This week signalled the launch of Zara’s hotly anticipated new “ungendered” range of clothing. I use the inverted commas with intent. In reality, all it features is t-shirts, tracksuits and jeans modelled by both male and female models in a half-hearted attempt at maverick new genderless fashion.
What’s really ironic is that Zara have attempted to design an “ungendered” range, but still couldn’t help but create what is, in reality, a masculine one. If they were really trying to achieve this balance of gender, why have they not included skirts, or even explored slightly more classically feminine styles? Is the only thing that can be considered neutral, masculine? How very telling. In the series of publicity photos accompanying the launch, the female models merely look as though they are wearing a variety of “boyfriend fit” clothing. It is lacking in colour, featuring almost exclusively a spread of greys and beiges and whites, and all the items are extremely shapeless and outwardly masculine in style.
What Zara has actually created is a line of male-coded lounge wear, under the guise of “ungendered”. And because of this it seems almost gimmicky, they have used the term “ungendered” as a crowd pleasing buzzword, with little of the meaning behind the idea reflected in their products. The way they have interpreted it is essentially nothing more than a rebranded term for “unisex”, and therefore seems as though they are just chiming in with the current “gender-neutral” discussions that are everywhere at the moment, and attracting media attention as a result. Dazed and Confused have described how “fashion and gender are ‘having a moment’”, and it seems like a cheap shot for Zara to jump on board with this, and fail to do anything but present a very gendered collection. It seems to be yet another example of capitalism hijacking “current issues” as a way of purely making profit.
Zara here had the opportunity to do something groundbreaking, and explore the face of gender identity in fashion. Instead they have used the term “ungendered” as nothing more than a publicity stunt to attract attention, and then give us nothing more than a men’s range that women are “permitted” to wear. It is almost comical that gender-neutral somehow equates to masculinity. Dressing women in men’s clothes and calling it “ungendered” is just a kick in the teeth.
Do something interesting. Put men in skirts and then we might pay attention.
Image courtesy of Zara