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Androgyny and Fashion

The sentiment of gender equality and a diminishing need for gender appropriate roles is certainly nothing new, however, with the social media uprise of activism in feminism and transgender rights, mainstream fashion is now beginning to voice these ideas in a visual sense. Furthermore, we are now seeing more transgender models take to the runway being a staple demonstration of the blurring lines between the sexes.

Otherwise known as gender-neutral fashion, the concept is less about men being in touch with their feminine sides and vice versa, but more about the development and appreciation of clothing for both genders, hence unisex fashion. In March 2015, Selfridges opened a pop-up department named Agender, a genderless shopping experience on the high street. This concept store included creations from both renowned and emerging talents with the androgyny aspect allowing designers to have much more freedom with their creativity. The popularity of this unique idea has further put the wheels in motion for genderless fashion to become the norm.

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A great deal of gender-transitioning styles have been noted on the catwalk over the previous few seasons. The London A/W15 menswear shows welcomed newly appointed director of Gucci, Alessandro Michelle and his army of what he described as ‘the new flamboyant men’ to the runway. We saw male models sporting blouses, heavy jewellery and lace with Vogue describing the collection as “an unconstrained, frivolous approach to getting dressed.” Furthermore, the use of transgender models are pushing these ideas further into the spotlight, encouraging a turning point in the industry. Famous names include Hari Nef, Andreja Pejic and Lea T. These women are inspiring a firm acceptance of transgender people in general by being viewed as an ideal of beauty through their modelling careers.

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Playing with gender has been popular within the music industry, particularly in the 1980’s – think David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Boy George. These musicians helped to popularise the gay rights activism of that era and encourage acceptance of same-sex relationships. Transgender models and the recent unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner are now doing the same for the trans population.

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For many, this concept means far more than just a fashion trend – particularly one with the potential to be nothing more than a distant memory when next season’s collections roll in. The term ‘androgyny’ has since been described as a political movement rather than a trend. Willis Chan is a Toronto-based designer who is becoming known for his androgynous creations. He says. “I don’t believe that androgyny has yet to be a fashion trend, but is slowly becoming more recognised as a movement parallel to the societal acceptance of breaking the traditional rules of gender binaries. I hope however, that i doesn’t become as much as a trend (because of how disposable trends can be), but more of a new social commentary and acceptance of fluidity throughout society.”

So are we really on the verge of a lasting movement in gender perceptions or is this just another throwaway trend? Designers are always looking for unique ways to inspire their audience but this concept could really prove to make its mark in fashion and beyond.

Emily Harris

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