In Depth

Gender neutral clothing: the trend that's breaking down barriers

Selfridges becomes the first British retailer to respond to the increasing demand for gender neutral fashion

Selfridges is to become the first major British retailer to introduce gender neutral clothing across its stores, reflecting a growing trend on both the catwalk and the high street.

"We want to take our customers on a journey where they can shop and dress without limitations or stereotypes," the store said in a statement.

The iconic department store will no longer be split into sections, but will instead offer three floors of unisex clothing, effective from March this year. Mannequins, beauty products and accessories will also reflect the new ethos.

Campaigners have welcomed the move, arguing that the decision by such an influential retailer will set a precedent by sending a clear message to society that strict gender boundaries should be challenged.

It reflects a wider attitude within the fashion industry. Miuccia Prada, the Italian fashion designer, recently announced: "I think to people, not to gender."

The industry is also witnessing the rise in high-profile models that model both men and women's clothes, including Elliott Sailors, Saskia De Brauw and Andreja Pejic.

Britsh top model Agyness Deyn presents an outfit by Ellus during the 2009 Autumn-Winter collections of the Sao Paulo Fashion Week, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 21 January 2009.AFP PHOTO / Nelson Almeida (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

While not an altogether new trend, non-gender fashion is become increasingly prevalent, with women in particular responding to more traditionally masculine clothing.

But it works both ways, Selfridge's menswear buying manager Eleanor Robinson told The Guardian last year. "We have also seen an emerging male customer profile that is extremely fashion-literate, shopping womenswear and women's accessories," she said.

BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 26:A model showcases designs on the runway at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology Graduates Show during the 2014 China Graduate Fashion Week at the 751D.Park workshop on April 26, 2014 in Beijing, China.(Photo by Feng Li/Getty I

2014 Getty Images

Natalia Manzocco, a former fashion journalist turned vintage unisex clothing retailer, says the growing trend also mirrors what is happening in the world of LGBT rights and feminism.

"It's feeding into a lot of channels of thought right now where people are willing to reconsider what gender roles are, what they should be, and how closely we really need to follow them in society," she told CBC Radio.

Manzocco acknowledges that, unfortunately, androgynous men were not as accepted by society. "People are still threatened by men in skirts," she said, saying more needed to be done to challenge such attitudes.

"If you are a female person borrowing from the men's side, people are like 'of course', but if you are male person who wants to wear women's jeans or makeup people are looking at you sideways," she said. "And that's not fair."

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