How is our perception of gender evolving in the fashion industry?

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The bridge between gender roles in 2017 is becoming progressively more narrow, not only in the fashion industry but throughout society, mainstream media and politics. From the runways, through to the high street, the emergence of genderless fashion is slowly beginning to distort the line between traditional gender roles in the industry.

Fashion, historically, is fundamentally split by gender, however the recent growth in the acceptance and acknowledgment of transgender and gender binary – those who do not identify as either male or female – communities is igniting a vital change within the industry. It’s almost certain that these changes have come from a shift in cultural and societal changes; a most recent example being Emma Watson.

The Hollywood actor became the first to accept a gender-neutral award for Best Actor last month, causing headlines around the world. Watson said of her win: “The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience. We celebrate portrayals of the human experience, because the only distinction we should be making when it comes to awards is between outstanding performance.” With the likes of Watson as a role model, society, in particular the younger generation, are increasingly challenging gender stereotypes and becoming more vocal about their rights.

So, what does this mean for the future of fashion?

While we’ve seen gender stereotypes challenged and occasionally defeated in fashion and popular culture throughout history: YSL’s ‘Le Smoking Suit’, David Bowie, the Disco era; these breakthroughs were not necessarily about removing the labels within gender, but about crossing and breaking those boundaries. Today’s fashion revolutionaries are not interested in feminising men or emasculating women, rather they are aiming to blur the masculine/feminine divide and eliminate those labels. Take Gucci and Burberry for example.

Burberry’s September show took inspiration from Virginia Woolfe’s ‘Orlando’, in which the protagonist switches from man to woman. Designer, Christopher Bailey showcased a collection of ruffled collared shirts, silk pajama separates and paisley prints while Gucci followed suit with a collection of loose silks, floral prints on suiting and shorts and bows and embellishments – all of which could, and more importantly were worn by all genders. Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele stated: “It seems only natural to me to present my men’s and women’s collection together. It’s the way I see the world today. If the clothes are beautiful, what does it matter who’s wearing them?”

As fashion so often does, the movement has trickled down to the high street with Zara unveiling their ungendered collection – consisting of t-shirts, sweatshirts and denim – last year. And while some have argued that this is none other than a unisex collection, lacking in anything outwardly feminine or masculine, it’s hard to not ignore this as a step forward, with leading brands recognising the basic needs of trans and gender binary people.

Credit: Zara

While it’s fair to say there’s still a long way to go before gender fluidity is accepted within mainstream media and the fashion industry, it’s clear to see where the future is heading. And it certainly looks bright.

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