ZARA gender-neutral clothing: Bland or addressing demand?

By Sarah Harris

This week the Spanish retailer, ZARA unveiled a new line of gender-neutral clothing. The collection features a simple range of everyday casual wear such as sweatshirts, joggers and t-shirts. The company is following in the lines of other fashion brands such as Pull & Bear and Selfridges who both released completely gender-neutral clothing within the last few years.

It’s clear fashion is moving forward in terms of gender. We now have Jaden Smith as the face of the Louis Vuitton’s womenswear campaign and designer John Galliano recently cast men to model in his S/S Margiela womenswear show. It’s clear the fashion industry is promoting the concept that gender isn’t binary and therefore there should be no rules in terms of the clothing different sexes wear.

However, despite the fact that you could say the move made by ZARA is progressive, the clothing is basically a line of ‘unisex’ loungewear and has gained criticism from many LGBT groups across the world. It lacks colour and shape and would be classed by most as fairly masculine with the absence of femininity and items of clothing such as dresses or skirts. So is this move by ZARA really bold or breaking barriers? Actor and agender writer, Tyler Ford tweeted “when will we move past the notion that genderless clothing simply = plain t-shirts/sweatpants? Why is this bold?” Indeed, in their attempt to achieve wide-ranging acclaims their design approach left much to be desired, resulting in a bland and generic final product.

So maybe this new line was just a clever money making move on part of ZARA whose UK press office said there would be no statement on the motive of the collection. Columnist for Lifestyle Magazine, Dazed, Shon Faye stated, “this has less to do with meeting the needs of trans and gender non-conforming people and more to do with the fact that brands are noticing gender is a hot topic and trying to ride on it’s coat tails.” Moral entrepreneurship in the 21st century is an incredibly valuable marketing tool and although the high street giant may be keeping silent about their decision to launch the collection, a range of other major designers are intent on making their views on gender neutrality heard.

With that in mind, these early attempts taken by the industry to address demand for genderless attire can be seen as a step in the right direction. Any concept as complex as non-binary gender identity was never going to be easy to translate through the medium of fashion, however one can see promise in that the industry has a lot to offer in the near future.

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