Out with the Binary and In with the Non-Binary
A Retrospective Look at Gender-Agnosticism, Now Trending.
A Retrospective Look at Gender-Agnosticism, Now Trending.
Text: Reshmi Kaur Oberoi
Gender-agnostic fashion has resurfaced, arguably first in menswear 2019, but that isn’t to say that men can be credited with the trending permeable line between men’s-and women’s wear. In fact, gender-bending can apply to the inanimate – objects not necessarily lived in like clothes are – as reported in The New York Time’s 2018: The Year in Stuff roundup that highlighted the recent rise in care-packages as gifts and a universal appreciation for non-gender exclusive lifestyle choices. Pictured was “a gender-agnostic handbag's worth of the things of the year: CBD-laced skin care, tiny Doris sunglasses from Roberi & Fraud, mango cartridges for the Juul vape.” According to the Times, this penchant for shared hobbies filters into dress: “such concepts as men’s fashion and women’s fashion will be seen as dusty relics of a backward time,” the Times predicted.
If Olsen’s new menswear line for The Row in Fall 2018 is any indication, it’s that men and women alike are discounting the need for separate spheres of fashion influence – the power struggle is unnecessary. Mary Kate and Ashley’s luxury women’s label is ironically dubbed after London’s esteemed Saville Row, lined with legacy men’s tailoring-shoppes. The twins introduced a nascent preview of menswear in 2016 according to the tenets of modern classicism – a style that they believe are innate to Japanese textile and design, influencing their decision to source their fabrics from there. “In the past, we created women swear pieces in menswear factories. We have also used traditional menswear fabrics for women’s garments. The cross-pollination has been a part of The Row since the beginning,” Mary-Kate said. Her diction, referring to plant reproduction reflects sociocultural preoccupation with how sexuality can be defined – anatomically and with purposes of propagation as opposed to play.
In Prada’s Paris Monster Mash-up, Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber made special appearances in the menswear collection, with pixie haircuts described as “boyish,” donning floral pleated shirt-dresses, a leather faux-vest that looked like a strapless bra with detachable straps, and platform patent black creepers decorated with patches reminiscent of Girl Scouts - or on second thought, perhaps it was Boy Scouts? Regardless, Miuccia Prada’s pinned up dos on the anything but pinup-Victoria Secret Angel Hadid or your grownup Gerber baby model, Kaia, was consisted a newfound expression of beauty. Vogue officiated “faux pixies and layered shags two of 2019’s biggest trends, boys and girls alike.” The long-haired models could have fooled passerby into thinking they had chopped their hair off. A female model had on a tube top made of whistles and denim dungaree harem pants or a hoodie zipped over a gown on top of relaxed-fit jeans.
Paris Fashion Week’s gender-agnosticism was also evident in Kenzo’s showstopper, transgender model, Oslo Grace, who donned menswear and a few looks later, closed out the show in women swear: a fringed pink dress, lavender eye shadow, dangling geometric earrings in a bright blue. Grace wrote “thank you for having me back a second time and for making a statement that fashion is whatever you make it to be- these moments are fleeting but oh so special,” on Instagram post-show.
Celine’s Heidi Slimane took gender-agnosticism to the other side of the spectrum in Spring 2019 with ultra gender-specific design, an overhaul from his predecessor, Phoebe Philo, a woman approaching women’s wear with simplicity and garments that met with office decorum. Slimane’s models, however, walked the ramp in baby doll frocks and miniskirts. He described comparisons to Trump as “opportunistic, rather bold and fairly comical.” And he let in mind the “liberated and carefree” women for whom he designed.
Acceptable gender-agnostic collections are for a select few that debuted as such. Vaquera, created in 2013, for example, is in league with such old-world stalwarts like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, all of who’s Spring 2019 runway show were a play on collegiate-graduate chic. Tasseled caps atop youthful heads like Kaia Gerber’s walked the runway, complete with crimson blazers in the former. Kith x Tommy’s collection occurred in a library setting with spectacles sitting on the bridge of noses studiously- some of the models were preppy in printed navy blue matching button-downs tucked into trousers. Other models had baseball caps and denim-on-denim, balancing backpacks over one shoulder. Vaquera rented out a NYC cafeteria on during the Rose Hashanah to commencement proportions. Male models wore voluminous shiny caps and gowns and a petticoat and pink bow-tied kneecaps with fluttery-hemmed short shorts for their physical education look.
Instead of women’s wear influencing menswear, fashion houses are borrowing from classic masculine fabric and silhouette to manifest their female-defined collections. Likewise, Maison Margiela approached the runways this past year with gender-agnostic foreplay – “bows on boys and suits on girls.” John Galliano’s latest fragrance, Mutiny, reflects what’s in his podcast: “What is sexy today? It’s a moment to collectively redefine what it means or could mean,” Galliano said.
Lower East Side-based, Bayside, Queens-native, Sandy Liang, had always approached fashion in non-specific to gender way–though not intentionally. Instead, her focus since graduating from Parsons in 2014 and then carving out her namesake label in 2015, was It has been theorized that because “men who are interested in fashion and are willing to trust their taste,” Liang’s hallmark piece – a fleece that is made for women is popular among men. “The fleece was the gateway drug,” she says. Liang also brings to light the universal and human concept of nostalgia. “Fleece is immediately nostalgic and comfortable for everybody who grew up here. Regardless of whether you owned your own jacket or not, you had something that was similar to it,” she said. “I really want to do more T-shirts, easy-to-wear things that are not men's—they're just unisex,” she says of her future plans.
As the world becomes increasingly wired, it seems like we’ve collectively become wary of our viewing time on our iPhone alerts and with a return to snail-mail – enter delivery services for everything from meals, to beauty, and curated clothing – a regression to years past is not out of the question. The same goes for fashion. It’s out with the exclusively women’s and men’s shows – out with the binary and in with non-binary.