“Excuse me sir, you should try a bigger size in this skirt..” Apparently that’s the future of shopping and fashion, at least according to Selfridges. In an unprecedented move, one of UK’s leading department stores announced that it will create spaces spanning three of its floors which will be completely ‘gender neutral’. The snappily-titled “Agender Project” will run from 12 March for 12 consecutive weeks, and apart from the flagship Oxford Street store, it will also be rolled out to the Birmingham and Manchester stores.
Aside from featuring hard-to-pin-down-to-one-sex togas, pinafores, skorts and tunics from the likes of Yohji Yamamoto or Astrid Andersen, the project will also take over the window displays – doing away with the mannequins that might suggest the clothes worn by them are feminine or masculine.
A sign of the (genderless) times: Raf Simons’ latest show, while being officially a menswear one, featured female models wearing the same clothes as their male counterparts
An exercise in drumming up publicity or a genuine example of fashion forward thinking? It’s not hard to notice that for the last couple of seasons, designers have been pushing a kind of a modern approach to unisex. We say modern, since the word is usually associated with shapeless sportswear and asexual garb for your stereotypical, antisocial computer geek. But the clothes propagated by the likes of J.W. Anderson or Raf Simons have plenty of sex appeal sewn up in them – just not of the obvious kind. And they’re not novelty, either – of course, designers always played pranks on their audience by playing on the gender stereotypes, but this new wave of designers is not doing it for laughs.
J.W. Anderson’s guys are not camp or heavily made-up – and the dresses and pinafores they sometimes wear, while taking obvious inspiration from womenswear, are not girly either. His girls, equally, are not the usual ‘tomboy’ or ‘androgynous’ cliché – they’re powerful and hard. And rather than pinch their boyfriends white shirts, they lend them theirs. Astrid Andersen might only show menswear collections, but her designs – sportswear with an edge, be it a pink tracksuit or a crop top hoodie – clearly have some fangirls too. And the phenomenon is not just represented by London’s experimental fashion labels, like the ones mentioned before – it’s also visible on the street, for example with the new crop of trendy girls, clad head-to-toe in sportswear. But if you’re imagining lady-friendly colours of pink and lilac, think again – those girls, as any true fashionista, wear only black, and if they can’t find it in the womens section, they just head for the boys one. And sports brands are duly noting the fact.
So maybe we’re really going to hear those kind of conversations soon.