The Future of Unisex Fashion: Can We Break the Binary?

As Fall/Winter 2019 fashion month marches on, creatives and consumers alike are devouring the inundation of new ideas served to them on the red-hot runway. However, recent trends have proven a nearly unprecedented reality: designers and creators are taking a word of advice from their audience. This advice, unrelenting and resounding, surrounds rigidly gendered fashion that has existed since the dawn of mass marketing. It begs the question: Why does the fashion industry remain so strictly gender-binary?

Many consumers, especially fashion and socially-conscious Millennial and Gen Z-ers, are using their outdoor voices to draw light to the importance of gendered clothing, and designers are beginning to listen. While the world is in constant, progressive metamorphosis, it comes as no surprise that the industry is undergoing an identity-check. While some creatives are completely on board with the genderless fashion movement, other powerhouses remain hesitant to adapt to the issue.

However, the relationship between fashion and gender is not an entirely new concept. Since the early 1900s, androgyny has been commonplace in fashion. As Chanel’s rise to fame in the 1910s coincided with the women’s suffrage movement, the designer used her platform to normalize women’s wearing of pants. It now marks the true genesis of androgynous fashion.

While the idea prevailed, it exists as somewhat of a subtype in fashion, not sparking an exigent movement. However, as this pressing matter evolves, it is clear that designers are hearing the cries of their supporters. Take, for example, Gypsy Sport who, in their recent Fall 2019 ready-to-wear collection, featured models of all gender identities storming the runway, displaying the fierce black lingerie. The designer behind the collection, Rio Uribe, explained his clothing as being designed for no specific gender, stating, “I wanted to prove that truly everybody can wear lingerie.”

Similarly, fashion brand Eckhaus Latta’s recent collection featured models simply wearing functional garments – a for-once refreshing lack of silhouette and colour, simply humans wearing clothing.

Inconsideration for gender is the steam in the engine of the fashion locomotive; it is what will power fashion in its new direction. Important steps have been made to address and respect the issue. In February of 2018, the CFDA added “unisex/non-binary” as a category in the NYFW calendar. (HighSnobiety) While this is definite progress, the genderless fashion movement is founded less on the idea of making clothing without gender, and centers more on the concept of ending the rigid ideas surrounding who should wear what.

At the end of the day, people will wear what appeals to them, whether or not it be commonly marketed to their identity. It is critical that fashion leaders understand this, that an active change is made to accommodate this. The issue does not exist in the clothing itself – it is the rigid concept of who should be wearing it.

Designers and creatives should consider that, as opposed to changing the clothing, the community must change the mindset surrounding it.