Gender boundaries and the influence on unisex fashion branding


Different examples of fluid gender boundaries in fashion and unisex clothing

Topic

This research project is about analysing the stereotypical gender roles that are increasingly beginning to merge. As a result, it is no longer possible to generalise what appeals to men and what to women in terms of a company’s brand design. Especially in the clothing industry, the distinction between women’s and men’s fashion is slowly disappearing and unisex collections and brands are on the rise. The central question here is: are there differences between the preferences for traditional fashion brands that offer both women’s and men’s fashion and the target group of unisex clothing brands? And how does this affect brand design and how can a corporate identity of a unisex brand look like?

Background

Up until 2017, it was not possible to officially register as “diverse” or third gender in Germany. According to the law, “diverse” refers to intersexual people who, since birth, cannot be classified into the gender categories “male” and “female” due to their gender characteristics. Since December 2018, registration has been possible, but this has also caused an uproar in the LGBTQ+ scene. Non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid and agender people feel discriminated against, as they feel they belong to either no gender, several genders or alternating genders, which is why they are not allowed to register. Overall, the issue of differentiating between masculinity and femininity is the subject of many headlines. The stereotypical characteristics of genders are being reformed, such as men as “househusbands”, women with short hairstyles and men wearing make-up. As a result, the boundaries between male and female are disappearing more and more, so it comes to no surprise that this also affects the fashion industry and labelling. For women, androgynous fashion has been around for a long time such as suits and trousers, but through the media in recent years, it is now becoming increasingly recognised that men also like to dress in women’s fashion, such as dresses or high heels. For example, the cover of Vogue in 2020 caused mixed reactions when the famous singer Harry Styles was photographed in a dress. As a result, more and more brands are now following suit, either offering unisex product lines or collections, as well as unisex brands. Unisex fashion has been around for a long time, as seen on style icons such as David Bowie, Prince and Kurt Cobain. Where gender-neutral clothing has already found its origin in haute couture fashion, department stores and fast fashion brands are now following suit by also offering unisex product lines. At the same time, high fashion is introducing “un-gendered” clothing into their collections, revolutionising the catwalks of the fashion world. As a result, the unisex trend has now also arrived in society and is creating a lot of dialogue on the topic of gender identities and fashion.


Literature

Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes. n.d. Geschlecht und Geschlechtsidentität. Accessed June 02, 2021. https://www.antidiskriminierungsstelle.de/DE/ThemenUndForschung/Geschlecht/Dritte_Option/Dritte_Option_node.html.

Askinasi, Rachel. 2020. Why are people acting like Harry Styles is the first man to wear a dress? December 15. Accessed June 2021, 02. https://www.insider.com/harry-styles-vogue-cover-controversy-style-icon-non-binary-fashion-2020-12.

Holaschke, Larissa. n.d. “More Gender- more design? Gender-sensitive design for the society of today.” Not at your service. Manifestos for design. 465-471.

Kelber, Cornelia. n.d. Gender Shift: Zukunft der Geschlechterrollen. Accessed June 02, 2021. https://www.zukunftsinstitut.de/artikel/gender-shift-zukunft-der-geschlechterrollen/.

Stitt, A. (2020). ACT for Gender Identity: The Comprehensive Guide. Vereinigtes Königreich: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Franke, B. & Matter, H. (2020). Not at Your Service: Manifestos for Design. Berlin, Boston: Birkhäuser, 467-471.

Stolerman, Kerri. 2020. Country and Townhouse. Accessed June 02, 2021. https://www.countryandtownhouse.co.uk/style/gender-neutral-fashion/.

Thomas, Charlie. n.d. Does the world really need Unisex fashion? Accessed June 02, 2021. https://www.fashionbeans.com/article/does-unisex-fashion-work/#.


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