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Rise of Genderless Fashion
Why Non-Binary Clothing is a Vibe
By Renee Fortune
Icons like Prince, David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Grace Jones were anomalies of their time. The world put them in the “weird kid group,” with their eyeliner and their cropped cuts and their shoulder pads. I don’t think the world knew quite what to do with them because honestly, they made everyone stop and reconsider the status quo. For some people, the idea of claiming new territory within fashion was riveting. For some, it was a threat to their very idea of identity and that was simply too uncomfortable to withstand. Now, in an age where binary thinking is being radically challenged; and with it, the very foundational notion of gender, genderless fashion is taking to the catwalks, the gala events, the offices and the streets. What a time to be alive.
There was nothing quite like seeing Harry Styles step onto the red donning what was fondly referred to as a Gucci “Gender-Bender” – an all-black ensemble featuring a sheer top with a flamboyant lacy, ruffled front befitting of a Victorian noble. A single pearl drop earring adorned one ear and the look was completed with black nailpolish. How risqué Harry and how “age-appropriate” (“age” of course, referring to the current era of free-thinking and liberalism). There will always be critics and downright haters but for the most part, fashion houses around the world are embracing the gender-neutrality of things.
We once referred to androgynous clothing as “unisex,” but gender-neutral fashion is so much more. I would venture to say that it’s more of a mentality than a way of dressing – a mentality of inclusiveness and a celebration of diversity. When you wear genderless fashion you’re making a statement. You’re saying, “I am who I am, whatever that means and in whichever material form that may present itself.” It’s a “take-it-or-leave-it” kind of attitude that has come to characterise a culture of reinvention and free choice. As journalist Antonia Sardone puts it: “Acceptance, inclusivity and an openness to change are fashion’s gift to 2021.”
We’ve come far but we’ve still got a long way to go. These days, “genderless” clothing typically has a female or male slant – it’s not technically devoid of any association with gender norms. But we’re getting there. Remember, we’ve got eons of history and convention to unravel.
The movement started with offshoot, vigilante fashion brands that made small but lasting impressions on the catwalks. Then, fashion houses like Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo followed suit with their interpretation of the trend. From fashion houses we saw celebrities embracing the non-binary look, and today, we’ve got amazing examples of genderless fashion strutting their stuff on pavements from Cape Town to Miami.
Plain Tiger is here for the genderless fashion movement, in a big way. Two of our brands, Sama Sama and Addo African Clothes are leading the charge in South Africa towards more inclusive fashion.
Sama Sama’s Classic Collection of trans-seasonal designs overlap and criss-cross, making for some core pieces of elegant inclusivity. The brand’s core intention is to offer “clothing designed to allow movement, unrestricted and with compassion for the body.” In their collections you’ll find utilitarian dungarees, bucket hats, mohair sweaters and laundered linen shirts.
In Addo African Clothes you’ll find a selection of ready-to-wear jumpsuits, cropped jackets and utility pants made from organic cotton and hemp. Their safari-chic designs capture the freedom and dignity of Africa while pushing the boundaries of what fashion for men and women should look like. The end-result is a collection that is designed and created for everyone – a wholesome and refreshing alternative to gendered fast-fashion.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing feature articles on Sama Sama and Addo African Clothing with exclusive insights from their founders and lead designers. Watch this space for those exciting installments.