This year’s New York Fashion Week began on September 7, and there’s been plenty of buzz about what style enthusiasts would see on this year’s runways. After all, the NYFW hashtag was used 31.6 million times in 2015, according to outlets including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, so it’s no surprise that clotheshorses the world over are waiting to see what trends will emerge. During the last Fashion Week back in February, gender fluidity was everywhere on the catwalk. And it looks like that craze shows no signs of slowing down — especially as more and more designers are becoming aware that, while many consumers like designer labels, they may not be so enthused about gender labels when it comes to their clothes.
In preparation for the debut of countless spring 2018 lines, Glamour wanted to find out more about political activism’s role in fashion and whether or not designers felt the need to create change through their clothes. Popular Project Runway winner Christian Siriano answered with a definitive “yes,” not just because of his own beliefs but because of the shifting needs of his demographic:
“The younger generation is paying attention to what’s happening in fashion and pop culture, and that younger generation is what’s changing our entire world,” he said in an interview with the magazine. “It’s all connected now, and everyone can have a voice, which can be a powerful thing.”
For his part, Siriano seems committed to diversity in an industry that has not been historically known for being inclusive.
“I will continue to fill my runways with a diverse group of women who are from all over our world, as we have always done,” said Siriano. “That really has been more impactful than anything.”
Designer Michelle Smith has used her line, Milly, as a vessel for political statements, too. Her last collection debuted in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, and her current campaign — titled “[hashtag]EqualityForAll” — features gender fluid model Elliot Sailors.
“The campaign really reflects the overall message of strength, empowerment, and spreading the message of love and acceptance,” Smith told Glamour. “[I feel] empowered to turn the negativity into something meaningful and inspiring,” she added, referring to the shift in how she runs her business and her decision to partner with Girls Inc. on a newly released capsule collection that will benefit the charity.
Even for lesser-known brands, the need for inclusive clothing seems obvious. Bindle and Keep, a custom suit brand started in 2011 by Daniel Friedman and Rae Tutera, addresses the needs of non-binary, trans, and cis-gendered people who want something tailor-made to their needs and their identity. The pair behind the brand has dressed everyone from members of the LGBTQ community and former inmates to Paul Giamatti, and were recently featured in an HBO documentary, Suited, produced by Lena Dunham.
Although 66% of men say they feel more confident when they wear suits, that leaves a lot of gender non-conforming people out of the equation. And it’s extremely difficult to find a well-tailored suit regardless of gender identity. Friedman notes that every customer’s needs are different and that the brand has made it their mission to provide superior service in terms of both the garment and their compassion.
“It’s very personal,” he told the Independent. “When we meet people, we talk for a good 20 minutes about how they feel about their bodies before we even get into the suiting process …We have clients who have put off getting married for years because they don’t want to look stupid or they have just given up. Clothing is the bane of their existence.”
But the need for more inclusive fashion options isn’t limited to the runway or to niche brands — major retailers are embracing the idea, too. H and M announced their first unisex collection, Denim United, back in March, and other brands may soon follow suit. And while this has the potential to severely impact the way society shops, the idea seems particularly intriguing to those who are trying to tap into the Millennial market.
Whether everyone will want genderless fashion is still a big question mark, but one’s thing’s for sure: it doesn’t seem to be a strange, flash-in-the-pan trend. And it’s likely much more accessible than you might think.