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Gender-neutral fashion: fluidity as freedom

By Aileen Yu

4 Feb 2021

Fashion

Is gender-neutral fashion a future trend? Styles for Spring 2021 saw a growing number of major brands champion gender-fluid, unisex or polysexual fashions with Marc Jacob’s “Heaven” capsule and fluid collections from designers Balenciaga and Stella McCartney. “Marc has long been a believer that clothing itself is not inherently gendered, rather society norms have previously determined certain garments are for certain people, (we) see a great deal of hope in today’s youth, that these limiting ‘rules’ are increasingly no longer relevant, with a renewed courage to be oneself,” Eric Marechalle, the CEO of Marc Jacobs International told WWD in a recent report.

A 2018 study by The Advocate found that 33 percent of those in Gen-Z identify as something other than exclusively heterosexual, the highest number of any generation up. A quick search on Tik Tok shows that the hashtag for polysexuality has almost 10,000 views and is still growing as content creators produce more videos surrounding polysexual identity and polysexual people. On Instagram, the hashtag has over 1,000,000 tags.

Gender-fluid looks took over New York Men's Day SS21

During the most recent New York Men’s Day, gender-fluid fashion became one of the biggest highlights of the digital event. Apotts, Ka Wa Key, Official Rebrand, and Wataru Tominaga all presented gender fluid collections. Apotts' collection conveyed the message that regardless of race or gender, we can all enjoy playing dress up. For MI Leggett of Official Rebrand, gender-fluid fashion has never been a trend, but the entire antithesis of their brand DNA. This season, the designer, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them/their pronouns, focused their collection on anti-waste urgency and social unrest throughout history.

A voice for the voiceless through a prism of fluidity

In many parts of the world, the LGBT and gender-neutral community is still met with hostility and violence. Gucci‘s global campaign Chime For Change released the short film ‘The Future is Fluid’ —which premiered during Sundance Film Festival 2019— as a companion to The Irregular Report, a biannual report on and by Gen Z. The voices in the film represent this generation’s tenacity, curiosity, empathy, optimism and hope, redefining and representing the world through a prism of fluidity. In the video, one Gen Zer expressed, “I hold myself responsible to continue advocating and fighting for the rights of trans and non-binary youth because I have the privilege to.” “If we start seeing this fluid approach we can start seeing all the barriers open up,” another Gen Z advocate added.

In São Paulo-Pri Bertucci, CEO of the [SSEX BBOX] project, talks about inclusion and diversity in fashion >>

Genderless fashion: East Asia’s social protest

Avant-garde and genderless fashion has had a long heritage in Japan, pioneered by revered designers Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto. So it’s not surprising that genderless youth fill the street of Harajuka, the capital’s hub of subculture and streetwear trends. Since 2016, Tokyo’s youth movement has been rejecting ideas of fashion defining sexuality through make-up, clothes and Instagram filters that draws from Japanese anime's fluid beauty standards. In this documentary, i-D Magazine met the individuals behind Tokyo’s most boundary pushing scene. Yutaro told viewers, “sometimes I’m jealous of girls when it comes to fashion. They can wear trousers and skirts without being told off for wearing boy’s clothes.” A unisex girl, Satsuki, further stated, “since I started wearing genderless clothes, I’ve come to realise that your world-view can be totally changed through fashion.”

According to Mintel, a London-based market research firm, in 2019 K-beauty exports have grown to 2.64 billion US dollars. Mainstream South Korean media constantly promotes the ‘perfect female appearance’ which usually includes a porcelain complexion, luxuriant long hair, lots of makeup, form-fitting dresses paired with stilettos. According to the NPR article, “South Korean Women 'Escape The Corset' And Reject Their Country's Beauty Ideals", women in the nation are rebelling with genderless fashion, cutting their hair and wearing no make up as a feminist protest against the patriarchal gaze.

Photos: Pexels by Lhairton Kelvin Costa, courtesy of Agentry PR, Gui Gomes