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Gender-Fluid Brands Pose a Merchandising Challenge

Gender-fluid fashion is “fresh, it’s “inclusive,” and it’s here to stay.

This was the message last week at Project New York, the contemporary men’s and gender-fluid brands trade show. While gendered sections have been the traditional blueprint for fashion retail, many brands have started designing genderless clothing, creating a new inclusive section for all.

The gender-fluid brands present at Project NY spanned Chelsea Grays, Krost, Le Bonnet, Maxime Simoens Paris, New Braves One DNA, SO.TY sonyeo[n] and Whensmokeclears.

In a fireside chat with, Edwina Kulego, Informa Markets Fashion VP of international and business development, Rob Smith, the CEO and founder of The Phluid Project, a gender-free brand that specializes in selling clothing, accessories and beauty for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Travis Weaver, founder of the gender-neutral brand One DNA Clothing, weighed in on how the industry is making space for gender fluidity and what that means to the industry as a whole.

“Fluidity in fashion is freedom,” Kulego said. “I love that there are brands just creating product that is special to them, for anyone, and it’s time we acknowledge the leaders in the industry who are making a safe space for all.”

The perception of gender-fluid clothing is evolving beyond “oversized and loose” fits. In fact, once gender-specific items like pearl necklaces and off-the-shoulder tops are becoming “more present” today, Smith said.

“Gender-fluid fashion is about the freedom of choice to wear what you want and not getting stuck to the binary of law and society’s standards,” Weaver added.

Inclusivity does not stop there for One DNA and The Phluid Project, though. To be inclusive on a larger scale, One DNA continues to extend its sizing beyond its “normal size range” offering some styles up to 3XL.

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“We’re working with the consumers to educate them on our sizing, and being conscious with how we communicate that information, like measurements,” Weaver said. “The combination of extended sizing and fits is our push toward a more diverse market.”

Additionally, The Phluid Project—which launched as “the world’s first gender-free store” in 2018—has tapped into other markets to expand its gender-fluid presence. Now, The Phluid Project sells undergarments, fragrances and accessories.

“We also have gender expansive training, G.E.T. Phluid, to teach companies how to be aware, competent and create authentic engagement with our community,” Smith added.

While gender-fluid clothing options are evolving, breaking down gender-specific constructions on the digital and physical sales floor remains a hurdle.

In Weaver’s experience, when working with buyers gender-fluid clothing brands are “constantly advocating on behalf of others.”

Smith said brands often struggle deciding which section gender-fluid fashion clothing falls into, especially existing brands.

“If your brand is new, you might be able to start as an all-gender brand as I did,” he said. “But if you’re an existing business, I think it’s okay to have another section specifically for genderless clothing.”

Additionally, gender-fluid brands must “run through a checklist” to make sure the target customer would feel safe shopping at third-party retailers.

Smith recalled a “complicated” conversation with a buyer. “I had to ask questions like ‘Do you have an all-gender fitting room?’ or ‘Do you have gender-inclusive bathrooms?’” Smith said. “Because if they didn’t, I’m not going to sell to them. There are checkmarks that retailers have to check before they just begin to carry The Phluid Project.”