It’s Men’s Fashion Week in Milan and I couldn’t help but notice that the excitement is not the same as it is in February or September. This is not because Women’s Fashion Week is more interesting or relevant at all, but it mainly has to do with a specific pattern that has been going on for some years now in the fashion world. This pattern, or global trend as I prefer to call it, may pass inconspicuously in general when you see fashion weeks with a quick-scan view, but if you take a closer look into what’s going on the runways I assure you that you’ll definitely detect what I’m talking about. See, this is one of the reasons why I really love fashion because it’s an industry that you have to scan constantly and see it from different points of view to understand it. But let’s cut to the chase: the fashion of the future will be all about GENDERLESS CLOTHING.
Evidently, you may have heard about genderless clothing before, and I’d like to introduce you to what this trend actually means. It is possible that you have come across different types of terminology like “gender fluidity”, “gender neutral” or perhaps “ungendered”, and this is a thing that has been going on in many types of scenarios and when you look into it, you may find some controversial topics regarding this. Fashion, of course, has a way of being drawn to controversy and so it’s no surprise that brands are reacting to this trend, but it’s for you to judge if the execution of it still seems confusing or not. So, what does “genderless” actually mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, genderless means “lacking qualities typically associated with either sex” or “suitable to or for either sex”; so mainly when something is genderless, it’s not reflective of any sex in particular.
The truth is, talking about ungendered individuals is still a sensitive topic that the fashion industry is trying to understand and embrace it when it comes to clothing, but there’s no doubt that we’re experiencing a transition that we’ll have to adapt to. Many people think that the ungendered trend started with the Gen Z and their way of living socially and so the change we’re experiencing is not a cultural, but a generational one. According to research, Gen Z is all about discovery and it’s the most curious generation we’ve had in years in the sense that they will take genderless clothing seriously and they’ll wear it only if it’s legit, unique and depending on how it is presented. But here’s the catch, we’ve been seeing more unconventional clothing on the runway than before, and if you take a look into fashion history, you’ll see that some designs and patterns from the end of the 60’s are actually being repeated, so maybe what we’re living now is a “throwback” to the 70’s with a twist coming from the Gen Z, whom by the way will be the principal buyers of the future. Back in the 70’s, men started gaining a more noticeable role in the fashion industry and those were the times when they really stepped up their game. It was men who got bored of conventional clothing and so they started wearing more color and choosing materials such as lace or velvet, which at that time used to be more conventional for women. Moreover, David Bowie was one of the first people to be recognized as someone with a gender fluid look, and that was mainly when the questions about gender identity started arising publicly and became a trending topic.
Going back to what fashion is doing more than three decades later, men are being put in skirts down the runway (this one was Gucci) and brands like Chanel are putting men on their ad campaigns for womenswear. Moreover, I couldn’t help but notice during this Men’s Fashion Week, male models wearing so much spark, the unusual materials like velvet or lace and small colorful handbags (see, Dolce & Gabbana Men’s 2018 runway show). Honestly, the first time I noticed this gender fluidity trend and started taking it seriously was when I saw Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik on the cover of American Vogue on August 2017, claiming on the story that they considered themselves part of the generation of “gender fluid”. Clearly a while after, the magazine apologized publicly claiming that they “missed the mark”, mainly because we don’t see Zayn Malik walking out in public wearing dresses and the cover was too big of a deal to claim the celebrities’ story was the perfect resemblance and representation of gender fluidity. After this, you may say that the fashion industry is still struggling in trying to understand what gender fluidity means when it comes to the concept behind the clothing, but more importantly, it’s key to take more into consideration what this genderless trend will mean business-wise once it’s fully understood and applied. So far, brands have been applying their idea of genderless clothing into the easiest part of their corporate strategy: marketing. I’ve mentioned before that men are now starring on women’s ad campaigns and more recently, women have also gone down the men’s runway during fashion week and vice versa. Brands are generally confident that the genderless concept in clothing won’t affect their merchandising, buying and pricing because the idea of it is still fresh, but time will be limited when the Gen Z takes the lead in the industry.
It’s no doubt that genderless or “unisex” clothing is a serious issue when you look at it as a generational transition, but it is also a big business decision where every part of a brand could be affected. The problems that could arise from producing genderless clothing could start from sizing up to deciding how to organize the store and the fitting rooms. It will be fundamental to address the “genderless trend” with very strategic eyes when the time comes. The new generation that is coming will be the one that “doesn’t care” because they’ll just want you to be “you” (no labels, no categories) and fashion will have to step up its evolutionary game.