When menswear became a wardrobe must-have in anyone’s closet
by Ana Sencenko
What might have looked like a crazy dream a decade ago is the reality today: the fashion industry is confidently refusing gender non-conformity. Over the past couple of years, high-street giants like Zara and H&M have dropped made-to-fit-all collections from their racks, while famous fashion houses like Gucci and Tom Ford have been mixing Women’s and Men’s Fashion Week runways into one show.
These might look like never-seen-before changes in the global fashion industry at large, but it’s not that big news when it comes to Britain. Back in the 1960’s – during the rise of rock bands and the era of Punk – everything was unisex. People like designer Vivienne Westwood and singer David Bowie became symbols of the rebellions of the time, as key cultural figures who made androgyny cool. Protest and innovation have become the essence defining “London style”, that has been challenging the global fashion industry ever since.
Today, British fashion labels are continuing to evolve in a gender-fluid direction. One of them is Thomas Thomas – a London-based menswear brand designed for women, which was launched back in September 2016 on New York Queer Fashion Week. The bespoke label makes custom clothing that is tailored to female sizes, while still being inspired by vintage men’s garments detailing, fabric and structure. This includes blazers, trousers, vests and list goes on and on. As this is a made-to-measure brand – the prices vary: from £150 for a single for a pair of trousers to £2,000 for a whole three-piece suit, which makes the garments a definite investment piece.
“I got fed up with customising menswear for myself and realised that there was a growing global demand for a less binary approach to fashion,”
said Sara Jane Weston, founder of Thomas Thomas. The absence of non-binary clothing on the market was the reason she started her brand: “I decided to make the type of garments I couldn’t find.”
Weston describes the brand’s aesthetic as a “mix of boy meets girl, old meets new, tailoring meets sportswear”. With a mission of “designing clothes for individuals”, Thomas Thomas is one of those brands blurring the gender boundaries in fashion and changing the industry at large.
“Women who wear masculine styled clothing have been discriminated against in the past… People are programmed to accept binaries,” says the designer. However, Weston describes the digital age to be one of the main reasons why the era of gender boundaries is going downhill. She believes that Internet and social media is what has been defining “the spectrum of gender identities” over the recent years, making the mass public more open-minded and accepting in all aspects of life, including fashion.
While according to Weston the industry might not completely refuse the idea of gender because of specifics of cuts and patterns, she believes that it is a trend that will continue to prosper. “I think more and more unisex, androgynous and genderless brands will appear and gain attraction…”
“…What is important is that a more diverse range of fashion is on the rise and that all of society feels supported and heard by the fashion industry.” – Sara Jane Weston
A lot of the new wave British designers are following the gender-fluid route as well. Design student Carla Palazzo, 20, says: “You can get every kind of idea nowadays in the creative field… It happens the same for our own sexuality – you can be whoever you want, without worrying much about what others think.”
“Why should I look like a woman does or vice versa? Why not blend the genders together? Or better, why not use the best parts of one, for the garment designed for the opposite gender?” says Palazzo. The idea of blending gender boundaries is what drives the up-and-coming designer’s creations. She describes her collections to be very gender-neutral, as even when making a womenswear on menswear piece, she makes sure to add a detail – a silhouette or structure – that would be inspired by the opposite sex.
“I hide the gender attachment, leaving the garment only with a recall of it,” – Carla Palazzo