Androgynous fashion has taken over in recent years - from Billie Eilish’s baggy oversized fits, to Jaden Smith fronting Louis Vuitton’s womenswear campaign. But where did androgynous fashion come from, and what exactly does ‘androgynous fashion’ mean?
The actual term androgynous stems from the Latin word ‘androgyne’ used to describe a blend of male and female characteristics. In fashion, this can translate to men wearing stereotypical women’s clothing, women wearing clothing traditionally associated with men, or neutral clothing associated with neither gender. In today’s fashion scene, think Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, and Kristen Stewart.
Where Did Androgynous Fashion Come From?
People have been experimenting with androgyny in their clothing for a long time, but androgynous fashion really started to gather steam when woman became tired of wearing clothing, like tight corsets and accentuated dresses, that limited their daily activities.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, women’s rights activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Luisa Capetillo (who was the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear a men’s suit and tie in public) began to publicly highlight to women around the world that the clothes worn by men were far more convenient for movement and began to challenge the restrictive nature of female clothing. Then came World War 1, which saw traditional gender roles blurred at a rapid pace. As more women became employed, fashion changed to accommodate this. Design icons like Coco Chanel popularised the ‘flapper style’ which drew on male motifs, including sailor’s outfits and mechanic's dungarees. Around the 1930’s, German actress Marlene Dietrich was one of the first stars to adopt this androgynous style and became known for wearing suits and trousers. Then in 1939, the world was once again turned on its head as World War 2 began. Women worked roles traditionally occupied by men, and once again the more practical male clothing was adopted.
Music's Impact on Androgynous Fashion
Music has also had a huge impact on the popularisation of androgynous fashion. In 1969, during a Rolling Stones performance in Hyde Park, Mick Jagger famously donned a ‘man’s dress’ created by the British designer Michael Fisher. During the 70s and 80s, icons like Jimi Hendrix wore ‘womens’ blouses and high heels, and the likes of David Bowie and Annie Lennox sent cult androgynous style into the mainstream.
Designers from Yves Saint Laurent, to Jean Paul Gaultier continued to subvert gender norms throughout this period, and with the rise of new avant-garde designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, androgynous fashion had well and truly integrated into the mainstream fashion world.
Androgyny in the 21st Century
Jump forward to the 21st century and androgyny “ran through the veins of the entire spring/summer 2019 season in Paris” according to Vogue writer Anders Christian Madsen. On top of this, last year Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele announced he would be abandoning the distinction between men’s wear and women’s wear, prompting many other brands and designers to rethink their gendered collections. It looks like androgynous fashion is set to dominate the scene in coming years, so with that in mind let's take a look at some of the brands that are already creating exquisite androgynous collections.
The 10 Emerging Androgynous Designers You Should Know
Images Courtesy of 44Studio
Founded in 2015 by Xavi Garcia and Franx de Cristal in Madrid, 44Studio creates fashion without barriers. Free of limiting labels and outdated gender roles, their collections feature women in baggy, oversized suits, men in corsets and dresses, and looks completely void of gendered stereotypes. With an avant-garde attitude, 44Studio’s collections converge past and future, tradition and technology, tailoring and streetwear, to create timeless pieces whilst redefining notions of the classic silhouette.
Garcia and de Cristal draw inspiration from music, art, cinema and life in its purest form, as well as their icons who include Martin Margiela, Rick Owens, David Bowie and Tilda Swinton. Their main concept for 44Studio is "the redefinition of the male and female silhouettes in classic tailoring, making it streetwear and free of gender."
You can find out more about 44Studio and read their story on YUGEN.
Images Courtesy of EIRINN HAYHOW
Inspired by the exquisite juxtaposition of trash and haute-couture, vintage and contemporary, London based designer label EIRINN HAYHOW is leading the gender-fluid high-vibe couture conversation. Stamped with unique painterly artworks and motifs influenced by the daily “absurdities” found in everything, from the smiling faces in chewing gum to the shadows of concrete buildings, each creation is a beautiful reinterpretation of classical styles and forms into contemporary punk glamour. Exclusively made from salvaged surplus fabrics and eco-friendly fibres naturally coloured with vegetable dyes, sustainability is at the heart of the brand.
Eirinn combines her extensive research of fabrics and production methods with her own strong personal taste and personality. Inspired by natural elements, each piece is crafted with a distinctive look, incorporating raw edges and chunky oversized silhouettes.
You can find out more about EIRINN HAYHOW and read their story on YUGEN.
Images Courtesy of Cycle by MYOB
Drawing inspiration from Tokyo and New York streetwear, whilst keeping traditional Japanese craftsmanship at the core, Cycle by MYOB has been creating edgy garments for over a decade. By experimenting with shape, patterns and cut-outs, the brand has developed a signature androgynous style.
The brand values sustainability with the use of fair-trade and recycled materials, as well as using sustainable manufacturing processes. The AW20 collection also saw the inclusion of recycled fibre and cruelty-free leather. Through their designs, Cycle by MYOB aim to inspire and encourage a new generation to think ethically about the clothing we wear.
Berlin-based brand Fomme was launched in 2016 by designer Sarah Effenberger. By blurring the lines between traditional men’s wear and women’s wear, the designer combines elements of both with an unconventional approach. Through juxtaposing classic tailoring with extravagant fabrics and feminine details, Fomme challenges the classic notions of men's wear to create high fashion, statement garments.
The clothes explore texture, bold patterns and fabric types, culminating in exquisitely elegant pieces. Effenberger draws inspiration from family history and mid 20th century nostalgic references to ensure that Fomme's collections reflect a time when elegance and refinement was still an important part of daily dress.
Hailing from Athens, He-m-noid creates avant-garde clothing free of the norms that classify gendered fashion. Created by Michalis Baboussis, the name He-m-noid is a culmination of the word he (for male-gender), humanoid, and hymn.
Identifiable by its signature oversized styling and black and white aesthetic, He-m-n-oid’s designs borrow elements from different musical cultures, religions and civilisations. Bypassing the typical process of producing a garment, the material itself is the source of inspiration for the final design, with minimum interference. He-m-n-oid’s designs are fresh, modern and beautifully dark.
Images Kaltblut Magazine
Official Rebrand revives discarded clothing through painting and other alterations, proposing an anti-waste alternative to today's industrial and social norms. Through painting, drawing, printing and many more techniques, the brand aims to “imbue formerly discarded human shells with new life".
Helmed by New York based non binary artist MI Leggett, Official Rebrand celebrates the fluidity of identity by dissociating garments from gendered categories and eliminating arbitrary social constraints. The garments are adorned with eye-catching artwork and statement slogans such as “GOD IS TRANS”, and “ANGELS HAVE NO GENDER”.
Blindness is the progressive brand using fashion to defy gender norms in South Korea, a country that is still predominantly heteronormative and conservative. The name Blindness stems from the brand's ethos of being completely unique by becoming blind to other designers in order to allow true creativity to shine through the designs.
Shin Kyu Yong and Ji Sun are the designers behind the brand, aiming to disrupt the binary traditions engraved into Korean fashion. "The reason I express non-gender is for the purpose of invading my own prejudice" Sun told i-D. After launching in 2013, Bindness has gone on to show at multiple fashion weeks and the design duo made it to the semi-finals of the 2017 LVMH Prize.
The avant-garde duo Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran, known for their eerily beautiful photoshoots and nightmarish makeup, founded their multi-disciplinary brand in 2016. Whilst Fecal Matter might not be the most obvious choice for a brand name, the intention comes from the pair’s observation of today’s culture of overconsumption, and how fashion, for many, has lost all sentimentality and value.
The brand came into creation after Dalton and Bhaskaran discussed everything they don't like within the fashion industry, from the prevalence of child labour, to the negative environmental impacts of fashion. By creating their platform the pair aim to promote critical thinking, offering people a space to reflect on the current state of the industry.
The latest collection features deconstructed, slashed garments complete with chain embellishments, and “explores the darkness of the soul and the beauty of lost innocence”.
69 is a genderless brand based in Los Angeles. The all-inclusive timeless designs are created almost solely using denim, with bold bleach and tie-dye patterning. The brand is shrouded in a veil of mystery as the designer behind it all has remained anonymous since it launched in 2011. “I don't care or believe in notoriety,” the designer told Vice, “one of those things we have to learn in life is to release our ego”.
The 69 team consists of a single designer, shipping manager, and an intern so is very much an independent business. They value the individual relationships they can form as a small brand, which is one of the reasons they work almost exclusively with family owned small businesses.
Founded in 2012 by Fabio Costa, NotEqual is exemplified by genderless form and individuality. You may recognise Costa's name as the designer came in second-place on Season 10 of Project Runway which he explained "helped him redefine and exceed expectations of himself and his status in the creative world."
Costa’s oversized, draped garments challenge traditional tailoring, whilst remaining elegantly formal. The brand questions gender, culture, and modernity, and its mission is to encourage authentic expression through fashion. The designer's ambition "is to push boundaries while offering rational fashion"
Text: Sam Pennington