Younger generations don’t think in terms of gender binaries and want brands to reflect that. This could mean incorporating androgynous models, ditching a traditionally feminine colour palette (like pink) or introducing gender-neutral sizing.
For example, when My Friend Ned’s models didn’t feel comfortable labelling themselves as male or female at castings, the agency created a non-binary division. This has helped to improve inclusivity on the runways.
What is Gender-Neutral Modelling?
Gender-neutral modelling is a new trend that allows models to be cast for projects without being restricted by their gender. This style of casting is becoming more and more popular as it allows brands to appeal to a wider audience. Gender-neutral modelling is all about breaking down the stereotypical representation of certain genders in order to promote equality and diversity.
Gender neutral modelling is not just about casting androgynous-looking models, it’s also about reworking brand colours and imagery to be less stereotypical. For example, pink and blue are traditionally associated with the female gender, therefore, a lot of brands avoid using these colours in their gender-neutral branding. Instead, they usually use shades of grey or other neutral tones.
Similarly, fonts can also be associated with gender as thin, decorated fonts tend to be more feminine whilst straight lines with definite edges are considered masculine. This is why a lot of brands choose to use fonts that are considered gender-neutral such as Helvetica or Roboto.
Brands like Milk Makeup and MAC Cosmetics have taken this concept to the next level by creating makeup ranges that are designed for all genders. The idea behind this is to challenge the traditional way of thinking about makeup and to encourage people to blur the lines of what we consider to be a male or female face.
Many fashion brands have also started to move towards a more gender-neutral image by creating lines that are suitable for both men and women. This is a great step in the right direction as it shows that there are more people than just a single sex that want to buy the same clothes. However, many of these lines seem to forget about the need for gender-neutral sizing as they still tend to sell clothing in either a slim or regular fit.
Unlike the luxury brands that have spearheaded this movement, most high street stores still only offer clothing in traditional gender stereotypes. This is why it’s important for brands that have yet to move toward a more gender-neutral image to start doing so as soon as possible.
Why is Gender-Neutral Modelling so popular?
In a world of increasingly blurred gender lines, non-binary models are becoming more prominent on runways and in fashion editorials. This movement has been fueled by social media, where celebrities and influencers are putting their own spin on the fashion industry. Young generations no longer think in terms of binaries, and they want fashion retailers to recognise this. As a result, brands have to adapt to their needs and create gender-neutral options for all consumers.
The rise of gender-neutral modelling has also been influenced by the growing visibility of LGBTQ+ people and conversations about gender identity and equality. Designers like Rad Hourani and Chromat are pushing boundaries and creating unisex clothing that transcends traditional ideas about men’s and women’s clothes. While these labels aren’t available in every retail store, they have tapped into a market that is eager to buy their products.
Gender-neutral fashion is also being embraced by celebrity endorsements. Last year Harry Styles appeared on the cover of US Vogue wearing a Gucci ballgown and tuxedo jacket, which blurred the lines between masculine and feminine dressing. Other stars have sported their own versions of genderless style, including Prince and Elton John. The trend has also been driven by the increasing popularity of nonbinary celebrities and musicians, who don’t conform to gender stereotypes and have a broader approach to their personal style.
Another factor driving the gender-neutral fashion trend is the changing role of clothing in our lives. The rise of e-commerce and mobile shopping have allowed people to shop from anywhere, anytime. This has reduced the need to visit physical stores and has made people more comfortable with buying clothes that may not fit their gender norms.
As a result, many retailers are eliminating gender categories altogether and offering a wider range of styles that appeal to a more inclusive audience. For example, London department store Selfridges & Co created a gender-neutral space in their men’s and women’s departments called Agender. The space strips back concepts of menswear and women’s wear, with all the garments being displayed together and labelled as simply “clothing”.
Many brands are also ditching traditional gender icons and logos to appeal to their more inclusive consumer base. In addition to this, designers are using colour to deconstruct gender norms. Pink and blue are often associated with girly and boyish styles, so brands are choosing to use these colours in a muted tone or in a combination with other shades that aren’t easily associated with a specific gender.
Gender-Neutral Modelling Agencies
As the fashion industry has evolved into one that is embracing diversity, many boutique modeling agencies have sprung up to provide underrepresented demographics with an opportunity to model for brands. These modeling agencies are changing the face of the modelling industry by providing models who are a true reflection of the people they wish to market to. These new faces of modeling are a welcome change from the traditional skinny white models that have been seen in most fashion ads and runway shows.
In recent years, we have seen a rise in gender-neutral fashion trends with countless designers offering collections that are both unisex and without specific sex markings. This has also encouraged some modeling agencies to create divisions for those who do not identify as either female or male, and are looking to model in a more gender-neutral way. For example, the South African modeling agency My Friend Ned have created a non-binary division in their company to help these models find work.
However, while the demand for non-binary models is increasing, there are still a lot of companies who struggle to understand what it means to model in a gender-neutral manner. It’s not uncommon for models to receive comments online about being ‘too girly’ or ’too masculine’, and this can cause them to become discouraged from their careers.
The good news is that this is changing as more and more models are speaking out about the discrimination they face when working in the fashion industry. This is leading to some of the top modeling agencies in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles being more open to giving these underrepresented demographics a chance to showcase their talent.
As well as offering models that are a more accurate reflection of the people they wish to market to, these inclusive modeling agencies are also helping their clients feel more confident in themselves and their identity. This is particularly important when it comes to representing plus size and curve models who often have a difficult time finding representation in the industry.
It’s clear that there is a demand for more gender-neutral modeling, and many consumers are enjoying the shift. It’s a trend that is likely to continue, especially as high-end fashion houses such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood are already embracing it. We hope that this will encourage more modeling agencies to follow suit and give underrepresented demographics a chance to show their talents.
Fashion is not renowned for being a particularly inclusive industry, but we are seeing signs that attitudes are changing. A recent example was South African agency My Friend Ned creating a separate division for non-binary models. As more plus-size and transgender models are being cast in high-fashion, it follows that the industry is becoming more open to casting people who don’t fit into a male or female category.
As well as this, fashion brands are increasingly opening up to gender fluidity with the introduction of unisex clothing lines and collections. For example, the new Fred Segal in-house clothing line includes a range of unisex T-shirts and sweatpants. Similarly, luxury brand Stella McCartney has a dedicated gender neutral section on its website, where you can buy bottoms, shirts and hats.
This is in addition to more designers offering their own line of gender-neutral clothing, including brands like Tomboy X, Chromat and Ekhaus Latta. These styles challenge stereotypes with androgynous tailoring, oversized jackets and gender-fluid accessories.
However, it is important to note that some of these designs have caused controversy due to the way they are marketed. For example, Gucci was heavily criticised for its woollen ‘balaclava jumper’, which many claimed to resemble blackface. And this year, British department store John Lewis incurred a backlash from customers when they announced that their kidswear would no longer be labelled as either boys or girls.
Gender neutrality is not just a style trend, it is also a social movement that aims to tackle inequality in the fashion industry. The increasing popularity of gender neutral modeling shows that young generations are keen to break down outdated notions of masculinity and femininity. As such, it’s likely that this trend will continue to grow over time.
Although the terms unisex and gender-neutral are growing in usage, they’re not universally accepted. Both terms have a history of being used to refer to clothes that transcend traditional gender roles, and as such, some designers are reluctant to use them. For example, designer Rad Hourani stipulates that his collection should be displayed and sold under the ‘non-binary’ tab. This is because the labels have been historically used to categorize clothes based on their perceived suitability for men or women, and this has led to sexist and homophobic comments.