A much-talked-about new ad smashes gender stereotypes in India. Around the world, too, fashion is becoming more and more inclusive, says designer Masaba Gupta
Coco Chanel famously said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening [around us].” Which brings us to how fashion is now reflecting the gender-equality movement.
Women, today, occupy more roles of power and responsibility, walking into boardrooms with their three-inch heels and designer bags. I believe getting rid of the divide between men and women will truly establish what it is to be equal. Fashion is increasingly acting as a weapon of change, inspiring ideas that blur that division, albeit in a subliminal manner.
Recently, clothing e-commerce giant Jabong released an ad that depicted men boldly sporting red eyeshadow, hair tied in plaits, and nose and ear jewellery. A woman in the ad, in turn, wears a turban. The brand’s tagline is ‘Be you’, and I think the ad captures that essence while playing around with gender fluidity. I’m really glad a mass market player took on the onus of addressing the concept.
Of late, we’ve seen models of both genders strutting down the catwalk wearing clothes that are traditionally not meant for their gender. We’ve also had menswear shows feature skirts, dresses and tunics. Runway outings by designers such as Dhruv Kapoor of DRVV, Arjun Saluja of Rishta, and Ruchika Sachdeva of Bodice have celebrated and experimented with androgyny. Dhruv’s 2013 Lakmé Fashion Week showcase included straight tunics with side slits that can be worn as a dress by women or layered over pants by men.
Selfridges, the high-end departmental store in the UK, took the idea to the next level. At its Oxford Street store in London, it combined men’s and women’s departments into three floors of unisex clothing. With this, they hope to break free of gender norms, and create a shopping experience without boundaries.
Transgender models continue to walk the ramp for design stalwarts. Lea T, after being discovered by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci in 2010, went on to become his muse. Closer home, Nikkiey Chawla, India’s first transexual model, walked at the Milan Fashion Week last year.
Fashion campaigns, too, have become more androgynous. In Louis Vuitton’s latest womenswear ad, actor Jaden Smith proudly flaunts a skirt. Of course, it’s not the first time Smith has showed off his gender-fluid style. Remember the Vogue Korea photoshoot in which he posed shirtless, wearing a skirt and a red flower tucked behind his ear?
All of it points in one direction: We are now welcoming a world where fashion is not bogged down by binary gender norms. The trend is moving beyond symbolising its wearers’ identity or gender. It’s now being accepted by the mainstream as more of a look, both on the catwalk and the high street.
But the movement isn’t just restricted to clothes. Big beauty players have caught on to it. For instance, Clark Sonic has unisex beauty products and devices, something which supermodel Naomi Watts swears by.
At the end of the day, the real goal of fashion is to create clothes that make you feel as comfortable as possible, inside and out — no matter what your gender.
As I always say, if it fits you and looks good on you, it’s for you.
Gupta is a leading fashion designer. She tweets as @MasabaG