With the world turned upside down due to COVID-19, many industries have taken a catastrophic hit, the fashion industry is no different. Many brands are losing millions of dollars as stores across the world remain closed and people no longer seem to be focused on material items, but rather on mental and physical wellbeing. “I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to look at our industry and to look at our lives, and to rethink our values, and to really think about the waste, and the amount of money, and consumption, and excess… We really need to rethink what this industry stands for,” Says Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour when speaking on how the industry will react to the pandemic.
With London Fashion Week fast approaching, many people assumed it would be cancelled. Luckily, to the delight of fashion lovers everywhere, British Fashion Council (BFC) announced on Tuesday that the famed event will go ahead, but with some significant changes. This event will be on a digital platform to allow access from the comfort of home. London Fashion Week is also breaking boundaries by dissolving the men’s wear category to be a gender-neutral event.
Why make the change to gender-neutral?
With the fashion industry being forced to make drastic changes in this unprecedented time, a focus needs to put on creativity and seeing fashion as an art form rather than a luxury. There has also been a massive shift in the world of design towards gender-neutral clothing as society craves more inclusivity and not to be boxed in by classic gender norms. "It is essential to look at the future and the opportunity to change, collaborate, and innovate. Many of our businesses have always embraced London Fashion Week as a platform for not just fashion but for its influence on society, identity, and culture. The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this. The other side of this crisis, we hope, will be about sustainability, creativity, and product that you value, respect, cherish… Designers will be able to share their stories, and for those that have them, their collections, with a wider global community; we hope that as well as personal perspectives on this difficult time, there will be inspiration in bucketloads. It is what British fashion is known for,” said Caroline Rush CBE, BFC Chief Executive.
What does gender-neutral fashion look like?
The word gender-neutral refers to something that is not gender-specific and can be for people of any gender. The idea of gender-neutral fashion may seem like a new concept, but in reality, it has been around since the 1960s, however, it was referred to as "unisex." This type of fashion evolved as women sought to wear less restricting clothing, and it became more common to see women wearing pants. This form of “gender-neutral” fashion was not necessarily the gender-neutral fashion that we see nowadays. Back then, unisex clothing was just a different way of saying “masculine women’s clothes." While this did allow for more freedom in women’s fashion, it did nothing to loosen the restrictions on men’s clothing. Also, back then, there was no clothing that included people who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, or any other gender besides male or female. This is where today’s gender-neutral fashion differs, now we are beginning to see both masculine and feminine items that can be worn by anyone, no matter the gender. This allows for much more freedom to express personality through clothing without being restricted by classic ideas of gender.
What does this change mean for the future of fashion?
This event will be the first of many gender-neutral fashion events to come, as the BFC has already announced that London Fashion week will be nonbinary for the next 12 months. Over the past year, there have been more gender-neutral brands than ever before, so it is likely that high fashion events would have made the switch to gender-neutral in the near future, regardless of the pandemic. Many fashion experts have predicted that gendered clothing will soon be a thing of the past.
What can I expect from London Fashion Week going digital?
Surprisingly, London will not be the first to host a digital Fashion week. In March, Shanghai held a digital fashion week; however, London will be the first major fashion circuit to make such a drastic transition. Shanghai Fashion Week consisted of over 150 designers and brands live-streaming their shows over the course of 7 days. While not many details have been released as to the types of content that the event in June will entail, it is speculated that the event will make use of many formats, including live-streams, videos, digital look books, and more. In the age of this pandemic, it has become crucial to find creative ways to stay connected, and London Fashion Week will be no exception!