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Generation Genderless - Issue #9

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
Fashion industry has played lip service to sustainability: Allbirds co-founder - Yahoo Finance
Allbirds is challenging its competitors in the apparel space to do much better on the sustainable clothing front. 
“Certainly in the five years we have been around we have seen an acceleration from the rest of the industry toward the environment and sustainability, which is a fantastic thing. But, we have to move faster,‘ said Allbirds co-founder and co-CEO Tim Brown on Yahoo Finance Live. "This is the problem of our generation and the fashion industry has been playing lip service to this for a long time. So now we all need to work faster and better towards the goal of making net-zero products.” 
The company, known for its simply designed, sustainable footwear, is putting its money where its mouth is. 
On Tuesday, Allbirds revealed its first performance collection dubbed the “Natural Run” apparel line. Two years in the making, the line of tank tops, leggings and shorts is made from Eucalyptus Tree fiber and merino wool. The line’s carbon footprint is also clearly labeled. 
Allbirds points out most performance apparel lines are polyester-based, which is an oil-based derivative. The company says the line will help it reach its goal of having 75% of its products made from sustainable materials by 2025. 
“I think the consumer is starting to demand that businesses and manufacturers in every sector make products that are more environmentally thoughtful and apparel is no different. Synthetic materials are not the future. This transformation to natural is just beginning,” says Brown.
Allbirds’ new product line comes as chatter that the company may IPO later this year heats up. The company’s last capital raise was in September 2020 — Allbirds obtained $100 million, valuing the company at about $1.6 billion. 
Brown is open to being a public company, but it’s not a done deal. 
“We have always imagined that one day we might be [a public company], but no updates there,” Brown told Yahoo Finance Live. “We are keeping our head down at the moment.”(Yahoo Finance)
California seeks gender neutral displays in large stores
California could soon force large department stores to display some child products in gender neutral ways after the state Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday aimed at getting rid of traditional pink and blue marketing schemes for items like toys and toothbrushes.
The bill would not outlaw traditional boys and girls sections in department stores, but it would require retailers to have a gender neutral section to display “a reasonable selection” of items “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”
The bill would only apply to department stores with 500 or more employees, so most small businesses would be exempt. It also wouldn’t apply to clothes, just toys and “childcare items,” which include hygiene and teething products.
The state Senate passed the bill Wednesday, sending it back to the Assembly for a procedural vote before it heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. If it becomes law, California would become the first state to require these sections in stores, according to the office of Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill’s author.
This is at least the third time California lawmakers have tried to pass this bill, with previous versions failing to pass in 2019 and 2020. Low, a Democrat from Campbell, said the measure was inspired by a 10-year-old girl named Britten whose mother works in his legislative office.
“Britten asked her mom while shopping why certain things in a store were ‘off limits’ to her because she was a girl, but would be fine if she was a boy,” Low said. “Thankfully, my colleagues recognized the pure intentions of this bill and the need to let kids be kids.”
Some large retailers are already rethinking how they display their products. Target Corp., with 1,914 stores across the United States, announced in 2015 it would stop using some gender-based signs in its stores.
The California Retailers Association declined to comment on the bill Wednesday. Formal opposition has come from a number of conservative groups. State Sen. Melissa Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore, voted against the bill, saying she would “recommend we let parents be parents.”
“Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents,” she said. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.“
Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said that while both he and Low are “childless gay men,” he defended their right to have opinions about children and families.
“We know what it was like to grow up not conforming to the way that your gender is supposed to be,” he said, adding: “This is about making safe spaces for all children in today’s society and not pushing, sometimes forcing children to conform.”
While the law will require large department stores to comply, penalties for not doing so would be light. Starting in 2024, prosecutors could seek fines of up to $250 for first offenses and up to $500 for second offenses. Those would be civil, not criminal, penalties. Stores could also end up having to pay for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. (ABC News)
Social Surge creates clothing for people with disabilities and gender nonconforming community
You may think nothing about putting on a hoodie when you need or want to, but for some people its design may still prove difficult to manage.
Zippers that are hard to grab, pockets that don’t sit in the right spot, pieces of clothing that, if you’re blind, you can’t tell what color they are.
Meredith Wells, a singer/dancer/writer and Lincoln Park resident is one of four co-founders of Social Surge, a new clothing brand centered on accessibility for everybody — specifically people with disabilities and the gender nonconforming community.
The Social Surge team of people with disabilities consults on clothing designs after sharing their struggles when it comes to getting dressed. Wells said that kangaroo pockets on hoodies were problematic for people using wheelchairs, because their cellphones often fell to the ground when they had to transfer out of the chair. With that knowledge, Social Surge created the Utility and Heroic hoodies with vertical pockets to keep phones secure. The Elevate Zip Hoodie was designed with a full-length magnetic zipper so those with limited hand dexterity don’t have to endure the difficulty of aligning the teeth of a traditional zipper to get it started, Wells said.
“We build fashionable, functional garments around those needs, but even if you’re not in a wheelchair you put your phone in that pocket and it’s just secure,” Wells said. “It’s great for everyone, and that’s what we really want to bring to the table — making a garment accessible is good for everyone. It doesn’t make it impossible for someone who is not visually impaired or is not in a wheelchair unable to use that garment.”
Wells calls it “flipping the script” when it comes to the design process in fashion. Instead of building a T-shirt, and then trying to find a consumer, Social Surge knows the consumer and asks them: What are your struggles when it comes to getting dressed? What could you really use in a garment?
They said visually-impaired consultants have said: ‘I don’t know which hoodie is what color when I pull it out of the washing machine once the tag is off.’ Social Surge’s response: All of their clothing items has the color, and the brand name in Braille.
“We have a group of amazing ambassadors, accessibility consultants, and people with disabilities who have been with us every step of the process, and that’s something that’s different from other people trying to create clothing for people with disabilities.” they said. “You don’t always find disabled people are actually in the process of creating those garments. That’s how you find something like a closure on the back of a garment as opposed to somewhere who someone with a disability could put it on themselves independently to the greatest extent possible.” (Read More on The Chicago Tribune)
Fashion Tech
The Challenges of Automation in the Legacy Fashion Industry - Entrepreneur
One of the biggest threats to a company’s success is the lack of innovation. As the world evolves rapidly, it is impossible to ignore the speed at which technology accelerates the change and disruption in businesses. As a result, organizations that are too late to adapt to the changing consumer demands and fail to innovate quickly can face devastating consequences. 
We all know of businesses that we grew up with but are nowhere to be seen today. They moved too slowly and misunderstood the buyer’s need to innovate and digitize. For example, one of the biggest fashion retailers, Forever 21, filed for bankruptcy back in 2020. The reason? A growing number of Gen Z and millennial buyers like to shop online and buy sustainable clothing, and Forever 21 didn’t invest enough in either department until it was too late for them.
Today, the customers are in the driver’s seat and are exposed to countless brands and sellers who offer thousands of options at a click. These days it’s crucial to differentiate from the rest. Certain brands and businesses understand this better than others. Amazon is probably the best example of this, which proves that there’s plenty of room in the market for a brand willing to listen to customers and provide superior experience at every stage of the customer journey. 
There are many potential opportunities for companies to leverage technology and exceed their customers’ expectations in a multitude of ways. Yet many brands fail to innovate.
The challenges of adapting to modern technology 
Let’s look at 3D. The technology has been growing steadily, and it has been rapidly adopted by companies across different industries. For instance, applications of 3D in construction and architecture are increasing, and the technology has become comparatively widespread, specifically in the design stage of the project. Likewise, automotive companies are essentially using 3D tech for pre-production tasks. As customers demand more environmentally friendly and digitally connected vehicles, technological advancements have also enabled automakers to plan, design, test and verify new concepts faster than ever before.
3D technology is thriving in the industrial world and has the full potential to revolutionize the fashion market. The rise of fast fashion trends has already disrupted the industry’s seasonality, and 3D tech has the power to accelerate production, speeding up time to market. It could also potentially allow customers to get involved in the sizing and designing of the clothes. 3D can also be effective in terms of efficiency and lower costs in certain instances as well. Think about the cost that a design team incurs creating samples or having them made in China and shipped back to the U.S. Next, look at the number of processes that are still dependent on old school excel sheets. There has to be a smarter way to do things. 
Or take AI. The entertainment industry, for instance, witnessed a drastic transformation in terms of AI tech. Companies in the entertainment and media industry are also leveraging artificial intelligence technology to help improve their services and deliver a seamless customer experience.
As the need for efficiency and competition continue to rise across various industries, the role of artificial intelligence will only grow in the coming years. By experimenting and exploring with technology, brands can maximize their business performance by improving the user experience and ultimately deliver value to customers with greater efficiency.
While the fashion industry can benefit significantly from adopting 3D design and automation technologies that can help creatives design clothing in real-time and give buyers the ability to order the perfect fit, many fashion brands are still struggling with adopting technology and automation at scale.
So the question remains: If technology is so beneficial to fashion industries, what challenges are companies facing in implementing them? (Read More on Entrepreneur)
Beximco Adopts Cutting Edge Technology In The Fast Changing Textile And Garment Industry
Global textile and apparel makers are accelerating their digital transformation amid intensifying competition from online fashion brands and booming demand for e-commerce in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has kept consumers at home as cities around the world went into lockdowns to curb the coronavirus from spreading.
With the pandemic upending the fashion industry, Beximco—Bangladesh’s leading textile and apparel maker—is leveraging innovative technologies to gain global market share and deepen relationships with customers in the fashion and retail industries.
“Global competition is increasing with the rise of fast fashion and digital only players,” says Syed Naved Husain, Group Director and CEO of Beximco. “Traditional retailers are under financial pressure and players such as Amazon and Primark—are fast moving and at the forefront of the digital economy and are gaining market share. Retailers that can adapt and change quickly, such as Zara and Target, are doing well, but they want to work with suppliers who can also change and adapt quickly.”
Beximco has been quick to adapt technological innovation, one of its hallmarks since it began operations over 26 years ago. The company employs advanced design, manufacturing and distribution solutions to add value to its customers’ businesses across the entire value chain. It’s a one-stop shop that gives clients best in class service with flexibility, agility and speed.
“We’ve taken a very proactive approach to the implementation of production technologies and processes that have the greatest impact on efficiency and product quality,” says Group Chairman of Beximco, A. S. F. Rahman. “We collaborate closely with our customers across the entire value chain. Beximco also invests in the education, training and skills development of all its employees, enabling them to support the production of differentiated value-added garments.”
Smart Fabrics
One area Beximco has excelled in is its use of “smart fabrics,” or textiles that leverage technology for fashion or design purposes. About 45 percent of apparel companies surveyed by McKinsey in February 2020 are looking to integrate more innovative materials into their products, a trend McKinsey describes as “materials revolution.”
Beximco makes use of performance fabrics that can be engineered to integrate features such as thermal management, quick drying, extra durability, antimicrobial, odor free, or UV protection. In partnership with brands such as Zara, U.S. Polo Assn, Land’s End and Marks & Spencer, the company makes garments that look stylish for work, but wearable for outdoor and sports activities because of features such as allway stretch, temperature regulation and reinforced seams.
3D Design Solutions
Beximco also utilizes 3D design technology to efficiently showcase samples to clients. The digital solution—developed by fashion design sof tware firms CLO and Browzwear—enables realistic garment simulations.
Using the software, designers can make virtual samples, see how the designs fit on models and show them to buyers at different locations, without cutting any fabric. This speeds up the design process and enables the designers to save time and resources, while identifying potential issues with the fit and pattern.
“3D processes will result in reduced approval timelines and less fabric wastage, enabling Beximco’s designers to be more creative and have closer collaboration with their counterparts at the brands,” says Husain. (Read More on Forbes)
Opinion: Why the challenge of returns during the pandemic has meant sizing is even more important to get it right
The rise in online sales has caused even greater challenges around returns, making the issue of accurate sizing more urgent than ever, explains Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySize.  
The seismic shift to online apparel and footwear sales triggered by the pandemic have had such a monumental impact on ecommerce that businesses refer to pre-March 2020 as BC – Before Coronavirus. With stay-at-home orders and lockdowns that defined the vast majority of brick-and-mortar apparel retailers as “non-essential,” online shopping for clothes and shoes exploded. Unsurprisingly, 2020 was a record year for ecommerce, with sales reaching $861 billion.
But the ecommerce revolution has a major downside for retailers. Stunning return rates —up to 40% — cost businesses some $9 billion in 2020. The billions of dollars needed for reverse logistics have led industry titans including Amazon and Walmart to offer refunds to customers even without requiring them to return unwanted products. But for brands that aren’t worth billions, the costs of returns are enough to significantly impact smaller and medium-sized businesses, already on shaky ground due to the pandemic.
The number one reason cited by consumers for apparel and footwear returns is incorrect fit, and the issue has long been the thorn in the side of online retailers. Even before the pandemic, sky-high return rates for apparel bought online were already causing brands to haemorrhage money. In 2019, online fashion brand Revolve sold $499 million in product – but spent a staggering $531 million on customer returns.
The guessing game when it comes to sizing, especially when fitting rooms were closed and it wasn’t possible to try on instore even when stores were open has led many consumers to engage in bracketing, which is when consumers order the same item in multiple sizes, with the intention of keeping just one item and returning the rest. According to a recent survey, 62% of online shoppers admitted to bracketing a purchase made in 2020.
That’s not to mention the environmental damage from tons of returns. Transporting returned merchandise back to fulfillment centres and warehouses adds 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – that’s even more than what 3 million extra cars on the road would put out annually.
Sizing tech is a critical tool in an online apparel retailer’s arsenal to stop costly returns before they happen. Leveraging sensors already built into customer’s smartphones, machine learning and AI algorithms, and sizing tables provided by brands, my company MySize provides customers with hyper-accurate clothing sizes that have been proven to cut down on return rates.
We also provide BoxSize, a tool for the fulfillment side, which empowers logistics companies to more efficiently utilize their resources and strategically plan their logistics, protecting both the environment and the company’s bottom line. Our parcel measurement tool, which measures both dimensions and volume, increases delivery efficiency by helping operations teams ensure that a truck is properly packed to use each inch of available space.
Additionally, BoxSize offers features such as barcode scanning, geolocation tagging, and image capture. The results include decreasing emissions and fuel consumption, a verified chain of custody, and greater operational efficiency, leading to fewer half-packed trucks, a better real-time allocation of resources, and fewer emissions.
Getting sizing right in the battle to reduce returns has never been more important.
By Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySize (E-Delivery.Net)
  • This Buddhist Monk Is a Makeup Artist and an LGBTQ Activist: Buddhist monks are typically trained to live austerely, wearing plain robes and few accessories. Kodo Nishimura does anything but. He tends to his family’s temple in Tokyo while working as a makeup artist and LGBTQ activist. “I am both ancient and trendy,” Nishimura, 32, says over Zoom from his home in the Japanese capital, wearing a Buddhist robe and just a little tinted lip balm. The day before, he worked 13 hours as the makeup director for the Miss Universe Japan finals, leading a team of six assistants to ensure contestants, judges and former winners all looked fabulous. His makeup career and activism landed him an appearance on Netflix’s Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! in 2019, and his clients include the musical sister duo Chloe x Halle and Christina Milian. In February, he is releasing his first English-language book, This Monk Wears Heels, an autobiography that weaves his personal story with Buddhist teachings. Nishimura wasn’t always so comfortable living with both sides of himself, but he hopes that sharing his journey can help others to learn to love themselves. Though he grew up watching his parents, both monks, presiding over funerals and ancestor worship ceremonies at their 500-year-old Buddhist temple, Nishimura never wanted to follow in their footsteps. He always thought Buddhist life was incompatible with his identity. At the time, he didn’t see the point of chanting, and shaving his head was unthinkable because he adored long hair. “As a child who loved Disney princesses, it was the total opposite of what I wanted to be and what I loved,” he says. (TIME)
  • ‘I’m a Non-Binary Jewish Drag Queen. My Husband is a Rabbi’: I was assigned male at birth and grew up as a little boy. At the age of around 6, I told my mother that I thought I wanted to be a girl. It was not really rejected or embraced, but my mother was beautifully supportive. I continued to be very close with my female friends as a child and grew up as a boy. I lived in the midwestern U.S. which tends to be more conservative in the suburbs and post-puberty, I identified primarily as a gay man. I was bullied extensively for being this really femme person who was understood to be male, and that not being acceptable. Over the past ten years, I have leaned into a queer, non-binary identity and realized that is representative of my view of the world. I don’t believe in the gender binary, and because of that I can be boyish, hyper-femme, and everything in between or beyond. That’s why I don’t have a preference for pronouns; I’m quite comfortable with however people refer to me. Whether folks call me she/her, he/him, or they/them—I take each as a compliment. (Newsweek)
  • Anti-gay hate crimes fell slightly in 2020, while anti-trans crimes rose, FBI says - NBC News: Hate crimes based on sexual orientation dipped slightly last year, but crimes based on bias against trans and gender-nonconforming people continued to increase, new FBI data suggest. The Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s Hate Crime Statistics 2020 report found that 7,759 hate crime incidents were reported last year, up by 6 percent from 7,314 incidents in 2019. Although reports of hate crime incidents based on anti-LGBTQ bias were down overall, from 1,393 in 2019 to 1,287 in 2020, reports of incidents motivated by gender-identity bias jumped by nearly 20 percent for the second year in a row. Law enforcement agencies reported 1,051 hate crime incidents motivated by sexual orientation last year, down from 1,195 in 2019. Hate crime incidents motivated by gender identity increased from 198 in 2019 to 236 in 2020. Although hate crime incidents motivated by anti-trans bias appear to be increasing, advocates have said government data often don’t tell the full story. Anecdotally, trans people have reported facing bias-motivated violence much more often. Advocates have said the discrepancy between FBI data and trans people’s lived experiences is a common theme when it comes to data collection on LGBTQ people. Of the 27,715 trans adults surveyed by the National Center for Transgender Equality in the summer of 2015, nearly half (46 percent) reported that they were verbally harassed in the previous year, and nearly 1 in 10 (9 percent) said they were physically attacked in the previous year for being transgender. (NBC News)
News from Around the World
  • Air Malta adopts a gender-neutral language: Diversity and equality are core values at Air Malta, and the airline welcomes all its customers, irrespective of their nationality, race, political ideology, religion, and gender. In an internal communication to staff members, Air Malta’s Executive Chairperson David G Curmi stated, “Historically we have welcomed our customers as ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’. Going forward, our customer-facing staff will start adopting gender-neutral language such as ‘Guests’ and more generic customer greetings. This shall apply when we address our customers, both inflight and on the ground. For an airline with a multicultural clientele, inclusion is a very important value, and we want to express this attitude shift in our language as well,” highlighted the Airline’s Executive Chairperson. Going forward Air Malta will also be making linguistic changes to all its company documentation including contracts and operational manuals. Note: The Lufthansa Group airlines adopted a similar policy a few weeks ago. (Aviation 24)
  • Trans and non-binary Canadians say they are still being deadnamed on voters cards: Trans and non-binary Canadians have opened up about the “jarring” experience of receiving voter cards still addressed to their deadnames. Faelan Quinn told CBC they had legally changed their name over four years ago. They added that they updated their information with Elections Canada – the government agency responsible for administering Canadian federal elections and referendums – two years earlier. So they said it was “jarring” to see their deadname listed on the white and maroon coloured voter information card they recently received in the mail. “It was very jarring to just sort of see it come up out of nowhere when there had been no prior indication that that was something that was going to happen again after having done everything correctly on my end,” Quinn said. They continued: “I had no reason to believe that my previous name would ever be used for me again through Elections Canada.” Fae Johnstone, Quinn’s fiancé and a trans educator and organiser, told Global News that this isn’t an “isolated issue” or “one-off” incident. “It’s dispiriting, and it sends a message that our needs aren’t important enough,” Johnstone said. (Yahoo)
  • More schools in Japan adopting genderless options: Genderless options are increasingly finding their way into schools in Japan, easing pressure on students to conform to norms and stereotypes. A growing number of schools allow students to choose skirts or pants for their uniforms, while satchels for elementary school children free from gender-based colors are increasingly common. Some schools are reviewing regulations that include clauses based on the distinction of sexes. Tombow Co., a school uniform manufacturer in the city of Okayama, is in the vanguard of encouraging schools to introduce gender-neutral uniforms. The company developed a pair of trousers for female students incorporating ideas proposed by transgender people. Designed to look wearable by boys as well, the comfortable garments have been adopted by some 1,000 schools across the country. But as the option may serve to emphasize that wearers belong to a sexual minority, Ayumi Okuno, a designer at Tombow, said, “Emphasis is given to functionality so that students can choose (the trousers) whether they are in sexual minorities or not.” Sanyo Junior High School, run by the Himeji city government in Hyogo Prefecture, adopted a new school uniform consisting of a blazer and slacks for both male and female students this spring, abandoning a tight standup collar uniform for boys and a sailor-style uniform for girls. It made the shift after considering that railway operators and other companies are using genderless uniforms. “School is a microcosm of society. We decided that uniforms that are wearable regardless of gender are suitable for a school in the new age,” Takahisa Hasegawa, principal of the school, said. The school introduced the new uniform after holding discussions with students, parents and teachers and surveying parents of elementary school children in its school district.(Japan Times)
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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