This year’s Milan Fashion Week may have wound up, but the collections seem to have left an impression. Ensembles both daring, as well as eye catching as fashion houses, chose that rules were made to be broken. A riot of fashion, the Milan Fashion Week showcased plentiful pop colours with unexpected yet playful pairings (think trench coats with tracksuits). Expert layering and gender-neutral themes to athletic accents and retro themes, it was laid bare to see: Anything and everything works!
No. 21 opened with their signature embellished lingerie-like dress, paired with a parka that seemed to have been borrowed from a boyfriend. Mohair knits with lumberjack shirts paired with vinyl trousers. A collection that showcased a much more rebellious No. 21 girl.
The cornerstones of the Sportmax collection were layers of hi-tech fabrics and sporty knitwear with wide shoulder puffer jackets and jersey. The highlights lay in the detailing as lighter moments came with a fluid pleated skirt and intarsia performance knitwear. The result? Highly Desirable!
Gender neutral dressing may not be mainstream in the world of fashion just yet, but a conversation about it doesn’t seem to raise eyebrows anymore. Taking a look at runways of fashion houses it is clear that lines that once separated women’s clothing from men’s clothing seems to have become blurred. Take fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara who appeal to the masses, seem to be on board with the concept as well.
In the world of fashion, while the idea of ditching traditional gender labels isn’t one that is new but can we go on to assume this form of consumption of fashion to have officially become the new normal?
While it may not even be what every admirer of fashion may want – it’s difficult to determine exactly how long until women’s and men’s clothing simply become – clothing.
Over the last couple of years, many fashion labels have been credited for their progressive take on gender. From the Japanese concept of Genderless Kei, to British label runways from the likes of J. W. Anderson and Ashley Williams, Hedi Slimane’s non-binary approach, unisex designs by Rick Owens to Alessandro Michele guiding Gucci as it confronts pre as well as misconceptions about gender.
“I first remember gender-neutral fashion being a thing in the 1980s,” recalls Olivia Kim, Nordstrom’s Vice President of Creative Projects, “but back then, we called it unisex or free-size clothing. Early adopters included designers like Katharine Hamnett who made oversized T-shirts with political statements (think George Michael’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ music video). Then in the ’90s, female rappers and musicians also started wearing fashion and clothing that was originally designed and intended for men.”
With gender neutral dressing there seem to be no rules which is one of the reason why it tends to appeal to the youth as well as fashion trendsetters who use their dressing style as a way to self-express.
Fashion designers are not combining women’s and men’s collections on the runway but also at their stores. John Lewis abolished ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ labels on children’s clothing, H&M launched a unisex denim line, as even more brands look to venture into gender-neutral fashion.
“Gender is a fairly restrictive concept,” Wildfang CEO, Emma McIlroy tells The Independent. “Historically, it has dictated what jobs people can do, how someone can act, how someone can dress and that limits someone’s ability to truly self-express and reach their full potential. Gender-neutral clothing doesn’t force someone into a box. It allows them to self-express exactly how they chose to. It’s always been easier for women to cross the dressing stereotypes and much more difficult for men, which is more repressive,” she explained.
An inverse phenomenon occurred when stars like Jaden Smith chose to don a skirt during Louis Vuitton’s SS16 campaign. A host of A-list celebrities have started embracing so-called ‘feminine’ fashion tropes. Harry Styles with Gucci boots, Justin Bieber and women’s skinny jeans and Zayn Malik in ladies’ blouses – If there ever was a move towards gender fluidity in fashion, this is it.