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Generation Genderless - Issue #11

Generation Genderless
Generation Genderless
Hi - my name is Kris Harrington, CEO and Creative Director of Kris Harring Apparel Group. We specialize in gender-inclusive fashion design and product development.
Generation Genderless is your guide to the top news and insights covering gender equity and society within the fashion industry and beyond.

Industry News
Virgil Abloh, Path-Blazing Designer, Is Dead at 41
Virgil Abloh, the barrier-breaking Black designer whose ascent to the heights of the traditional luxury industry changed what was possible in fashion, died on Sunday in Chicago after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 41.
His death was confirmed by his family.
The artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear as well as the founder of his own brand, Off-White, Mr. Abloh was a prolific collaborator with outside brands from Nike to Evian, and a popular fashion theorist whose expansive and occasionally controversial approach to design inspired comparisons with everyone from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons.
Mr. Abloh transformed not just what consumers wanted to wear, bridging hypebeast culture and the luxury world, but what brands wanted in a designer — and the meaning of “fashion” itself.
For him clothes were not garments but fungible totems of identity that sat at the nexus of art, music, politics and philosophy. He was a master of using irony, reference and the self-aware wink (plus the digital world) to re-contextualize the familiar and give it an aura of cultural currency.
“Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” his wife quoted him as saying in an Instagram post. He believed deeply, she wrote, “in the power of art to inspire future generations.”
“Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said in a statement.
A workaholic who maintained a punishing schedule and moonlighted as a DJ and a furniture designer, Mr. Abloh nevertheless seemed to glory in having his fingers in as many pies as possible. Indeed, he referred to himself not as a designer but as a “maker,” in acknowledgment of his own omnivorous creative mind.
Just last July, he had been promoted to a new position within LVMH that would allow him to work across the group’s 75 brands, making him the most powerful Black executive in the most powerful luxury group in the world.
It was a nontraditional job for a nontraditional personality who was more interested in carving a new path in an old industry than following in anyone’s footsteps.
“Virgil is incredibly good at creating bridges between the classic and the zeitgeist of the moment,” Michael Burke, chief executive of Louis Vuitton, told The New York Times when Mr. Abloh was named to the luxury brand.
Ikram Goldman, the owner of an eponymous Chicago boutique, described him as a “hero.”
Virgil Abloh was born in Rockford, Ill., on Sept. 30, 1980, to Nee and Eunice Abloh, Ghanaian immigrants, and grew up immersed in skate culture and hip-hop.
Though he did not formally study fashion — he studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology — his mother was a seamstress, and she taught him the basics of her trade. (Read More on The New York Times)
What Hanifa Wants the Fashion Industry to Learn
On a recent warmer-than-usual fall day, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., was decked out with pink lighting, chairs engraved with “Hanifa” on the back, a pale-pink carpet as a runway, and a live orchestra that was performing songs like Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later.” Anifa Mvuemba, the 31-year old founder behind Hanifa, was having her first fashion show. Mvuemba never had plans to have a runway show. In fact, she’s built her brand by not adhering to the fashion industry’s standards. But earlier this year, when she was thinking about how she would celebrate a decade of her brand, she started planning one.
The big day had finally arrived. Hundreds of industry professionals, fellow designers, and fans of the brand —including some of the Housewives of Potomac — gathered to watch her designs make their way down the runway. Black models wearing a variety of hairstyles — sleek bobs, natural curls, and finger waves — and ranging in sizes wore signature colorful knits, excessively cuffed pants, and a royal-blue patent leather coat.
Mvuemba has gotten a lot of buzz for her designs, which embrace and are specifically designed for plus-size bodies and curves. In fact, they are the reason she has built her brand selling direct to consumers over Instagram and on her site. She relies solely on the community of women who follow her and buy her designs. “Even when we didn’t have a lot of support from the industry, our customers and community know we see them, and that makes a huge difference,” she said.
Her latest fashion show reflected these women. Plus-size models, who are usually sent down the runway in safe looks like long black dresses at other shows, instead wore sultry sheer jumpsuits, body-hugging dresses, and bold prints. The crowd cheered and gave Mvuemba a standing ovation.
The brand’s ethos might have started a decade ago, but the casting started just a week before the show. Mvuemba wanted to cast local models instead of flying in big names from places like New York and Paris. “There’s so much talent in D.C.,” Mvuemba said. She collaborated with casting director Kat Mateo, who’s known for challenging the industry’s conventional standards and has cast for brands like Pyer Moss. Mvuemba says Mateo “just gets it.” Together, they sought to book women who looked like her consumers. “Women’s bodies are a big narrative for the brand, and it’s important to show that,” she said. The woman she is speaking to, she said, “can be a size 2, but she’s also a size 12 and 16.”
Over 130 women lined up with their headshots to try their shot at being cast. “Whether I get it or not, I’ll be rooting for you and watching the show,” said one model.
In the hotel lobby of the casting, Mateo explained that she believes that lack of community is what holds a lot of designers back in the industry who don’t care to be as inclusive. “If our consumers are everyday people, why would we have them looking at a standard that’s not real?” Mateo asked. “The runway reflects the times, and the times of just a blonde girl walking are over. We should be representing what we see on the street every day.”
Being inclusive to size goes beyond the runway for Mvuemba. Each of her collections goes up to at least a 2XL. She knows that changing the industry’s size standards is not easy, especially as a young Black designer with fewer resources than larger houses, but for her, that is not an excuse. “Maybe it’s uncomfortable for people, but I also feel like they just don’t want to,” she said. Instead, she said, “they get a plus-size fit model to do plus-size pieces and a smaller fit model for other sizes.”
In the casting world, Mateo said that the excuses aren’t far behind, but she believes that labels like Hanifa are paving the way for everyone else. She also believes that not seeing diversity on the runway, whether it’s bodies, hair, or race, has a lot to do with people being stuck in their ways. (Read More on The Cut)
Menswear and a more fluid future
You’ve probably noticed how every international red carpet today has at least a few men turning up in gender fluid silhouettes — from Harry Styles’ sheer tops and pussy bows to Timothée Chalamet’s sequinned hoodies. To say that a shift is underway is an understatement.
Closer home, Indian men’s long-standing love affair with polos, linens and denim is now, increasingly, accommodating other silhouettes. From Gucci’s gender-fluid tailoring to Mard, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla’s dramatic ensembles, non-binary style is having a moment. And this is changing the country’s $26 billion menswear market (Italian Trade Agency). For instance, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited has joined forces with couturier Tarun Tahiliani — renowned for his feminine silhouettes and intricate embroidery — to create a new subsidiary to focus on affordable menswear.
Womenswear designers such as Payal Singhal, Anamika Khanna, and Monisha Jaising are foraying into menswear, and men don’t seem to mind; the labels are thriving. “It’s not about straight or gay [or anything in between the spectrum] any more. Even classic dressers have warmed up to vibrant prints, sheer fabrics and sparkle texturing, and experimental silhouettes,” says Singhal, recalling a recent request from a six-foot-tall man from Pune who wanted to wear her sheer organza kurta to his son’s wedding. “I used to hear ‘I want something different’ from women, but now I hear that from men.”
What masculinity stood for a decade ago is a far cry from its definition today. Popular digital creator Siddharth Batra is often known to borrow pieces from his girlfriend and fashion influencer Komal Pandey’s closet to playfully recontextualise them on social media. “If I had my way, I would have one closet for both me and my partner; just shelves for tops, bottoms, etc. Tags for gender-specifications in fashion have never mattered to me. I’d say, just wear the same clothes, pyaar badega.
He credits the queer community for some of the stylistic experimentations. “I do notice a positive trajectory [towards fluidity] across the gender spectrum. Brands have also, finally, started moving towards inclusive approaches, with the consumers following suit,” adds Batra, who is often seen sporting experimental make-up, ruffles, edgy nail paints, and diaphanous separates. (Read More on The Hindu)
Why Fast Fashion Has to Slow Down - MIT Sloan Management Review
Much of the fashion industry trades on speedy design-to-sale and a culture of disposability. Although this business model is seductive and profitable, it isn’t sustainable.
Spanish apparel maker Zara is famed in the fashion world for starting a clothes production revolution. When most retailers were taking nine months to get a clothing item from the drafting table to the store, Zara was figuring out how to slash that time to a mere 15 days. The company made clothes so quickly that in 2005, Madonna fans showed up to a concert in knock-offs of the clothes the performer had worn just a few weeks earlier. Fast fashion was born.
Speed was a big part of the revolution, but so too was low cost and expendability. As quickly as fashionistas acquired new looks — fed in part by Zara’s production of a new collection every week, or 20,000 new designs each year — they were also tossing out the old. Why launder clothes when they’re so cheap to replace? On average, fast fashion customers discarded inexpensive dresses, shirts, and pants after wearing them as few as seven times. A limited shelf life was part of the allure.
But a growing number of shoppers are having a change of heart. They are raising questions about the sustainability of the fast fashion model as awareness of the negative impact of a disposable culture grows. And they have begun acting on their environmental values as well as their personal styles.
Boosted by digital technologies, these options include sophisticated online outlets for reselling, renting, and repairing clothes. These business models reflect a fundamental rethinking of how we purchase clothing — celebrating upcycled clothes and creating a countertrend to fast fashion in the process.
Zara’s decades-long approach to fashion, made possible by integrating vertically and turbocharging logistics, has permeated the clothing industry. Other clothing manufacturers have emulated its model and seen similar success, including Sweden-based H&M, U.K.-based Boohoo, and Italy-based Benetton. The Chinese fast fashion company Shein (meaning “she inside”) is so popular that its app surpassed Amazon’s as the most downloaded shopping app in the U.S. in 2021. Shein uses digital technologies to control its production chain, continuously mining user data to see what customers are watching and liking, and offering iterations for sale.
The success of fast fashion helped double the size of the fashion industry between 2000 and 2014. In 2021, the fast fashion sector is expected to generate $31 billion globally, an increase of 22% from 2020 — which represents more than a full recovery of COVID-19-related losses — according to Research and Markets. (Read More on MIT Sloan Review)
Fashion Tech
The Viral Harry Styles Cardigan Is Now An NFT - NYLON
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Nothing is sacred, as proven by the increasing number of things we can now call non-fungible tokens, which include everything from a photo of Britney and Madonna kissing to Hello Kitty herself. (Side note: I recently learned that, according to Sanrio, Hello Kitty is not a cat and am still recovering.) Now, joining the NFT-sphere? Harry Styles’ viral cardigan.
Fashion-focused NFT platform xydrobe, which Teen Vogue describes as a “sort of Christie’s for virtual fashion,” is launching a digital copy of Harry Styles’ viral cardigan, designed by JW Anderson, which took 300 hours to “generate.”
If you missed the era in which this particular Harry Styles’ fit became famous, let’s briefly revisit. In a perfect storm of an enthusiastic embrace for hot, cis men wearing gender-neutral clothing and a foam-at-the-mouth American exuberance for craftcore during the lockdown era, Harry wore a knitted, rainbow cardigan from JW Anderson’s Spring 2020 men’s collection before a TV performance and it became an overnight sensation. The cardigan was so viral that it sparked a crocheting trend on TikTok; the hashtag #harrystylescardigan has 87.3 million views to date and there’s no shortage of knockoffs on Etsy knitted by fans. Even JW Anderson blessed the knockoffs, making the knit pattern available to the public. The cardigan was even acquired by the V&A museum in London that same year, hanging next to other historically significant items of clothing. It’s only fitting that its mythology takes its next steps into the NFT world.
“At xydrobe, we provide a place for brands to have their rare and valuable designs recreated digitally. With our knowledge of the luxury space, as well as our skills, and understanding of VFX, we are able to do so without compromising on integrity and vision,” Nell Lloyd-Malcolm, xydrobe CEO said in a statement. “Introducing our platform to the world with such a pioneering brand, and a piece that captures a pivotal cultural moment, is a dream come true.”
It’s also a good way to keep “the kids” into NFTs. Because if there’s anything that’s going to spark my interest in something I still can’t say I fundamentally understand nor can explain to anyone, it’s the Harry Styles cardigan.
There’s not a lot of info yet on when, where, or how to bid on the NFT, but you can sign up for updates on xydrobe’s website. Until then, watch TikToks of Styles’ fans crocheting, below. (Nylon)
Why the Metaverse Is Looking Like Fashion’s Next Big Goldmine - Bloomberg
Would you buy clothes that don’t exist? And how much would you be willing to pay for them?
Tens of millions of dollars are already being made selling such virtual goods, blurring our tactile and virtual existences as well as the definition of what’s real and what’s not. It’s a threshold moment for the much-discussed “metaverse,” and something that’s already changing the $2.5 trillion fashion industry.
In this episode of Bloomberg’s The Business of Fashion, Imran Amed steps into the virtual realm with the pioneering entrepreneurs behind Ledger, The Dematerialised and RFTKT Studios to discover why the metaverse is being seen as the next fashion goldmine. (Watch on Bloomberg)
How Is Cryptocurrency Revolutionizing The Fashion Industry
Not one, not two, and not even tens – the cryptocurrency market has rather revolutionized hundreds of industries across the globe. There was a time when industries like finance, healthcare, education, security, and many other government and corporate bodies were embracing cryptocurrency. Today, we get to witness a different scenario altogether. One of the many industries that have joined this league is the fashion industry. The fashion/apparel industry is embracing blockchain technology, the backbone of cryptocurrencies, to conquer the challenges.
As known to many, blockchain is a set of blocks that carry digital information. These blocks store information pertaining to every transaction that takes place. Information right from date, time to who are the participants each and every possible required data is stored. A point worth a mention is that each of these blocks has its own unique set of information and can be identified by a unique “HASH” code.
Talking about the fashion industry, blockchain technology has emerged out to be no less than a savior for fixing the threats and obstacles that come it’s way. Have a look at how blockchain technology revolutionizing the fashion industry and is helping out the organizations within the apparel industry.
Blockchain has the unique feature of creating a decentralized and peer-to-peer network that connects all stakeholders. The key stakeholders include farmers, designing houses, raw material suppliers, manufacturers, transporter, distributors, retail outlets, banks, and consumers. It has been observed that with time consumers are more into transparency. Well, as a matter of fact – it is not just the consumers but manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers, all demand transparency. They want to know each and every minute detail pertaining to their clothes which is why companies have now started focusing on decentralized manufacturing. The ability of blockchain technology to create a physical-digital link between goods and their digital identities on a blockchain has made it easier for the apparel industry. It is here that a cryptographic seal or serial number acts as a physical identifier. This seal / serial number links back to the individual product’s “digital twin”. This link is the ultimate solution that the consumers, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers have been demanding – transparency! The reason why consumers can stay assured of the clothes they intend to buy is because if physical-digital links are missing, then that is a clear indication of counterfeit goods. Getting things straight – blockchain technology has transformed the fashion industry with a more ethical supply chain, without a doubt.
As information right from farms or fiber providers, then processors, manufacturers, shippers, to retailers is fetched within seconds, the fashion industry cannot thank blockchain technology enough. Also, what can get better than tracking the sustainability and compliance of goods through information from the blockchain on the raw material and manufacturing processes used to make it?
To conclude, blockchain technology has succeeded at narrowing the gap between brands and consumers. With this, fashion-related companies can now securely communicate with consumers about the complete product story for every single garment, track sales and royalty payments. There is more to this. Both retailers and consumers can verify the authenticity of the clothes. Well, we indeed have come a long way as far as technology is concerned! (Analytics Insight)
  • 6 gender-neutral holiday gifts for kids that are super fun to play with: Is there anything better than seeing little ones light up when opening gifts during the holiday season? It’s one of the best ways to make memories with family and friends, which is why it’s important to take the time to find gifts that are extra special. If you happen to be a bit stumped this year on what to give the children in your life, consider one of the top-rated gender-neutral holiday gifts for kids below. They’re all really fun to play with, plus they’ll please just about anyone. One word of caution as you’re shopping for kids this holiday season: don’t wait until the last minute! Just about every retailer and news outlet are warning about supply chain shortages and shipping delays, so you want to order your gifts early this year to ensure they arrive on time.With that in mind, start checking the little ones off your holiday shopping list by buying a few of the gender-neutral holiday gifts for kids that follow.(Yahoo News)
  • Black Non-Binary ‘Hamilton’ Actor Says They Lost Role After Requesting Gender-Neutral Dressing Room: Suni Reid, who was a cast member in Hamilton’s touring show, is filing a federal complaint against the production alleging they lost her role after requesting a gender-neutral dressing room. Reid, who is nonbinary and goes by pronouns they/them, filed a complaint on Wednesday (October 13) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Los Angeles alleging discrimination and retaliation over questioning ‘the supposed ‘wokeness’ of the company” behind Hamilton. In a statement to USA TodayLawrence Pearson, one of Reid’s lawyers, said that Hamilton has been a public “beacon of diversity” with a commitment to social injustice and harmony. “Behind the curtain, however, the company’s management will force out a Black, transgender cast member simply because they stood up for themselves and advocated for a more equitable workplace, and therefore called that public image into question,” Pearson said in the statement. (Black Chronicle)
News from Around the World
  • French dictionary includes gender-neutral pronoun, sparking linguistic debate - USA Today: PARIS (AP) — It’s a neutral pronoun that’s proving anything but: A nonbinary pronoun added to an esteemed French dictionary has ignited a fierce linguistic squabble in the country. Le Petit Robert introduced the word “iel” — an amalgamation of “il” (he) and “elle” (she) — to its online edition last month. The term is still far from being widely used, or even understood, by many French-speakers. Though at first the change went mostly unnoticed, boisterous debate broke out this week in a nation that prides itself on its human rights tradition but that also fiercely protects its cultural heritage from foreign meddling. In one camp are the traditionalists, including political leaders, who criticize the move as a sign that France is lurching toward an American-style “woke” ideology. In the other is a new generation of citizens who embrace nonbinary as the norm. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer is not among the latter. He went to Twitter on Wednesday to say that “inclusive writing is not the future of the French language.” The 56-year-old former law professor warned that schoolchildren should not use “iel” as a valid term despite its inclusion in Le Robert, seen as a linguistic authority on French since 1967. Francois Jolivet, a lawmaker from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, also made his distaste plain. Nonbinary pronouns are, he suggested, a worrying sign that France is embracing a “woke” ideology. Jolivet wrote a letter to the bastion of French language, the 400-year-old Academie Francaise, claiming that Le Robert’s “solitary campaign is an obvious ideological intrusion that undermines our common language and its influence.” The general director of Le Robert editions, Charles Bimbenet, jumped to the dictionary’s defense Wednesday in a statement. Far from dictating which terms should be used, he said, Le Petit Robert was elucidating the word’s meaning, now it is growing in currency nationwide. (USA Today)
Generation Genderless is a free newsletter that I curate on my own time to spread awareness about issues related to gender around the world. If you like what you’ve read and would like to support Generation Genderless, consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend or colleague, buying me a coffee or purchasing our merch to support Gender Inclusive Research and Design.
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Generation Genderless
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