Gender by design. Fashion is a new way into the feminist conversation. With designers such as Timur Kim, and Grace Wales Bonner, furthering the new feminist agenda by creating clothes that unite rather than divide. Their designs elicit a sex-positive strength that reinforces the gradual dissolution of gender binaries in the fashion industry. Supporting their efforts are independent publications such as The Gentlewoman, and Riposte, who encourage the application of feminist thinking in all areas of the arts, both online and offline. The growing support from the editorial industry is crucial, as it motivates artists with similar principles to create enduring, referential and self-explicating work. Moving our culture and communities towards a shared value system based on equality and helping gender bias to dissipate.
The aforementioned designers are in good company, as they work with their teams to ensure equality is maintained throughout the entire design process. Using feminine and masculine reference materials to plan and develop concepts for their collections. Filtered into pattern cutting and construction techniques which give greater flexibility in shape and silhouette. Unisex brand Timur Kim adopts a similar design process, allowing the individual to build their own aesthetic identity around the fabric of the clothes. Technically, this requires an acute awareness of body shapes and an appreciation for diverse physiques; something designer Telfar Clemens uses to inform his collections. He thinks about “both genders when designing and decided what they both have in common to design a genderless uniform of sorts”. Creating purposeful, ’simplex’ clothing that reflects his inclusive approach to people; making pieces that are equally as attractive on male and female forms.
Telfar’s diversity in design is graphically depicted in the promotional video for his SS16 collection, showing CGI animated figures of himself transformed in a variety of gender, race and body types. This is a form of non-gender bias branding, which makes Telfar a new feminist by default. Dressing individuals for their character, rather than their gender; and celebrating strength and weakness in all statures. With garments as his medium, Telfar is able to communicate his vision to a wider audience. Designing with difference in mind and pulling inspiration from diverse disciplines to emerge with objective concepts that naturally overcome binary constructs of gender.
Astrid Andersen is another designer who adopts a similar polymathic way of working. Using masculinity as her mutable topic; she elevates her audience and aesthetic to a place where gender becomes secondary. Balancing out sex-stereotypes with a combination of delicate emotional sensuality and primal sexual energy, or what she calls “masculine attraction with feminine references”. She creates a space for her garments to take on their own identity based on personal preference, rather than didactic gender norms. Inclusive in its nature, the process tunes into the new feminist frequency by transforming our perceptions of masculinity. Astrid believes that this is “the natural progression of guys in the street, when you look at them today, there is no real relevance of gender”.
This encourages us to look at concepts of feminism, gender and masculinity in a new way; slightly shifting our perspectives to make room for change. With clothes that have the potential to cultivate empowered communities; enriched by direct experience of gender design. What makes Astrid and Telfar attractive as designers, is that they create with equal regard and respect for all genders and orientations. Which inspires in us, a greater appreciation for all embodiments of the human form. They do this, not through force or manipulation, but simply by maintaining authenticity in their design process.
Written by Emily Stoker for Fashion Philosophy, Issue 3. The above photograph is from Timur Kim‘s SS16 collection.
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