Gender-neutral fashion: should retailers ditch the labels?

 Gender-neutral fashion: should retailers ditch the labels?

As the popularity of liquid fashion continues, we’ve talked to retailers themselves and experts on why it’s even more trendy.
Harry Styles wearing a Gucci women’s dress for British Vogue.

In 2020, Harry Styles broke the internet when he appeared on the front cover of Vogue wearing a Gucci dress, since then the pop sensation has become a poster child of gender neutral fashion, always wearing clothes of women on stage and in music videos for millions. to see.

And not just him. For years actor and singer Billy Porter regularly attended the red carpets wearing a ballgown, while last week at the Met Gala pro basketball player Russell Westbrook rocked a pleated skirt.

Gone are the days of pink for women and blue for men. Gender behaviors have turned their heads in recent years with the rise of non-binary pronouns that are impossible to ignore.

However, it’s not just about gender identity – it’s about personal taste. Men are increasingly rejecting traditional ideas of masculinity in how they dress while many women are changing, masculine silhouettes.

Vendors reject labels

As more and more artists and social media stars continue to reject society’s idea of ​​gender-based clothing, retailers are increasingly removing men’s and women’s labels and offering gender-neutral collections. .

Left to Right: Russell Westbrook and Billy Porter.

While the likes of H&M and Zara have shared gender-neutral collections in the past, Asos ’Collusion range, which champions unisex designs and inclusive sizing, has been a permanent fixture since 2018 and is now a top 10 brands on its website.

Asos is not alone. Gilly Hicks-owned Abercrombie & Fitch revealed last year that it could be gender-inclusive while the luxury Fear of God’s entire range is marked unisex.

But why is this such a big concern for retailers? “Simply put, because it has become more important to them,” said an Asos spokesman.

“We listen to our twenty customers and want to champion the things they care about – there are many ways we are looking to support this, including by offering a diverse and flexible product offering.”

Katie Devlin, fashion researcher at fashion intelligence experts Stylus cited Research from the student discount website UniDays which found that 79% of Gen Z shoppers regularly buy clothes that are tailored -assign to the opposite sex they identify.

It is clear that young consumers are already embracing gender neutral fashion, even though many retailers have yet to catch up.

Devlin says it shows that Gen Z shoppers are making more effort to look at sections and sizes that aren’t “for them” to find the pieces and style they want. He says illustrating that there is “a huge opportunity here to make the shopping experience easier and more welcoming to these demographics”.

“Always, fashion tries to dictate to people what they should wear and how they should wear it”

However, it is important to get gender neutrality right.

“When it comes to Gen Z, inclusivity is paramount, but so is authenticity,” Devlin stressed.

Many gender -neutral collections in the past have featured clothes that are simply neutral, “not reflecting the experimental and expressive aesthetics of the target market”, according to Devlin.

“If retailers are to be truly inclusive when gender-neutral fashion is adopted, not only must size be included, but also reflect Gen Z’s style and interest. Otherwise, there is a risk of being found performative. and keep the consumer away. ”

When Asos reviews the class of its products, it does not look at products by gender but by accessibility, effectiveness, customer appeal and market position.

And it’s not limited to fashion. You can also find most of the same skin care offer on the Asos men’s and women’s Face + Body product pages.

It added: “We also want to make sure our customers feel represented by the people we represent on our content and channels, and look to present realistic, as opposed to idealistic, versions of twentysomethings.”

Asos models wear the brand’s unisex collusion range.

A TikTok trend for everyone

We now live in a world where social media trends, especially TikTok, have a lot of strange influences on how businesses operate.

How many trends regarding fluid app trends have contributed to the rise of the gender neutral phenomenon?

Charlie Oxley, co-founder of gender fluid fashion retailer Vintage Threads, says TikTok is powerful because it provides a platform for people to embrace trends regardless of their gender or the clothes which they wore.

“The platform is about not taking yourself too seriously. It’s very positive about changing people’s perceptions of what you can and can’t wear.”

Devlin added that social networks like TikTok are opening up the world’s communication channels for young people in an unprecedented way so that “naturally large conversations around culture are quickly facilitated. “.

“It allows Gen Z demographics living outside of major cities or in more conservative areas to engage with fashion trends and experiment with their own self-expression, while also feeling connected to a community of like-minded young people. “

Fashion trends come and go but gender fluid fashion has a long life because, as Asos says, it is “driven by more than just style trends – it reflects a change in attitudes, interests and needs of customers, and it is important that brands adapt to them. ”.

Oxley’s Vintage Thread co-founder Freddie Rose added that, for the most part, fashion tries to dictate to people what they should wear and how they should wear it.

But now, “it is really refreshing that we are now in a time where fluid fashion is not only accepted but championed and celebrated”.

She is confident that she is here to stay not only because fashion needs to adapt but also society as a whole.

How will retail adapt?

In 2020, the British Fashion Council announced that London Fashion Week would be gender -inclusive, combining women’s and men’s clothing shows.

But will the big brands follow suit and remove gender labels?

Forward -thinking brands like Asos are already on board but retailers have yet to adopt gender neutral for the most part.

However, they may be forced soon because shoppers are already voting on their feet.

“It’s about reflecting and accommodating the way people shop,” Devlin explains.

“If young consumers continue to ignore gender and categorization divisions while shopping, then there will come a time when we need to ask what its purpose is, and if there is a more effective way to doing things. “

But what happens to how fashion stores look, putting on a different men’s clothing from women’s clothing?

The Vintage Threads store located at Seven Dials adopts “a very gender fluid approach” to the layout, according to Rose, who says customers who enter the store often ask where the women’s department is. .

Vintage Threads
Vintage Threads is a gender neutral store

“Some will ask if we’re just a retailer for men and if we explain that we’re a unisex outfitter, we always get a question to look at in return,” he explains.

However, Rose believes the elimination of gender departments could be a step further for major retailers.

“It’s important not to polarize those who regularly shop in some way, especially when there are things that are undoubtedly more attractive to men,” he added.

However, some large retailers are eliminating gender layouts. The TwentyTwenty format Schuh store on Oxford Street organizes products by brand rather than gender following feedback from 16-to-24-year-old customers as Superdry has once again started showcasing products based on consumer segment rather than gender.

Online, Asos shoppers can filter products by men’s, women’s and unisex but they can also filter by style and size, ”so whatever they’re looking for and whatever their style, the customers will find fashion that gives them the confidence to be whoever they want to be ”.

The fashion giant says its unisex range is “always popular” and while it has no plans to stop filtering women’s and men’s clothing-because it knows many of its customers want to find of products in this way – ensuring that its offer included remains high on its agenda.

As the world around us becomes more receptive to the fluidity of the genders, it only makes sense that clothing retailers would adjust and adapt to fit their customer’s world.

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