Australian Gender Neutral Fashion
Women have long borrowed their style from the other side of the wardrobe, wearing men’s oversized blazers and slouchy ‘boyfriend’ jeans as their own. Previously, when these roles were reversed, and men wore skirts or dresses, it was seen as outrageous or “not the manly thing to do”. Nowadays, terms like unisex, gender diverse and gender-fluid are bringing a more diverse and inclusive vibe, blurring the old lines of gender-based fashion. Gender neutral fashion is on the rise in Australia.
What is Genderless Fashion?
To put it simply, genderless or gender-neutral fashion is just that, fashion that is not designed for a particular gender. Instead of a typical fashion store or website, where garments are grouped into ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ sides or even floors of retail space, genderless fashion means there are no markers or tabs to prescribe a gender for each garment.
A gender-neutral store or website may be organised into designers or trends. Browns East in London simply groups its collections via designer instead of gender. Australian online ethical store, Stride, features a “Non-Binary” tab, filled with clothing designed for any gender.
Do Clothes Even Have a Gender?
Ultimately, garments don’t have a gender. But for as long as fashion has existed, there have been ways to divide the clothes we wear with gender being the simplest. Fashion shows, marketing, department stores and websites have all needed a way to make it easier to shop or present their collections. We may now have come to a point where we can ditch this last century thinking to have a more realistic representation of the diverse world around us.
How is Fashion Representing Gender Diversity?
It’s been more than a year since Harry Styles wowed in a blue Gucci dress that featured as a Vogue cover. Reactions ranged from awe to outrage, with many claiming that it was “unmanly”.
While many customers are ready for genderless fashion, fashion brands and retailers seem to be dragging their feet. Stores are still designed with separate men and women’s spaces and the runways still feature male and female collections.
But the industry is stepping up. Runways are becoming more inclusive and include transgender and non-binary models such as Andreja Pejić, Leyna Bloom and Sam Carson. Even modelling agencies, such as Australian Alice.D Agency, are dropping their male/female tabs preferring the all-inclusive term “humans” instead.
Luxury brand Gucci is leaping ahead of the pack with their new MX tab that allows shoppers to browse looks on gender-neutral models.
Australian Gender Neutral Brands
More and more Australian fashion labels are offering gender-neutral collections. While the trend is on, and it’s growing, here are some more of the key Australian fashion brands focussing on gender-neutrality.
Ten Pieces stormed Australian fashion week in 2015 with it’s wow-runway at Bondi’s iconic Icebergs, where models strutted along the edges and bottom of its now famouly drained pool. Fast forward to 2018 where they repeated the feat to a capacity audience. It’s a street wear brand focussed on the future, rebellion and the ability to layer clothing.
Colourful, sustainable and right up there in the diversity stakes, Melbourne’s/Naarm’s Erik-Yvon is undoubtedly one of the champions of true genderless fashion. Bold in colours, shapes textures and patterns, Erik-Yvon strives to produce sustainable and ethical gender neutral designs. Check out more of his designs from his Australian Fashion Week debut.
An elevated Melbourne/Naarm street wear label going since 2018, Best Jumpers designer Dylan Best offers a range of relaxed fit, quality garments that can easily and comfortably be worn by all genders.
Since 2016, Melbourne/Naarm based label Kodama has been offering sustainable gender neutral street wear in locally made hemp and organic cotton garments. Outerwear, cotton tees and fleece styles, bucket hats and made-to-order are all available.
Winning the WESTPAC Emerging Designer Award for 2020, Nagnata is a gender neutral active wear brand that is “designed to share”. With diversity at the heart of its core values, its gender fluid SAMA range is intended to “open our world to everyone.”
Non-binary street wear label Genkstasy is a “fiercely inclusive multi-gendered fashion label working to cater to ALL the beautiful bodies on the gender spectrum.” Focussed on sustainable and ethical production, after 10 years in the game, designer Evie Willsteed has moved off grid and works from 100% solar power. Off-cuts are saved for later use and the brand also offers made-to-order.
Since 2014 Jude Ng has been designing and ethically producing original, quirky, gender neutral clothing designs made in Naarm/Melbourne. You can pop into his Fitzroy outlet and meet Jude who is happy to chat about the design process and his finished works. A huge supporter of of local fashion industry, his structured, well-made garments are timeless, genderless and fabulous.
Vincent Li has been producing his luxury Australian-made gender-neutral designs, along with eye-catching non-traditional menswear since 2014. Offering an alternative to traditional western designs his original works are infused with oriental aesthetics. Vincent Li designs include everything from shirts, vests, skirts, footwear, scarves, masks, coats, jackets and pants.
Perth designer Antoinette Raphael launched street wear label RAW WAR in 2016 and has dressed a stable of rap luminaries in the music business since that time. Raphael describes the label as “androgynous”, infused with Middle Eastern and Oriental influences, textures and fabrics.