editorial back in 2012, his music has since been featured by several houses such as Dior and Acne. As the industry continues to shake off the restrictive shackles of expectation and tradition and head towards a future of collaboration, it is artists such as Gutierrez that are coming to define what fashion means in 2016. These hybrid talents; model / artist / activist… (the list goes on) are the individuals taking the industry by storm. These young talents are refusing to be restricted by anything, least of all gender.
As more and more labels work towards gender neutral lines there are clear distinctions to be made. This is more than simply ‘androgyny’, a word that increasingly seems to over simplify the concept of gender fluidity. Genderless dressing isn’t about a woman preferring the shape of more masculine tailoring, or simply the inclusion of a man in a womenswear campaign. Instead, this focuses on pushing or breaking gender stereotypes that we have been programmed to see as normal for too long. Clothes can be an expression of so much of your identity; your mood, your surroundings, your beliefs and the way you view your own body. Why should our gender be the overarching thing that defines how we are able to express ourselves? As the popularity of gender neutral brands such as Amsterdam based ‘Nobody Has To Know’ are proving, there’s not simply a space for this type of clothing today, but an unequivocal need.
Cover image: www.standard.co.uk