Beyond Androgyny: Fashion’s Most Innovative Designers Are Designing for a Gender-Neutral Future

Some brands are flat out refusing to comply with our insistence on choosing one side of the gender binary.
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Some brands are flat out refusing to comply with our insistence on choosing one side of the gender binary.

If mixed gender runways and the visibility of trans models continue to push fashion in the same direction, the future of fashion probably won’t force designers to choose between showing their collections to buyers of either menswear or womenswear. But, for now, the gender binary still stands. Clothing that is described as “androgynous” is often just a skirt intended to be worn by a man, or a women wearing a smoking suit that’s been around since the late ’60s. This is the problem with things fashion sometimes views as gender-fluid — it’s not game-changing to cement a garment’s status as “masculine” or “feminine” by putting it on the sex it’s not frequently associated with.

It’s odd that this is the year New York will get its first men’s fashion week. The arguments against it are many — it’s yet another week for buyers and editors to fit into their schedule, it’s too expensive for unisex designers to show at both, and there are too many innovative labels making clothing that choose between a male or female catwalk. The initiative seems to go against the current trend towards gender-neutrality and the increasing number of designers making clothes with more than one sex in mind. Obviously, there are many designers still making clothing specifically for women or specifically for men. But even those who do are exploring more modern avenues. Richard Nicholl and Marques’ Almeida have both designed unisex collections. Miuccia Prada has thought this way for years, telling Style.com last July that “more and more, it feels instinctively right to translate the same idea for both genders.”

But some brands are flat out refusing to comply with our insistence on choosing one side of the gender binary. Some are arguing that unisex clothing — rather than a lazy way to increase one’s client base, rather like the good ol’ OSFA — is now a revolutionary new way to design things for all bodies. Here are five labels that have recently made giant inroads to a future where gender is either all-inclusive or non-existent.

1. One DNA

Kickstarter-funded unisex label is the brainchild of New York designer Travis Weaver, who started his line simply because he couldn’t find the pieces he wanted to wear for the price he was prepared to pay. His futuristically minimalist aesthetic favors a neutral color palette, sportswear influences, and airy silhouettes like loose tops and subtle drop crotches. One DNA’s fall 2015 collection pulls from Iceland’s Black Sand Beaches of Vik, an influence visible in the introduction of moody greens and blues and souped up outerwear like A-line ponchos. Weaver’s line is not just genderless but also works to erase social constructs surrounding race and age.

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2. 69 Worldwide
69 is a non-gender, non-demographic denim brand based in Los Angeles. The first collection was launched in Assembly New York in 2011 and the brand has enjoyed a cult-like following ever since. 69 — the designer chooses to remain anonymous, and therefore also genderless — recently showed their fall 2015 collection to New York Fashion Week’s downtown crowd in an all-white gallery space. “I’m just trying to make comfortable shit for everyone,” the designer told Vice. So far “everyone” has included elderly women, people with burn scars, and Kylie Jenner.

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3. Rad Hourani

Masks on the runway aren’t exactly unusual, but those Rad Hourani’s models wore at haute couture week last January served a clear purpose — to remove any traces of gender difference from their faces. His was the first unisex collection ever to be showed at couture, which has a typically old-fashioned approach that’s in stark contrast to some of the creativity seen there. The line — RAD — eschews garments society traditionally sees as gendered in favor of cropped pants, zippered tunics, and longline blazers that don’t fit into just one person’s wardrobe. It’s not just one of the most exciting labels in gender-neutrality — it’s one of the most exciting in the whole industry.

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4. Nicopanda

Nicola Formichetti is most widely known for his work with Diesel and Lady Gaga. But just last month, he launched a super kawaii collection of gender-neutral pieces inspired by downtown street style, subverted sportswear, and his longtime love affair with Japan. It was instantly snapped up by Colette and Opening Ceremony, the latter creating a special pop-up installation to showcase the 32-piece assortment of separates incorporating neoprene, ruffles, and pearl-strung caps. Where many unisex lines tend to favor simplicity, Nicopanda is notable for its argument that pastel Lolita tutu shorts aren’t just for one sex either.

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5. Marimacho
Brooklyn-based Marimacho pegs itself as “masculine fashion for the unconventionally masculine.” They debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2013, modeling the collection of dapper suits and future dandy separates on trans women, trans men, cis men, cis women, and genderqueer identified folk. Designers Crystal González-Alé and Ivette González-Alé even had Philly’s DJ Precolumbian radioestrogeno​ produce the runway music. “The Marimacho™ aesthetic incorporates elements of dandyism, urban subculture and vintage sophistication,” claim the designers. “Long gone are the fashion stereotypes of the tragically unstylish masculine women; the modern queer aesthetic is dapper, edgy and unapologetically sexy.”

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Reprinted with permission from Styleite. Want more? Check out these related stories:

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