Hero image and above: From Daniel W Fletcher’s SS 2023 Collection
In an era where boundaries are being redefined, and inclusivity is taking centre stage, the fashion industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation. British designer Daniel W. Fletcher’s take on fashion says it all ‘A shirt is a shirt and a pair of trousers is a pair of trousers — to be worn by anyone.’ Famous for blurring the boundaries between traditional men’s and women’s clothing, Fletcher’s latest SS2023 is about strong, streamlined silhouettes, tailored shirts and trousers, and retro patterns.
According to a recent report, 36% of consumers in the US broke free from traditional gender labels in 2022, embracing clothing that transcended prescribed norms. One in two Gen Zers, on average, have already purchased a fashion item outside their gender identity – the generation most open to the idea of gender-fluid fashion. The new wave of gender-fluid fashion is bound with significant shifts in society’s expectations around gender roles and sexuality. Results show that today’s shoppers tend to choose an item because they like it, without necessarily checking who it was targeted to and choose to wear items from the other gender’s section. Nearly 1 in 2 female fashion shoppers shop in the men’s department, including 20% equally as much in the men & ladies’ department and A quarter of Australian and UK female shoppers purchase equally as much from the men’s department and ladies’ department.
A staggering majority is looking to purchase more gender-fluid garments in the future, heavily influenced by younger Gen Z consumers. Spanish fashion shoppers lead the pack, in particular, with 9 in 10 Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X stating so. When choosing garments, comfort is one of the first reasons for choosing items outside one’s gender identity. Proving a social statement and aligning with one’s gender expression are also the primary considerations. Consumers are open to pushing boundaries and using fashion for self-expression. Between functionality, a sense of belonging to a social group or expressing one’s personality – the power of fashion is unending. But personality stands out as the most sought-after means of expression from fashion shoppers worldwide.
Experience: For brands embarking on the journey toward gender inclusivity, the first crucial step is adopting gender-neutral clothing by abandoning conventional gender labels and employing neutral language such as “androgynous,” brands liberate consumers from confining gender roles. Yet, this transformation extends beyond garments. Brands must foster diversity by involving many voices in the creative process, engaging customers through social media, and aligning their core values with inclusivity.
Don’t Take “Neutral” Literally:Gender-neutral fashion is far from dull and monotonous. It thrives on vibrant expression and allows individuals to showcase their unique personalities. Brands should aim to create unisex fashion that is bold and expressive, challenging antiquated notions of gender norms. Michelle Chung is passionate, “Continually challenge the archaic belief systems that we have built around gender. Fashion plays a principal role in self-expression and can be an essential component of gender expression.”
Extend Inclusivity to Shoes and Accessories:The demand for gender-neutral fashion extends well beyond clothing. With global search volumes for “men’s heels” reaching staggering heights, it is evident that consumers seek to defy traditional gender boundaries even in footwear. Michelle suggests that brands incorporate larger sizes into their collections for clothing, shoes, and accessories. Ensuring everyone has choices that cater to their preferences and fit comfortably is paramount.
Showcase Diverse Models:Just as plus-size fashion has made strides in representation, gender-neutral fashion must also embrace diversity in marketing. By featuring gender-neutral clothing on a range of models, including non-binary individuals, brands make their message more relatable and impactful. However, true inclusivity goes beyond advertisements. Michelle emphasises the need for diversity at every stage of the fashion process, from conceptualisation to execution. By welcoming different perspectives and hiring individuals who reflect the communities they serve, brands ensure authentic representation and foster inclusivity. Becoming a truly inclusive brand necessitates active listening to customers and aligning inclusivity with the brand’s core values. Authenticity is key. As is sensitivity to avoid missteps. As the fashion industry continues to evolve, embracing gender-neutral fashion becomes not just a fleeting trend but an imperative.