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Gender-Fluid Fashion Gets Luxury-Level Reinforcements

High-end agender fashion is a part of the outward personas of Gen Z pop culture icons like Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Harry Styles, but the gender-fluid fashion movement is taking place off stage as well.

New data from global fashion shopping platform Lyst sheds light on the brands and influencers that are helping to mainstream gender fluidity in apparel, footwear and accessories. The items consumers are searching for reach well beyond the scope of the celebratory Pride capsule collections that brands roll out each June, underscoring the demand for genderless fashion 365 days a year.

Searches for fashion pieces that include agender-related keywords jumped 33 percent since the beginning of the year, Lyst reported, while press and social media mentions for terms related to genderless fashion spiked 46 percent in May.

Though earlier efforts to introduce genderless shopping experiences had yielded mixed results—New York City’s first-ever gender fluid store, The Phluid Project, closed in 2020 and migrated online, and Selfridges’ 2015 Agender concept space dedicated to genderless fashion has petered out—the category shows signs of gaining a foothold in the industry.

A new report by Lyst shows how designer brands and influencers are helping mainstream gender fluidity in apparel, footwear and accessories.
Billie Eilish in Gucci Chelsea Lauren/WWD

Earlier this year, predictive analytics and retail data platform Trendalytics named gender-neutral fashion a “top market mover,” with 20 percent of new SKUs in the category out of stock. A recent report from Edited also points to opportunities in genderless streetwear.

The spike is owed, in part, to the growing number of covetable and accessible brands incorporating genderless designs into their collection and marketing campaigns.

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Alessandro Michele’s Gucci collections have skewed gender-free for some time, and the label’s runway shows welcome both male and female models wearing clothing interchangeably. The luxury house made it official last year when it launched The MX Project, a gender-fluid collection of apparel and accessories. Sustainable designer Stella McCartney also stepped into the gender-free segment with StellaShared, a unisex line that arrived in 2020 bridging utility streetwear with classic tailoring.

More recently, teen specialty retailer PacSun linked with two young designers who will help craft a pair of co-branded, gender-neutral collections for the 2021 holiday season, and announced plans to introduce a gender-free line of staples. Genderless denim, meanwhile, has been the focal point in new collections by Unspun, new sustainable brand Non and Calvin Klein’s first collaboration with Heron Preston.

A new report by Lyst shows how designer brands and influencers are helping mainstream gender fluidity in apparel, footwear and accessories.
Harry Styles in Gucci Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Demand for contemporary and genderless labels such as Wales Bonner, Eckhaus Latta and Hood by Air has been rising fast since the beginning of the year, Lyst reported. Meanwhile, the most-wanted genderless items include Telfar’s vegan tote bag, Bode’s embroidered shirts and Gucci novelty knits, Lyst added, noting that Thom Browne skirts, in general, are increasingly popular with searches up 152 percent.

The designer’s skirts are also sparking 2021 wedding fashion trends. Last month, Lyst reported that searches for “men’s wedding skirts” have increased 26 percent year-on-year ever since “Schitt’s Creek” character David Rose wore one to his wedding in the series finale last year.

Views on gender are changing, particularly among younger consumers. A report from the advertising agency Bigeye found that less than half of female-identifying Gen Zers, 45 percent, said they primarily wore clothes designed for women—69 percent of all female respondents said the same—and 28 percent said they wore clothes designed for women or men depending on how they felt. Among those identifying as male, 71 percent of those from Gen Z said they primarily wore clothes designed for men, compared to 84 percent overall.

The link between this societal shift and celebrity, however, is evident in how young consumers are wearing genderless fashion. According to Lyst, “pop culture icons are paving the way for a more inclusive fashion future.”

A new report by Lyst shows how designer brands and influencers are helping mainstream gender fluidity in apparel, footwear and accessories.
Lil Nas X for Ugg Courtesy

Lil Nas X, Billy Porter and Bad Bunny have embraced skirts. After Kid Cudi performed on “Saturday Night Live” in April wearing an Off-White sundress, searches for floral dresses on Lyst grew 21 percent in 24 hours. The frock also triggered a 67 percent increase in searches for Off-White dresses the following day.

Harry Styles gracing Vogue’s December cover in a baby blue Gucci gown stirred positive and negative headlines, but it was the Gucci boas he wore to the 2021 Grammys that inspired a 1,500 percent increase in searches for the retro flourish. Styles, who rocked a Gucci handbag at the recent Brit Awards in London, seems to be leaning into his gender-fluid style. The musician just filed a trademark for a potential cosmetic brand called “Styles, Harry Edward,” according to Us Weekly.

Similarly, searches for Styles-approved pearl necklaces have grown in popularity with male consumers, Lyst reported. Searches for the traditional necklace, which has also been worn recently by A$AP Rocky, are up 150 percent.

Though musician Billie Eilish broke the internet last month dressed in designer lingerie for her transformative British Vogue cover, Lyst said her signature look of oversized T-shirts continues to influence shoppers. Searches for roomy tees have grown consistently on Lyst since the start of the year and are currently up 231 percent compared to the same period last year, it said.