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Generation Genderless - Issue #4

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
Brands Embrace Inclusivity Through Gender Neutral Product Lines
Even with Pride month coming to a close last month, the pressure on brands to create more LGBTQIA+ inclusive products year-round continues to grow. With 1.2 million Americans identifying as non-binary and nearly a third of individuals saying they have struggled when making a purchase because products are marketed toward only one gender, companies must rethink how products and services can be more inclusive to individuals across the gender identity spectrum as well. Today, we examine three brands that have embraced this need and created space for long-term gender-fluid lines.
  • Abercrombie & Fitch* collaborated with The Trevor Project to expand its “everybody collection” from kids to adults. To be inclusive of all aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community, the two organizations worked together on everything from prints to fits, including designing with the Progress Flag. The brand is going beyond June Pride celebrations by making the line available throughout the year and incorporating a year-long roundup campaign, followed by an initial $200,000 donation to The Trevor Project.
  • Designer jewelry maker, Blue Nile, teamed up with fashion designer, Zac Posen, to create a collection of gender-neutral engagement rings. The collection includes 12 new rings that vary in size, cut, metal and style to fit everyone’s needs. Katie Zimmerman, Blue Nile’s chief merchandising officer, explained the inspiration for the line was due to the brand “seeing a growing demand for inclusive jewelry pieces that symbolize love and commitment in all forms.” Posen expressed his excitement for the collaboration and added that “the traditional idea of marriage is evolving, and the wedding category is finally starting to reflect that.”
  • Pacsun launched its first-ever line of gender-neutral clothing line for kids ages 4-14. The kids label design does not include any female or male styles, making it entirely without gender. Later this year, the fashion retailer will also be committing to a full, adult and kid, gender-fluid brand called Colour Range – a collection that is also sustainable.
Our recent research found that 64 percent of Americans believe that companies should play an active role in building a more inclusive society for people of all gender identities – with another half believing that gender stereotypes exist partially because of the way companies have represented gender identity in marketing and advertising. What these examples and our research show is that brands must continue to meet the increased call for a gender-fluid approach to their products and marketing. (
(Opinion) Gender-Free Fashion Needs to Start in the Kids’ Department
A decade ago, I was a fashion-loving 20-something expecting my first child, a daughter. In all the uncertainty and nervousness I felt about parenthood, the one thing I felt totally prepared for was outfitting that baby. Shopping for kids is fun — those cute, teeny-sized clothes. Of course, if it had been that simple, this wouldn’t be a story, would it?  
Where my aesthetic leaned more punk, I was met with frilly, princessy everything; an extremely gendered style selection starting from a baby’s first days. It wasn’t until my eldest turned one that I experienced the retail joy I had hungered for, on a shopping trip to babyGap. There was a toddler range emblazoned with images of an adorable bulldog wearing a fedora, who happened to look just like my other baby, a bulldog puppy. The color palette of muted gray and navy was cool and understated, and I bought everything I could afford — pieces that have since been adored by all four of my girls throughout the past decade. The catch? It was all from the “boys’” section. 
At a time when fashion (and everything else) is making strides toward inclusivity, acceptance, and a richness of expression to match the many ways humans express their identities, this progress is rare to find in the kids’ section. And that’s just silly. 
Queer-owned, size-inclusive brands are collaborating with major retailers to expand the meaning of inclusive and accessible fashion — including making products specifically for non-binary and gender-nonconforming people. Meanwhile, the pandemic has seen us all get a bit more experimental with our style: We’ve been witches, prairie-dwellers and dyed our hair pink, blue and everything in between — and that was just to hang out at home. Vogue put a man in a gown on its cover! Yet kids’ clothes look much the same as they did when I first went shopping for them a decade ago.
It’s easy to brush off my frustrations. These are just clothes, after all, and as a society, we love to deride fashion as frivolous and superficial. (The number of times some readers have told this very publication to ‘stop getting so political’ when we dare wade into the style and substance of people in power is borderline ridiculous.)
But kids’ clothing is about more than just garments: Clothes are instrumental in helping children form their identities and express themselves. Consider the popularity and power of playing dress-up, which not only encourages creativity and communication, but can improve productivity and perseverance — one study dubbed this phenomenon “the Batman effect.”
There’s financial significance, too: A new report forecasts the global childrenswear market will reach $325.9 billion by the year 2027. All that money, and kids are still being made to choose pink or blue? Batman or Elsa? Come on.
Research into the consequences of living in a system that equates femininity with skirts or masculinity with a specific color makes for grim reading. According to Emily Kane, PhD, the chair of the department of sociology at Bates College and author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls, kids typically start to understand gender categories and identity by age 2 or 3 as a way of making sense of the world around them. Interestingly, it’s often through outside influences, like a stranger’s critical comment about a child not conforming to a gender stereotype, which will shape a child’s understanding of gender expectations. (Read More on InStyle)
Torrid IPO could spur more investment in plus-size apparel market
The fashion industry has been notoriously unfriendly to body sizes and shapes outside the slim standard seen on the catwalk.
Driving the news: Plus-size apparel retailer Torrid’s IPO last week may help thaw those attitudes, at least from an investor standpoint.
Why it matters: While recent social movements have pushed mass market brands to become more inclusive, there still seems to be a lack of sustained commitment.
  • As a listed company, Torrid’s performance will be public for competitors in the industry to consider.
By the numbers: Torrid is the largest direct-to-consumer plus-size apparel brand in North America by net sales, which in 2019 reached more than $1 billion, and for the 12 months ending May 1 exceeded $1.1 billion, according to its S-1.
  • The market for plus-size apparel and intimates was $85 billion in 2019, or 89% of the straight-sized market, Torrid says.
What they’re saying: “There’s still some hesitancy for retailers to fully embrace this market,” Kayla Marci, market analyst for retail market intelligence platform Edited, tells Axios.
But there’s a commercial opportunity.
  • Consumers don’t necessarily want to be excluded or labeled differently from their peers because of size, Marci says.
  • Torrid’s IPO is “hard evidence of the demand for plus-size fashion” — and retailers should be motivated to compete, she adds.
  • The company’s stock is up 16% from its IPO price, and its market cap is $2.7 billion.
State of play: The mean weight, height and waist size of an American woman is 171 pounds, 5’3 and 38.7 inches, according to the CDC, which translates to a U.S. size 16 at Torrid and H&M, 18 at Athleta and 20 at Old Navy.
  • So while “plus-size” actually encompasses average American sizes, more than 90% of clothing sold by major retailers like Macy’s and Net-a-Porter are under size 16 — the point at which the plus-size labeling starts.
Over the last few years, retailers like Old Navy and Forever 21 and apparel brands like Adidas, Nike and Reformation have started to offer (or relaunch) additional sizes in stores and online, while new brands continually pop up.
But Loft recently announced it would stop offering plus sizes 3 years after the first rollout. 
  • Torrid itself was once part of retailer Hot Topic, which spun out the concept to an independent private company in 2013.
  • Luxury designers have started to experiment with more sizes. But critics point out the sizes aren’t inclusive enough and certain partnerships feel like a marketing ploy.
Yes, but: The lack of larger sizes isn’t the only issue — there’s also a lack of sizing consistency across brands due to a variety of factors including vanity sizing, as well as a lack of styles people want to wear when larger sizes are available.
The big picture: Designers and retailers see a clear path to growth is to offer more sizes, designer Cynthia Vincent tells Axios. “My hope is that it is done with some care and understanding and not just as a box checked to chase a dime.”
  • “This community is vocal and strong, [and] they can spot inauthentic or pandering and are quick to rally and point this out.” (Axios)
Fashion Tech
From Blockchain To Content, New Industries Will Lead The Fashion And Style Sector
After COVID -19 restructuring plans, fashion brands are increasingly aware about the importance of complex global supply chains and environmentally friendly materials being used for production. From development to production, the fashion industry leaders want to make the brands transparent by using blockchain to digitize the supply chain - so much so that it will help fashion companies track apparel production from raw materials to the finished goods.
I recently attended a fashion and related industries blockchain seminar where I noticed that an abundant number of top priority brands and journalists alike, more inquisitive and enthusiastic than before. Brands surveyed at the seminar about sourcing sustainable materials cited how they wanted to create transparency in their respective supply chains, but failed to achieve those goals in full.
Nowadays, there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency to drive sustainability as the core value of the business. But the fashion business works differently than other industry segmentations. In a word, fashion is a fragmented business. In fact, a single item can source materials from various countries to make it complete. Moreover, the raw materials and manufacturing stages are more the often abundant.
Alas, the fashion and style sector is steadily making progress, and this progress is in thanks to technology. Although fashion and technology may seem different, they work well together. With blockchain, the fashion and style industry can explore its potential. While blockchain is known for financial services, it has been helping the fashion and style industry to tackle the counterfeiting problem. On the other hand, digital content like social media has helped the fashion and style industry in many ways. Like other sectors, the fashion and style industry is entwined with social media. 
Today, with over 50% of the world’s population using social media, it has become a an expert tool by connecting brands directly with consumers.
Fashion and Blockchain can prove to be very useful. In addition, it allows forthright brands to tell their story. Typically, the fashion and style industry involves a rather complicated supply chain at both global and local levels. Because of the complexity of their supply chain, blockchain is what the industry needs to further develop. In fact, some blockchain characteristics such as consensus, decentralization, and immutability make it perfect for adding more trust and security to the fashion industry.
Given the transparency of blockchain technology, the supply chain of fashion brands have guaranteed full disclosure. (Read More)
Automation and the Fashion Industry: A Quiet Revolution
Many believe that we have recently entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by new modes of design, production and marketing. Being one of the world’s largest and most innovative industries, fashion is at the center stage of this shake-up.
This is not surprising, since fashion is big business. In the UK, for example, the fashion industry is valued at £26 billion, making it the country’s biggest creative industry.
From algorithms that detect what we will be wearing next season to targeted pricing, here are just a few ways automation technology is transforming the fashion industry.
Garment style trends change surprisingly fast, says fashion guru from STYLESPRING, Mary Wislon. “The textiles, colors and cuts that are in vogue one season might end up at the back of the wardrobe the next. Luckily, AI can be used to help predict upcoming trends, helping designers stay abreast of fresh styles,” she continues.
AI algorithms do this by analyzing designs and using this information to see what sells and what does not.
It does not matter how amazing a product is if nobody is going to buy it. AI can be used to analyze a specific customer segment to come up with appropriate pricing. It can also analyze competitor pricing to help retailers gain an advantage over the competition.
This information can be used to come up with perfect product pricing, resulting in fewer surplus products. It also reduces the necessity for price cuts once the product is already on the market.
Inventory Management
AI can look at customer behavior to help retailers determine what sells and what does not. This, in turn, can help them plan their inventory and future orders. AI can also help retailers make more accurate “time to market” predictions by analyzing weather forecasts. After all, nobody wants to shop for winter clothes in summer and summer clothing in winter.
Marketing Strategy
Creating promotional campaigns tailored to each customer has never been easier. This is because AI can analyze each customer’s past purchasing behavior and preferences to predict what type of garments they may be interested in.
This enables retailers to reach out to specific customers with outfits that are in line with their individual tastes. In addition, if a customer has already bought an item of clothing, AI can suggest products that go along with that specific purchase.
What makes AI-based marketing great is that it can also reduce the number of returned items. Since AI only suggests garments that a specific customer is probably interested in, they are less likely to impulse purchase an item that does not go with their taste. (Robotics&Automation News)
  • Penn State Faculty Senate hopes gender-neutral language will boost inclusivity on campus: Penn State students checking out the course catalog this fall may notice some changes meant to boost inclusivity on campus. The university’s Faculty Senate voted 125-13 in late April to remove binary and gendered terms like “freshman” and “upperclassmen” and the pronouns “he” and “she” from Penn State’s course and program descriptions. Faculty Senator Bonj Szczygiel said the new, more inclusive language aims to take one struggle off some students’ plates. “There are so many pressures placed on students,” she said. “I’ve always been really impressed with their ability to sort of pull it together and manage and deal with the complexities of their lives. This is one complexity that they shouldn’t have to deal with.” Szczygiel said some representatives felt terms like “upperclassmen” were classist and sexist, while “freshman” was too male-specific. “Freshmen” will become “first-year students,” “sophomores” will be “second-year students,” and so on. “Underclassmen” and “upperclassmen” will become “lower division” and “upper division.” “He” and “she” will be replaced with “they” or a non-gendered term such as “student.” Gendered terms will remain under a few circumstances, like a women’s studies course. Changes won’t be implemented overnight. Szczygiel says administrative groups that approve course materials will gradually comb through files and update their language starting this summer. (WITF)
  • The Evolution of Gender Pronouns — How, Why to Use Them in Email: Today, there’s real discussion around gender-neutral pronouns on a more mainstream level. In fact, a Pew report shows that about one-in-five (18%) say they personally know someone who prefers a pronoun other than “he” or “she.” And Merriam-Webster chose “they” as its 2019 Word of the Year based on the number of dictionary lookups; the singular “they” was also added to its online dictionary. What’s the impetus behind non-binary, gender-neutral pronouns? Generally speaking, a neutral choice of words reduces misgendering and furthers a strategy of inclusion in business. For transgender people, it shows others how they’d like to be referred to. For “cisgender”—those who identify with the sex assigned to them at birth—it shows understanding and respect for others. A breakdown of gender-neutral pronouns. While many are aware of gender-neutral pronouns, they aren’t familiar with them nor do they know how to correctly use them. The following are those currently in use, but as the discussion heats up on gender neutrality, the list may continue to expand.
  • He/him/his – used if you identify as male.
  • She/her/hers – used if you identify as female.
  • They/them/their – used if you don’t typically identify strictly as female or male.
  • Can also be used when referring to multiple people.
  • Ze/hir/hirs – can replace both he/him/his and she/her/hers.
  • Ey/em/eirs – can replace both he/him/his and she/her/hers. A quick guide for business communications How do you use gender-neutral pronouns? Whether or not an individual identifies as non-binary or simply wants to show respect for others, there are several ways to incorporate gender-neutral pronouns into business communications. First, you can simply add a few words at the beginning of your emailfor example, “I’m Joe and I’m referred to as ‘they/them/their’ pronouns. If you prefer, you can add it to your email signature. “Sincerely, Joe (they, them, their). Clearly, the gender-neutral pronoun conversation will grow. It’s expected that over time, the use of these pronouns will be better understood, and with understanding, accepted in everyday life and business. (All Together)
News from Around the World
  • An Inside Look Into Toronto’s Non-Binary Fashion Designer: or many people who identify as non-binary, finding gender-neutral clothing is hard and uncomfortable. Expressing yourself through what you wear, and how you look, has always made such an impact on our personal identity. It’s important that everyone has the same opportunity for personal expression when it comes to building their wardrobe. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Shopping is meant to be fun, and something to look forward to. But when you’re struggling to find clothing that fits how you feel and who you are, it can really take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. These are real-life scenarios for people who want a gender non-conformist wardrobe and Toronto designer, Mic Carter is making all their dreams come true with his label: L’uomo Strano. Mic Carter began the L’uomo Strano label 8 years ago. Carter identifies as non-binary and initially started the label because it was becoming increasingly difficult to find clothing that affirmed and fit Carter’s gender. All of these issues were becoming barriers for Carter to explore all the areas their gender. Carter is also a Ryerson School of Fashion lecturer, and is educating the future generations of designers on what gender-neutral clothing means and how they can finally allow people who identify as non-binary to finally feel fully expressed. (View the Vibe)
  • Germany’s Lufthansa opts for gender-neutral plane greeting:Europe’s largest airline group Lufthansa said Tuesday it was retiring “ladies and gentlemen” as an on-board greeting in favour of gender-neutral alternatives. A spokesman for the German company told AFP the move was intended to make all passengers on board feel welcome, including those who do not identify as male or female. “Crews are being instructed to choose a greeting that includes all passengers,” he said, adding that “dear guests” or a simple “good morning/good evening” would be used instead. The new policy, which will be phased in gradually, applies to German flag carrier Lufthansa as well as the group’s Swiss, Austrian, Brussels and Eurowings airlines. The company said it was responding to a “discussion that is rightly being held in society” about non-binary gender identification and a desire “to value all guests on board”. Germany has joined the international debate about more inclusive language to take into account diverse gender identities and an increasingly multicultural society. (France24)
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, please consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend or colleague or purchasing our merch to support Gender Inclusive design.
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Generation Genderless
Generation Genderless

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