We’re closing in on the end of Men’s Fashion Month in Europe, and you can’t look too far into your Instagram streams before noticing that there aren’t just men on the catwalk. Genderless fashion isn’t exactly a new concept: Karl Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada have effectively used female models in male-clothing shows (and vice versa) for years, and Hedi Slimane regularly blurs gender boundaries in his lineups. But, gender-mixing has ramped up significantly this season with everyone from Coach to Jeremy Scott casting women to walk the runway to show their 2016 spring collections for men. It wasn't just the number of women cast in menswear shows that caught our attention; it was also their prominence within these shows. The number of exit looks featured on female models have taken over the big shows. We counted 10 women out of the 55 models at Gucci, which is a huge proportion. And, in a show where everyone wore lace-up ballet flats, costume jewelry, and pussy bows, the only real gender signifier was whether the model was wearing nail polish. According to Gucci’s press release, this season’s show was titled “Détournement,” which is French for "hijacking." It was explained as “a kind of game that puts decontextualized fragments back into circulation — objects found by chance and torn away from their history, pre-existing entities that lose their original meaning," which gives meaning to Alessandro's Michele's penchant toward riffing on old design concepts. Gucci goes on to explain that "Détournement is also, and above all, a political device. Its strength lies in the possibility of transgressing what already exists and offering glimpses of new possibilities of freedom and emancipation.” With the number of women in their show, and men with unapologetically feminine features, it’s not hard to read this as a metaphor for the genderless fashion movement as well.
Designer Matthew Miller is less elusive, openly admitting that his collections try not to focus too much on gender assumptions. He says, “We don't automatically feminize a product just because it's for a woman. We purposely use the same fabrics, details, and colors for our menswear.” Miller went on to shed light on his decision to send five out of 23 spring looks down the London runway on women. “I just think that gendered fashion shows are very outdated, to be honest," he said. "It's a concept that one door is used for one gender and the other for another. It's a very Victorian way of thinking. It's not inclusive; it's incommensurable.” Valentino's feminist-leaning Pierpaolo Piccioli echoed this sentiment in The New York Times: "We don't think that we need...new labels. I don't think you need to show what you are. I don't care about men and women. I just care about people." One thing is clear: the representation of women during Men’s Fashion Month has gone from cameo to supporting cast member. We wonder if similar casting decisions will be made in the corresponding women’s shows this September.