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Gender Bending Fashion Ups the Ante


With fashion undergoing a wider shift towards gender fluidity, the most obvious example of this was Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2016 show. New Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s bold new approach celebrates beauty, regardless of gender, and steers the fashion house in a radical and unexpected direction. His vision of a collection which, as he said in his recent campaign notes, “blurs the masculine/feminine divide” truly did so. Longhaired models showed off a bohemian, gender-fluid and romantic collection at the event, with loose silk shirts, pussybow blouses, floral lace, bows and embellishments.

At the Prada men’s show, the 20 girls who appeared alongside the boys stole the spotlight and wore graphic prints and layered tops and dresses. This is not the first time Prada’s catwalk has shown a marriage of the genders: the house is famous for creating men and women parallels in its collections and is renown for its ‘his and hers’ campaign imagery. This ‘co-ed’ runway saw the boys in part-tucked in shirts, topstitched shorts and sweaters embellished with images of racing cars, rocket ships and Energizer Bunnies.

Queen of punk, Vivienne Westwood also explored gender bending in her sexy collection. Some models sported looks with little fabric: for example wearing tiny tangas and mesh tops, leaving little to the imagination. Ripped dresses and a distinctive breastplate accessory with an image of bare breasts were also found on the catwalk. Floral prints and feminine footwear were the highlights of the show: sandals adorned with ruffled flowers were repeatedly worn by the models, in both black and white.

But this move towards blurring the masculine/feminine divide is not restricted to the runway: earlier this year Selfridges launched its revolutionary Agender retail space, determined to provide clothes for a “genderless shopping experience.” Garments are bagged up in white cases made from stiff canvas with a slit in the middle, offering a look at the clothes inside, while all accessories come in unmarked white boxes, in a gesture that moves away from colour coding different genders.

The space, created for Selfridges by notorious designer Faye Toogood, is designed to break down the boundaries of gender identity. In this move towards promoting a more unisex way of dressing, which celebrates fashion without definition and explores today’s gender deconstruction, Selfridges paves the way for more stores to follow suit.

So the question is, has the time come for gender-bending to take a prominent place in the fashion world, be it on the runway or on the street? Milan Men’s Fashion Week certainly seems to suggest so…

By Amy Newson

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