Typically, one would think that the fashion industry and social activism are two worlds whose paths would never cross, yet, the past few years in fashion have been perhaps the most progressive, inclusive years the industry has seen in it’s history. Social media has given activism a global platform, one that has seen issues regarding gender inequality and the harmful nature of gender-binaries be presented to an enormous amount of people and, in turn, the fashion industry are listening and are responding.
“The whole perception of fender orientation Is being challenged by the millennials. Among the cohort of 12-19 year olds defining generation Z, the lines between male and female are becoming increasing blurred.” Lucie Greene, director of JWT Intelligence (La Ferla 2015).
There has always been a very distinctive and pronounced differentiation between men’s and women’s dress within society. While both exist under the umbrella term of the ‘fashion industry’, each thrive as separate entities. However recent years have seen a merging of the two markets as preconceptions and binaries regarding gender began being harshly analysed, disparaged and even omitted completely.
Men and women adopting characteristics of dress from one another is by no means a new phenomenon; what with the flapper women of the 1920s and the ‘modern dandies’ of the 1960s. However, the concept of creating garments that were gender-fluid, and, in fact the acceptance of gender-fluidity in itself are both things that only began to be explored towards the latter part of the last century (Raza 2012).
Initially, Japanese designers including Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and, more prominently, Yohji Yamamato were at the forefront of this gender-blurring movement, creating garments that disregarded the concept of accentuating certain heteronormative, gender-specific areas of the body.
Yohji Yamamoto A/W 2008 (source: vogue.co.uk)
These designs focused on incorporating aspects of traditional Japanese dress in to their designs, producing collections of long, multi-faceted garments that did not suggest any typical characteristics of gendered dress.
More recently we have seen designers adopting aspects of gender-fluidity in an array of different forms. In January, Rad Hourani sent his models down the runway adorning gender-concealing masks, and designers such as New York native labels Hood by Air and Eckhaus Latta consistently cast trans* people, musicians, club personalities and artists for their displays of sexually charged, gender-non-conforming designs (La Ferla 2015).
So, is the fashion industry at the forefront of a movement adamant to dismantle harmful gender-binaries and a society that whole-heartedly endorses them? Or is the gender-fuck trend just a fad to be chewed up and spat out faster than bowl cuts and mood rings?
La Ferla, R 2015, ‘In Fashion, Gender lines are Blurring’, New York Times, viewed 20 August 2015, <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/fashion/in-fashion-gender-lines-are-blurring.html?_r=0>
Raza, H 2012, ‘Role of Fashion and Clothing in Construction of Gender Identities’, academia.edu, viewed 6 August 2015, <http://www.academia.edu/5349062/Fashion_and_Gender_Roles>