Our top five examples of fashion queering the gender binary: past, present and future
From Vivienne Westwood opening her menswear show with (female) model Elliott Sailors dressed in homage to Prince Charles, to Raf Simons sending women and men down the same runway for the first time, A/W15 menswear collections showed that strictly-defined gender categories are no longer relevant. 2015 is all about reconsidering binaries and looking to androgyny for inspiration – so we're bringing you our top five examples of fashion that subverts gender: past, present and future.
PAST: Comme des Garçons
Rei Kawakubo is one of the pioneers of fashion androgyny; when she started Comme des Garçons in the 70s, it was a womenswear range literally telling us to dress "like the boys". After adding a menswear range in 1978, she continued to subvert stereotypes by deconstructing traditional silhouettes and playing with gendered conventions of style and design. Three decades later, the brand is still at the forefront of the avant-garde and its legacy has borne experimental labels like Junya Watanabe and Ganryu Comme des Garçons.
PRESENT: Hood By Air
Shayne Oliver's S/S15 collection was presented as "an interrogation of what it means to be a man," a conceptual deconstruction of masculinity through a more literal deconstruction of tailoring. Featuring models with varying levels of gender ambiguity, Oliver played with gender performativity in a way that you rarely see outside of a Judith Butler textbook; it was like a theory degree condensed into a five-minute fashon show.
PRESENT: Robert Clergerie S/S15
Under the creative direction of Roland Mouret, Robert Clergerie's S/S15 range includes the Masculine-Feminine sandals – which look to a silhouette of androgyny – alongside the Communal Collection, a range of menswear styles reworked into typically female proportions. No longer do we have to buy insoles to keep our feet in oversized men's shoes that we can't bear to be without.
FUTURE: Selfridges Agender S/S15
In March 2015, department store Selfridges are set to open their three-floor 'Agender' shopping space. Designed in collaboration with Faye Toogood, they will be launching the initiative with five exclusive ranges from brands including Hood By Air and Meadham Kirchhoff, while bringing on board an additional 40 labels who speak to an atmosphere of gender neutrality. Promising to be a space "where clothing is no longer imbued with directive gender values," it seems to be a magically progressive moment for gender in the world of fashion retail.
FUTURE: Prada A/W15/Pre-Fall 2015
The A/W15 Prada menswear collection was shown interspersed with womenswear Pre-Fall. While the timings of the seasons make a combination of the two a convenient match, there was something more interesting about the cohesive and uniformed yet distinctly gendered collections that Miuccia sent down the runway. Not one to succumb to the agendered phenomenon that can be seen elsewhere, Prada's spin on the theme was explored not only through the collections, but also in her show notes which spoke of the "nuanced and porous exchanges that have historically proliferated in the gender field" and an observation of "what the genders share, what they take from each other." As AnOther Senior Fashion Editor Agata Belcen explained, "The boys and girls at Prada were cut from the same cloth – both wore the same shapes and colours but they were still boys and girls. Their clothing didn’t attempt to mask or remove their sexuality." It made for a novel take on concepts of gender, and a different kind of exploration of androgyny.