Androgyny in fashion has been around for the better part of two years. The Spring Summer men’s shows of 2012 marked a big change from the banal sophistication and glamour of the women’s shows. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci put his male models in skirts inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. Rick Owens put his men in hobble skirts. Yohji Yamamoto had his men dressed in baggy culottes akin to costumes of Samurai warriors.
Men who dress as women have always held a special place in popular culture. If a decade ago they were a thing of curiosity, they are not so the outliers anymore. The growing numbers of homosexuals that present themselves as a new group of citizens with valid identity had much to do with it, although I would never suggest all men who wear feminised silhouettes are homosexual of course.
But this is a very special time. We have just witnessed history unfold itself right before our noses. There have been murmurs for long but they were muffled. They have been struggles for ages but they were manacled. And then, one Thursday morning, just out of a blue summer sky, the US Supreme Court announced that everyone had the right to marry. Any state or entity banning two homosexuals, their legal union, was unconstitutional.
Suddenly, rainbows were spread across the sky. Magic was a real thing and miracles were possible. It had finally happened.
Fashion had pushed this idea for too long. Louis Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs often wears women’s clothes to red carpet events. A few year’s back, his black lace shirt dress at New York City’s Met Ball made the right kind of noises. Kanye West has worn skirts at public performances and Jared Leto (him of the gorgeous man-bun) had once posted a picture of himself in a drawstring skirts saying, “Real men
Much of this has to do with fashion being a hotbed for gay professionals. It is one of those old chestnuts that inescapably rings true. It could be also deemed ‘faddish’, but it’s been a couple of years and androgyny stills holds our attention.
And then there is Gucci’s simply breath-stealing Autumn Winter 2016 show from last week’s menswear shows in Milan. The label’s new creative head Alessandro Michele sent out his first model in a red pussybow blouse. The model’s hair swept his shoulders, and the audience could barely tell if he was male or female.
What followed was both inventive and unexpected from one of the oldest houses in the business. There were loose silk shirts, more soft flouncy bows, floral lace jackets and shirts, printed neck scarves, vine-embroidered suits and trousers, rose and insect embellishments. This was a men’s show only, but you could be forgiven for seeing women’s garments on the runway.
In a post-show interview, Michele is so au courant when he says the softness of Gucci’s new line isn’t about feminising men but obfuscating the “masculine/feminine divide”. “My idea of masculinity is beauty. If you want to be beauty, you can be beauty how you want; it doesn’t mean that you are not a man or woman,” he tells Dazed magazine. “These are clothes that give you freedom to choose who you are,” he adds.
It is possibly once in a few years, or even a decade, that a fashion show — now rendered completely useless in today’s digitised fast-fashion-gulping world — can change the game. Gucci’s first under Michele had all the right ingredients good fashion must have — it absolutely and accurately captured a global sentiment, it was artsy, intellectual and definitely political. It’s rare for a great and historic fashion house to satiate a curious and tired fashion public like that. Mostly because they play safe, and are more interested in feeding the ever-stretching bottomline.
Gucci also shut the lid tight on normcore — an ugly, confused phase where jeans, t-shirts, yoga pants and hoodies were considered high on style.
Gucci asks the right questions: Why must we mock or question anything that is different from us? Why must we allow our prejudices to define our tastes? Why must we conform to rules made by others for us?
Beauty is regardless of gender. Fashion is regardless of gender. Love is regardless of gender. It is so ordered.