Breaking Free: Gender X Fashion
We are only a month into 2016, and it is already becoming obvious that the steam-roller that is the Agender movement is not slowing down in its quest to break down the boundaries that society has constructed around gender identity and expression.
The fashion industry has been playing a noteworthy role to ensure that the taboos and restrictions surrounding what we choose to wear to best express ourselves are quickly broken. The Spring/Summer ad campaigns were a testament to these efforts.
The media had a field-day when Louis Vuitton announced that Jaden Smith (the son of Will Smith) would be starring in their women’s wear campaign this season. The teen has been bold and outspoken in his fashion choices, defying the criticism that has run through numerous channels discrediting his masculinity and questioning what his choice to wear a dress must mean. Jaden has not labelled himself as gender-fluid, agender, or any other non-binary identity… And he doesn’t have to. He is a fantastic role model for youth, championing for the ability to wear whatever you want regardless of the categorisation that society has affixed to that garment. If a man wants to wear a skirt, he bloody well should be able. Plus, they are marvelous to wear on a hot summer’s day, just sayin’.
Marc Jacobs announced Lana Wachowski (co-director of The Matrix and co-writer of the film V for Vendetta) as one of the faces of his latest campaign. Lana came out publicly as a transgendered woman in 2012. When asked about his choices of models for the Spring/Summer campaign, Marc Jacobs said, “This season’s ad campaign… is a personal diary of people who have and continue to inspire me and open my mind to different ways of seeing and thinking…. Collectively, they embody and celebrate the spirit and beauty of equality.”
Other notable campaigns that are being released include Ralph Lauren’s Denim & Supply and AG Jeans. AG Jeans chose to feature Daria Webowry modelling both the men’s and women’s clothing for an agender lookbook, while Ralph Lauren selected fan-favourite Ruby Rose as their androgynous, gender-fluid spokesperson.
“Dressing the way I dress, and the androgynous look, doesn’t really have to do with sexuality – a lot of heterosexual women dress androgynously, and straight guys can dress femininely. Those boundaries in fashion are slowly being broken down; regardless of who you are, it’s about dressing for what you want to express.” ~ Ruby Rose
Gender fluidity has always had a presence at Berlin fashion week which traces back to the long history the city has with exploring and accepting sexuality and gender (led by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld). But this season, the international catwalks were a stage for the tides of change as designers challenged the traditional definitions of masculinity during Men’s Fashion Weeks. Where once playing with fashion that bent gender rules was reserved for the avant-garde like Rick Owens, more “conservative” labels played in that field this season.
- Matthew Miller
- Matthew Miller
- JW Anderson
- Katie Eary
- Tiger of Sweden
- Astrid Andersen
- Grace Wales Bonner
- Charles Jeffrey
In London, female models walked down the runway with male models, representing the collections and showing that fashion is for everyone regardless of gender. Matthew Miller’s female models wore “clothes [with] still masculine cuts but slightly scaled down for the female models.” Astrid Andersen boldly incorporated crop top knit sweaters, floral patterns decorated draped satin garments at JW Anderson and Katie Eary, and Tiger of Sweden introduced salmon pink suits which are dashing for every occasion.
Berlin designer Esther Perbandt sent down identical looks in her AW16 collection on both a male and female model. Not only was her androgynous collection modeled by both men and women, but the diversity of age was a joy to see.
- Roberto Cavalli
- Antonio Marras
- Antonio Marras
- Bottega Veneta
- Boglioli Uomo
- Vivienne Westwood
- Vivienne Westwood
Milan’s runways were flooded in bold feminine patterns and hues of pinks, kilts were paired with casual sportswear, Bottega Veneta sent out female models wearing impeccably tailored men’s suits, and Vivienne Westwood made a statement with her men’s evening gowns.
- Issey Miyake
- Issey Miyake
- Walter Van Beirendonck
- Comme des Garcons Plus
- Dries Van Noten
- Rick Owens
There were a myriad of skirt and dress options in Paris from the likes of Issey Miyake, Rick Owens (of course), Dries Van Noten, and Walter Van Beirendonck. Y-3, the collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas, also sent out a female and male model wearing the same hooded cape in the gender-neutral collection showcase.
It wasn’t just the hallowed halls of fashion’s great designers that echoed out the need for change and reform. Brighton College in the UK has set a hopeful precedence in regards to their uniform policy. Although not the first [the first school to do so was surprisingly in Puerto Rico], Brighton College’s headmaster Richard Cairns made headlines when he announced the uniform guideline changes. Previously, uniforms had been antiquated in their strict gendering, with girls required to wear a skirt and bolero jacket, and boys donning trousers, a blazer, and a tie. The new rules allow students to attire themselves according to their gender identity instead of the gender they were assigned at birth. “If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that which they are born, than my job is to make sure we accommodate that,” Cairns told the BBC.
Toronto’s very own editorial fashion publication Nord Magazine recently wrapped a photoshoot with well-known YouTube sensation Stef Sanjati. Stef is a professional makeup artist in Toronto who has been sharing her transition with her legion of fans after coming out officially on her YouTube channel on August 19, 2015 [watch the video HERE]. No photos have been released, but the #bts sneak peek on her Twitter channel has us all waiting in anticipation for the next issue of Nord Magazine.
We realize that these are all small steps, that there is a great deal farther to go until we reach true equality and effectively eradicate antiquated gender rules and the socially constructed “norm,” but we are moving quickly. With a more visible and accessible roster of influencers becoming role models and champions in the media, the efforts to challenge what gender actually means are gaining steam. Regardless of whether you are transgender, non-binary, androgynous, or if you embrace all the stereotypical accoutrements of your assigned gender, the current prevailing rules and dichotomy on gender expression and classification are doing more harm than good. Society has begun to embrace the concept of fluidity in sexuality, and it is time that it does the same for gender. Slapping restrictive labels on a person limits their growth, hampers their potential, and can cause serious harm and turmoil. We hope for a day when casting trans and non-binary spokespeople will no longer be a spectacle, be made a fuss of in the media, a day when just being ourselves is enough and no questions need be asked. We look forward to a day when we can all just express who we are, BE who we are without judgement or persecution. But until that day comes, we are so proud to be fighting alongside some truly incredible people to make this world a better, more accepting, and more loving place.
Raw Finery Studio is a safe and inclusive space for people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities. We have very strict policies in place to ensure that our community has a safe and enjoyable environment in our Toronto studio and in any events or other organizations we partner with. We do not tolerate discrimination or hate of any kind.
This article is written by Anna Crooke, our non-binary Director of Marketing & PR.