With the infusion of the athleisure trend within the fashion industry, sportswear made a breakthrough in everyone’s closet.
The young generation, especially those born after 1995, succumbed to oversized sweatshirts, slouchy zip-up hoodies and other tracksuits. This new must-have seduces Gen Zers for their bold design, convenience and, most of all, their gender-fluid message. As engaged as open-minded, these kids challenge the silhouette status quo and speak in favor of equality activism rather than standardization.
Brands should consider this new paradigm pushed by Zers and launch gender-neutral items beyond solely feminization of masculine apparels.
No Gender: the body positivism of Gen zers.
Gen Z want to build a more liberated self-identity than ever.
According to the 2014 Cassandra report, Zers “refuse a society which dictates what men and women should do or purchase”
According to a 2016 J-Walter Thompson survey, 56% of American Gen Zers know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns like “they”, “them” or “ze”.
However genderless is not related to a particular sexual preference.
Even though 48% identify themselves as heterosexual contrary to 65% for millennials, the sexual identity moves aside in favor of the no gender.
Fashion designers have well captured the self-expression of this generation by featuring androgynous, transgenders and queer models both on the catwalks and through celebrity endorsements.
Adwoa Aboah popularity, endorsing the new face of beauty and the streetwear era of Burberry, testifies on this growing movement. In its FW18 campaign, Louis Vuitton featured model Teddy Quinlivan, who publicly disclosed her transgender identity earlier this year.
The movement infuses also in pop culture, as Christine and the QueensFrench singer decided to use the ambiguous nickname Chris for her second album.
Earlier, she declared to Time Magazine: “I was never sure how to be a man or a woman; even wearing dresses felt parodic.”
Chris said “because I felt that being a woman was an obstacle, I wanted to become gender-neutral. It became my way of tricking the system.”
As told by the Fashion Spot, FW18 fashion catwalks boosted non binary and transgender castings, with a record of 64 models falling into this consideration, marking the most genderfluid fashion month to date.
The tracksuit silhouette and the binary lines blur
Generation Z is no exception to millennials regarding their interest towards sportswear outfits and Instagram is one of this desire vector.
Piper Jaffray latest study gave prominence to iconic sportswear brands: it crowned Nike as the Zers favourite brand, while Adidas ranks 3rd and Supreme climbed to the 7th position.
When millenials are craving for sneakers, Zers prefer tracksuits and sweatpants as a more comfy alternative.
Contrasting stripes along the legs make a stand out on Instagram like the 3-stripes Adidas Adicolor, the Kappa Anac pants with the legendary banda or the Vans black & white checkered track pants.
For Gen Z, sportswear gear is the ideal compromise to embrace a more fluid behavior. Press see sweatpants as the new jeans. Influencers and celebrities usually wear it.
For Marc Beaugé, journalist and editor-in-chief at L’Etiquette magazine, “on a certain way, this is the finest outfit of the Netflix and Deliveroo generation, which doesn’t go out, is ordering its meal at home and buy every cultural goods on internet.”
Alongside with traditional street culture players, new brands are reworking the sporty design on social media, like the recent capsule collection of Adidas x Danielle Cathari featuring deconstructed tracksuits, the Dutch brand Reinders, the LA-based Pleasures and the French brand Sweetpants.
The 90s revival aesthetics conveyed by brands explains the commercial success of Champion or Tommy Hilfiger towards this demographic,stated Erinn Murphy, a Piper Jaffray senior research analyst.
Rather than launching a genderfluid line, premium brands prefer teaming up with sportswear giants or reborn brands from the 90s for a less-risky cost strategy: the capsule collection.
Recently, Champion collaborated with Sketchers while Kappa teamed up with Kway and Puma with MCM.
From Unisex to Gender-fluid: the future of fashion
Ifgirls used to borrow males wares (think about mannish jeans or boyish trend), gender-fluid is infused nowadays in high street fashion with the functional unisex sneaker.
But those who refuse to place themselves within one gender category remain discriminated due to the lack of variety and inclusiveness in the fashion offering.
Several Digitally Native Vertical Brands decided to blur the male-female dichotomy, encouraged by the possibility enabled by social media-tisation to express and defend their own vision of the world. South Korea seems to be ahead of the genderfluid offering with brands like Blindness Studio and Agender.
The main challenge of gender-fluid distribution protagonists remains transforming a shopping experience perceived as stressful for non-conforming individuals into an enjoyable and safe moment.
This section was described by the department store as a “fashion exploration of the masculine, the feminine and the interplay — or the blur — found in between”.
However, unisex clothing is too often merely a feminization of masculine pieces like tees, shorts or sweatshirts. Abercrombie tried to make a genderfluid collection dedicated for kids but was blamed to be “lazy” because it didn’t really question the dressings of little boys and girls.
Phluid Project, the NYC-based first fashion boutique dedicated to the “third gender”, applied a genuine fluid strategy, from product conception to Retail merchandising.
Here, the retail space is divided by items family and brands instead of binary proposition while items labels feature numbers from 0 to 4 instead of conventional sizing to avoid negative fitting connotation linked to body shapes.
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