Blurring the divide

A model wearing Charchit Bafna's creation   | Photo Credit: 28dmc fashion1

After the legalisation of same sex marriages in the US, we hope to see fashion trends derived from this change, which are free, less opinionated and more accepting. Gender-neutral clothing is also partly inspired by this new line of thought. This is a trend already being witnessed in collections by leading luxury fashion houses the world over like Rick Owens, Alessandro Michele of Gucci and 1.61, a year-old gender-free label built largely on loose-fitting trousers, swagger coats and easy shirts — items that Kimberly Wesson and Aimee Cho (designers behind the label) wear themselves and offer in varying sizes to both women and men.

The efforts by designers’ world over who are bent upon eroding the once rigid boundaries of gender specific clothes makes it seem like unisex or gender-neutral clothing could be one of the biggest trends in 2016. It is a result of changes within our society where people are now fighting for gender equality and are trying to create gender awareness.

Indian designer Charchit Bafna feels that gender binaries are being deconstructed around us everywhere, so why not in fashion, which is surely a fine representation of cultural evolution. He thinks young people around us are getting more relaxed about these things, wanting to be functional along with fabulous and just losing the label! “In fact”, he says, “this fluidity is moving into our overall idea of design and beauty as well –– look at men’s hair play: the lumberjack beard happily co-exists with the man bun.”

His eponymous brand, essentially revolving around striking a balance between two seemingly polarised points, the done and the undone, the dishevelled and the manicured, and the perfect and the flawed showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2015 shows that the designer wants to balance the yin and yang. Gender neutral fashion, according to him, falls in same space –– questioning predetermined notions of masculine and feminine style. His latest collection featuring a male trench coat sported by a female model and a golden bomber jacket worn by a male model speaks a lot about his notion of gender-neutral clothes. His prime focus, as a designer, being comfort and functionality, falls in accord with this upcoming trend.

According to Bafna apart from silhouettes, motifs too can be gender neutral, he says, “Gender neutral fashion is as much about men experimenting with what is traditionally seen as ‘women wear’ and vice-versa as it is about just having drapes and silhouettes that actually have no gender. Similarly for motifs, again lines are blurring and today’s fashion forward individual wants looks that represent who he/she actually is, and are willing to play around with the rules for that.”

On whether the trend will pick up in India, Bafna remarks, “It is seeing some traction in India as well, and the youth here are actually opening up to global trends in fashion and style. However, I think it will be harder for us to break down gender constructs here, given how strongly entrenched patriarchy is in our culture.”

However, experts say in traditional Indian clothing, gender-neutral clothes, is a concept that has been a part of our culture since the very beginning. Be it the kurta, churidaar or salwar all are worn by both men and women. Renowned fashion consultant, Meher Castelino says, “They have been around in India for ages. The lungi in the south is worn by both men and women. So gender-neutrality in terms of clothes is not a new concept in India. Even during the Mughal Empire men and women both wore angrakhas and anarkalis.

Designer Rajesh Pratap Singh says you can find references of gender neutral silhouettes in the past but he doesn’t feel motivated to design gender neutral outfits at this point of time. Castelino agrees. “It’s a little difficult to say if this will find its way in fashion trends. If we talk about men wearing skirts or tunics, there some handful of them who wear them but the majority of the men may shy away.”

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 11:28:45 AM |

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