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Why is Fashion Week still so gendered?


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As gender boundaries become more fluid, it comes as little surprise that fashion is following suit.

This seems like old news – of course gender is in flux in fashion! Just look at Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Le Smoking suit for women, or the increasingly popular Gucci pussy-bow blouses for men. Dressing against society’s expectations is de rigeur nowadays – so much so that it’s almost expected.

But this begs the question: Why are men’s and women’s fashion shows still separate?

Every year the big four (New York, London, Milan and Paris) stage four separate fashion shows: Spring/Summer shows for menswear and womenswear, followed by Autumn/Winter collections for both again. Seems a bit exhausting, right? And… dare we say it, a bit counterproductive?

(Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

It seems like designers are increasingly starting to agree with this sentiment. One of the biggest names in fashion recently did away with a separate menswear show, merging both genders. You might have heard of the brand: It’s none other than Burberry.

From last September, Burberry combined its men’s and women’s shows into one uber-show, presented twice a year. Creative director Christopher Bailey told the Business of Fashion that the move was a no-brainer: “As I’m going through the process of creating a collection, I have a spirit in mind – I don’t really ever think in terms of what’s specific to a gender.”

(Isabel Infantes/PA)

Having one complete show not only makes sense creatively, but it’s just plain good business. “We often have women buying the men’s coats and some of the men’s pieces. Everything just feels a little bit more blurred, rather than having things in little boxes,” Bailey said.

Even if the decision didn’t come out of business, it’s definitely an added bonus. You can only imagine how much money a brand like Burberry would save by putting on two instead of four major shows a year.

(Isabel Infantes/PA)

Burberry has proven itself to be at the forefront of the fashion industry, paving the way in tech by being the first brand to live stream their show and again the first to shoot it entirely on iPhones. This tends to mean that wherever Burberry goes, other luxury brands tend to follow – so it looks as though the days of a separate menswear show could soon be numbered.

Men feature in the womenswear shows every year – Gucci has already come up, so let’s take a look at some of Alessandro Michele’s designs for SS17 last year.

No, your eyes don’t deceive you, there are a whole lot of dudes in the Gucci womenswear show… and yet Michele put on a separate menswear show as well. Why bother?

Long gone are the days that Vogue editors would storm out of Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion show when he put male models in skirts (as the story goes), as the fashion world and indeed the public have opened their arms to androgyny in fashion. As Gaultier himself says: “Except for the medieval codpiece and the bra, garments have never had a gender.”

Jean Paul Gaultier
(Myung Jung Kim/PA)

And given we doubt a medieval codpiece will be hitting the catwalks any time soon, there just seems to be no point to separate shows: both from creative and business perspectives. And don’t worry, you don’t have to wear a skirt if you don’t want to.

Gender divides are as arbitrary in fashion as they are in life. So why bother separating the two?

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