It’s time to expand your closet, hang up traditional gender notions, and dress up a new paradigm.
With Berlin Fashion Week around the corner, the runway will undoubtedly continue to reflect the colossal shift towards outfitting gender. The past season boundary-pushing Millennials and Gen Z (1), who steer away from static labeling, have become the ultimate rebels with an impact. Holding the long tail supreme, their hyper-personalized world places self-expression at the forefront, hanging up stereotypes and highlighting the overlapping, but different realities of a gender fluid norm.
Beauty and fashion brands have been the first to embrace gender blending in all its forms. Style icons of the era include diverse personalities and high fashion models like Caitlyn Jenner, Andreja Pejic, Ruby Rose, CoverGirl James Charles, and Berlin’s very own Peaches. On streaming channels, there’s Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and as VICE Magazine called it, “the industrial drag queen complex” of none other than RuPaul. The LGTBQI* community (3) has without a doubt gained more visibility and impact, which has prompted democratized representations across our feeds.
This steep integration has essentially deconstructed a self-reproducing cultural zeitgeist, guiding us through every on/offline interaction. To connect to the latest generation of consumers, mass fashion brands have had to unthink strategies and go beyond binary classifications. They’ve realized social borders are opening up, they can engage a larger, broader, and comprehensive audience.
Now, men and women wander down the catwalk alongside each other. Both luxury and major fashion brands have used non-binary models and influencers in their advertisement campaigns. Furthermore, modern fashion and cosmetic brands have started to adopt gender-neutral aesthetics.
The Spain-based Inditex’s retailer Zara has a whole unisex collection called “Ungendered,” while children toy sections at Target chains in the US are no longer pink and blue. Perfect, since Barbie and Moschino teamed up to feature a limited edition doll, with an androgynous child in a faux-hawk cradling the toy in excitement.
Other luxury fashion brands like Rad Hourani, Gucci, Hermes, and Marc Jacobs also blur the divide between feminine and masculine style. Louis Vuitton’s 2016 campaign featuring Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, remains as one of the most popular examples of gender fluid advertising. Smith, a cis male, modeled the women’s line wearing a black skirt and mesh top alongside female models – and he blended in seamlessly.
The outspoken model and actress Ruby Rose bloomed into fame as the androgynous face of Australia’s Maybelline New York line. Rose, who is openly lesbian and gender fluid is also the new Batwoman for Arrowverse while having star roles in Hollywood’s Pitch Perfect, Orange is the New Black, John Wick 2 and soon 3. Permanently trending Instagram celebrity James Charles (@jamescharles) just became the first male CoverGirl. In the UK, Soap and Glory’s newest spokesperson is Jake-Jamie Ward. A whole host of cosmetic brands has turned neutral: MAC Cosmetics, The Ordinary, Aesop, and whiffs of unisex fragrance.
Fashion has always been one of the main ways that we express ourselves; you can wear a statement.
As consumer behavior becomes more a function of personality, staying current means a strong focus on universal character traits – a one for all philosophy that encourages passions and values. Without having to adapt or sacrifice natural femininity or masculinity, messages place an emphasis on athleticism or relaxation.
It simply means more people can experience a fashionable lifestyle, express their individuality, and still feel included. Either way, Gen Z fashion bloggers and influencers will continue to challenge rigid classifications until its clear that stigma has gone out of style.