The Fu­ture of Re­tail is Gen­der­less: Is Gen­der-Neu­tral Cloth­ing the Next Big Trend?

Is gen­der-neu­tral cloth­ing the next big trend?

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The role of male and fe­male bi­na­ries in to­day’s so­ci­ety are blur­ring at a rapid pace. While women are voic­ing equal­ity, men are be­com­ing more con­fi­dent in dis­play­ing their fem­i­nine side. Even chil­dren are be­ing raised in nurs­eries that are not di­vided into pink and blue any­more, in­stead these are de­signed to be more gen­der­less with neu­tral coloured in­te­ri­ors, wooden ac­ces­sories and uni­sex toys. Fash­ion cam­paigns are push­ing this no­tion fur­ther into the minds of the grow­ing Gen Z con­sumers. Fash­ion brands are re­fus­ing to stay be­hind, with com­pa­nies like River Is­land, Aber­crom­bie & Fitch, Zara, ASOS, Gen­der Free World, Wild­fang and H&M al­ready hav­ing for­ayed into gen­der-neu­tral cloth­ing.

In Septem­ber 2018, Fin­land rolled out an en­tire floor ded­i­cated to gen­derneu­tral fash­ion in the coun­try’s largest de­part­ment store, Stock­mann. Tak­ing a lead into the gen­der-neu­tral fash­ion mar­ket, Fin­land has al­ways taken pride in be­ing the pi­o­neer of gen­der equal­ity, start­ing from the time when women in Fin­land be­came the first in the world to ob­tain full po­lit­i­cal rights, in 1906. To­day, Stock­mann proudly fea­tures its huge sec­tion called ‘One Way’, lo­cated in-be­tween the men’s and women’s floors, sell­ing cloth­ing from top brands like Acne Stu­dios, Calvin Klein, Marimekko, Burberry and Kenzo.

ASOS, UK’s largest on­line – the only fash­ion re­tailer, in its plan to cap­ture sales from a new gen­er­a­tion that doesn’t want to be cat­e­gorised as male or fe­male – launched a new gen­der­less fash­ion brand called ‘Col­lu­sion’.

The col­lec­tion in­cludes items like a dig­i­tal-print leop­ard shirt and high­waisted skinny jeans worn on the site by two mod­els. The com­pany has also part­nered with in­flu­encers who have thou­sands of fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram to help de­velop and mar­ket the line. Gen­der-neu­tral fash­ion, in all prob­a­bil­ity, is the fu­ture of fash­ion around the globe, but the trend did start to take a no­tice­able rise since 2015. As per a re­port by re­search group NPD ti­tled ‘Re­tail is be­com­ing less gen­dered’, it is stated that, “In Amer­i­can busi­ness, no area, with the ex­cep­tion of pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment, is blur­ring the gen­der lines as quickly as re­tail. From cloth­ing to footwear to tech­nol­ogy, for­ward-think­ing com­pa­nies are en­act­ing a less bi­nary vi­sion of how we shop, dress and live, in re­sponse to an emerg­ing con­sumer need. A gen­der­less fash­ion mar­ket is de­vel­op­ing. It’s far less sat­u­rated than its gen­dered coun­ter­part, and it is rife with op­por­tu­nity for new en­trants.” Also in­ter­est­ing to note is the fact that the mar­ket size for gen­der-neu­tral cloth­ing is ac­tu­ally big­ger than one can imag­ine, with the mil­len­ni­als lead­ing the pack. Nu­mer­ous re­ports state that an­drog­yny and gen­der flu­id­ity are be­com­ing norms rather than be­ing ex­cep­tions of the mil­len­ni­als only. A 2016 study by the Fawcett So­ci­ety (an or­gan­i­sa­tion in the United King­dom that cam­paigns for women’s rights rooted since 1866), states that, “44 per cent of the Bri­tish

In Septem­ber 2018, Fin­land rolled out an en­tire floor ded­i­cated to gen­der-neu­tral fash­ion in the coun­try’s largest de­part­ment store, Stock­mann.

18 to 24-year-olds sur­veyed think that gen­der is bi­nary.”

As per a re­port by GLAAD (a US non-gov­ern­men­tal me­dia mon­i­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion founded by LGBT peo­ple in the me­dia), “12 per cent of mil­len­ni­als iden­tify as trans­gen­der or gen­der non-con­form­ing, mean­ing they do not iden­tify with the sex they were as­signed at birth – dou­bling the num­ber of trans­gen­der and gen­der non-con­form­ing peo­ple re­ported by Gen­er­a­tion X (6 per cent).”

Tak­ing the trend more main­stream on the fash­ion run­ways, re­cently dur­ing The New York Fash­ion Week in 2018, brands such as Tel­far, Chro­mat, Va­quera, Gypsy Sport and Eck­haus Latta were all recog­nised as putting for­ward a gen­der­less vi­sion into their col­lec­tions since their in­cep­tion. The ear­lier col­lec­tions of Ja­panese de­sign­ers like Un­der­cover by Jun Taka­hashi have been seen show­cas­ing an­kle­length pleated skirts in fine grey wool or bold plaid, and long skirts, draped and white, sug­gest­ing gen­der flu­id­ity for young men. Mak­ing it of­fi­cial for all suc­ces­sive sea­sons to come, in Fe­bru­ary, the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica (CFDA) even added a ‘uni­sex/non-bi­nary’ cat­e­gory to the NYFW cal­en­dar.

Mov­ing for­ward, fash­ion man­u­fac­tur­ers will have a greater need to un­der­stand what gen­derneu­tral cloth­ing ex­actly sig­ni­fies. De­bates have it loud and clear, that gen­der-neu­tral cloth­ing in to­day’s time is just not a pair of jeans, a T-shirt or a hoodie. Nei­ther can it be re­stricted to the male-bi­ased rules of an­drog­yny de­fined by mere mas­cu­line or baggy sil­hou­ettes for fe­males. While tra­di­tional fem­i­nine de­signs for men are still not as com­mon in the fash­ion re­tail sec­tor – newer col­lec­tions are be­ing de­vel­oped keep­ing in mind that fash­ion pieces are no longer ei­ther boy­ish or girl­ish.

The lux­ury fash­ion mar­ket seems to be at the fore­front with in­ter­est­ing takes on a new gen­der­less aes­thetic. No­table de­sign­ers that are al­ready known to cre­ate gen­der­less

As per a re­port by GLAAD (a U.S. non-gov­ern­men­tal me­dia mon­i­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion founded by LGBT peo­ple in the me­dia), “12 per cent of mil­len­ni­als iden­tify as trans­gen­der or gen­der non­con­form­ing, mean­ing they do not iden­tify with the sex they were as­signed at birth dou­bling the num­ber of trans­gen­der and gen­der non-con­form­ing peo­ple re­ported by Gen­er­a­tion X (6 per cent).

col­lec­tions are JW An­der­son,

Rick Owens and Rad Hourani. Join­ing the gang now are younger en­trants. For the LVMH 2018 Prize for Young Fash­ion De­sign­ers, half of the nom­i­nated de­sign­ers were recog­nised to fo­cus on gen­derneu­tral fash­ion. LVMH Di­rec­tor, Del­phine Ar­nault, re­vealed that three of the nine fi­nal­ists cre­ated gen­der­less col­lec­tions and also stressed on the fact that the Prize ‘echoes the re­cent evo­lu­tions in fash­ion’.

As thou­sands of col­umns across plat­forms con­tinue be­ing de­voted to in­clu­siv­ity, gen­der iden­tity and body pos­i­tiv­ity every­day – the fash­ion in­dus­try in the up­com­ing sea­sons will ev­i­dently be gen­der-free. The ba­sic frame­work of con­cep­tu­al­is­ing styles and sil­hou­ettes for men and women will dra­mat­i­cally change into neu­tral takes by fresh de­sign­ers who echo a new gen­er­a­tion of an un-gen­dered fash­ion utopia. From some to all re­tail­ers, it’s time to jump the band­wagon and em­brace an era of gen­der­less re­tail.

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