The Evolution of Genderless Retail

Lorena Serrano, Marketing, The Doneger Group
August 4, 2016

While designers and luxury retailers have been pushing the idea of gender-neutral style for some time, this is the year that genderless fashion has gone mainstream, gaining real momentum as consumers look to build unique identities. Millennials especially feel unrestricted by traditional age or gender roles, and this change in attitude means that genderless fashion is here to stay. It's representation in the industry includes everything from outright gender bending--think Jaden Smith wearing a skirt for Louis Vuitton ads--to simple, normcore-driven brands.

Going Mainstream

Though millennials have often been called "Generation Nice" for their pro-social mentality and accepting attitude, the gender-neutral movement has been fueled by mainstream media. Caitlyn Jenner's transition was widely applauded, and she has since collaborated with Mac cosmetics and is the new face of H&M's athleticwear line. Streetwear-inspired designers like Public School have injected a dose of genderless dressing into their runway collections, and Gucci's fashion takeover inspired a print revival in menswear. The passing of David Bowie early this year rekindled a collective look into the past, to the artists who revolutionized fashion and pioneered the concept of gender bending.

Early Adopters

While many headlines tend to focus on menswear with feminine features, like Burberry's lace shirts for spring, it is women who are more likely to shop the men's floor. As the trend begins to trickle-down, retailers of all sorts have been adopting a genderless approach. Zara recently announced the launch of a gender-neutral collection, focusing more on basic pieces, while the newest collection from Basic Rights features tailored, genderless clothing full of essentials. Even customization brands like Unmade cater to basic items, colors and patterns that have a genderless, ageless appeal. The return of classic sneakers like Adidas Stan Smith originals, have men and women wearing the exact same kicks.

A Retail Perspective

Looking ahead, the genderless movement presents several implications for retailers that go beyond fashion items. Selfridges set the standard by launching Agender, a gender-neutral pop-up in its Oxford Street flagship. Featuring sculptures and window displays that were genderless in form, white canvas bagging added a neutral element while sizing and non-specific fitting rooms also reflected a movement away from gender norms. As retailers begin to incorporate androgynous apparel and non-gendered signage into their offering, re-thinking the traditional fashion norms is a must.