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Men’s Fashion Trend: Cult of Androgyny?

Posted on 29 June 2015

The recently concluded London Collection: Mens Spring/Summer ’16 (LC:M SS16) confirmed a look already evident on the January Fashion Week catwalk—a blurring of gender sharpened by effects, fabrics and techniques, typically attributed to women’s attire.

Overall, LC:M SS16 social conversation was dominated by Burberry, capturing 42% of the dialogue, according to the NetBase Crosstab brand analysis in the chart below. Burberry is often considered in a class of its own, perhaps in part owing to the innovation driving the longevity of the heritage brand. It also draws deserving accolades for artfully crafted modern attire, while remaining faithful to its legacy of exquisite craftsmanship. Adding to the panache, Burberry stages elaborate shows in its own constructed venues, all of which attribute to its commercial success and elevated social media status.

Appropriately labeled “Straight-Laced,” Burberry’s nod to gender-bending designs at LC:M SS16 literally included lace, embedded into tailored suits and trimmed on signature scarves, as well as knitted joggers. Evoking an era of British dandyism, svelte narrow classic men’s trenches also elicited a feminine influence, enhanced by women, who for the first time also walked the men’s catwalk presenting the Burberry pre-SS 16 collection.

The tectonic shift occurring in men’s fashion aesthetic, inviting a softer, textural, yet decidedly more relaxed identity, has a distinct feminine touch. In what could be called a continuation of the sixties sexual revolution, today’s questioning and redefining of sexual identity has emerged as an ambisexual expression in men’s fashion aesthetic.

The trend was first noticed during Fashion Week in January on both the women’s and men’s catwalks. Momentum accelerated in social media with the announcement that venerable London retailer Selfridges would merge its men’s and women’s departments at its flagship Oxford St. store into Agender, a single gender-neutral display of fashion. Interestingly, Selfridges reports that women have been their primary Agender customer.

Recognized by the British Fashion Council for his taste-making influence in hewing the ambisexual aesthetic in men’s fashion, perhaps predictably, J.W. Anderson topped an analysis of ten men’s labels at LC:M SS16, according to a NetBase analysis. Given the variable nomenclature used to describe today’s gender-neutral fashion direction, The NetBase Crosstab query includes such descriptors as ambisexual, androgynous, bisexual, genderless, gender-neutral and unisex.

Significantly, Gucci was a close second in the gender-bending category at LC:M SS16. Parading a gender mash up, considered by some a bold move for the esteemed fashion house, Gucci’s designs featured a palette of distinctly feminine effects and techniques.

Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Prada also notably conveyed what some pundits have called an attempt to capture, or perhaps re-translate, the poetry of “multisyllabic masculinity.” How this new aesthetic will impact mainstream fashion and bridge commercial success has yet to be revealed.

As to the cult of androgyny, that art imitates life in an era of gender identity turmoil is indisputable.

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