Apparently, S/S 16 was the season when androgyny, unisex styles and "gender bending" came full circle. There was a span over a few days where outlets like WWD and Style Dot Com were constantly happy to tout the experimentation with gender roles and androgyny. And it shows no signs of stopping.
You might be thrown off by the Free Love 1970s angle of Gucci's latest collection or the S&M aspects of Hood By Air that cater to both sexes while still being designed for one, but I think these explorations of gender in relation to appearance are, quite literally, the future and direction that fashion, both men's and women's, is moving.
In recent seasons, the divide between menswear and womenswear has shrunk considerably and become unmistakably blurrier. Brands on both sides of the aisle seem to cater to each other more than ever. This isn't to rehash an old discussion about women wearing menswear, but it is tangentially related. "Uniforms," once required by society, have gone out of style and mostly exited the employer's handbook in a professional sense. Hemlines have gone longer, wider and a hell of a lot rarer. Men are wearing flowy, billowy shirts and pants that women have almost exclusively worn in recent years. Women, on the other hand, have adopted masculine staples from the guys, like bombers and topcoats. As a result, the differences between a men's and women's garment isn't always as noticeable at first as it has been in recent memory.
I'm not calling for the revival of bow tie blouses like Alessandro Michele sent out for Gucci's F/W 15 collection, but perhaps we should widen our gaze. I might not want to wear that particular shirt, but it does force me to consider my limits when it comes to what I would like to wear. Just think about the androgynous design permeating your own closet or moodboard: baggy, drop shoulder sweaters, pleated trousers with a wider seat that tapers toward the ankle and shirts in fabrics that might be a bit sheer. I don't think it's any coincidence that a significant amount of designers have crafted collections that can firmly plant themselves in the "unisex" category.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's The Row could have essentially use male models for its F/W 15 collection and no one would have been the wiser. With some minor alterations, so could Céline's Pre-Fall 2015 collection. Jonathan Anderson's work at Loewe and his namesake brand have made waves for its own signature gender bending, Haider Ackermann S/S 16 has the silk and animal print you might expect from a women's brand and Rick Owens has made a goth empire out of luxurious, drape that appeal to both men and women and even his staple pieces are equally available to both sexes. And what about #menswear favorite Our Legacy? Talk about crossing gender lines with ease. It's evident that designers have embraced this middle ground and created a metaphorical bridge ready and willing for crossing, one that may start out as a treacherous path to traverse at first, but will eventually widen with reinforcements to follow.
Of course, there will always be the ritzy glamor of a haute couture collection for women to dream of wearing one day and many men still relish the chance to wear a "power suit," but as we go along, not just as fashion followers, but as humans, men and women are intersecting more and more. It's been slow and steady, but I like to think we've graduated to a time where gender doesn't really matter when it comes to one's style choices.