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Is gender neutral clothing the next big thing for retailers?

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Retailer Selfridges is getting ready for the launch of its first gender neutral collection, following the success of London Fashion Weeks’ exploration of unisex styles.

The progress will be an attempt to mirror and accentuate the company’s previous achievements that have been based primarily on customer satisfaction. Managing Director of Selfridges Anne Pitcher said, “Throughout 2013 and 2014, we have focused on providing an extraordinary experience for our customers in stores, and online”. In 2015 the company will focus on catering to both sexes equally, while also trying to increase the impressive £150m annual operating profit that was confirmed in November 2014.

Long gone are the days when gender-flouting fashion only involved women borrowing their partners shirts, in is a season where retailers are expected to adapt their store layouts and fashion lines to keep up with the gender fluid designs that are currently en Vogue.

Gender Fluidity has been building up in fashion for a few years, with 2014’s autumn-winter LFW show involving a “romanticising” of masculinity, as described by designer Craig Green.

This year, non-gendered clothes have progressed even further. Transgender models such as Gisele Xtravaganza have influenced the catwalks and Gucci dressed both its male and female models in bows at London Fashion Week.

Fashion weeks are clearly influencing the masses, as Linda Hewson, Creative Director at Selfridges told WWD that Selfridges’ move is a response, “to a cultural shift that is happening right now”. In order to ward of competition, retailers must keep up with the diverse demands of their clued-up consumers.

In a press release issued by Selfridges, the company said:

“Join us online and in store at Selfridges this spring as we sweep aside the boundaries of gender in retail with our new campaign”.

The retailer is looking to explore the “masculine, the feminine and interplay found in-between” in order to attract a wider range of shoppers who want to shop “without limitations and stereotypes”.

From ‘all girl gun clubs’ to exhibiting Louis Blériot’s monoplane in 1909, Selfridges has always focused on innovation and breaking the mould to stay ahead of its competitors. This time Selfridges is going one step further and will be challenging sociological ideologies in a hope boost the brands influence.

The changes will take place across the retailer’s Manchester and Birmingham stores, alongside its website creating, “ a space where clothing is no longer imbued with directive gender values, enabling fashion to exist as a purer expression of ‘self’.”40 designers will be involved with the movement, including Nicopanda, Astrid Anderson, Yohij Yamamoto and Rad Hourani.

Chief menswear buyer at Luisa Via Roma, believes that the launch will be pioneering for the future of department stores, “It definitely changes the concept of ‘department’ stores. For us, as a concept store, it has less impact, but I think it will be more noticeable as we move forward.”.

It will be interesting to see how other retailers follow suit.

Published on Friday 06 March by Rachel Gee

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