12 March 2015

The Store That Redefined Gender in Fashion ● by Jess

Today Selfridges, one of the most famous high end department stores in the world, launched its new multi-floor concept space Agender, which seeks to alter our understanding of gender in fashion. They hope to achieve this by working with up-market designers to create pieces that can be worn, regardless of your identity.

Selfridges Agender Experience

When I first heard about this, I was more than a little skeptical. I have pretty concrete belief in the importance of celebrating each person's uniqueness, and this felt like a very clear move toward a very muddy middle grey.

Still, after some careful pondering, I realised that what Selfridges is doing has a lot less to do with any dogma I might have regarding gender, but instead has EVERYTHING to do with fashion, which is-- by it's very definition-- ever-changing.

When you consider that women have been sporting menswear for decades, isn't it about time men got on that gender-bending bandwagon? I think most of us can agree that we should all be able to wear what makes us feel good about ourselves. 

Selfridges Agender ExperienceSelfridges Agender Experience

So, off I went yesterday to get a sneak peak at what this whole Agender thing was really about. Getting to see it all before today's big opening was pretty exciting. There were no crowds, no lines... just a handful of enthusiastic salespeople who truly believed that they had something special to share.

Unlike my original understanding of the project, Selfridges has set up several distinct Agender spaces, that are separate from the rest of the retail floor. My guide through the shop explained it was designed so that you'd be in a “safe space,” where you didn't have to feel restricted in selecting what you like.

Each item it placed in a heavy white garment bag, where only a strip of the garment (front panel down the middle) is showing. This is, again, to push you to naturally gravitate to what intrigues you. There was no men's clothes that looked feminine or women's clothes that looked masculine, there was just this neutral balance of clothing that defied definition.

Selfridges Agender Experience

It was strange to realise that I could be shopping side-by-side with Jon and that each garment could be worn by either of us. I was surprised that I liked almost every piece... I especially loved this biker jacket by Japanese designer, blackmeans. I looked down at the price tag. £1815 (that's $2,725 in the States)... no wonder I liked it so much.

Selfridges Agender Experience

I also really liked this sweatshirt by Yang Li (which is a cool £160). There were a few avant-guarde pieces, but in general, I thought the whole space was wonderfully restrained. I'm sure in the future they'll push it a little more, but I believe they are really trying to speak to people (such as myself) who get a bit squirmy with issues of gender neutrality.

Selfridges Agender Experience

I walked away a real believer in what Selfridges is doing. I think it's a solid business move, and I like that it gives gravitas to a generation that is embracing an ethos of acceptance. Just walking around Selfridges you can see that they like to push the envelope:

Selfridges Agender ExperienceSelfridges Agender Experience

If no one were pushing boundaries, the world would stagnate. And while I still very much believe we should celebrate-- through fashion-- the traditionally curvy woman and more angular man, I think there should be a healthy latitude for men that like lace, women that like neckties, and those that are somewhere in-between. Fashion should be about self-expression, and I think Selfridges is helping to make that happen.

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