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Jun 03 2021
What does gender inclusivity currently look like in fashion? Here are five brands that are changing what it means…
We’ve long called Gen Z and Millennials the genreless generation, eschewing labels and categories for a more fluid approach to everything from music to style to sexuality, and yes, gender. Thanks to these generations, gender neutral has become a “top marker mover” in fashion, with more brands starting to lean into more gender fluid marketing. The majority (66%) of 13-39-year-olds tell YPulse they like fashion that can be worn by either guys or girls, and a recent Bigeye report shows that 50% of Gen Z and 56% of Millennials agree that traditional gender roles and binary labels are outdated. YPulse will also continue to explore this topic in-depth in our upcoming Gender Blenders trend report (available to YPulse Business users next month). Signal Analytics reported that consumer discussions around “gender-neutral” and “unisex clothing” increased by 115% over the last year. Global marketing firm Kenshoo reported that the number of consumer reviews mentioning the words “gender neutral” and “unisex” increased 42.5% year-on-year, while conversations on Instagram around the topic have increased 682% year-on-year.
Gender neutral clothing shops targeting Gen Z have begun popping up almost everywhere. Adidas launched a gender neutral concept store in London last fall, presenting items by sports and theme rather than gender, and when luxury retailer Browns debuted their Browns East store, they made gender neutrality a focus as they noticed more of their customers “cross-shop[ping]” as well as the “synergy between menswear and womenswear.” For a long time, the term “gender neutral” has brought to mind a specific, usually shapeless and neutral look. (You know what we’re talking about.) But as more brands make gender inclusive lines their focus, the aesthetic is diversifying, and what gender neutral looks like is starting to shift. Here are five new brands redefining the category:
Hollister’s Social Tourist
It’s an understatement to say that TikTok superstars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio have been on a roll when it comes to brand collabs. Last year, they worked with Morphe for Gen Z sub-brand Morphe 2, and they served as “Jeaneaologists” for Hollister by testing out the quality of their denim for the #MoreHappyDenimDance challenge on TikTok. (Not to mention Charli’s Dunkin partnership, the family’s reality show, and countless other brand sponsorships.) Now, they’re working with the Hollister once again for their very own “trend-forward apparel brand,” Social Tourist. The line will feature gender-inclusive pieces, swimwear, skirts, dresses, everyday basics, and limited-edition items inspired by the sisters’ personal styles. The D’Amelio sisters have reportedly been at the center of the product selection, design, and branding decisions to ensure their personalities, and experiences as social media creators, are the lifeline of the sub-brand. On the site, where products are modeled by both men and women, shoppers are told that the “unisex” line was “made for inclusivity” and “designed to make everyone feel good,” and given instructions on what sizes they might want to shop for a “comfortable fit” if they’re male or female. A Tinder and GLAAD study from last summer found that Gen Z is more likely to “think outside of the gender and sexuality box,” and Hollister’s partnership with the D’Amelio sisters shows how brands are enlisting young, open-minded celebrities and influencers to market gender inclusivity.
PacSun’s The Gender Neutral Shop
Last year, PacSun launched The Gender Neutral Shop on their site with the purpose of allowing young consumers to “leave traditional ideas of gender-coded dressing behind,” and wear what they want and how they want. The unisex collection includes basics, graphics, pants, hoodies, and sneakers that cater to every style, sweaters, checkered jeans, sweatpants, t-shirts, hoodies, and shorts. Earlier this year, the brand ramped up marketing for their gender-free category, making it the focus of their upcoming summer campaign, which includes models and influencers like YouTuber Emma Chamberlain. For the effort, the company allowed the young stars to “choose their clothing and style themselves.” According to PacSun’s Chief Brand Officer Brie Olson, the concept was inspired by their customers and how they shop: “This is the future of clothing—styles that are made for all, no matter who you are.” Earlier this year, the retailer also announced that they would be launching PacSun Kids, a gender-fluid childrenswear category featuring a lot of denim and tie-dye colors.
Old Navy x PopSugar’s PSxON
Despite last year’s uncertain back to school shopping period, Old Navy partnered with lifestyle publication Pop Sugar to launch PSxON, a “tween-leaning” clothing line aimed for 10-13-year-olds who want to “feel confident, channel kindness, and make a statement for whatever back-to-school looks like this year.” The limited-edition line of “inclusive styles” included athleisure wear, denim essentials, and graphic t-shirts full of “vibrant colors” and inspirational phrases like “Make The World A Better Place.” The intent of designs is to “help them feel comfort during a year of change.” Millennial parents have been asking for gender-neutral clothes for some time, with 34% telling YPulse that they’ve bought gender-neutral clothing or toys for their kids. But overall, parents still have a difficult time finding attractive unisex outfits with vibrant colors that aren’t “restrictively gendered” or gray—and newer brands like PacSun Kids and PSxON are hoping to be a solutions to that.
Nordstrom’s BP. x Wildfang collection
Last week, Nordstrom’s in-house brand BP. announced a collaboration with fashion brand Wildfang for a 27-piece “genderfluid” collection. The line will feature jumpsuits, blazers, slip dresses, short sets, and accessories that include a DIY Collar Tip Set, an earring set, and crossbody bag. And according to the site, 5% of total sales “will workforce development programs that provide space and opportunity for Black, Latinx, and Queer communities in fashion.” (YPulse’s The Real Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility Special Report found that 83% of 13-39-year-olds say that all brands should do some sort of social good work.) Additionally, the line will be size-inclusive, offering clothes in XXS to 4X. Since its launch in 2003, Wildfang (founded by Emma Mcilroy) has been known “for not catering to specific genders or body types.”
Stella McCartney’s Shared capsule
Earlier this year, Stella McCartney collaborated with The RealReal for a sustainability effort, but they’ve also gotten into the genderless clothing business as well. Last summer, the designer unveiled the Stella McCartney Shared capsule, which took the label’s trademark tailoring and updated it with a “streetwear twist” by “adding boxy silhouettes and psychedelic prints.” Inspired by Gen Z’s activism, the clothing is also made with eco-conscious materials—and features tailored trenches, knits, and t-shirts that are covered with “bold, illustrated prints” designed by comic book artist Will Sweeney. McCartney told WWD: “Youth today are naturally open-minded and fluid with gender. How they inclusively celebrate diversity and individuality is beautiful, using self-expression to affect social change, rising up collectively in the face of global social unrest and the climate crisis, to create the world they want to see.”
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