From Coco Chanel’s groundbreaking cigarette trousers to Yves Saint Laurent’s controversial Le Smoking suit, androgynous fashion has always been at the forefront of the industry. ‘Gender fluid pieces are taking the centre stage on runways and it draws a lot of attention to brands taking an androgynous approach in their designs’, says Mi Yan, who works in the editorial team at Net-a-Porter.
A topic that has been bubbling for years and with more brands doing co-ed shows and celebrities voicing their support of non-binary styling possibilities, androgynous fashion is set to disrupt traditional gender norms even more.
Brands are jumping on the bandwagon of menswear-inspired fashion to blur the fine line between women’s and men’s clothing. Los Angeles-based fashion label Equipment is well known for their simple, clean-lined shirts that draw inspiration from menswear.
The timeless appeal and tailoring elements echo the focal point of traditional menswear, and have allowed the brand to quickly establish a cult following (that includes Kate Moss) since its re-launch in 2010. Current/Elliot, available at Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, is known as the innovator of boyfriend jeans, designing denim pieces that challenge the universal belief of ‘the tighter, the sexier’.
While brands are introducing ‘borrowed-from-the-boys’ items for women, some fashion houses are making a louder statement with their marketing approach. Jonny Johansson, creative director of the Swedish label Acne Studios, appointed his 11-year-old son to be the model of the brand’s AW15 campaign and created a buzz for breaking boundaries in gender and age.
Similarly, when Jaden Smith appeared in Louis Vuitton’s SS16 campaign dressed in a skirt and see-through fringed top, the campaign went viral. ‘He represents a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is freedom of manifestos and questions about gender,’ says Nicolas Ghesquière, creative director of Louis Vuitton. ‘Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a woman who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man’s trench or a tuxedo.’
He has a point. When Nan Kempner was barred from entering La Côte Basque in New York for wearing trousers in 1960s, or Marlene Dietrich was warned by chief of police in Paris for the same reason, or Bianca Jagger turned heads for walking down the street in white tuxedo, these garments were just as controversial to be seen on a woman as they are justifiable today.
‘It’s all about perception and how it evolves,’ Mi commented, citing her vision of how androgynous fashion will grow in the future. ‘When people get used to the idea of a man wearing a skirt, or those male models walking down on a Gucci runway dressed in a ruffled shirt with a languid bow, maybe brands will then start to abandon the separating line between womenswear and menswear, and just go in the direction of unisex fashion.’
Writer: Raymond Yao Fai
Follow Raymond @yaofairaymond