We are all already aware of the constant changes that the fashion world can bring, every second of every day. One of the latest developments that has got the industry talking is gender neutral clothing – something we are now not only seeing in the adult market, but also more frequently in childrenswear (notably starting with John Lewis deciding not to ‘gender separate’ their children’s section in late 2017). Is this more inclusive move a temporary ‘trend’, or will it been seen permanently in our brands and consumers?
Gender no longer dictates the way people dress, with more of the public expressing themselves regardless of labels. High-end giants such as JW Anderson and Rick Owens have been pioneers for bringing unisex to the runway, prompting a ‘trickle down’ effect into our high streets, with H&M and Zara at the forefront of this change. However, there is still a lot that needs to change to properly embrace dropping these cultural norms. Typically, when a woman dresses in a more ‘masculine’ way, she’s now seen to be comfortable in herself and asserting her own power, rather than appropriating a man’s. But whether men will properly reject gender norms remains to be seen.
Even though there may be hesitation in the West, men in Asia are beginning to lean towards unisex fashion, largely thanks to the influence of K-Pop and Anime pop culture. Genderless clothing is steeped in history within Asian culture, from the Shalwar Kameez to the Kimono. Particularly in Japan, traditional Kabuki all-male theatre performances provided a foundation for men to potentially express their femininity. Despite more female-heavy popularity, few young men are still yet to make the leap into fully adopting this idea, but Asian fashion is continuously seeking to overturn convention, with societies becoming less conservative and keener to change traditional gender dynamics. Anton Dell brand Drink Beer Save Water is one of the Asian brands at the helm of bringing unisex fashion into Korean culture. Their idea came from “this absurd idea of saving water and drinking beer”, which led to using clothes as a ‘social booster’. Instead of limiting clothes as a way of looks, DBSW uses them to start up a conversation.
There is no question that unisex clothing is starting to make a serious mark on the global fashion industry and retail markets. With more consumers wanting both choice and change, binary clothing options may well become a thing of the past.