Why Fashion Is On A ‘Gender Bender’
29 January 2020
Author: Jasmine Waters
In November 2019, GQ Magazine released an issue with a theme of “New Masculinity”, with the likes of Pharrell Williams embodying a role in print filled with feelings and self-rejection. The issue itself has prompted many to look at the role of gender within media – and particularly within fashion media – in much closer detail. There is no getting away from the fact that the role of a publication has drastically changed in a very short space of time, not fulfilling a need or output that it once has. As those in the industry continue to grapple with how best to understand and harness the needs of the modern consumer, many are left battling the same question – does gender even matter anymore?
What has the approach to gendered content been?
If we take a look back towards the pre-internet era, many initial magazines were created to serve a hoard of advertisers who were primarily targeting the attentions of women. Categorised into genres such as fashion and beauty, ‘ambitious’ journalism was accompanied by a swarm of content showing men and women how to be exactly that – which became established as a foundation. Often backed by venture capital or institutional investors that were owned by men, magazines promised to create a “safe space” for them, making sure to steer clear of controversial (although often publicly talked about) topics. As their content moved into an online space, their goal became to attract maximum clicks, adopting a tone that could already be found across blogs and curated social media content. However, the fight to attract readers from online became cutthroat, views continued to be prioritised, with the same keywords and typical headlines. “Authentic” reporting perhaps took a backseat, being risker and more time-consuming. As cultivating any form of loyalty has become almost impossible, publications are now at a point where they must integrate into part of a larger cultural conversation, creating defined values, identities and making a connection beyond a ‘clickbait’ headline.
What do publications need to do now?
As GQ have established, we are in quite a complicated era. Many men and women are now questioning their role in society, whether that’s in regard to their families, workplace or the wider picture – and very few are looking to magazines to try and find answers. Fashion itself has become much less defined by gender, and now titles must be modernised. Maintaining a business model that adheres to demographics defined by gender is now no longer a sustainable one. Appealing to shared interests and moving away from traditional publication boundaries can be considered financially imperative. Evolution is slow, and many have not caught up to this way of thinking – perhaps not sure how to utilise consumer data they may have collected. There is still a long way to go to properly embrace the conversations concerning gender and diversity, with many members of society not feeling represented in what they see and read. But what remains clear is a need to ditch the strategies of yesterday to encompass – and perhaps confront – the stories and voices of now.
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