12 February 2016

Blurring the Lines of Gender

Gender is ambiguous and completely perceptual, to a degree. In fashion, the limits are non-existent, or floating so high in the sky that there’s little sense of anything being close to its absolute limit. The boundaries between masculinity and femininity are crumbling to present an open space for designers to revel in. Traditionally, menswear was a mere blip on the radar of fashion houses, forming a measly 9% of company turnover. Having less reliance on ticking all of the right commercial boxes meant less thinking and more creating. With women's collections, houses are obliged to consider what will sell, what is on trend and what will create headlines; often leaving designers unable to do what they whole-heartedly want. Does the increasing combination of menswear and womenswear afford more artistic licence and could the result be the perfect blend of well-considered creativity?

Since Alessandro Michele’s appointment in the role of Creative Director of Gucci last year, he hasn’t half been making waves. Not just waves, but monstrous tsunamis sweeping fashion’s front row up off of their furry-loafered feet and having them land in a new utopian Gucci. Suits in jacquards and floral prints featured heavily in Gucci’s collections for both men and women. Jazzy enough to make even Mick Jagger blush. These miss-matched, yet together looks pair a geeky allure with artistic personality, which poured out from the petals of the detailed flowers. A theme of vintage is carried throughout shoes, accessories and classic Italian finishing, propelling 1975 into 2025 right before our eyes. The most valid point to note is that it can be near impossible to differentiate between a men’s and women’s look, especially when they’re consolidated into one show and so seamlessly merged into combination.

Over the course of his career at Saint Laurent, Hedi Sliane has respectfully snubbed the contrived elegance of high fashion to reveal the grit and bare the soul of the garments that his grungy rock ‘n’ roll muses float around in. Lived-in leathers with hard metal finishes are draped over delicate shoulders, with ripped fishnets and dainty tiaras accessorising the looks. He applies the perfect level of masculinity and femininity to his boyish girls, giving off an enviable effortless cool.

Michele is the unsung hero, pioneering the gender-blending approach with Rick Owens, Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent and J.W. Anderson standing firmly behind him.  Evolving from and spinning off of this, are new approaches that completely defy the traditional fashion calendar; like Burberry and Vetements combining menswear and womenswear into one show. The latter has even decided to go one up and show in January – two months before Paris Fashion Week - giving the clothes more of a lifespan on the shop floor.

This movement of menswear into womenswear and vice versa is more than a passing trend, it’s a cultural shift that is already having drastic effects on the structure of the fashion calendar and the structure of fashion garments, alike. Menswear elements were always present in womenswear, from early Dolce & Gabbana power dressing to deconstructed Margiela. In the present, designers are not simply putting womenswear on men, but moving forward and taking menswear with them. Gender is passé, gender is archaic, gender is a temporary state of mind.