Harris Reed—who stands six feet nine in five-inch platform boots—dreams big. The 24-year-old designer, who identifies as gender-fluid, outfitted Harry Styles with a world tour’s worth of lamé pussy-bow blouses and worked on Gucci’s design team, all while he was a student at the London art and design school Central Saint Martins. When the pandemic canceled the graduate showcase this past May, he found a way to reach an even bigger audience by creating a giant disc hat filter on Instagram, “worn” by Kaia Gerber, Jeremy O. Harris, Kiernan Shipka, and more than a million other fans. “I’d like to eradicate the categories of menswear and womenswear,” Reed says. “Fluidity offers an alternate way of being, crossing and merging masculine and feminine.”
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Reed’s design philosophy takes further ideas about gender that are just starting to show up on the runways. Models identifying as non-binary, trans men, and cis men walked alongside cis women at Valentino’s Fall 2020 womenswear show. Agender model Juno Mitchell walked that show too, as well as for Eckhaus Latta, Marni, Coperni, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs, where they strode side by side with Miley Cyrus—who has described herself as gender-neutral—adding to the feeling that gendered clothing is increasingly irrelevant. “It’s just so not that period in time anymore,” says Marc Jacobs. “And for me, it hasn’t really been ever.” In September, Jacobs introduced Heaven, a new range billed as being for “girls who are boys and boys who are girls, [and] those who are neither.” Around the same time, Alessandro Michele launched Gucci MX, a new way to shop on Gucci.com, where pieces from his womenswear and menswear shows are merchandised together. “We are witnessing a ‘gender shift,’ ” says Stefano Pilati, creative director of Yves Saint Laurent from 2004 to 2012, explaining the origins of Random Identities, his Berlin-based louche glamour-meets-haberdashery line. “I therefore design fashion at the service of it.”
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More than half of Gen Z customers shop from both menswear and womenswear offerings, according to a recent survey by the New York–based brand consultancy Wunderman Thompson. While it’s true that fashion has a long history of subverting gender norms—think of Coco Chanel’s wide-legged trousers, Yves Saint Laurent’s le smoking, and Jean Paul Gaultier’s men’s skirting—by and large these designs have been created by people, and for people, who identify as cisgender. Until recently the industry had been slow to adapt to and embrace a more expansive definition of gender itself and a consumer who identifies across a gender spectrum. What sets young creatives like Reed and his contemporaries apart, then, is that they are designing for their own non-cisgender bodies and celebrating the communities that power their brands by putting them front and center.
Pierre Davis, the 30-year-old cofounder and head designer of the L.A.-based collective No Sesso (Italian for “no gender”) creates conceptual pieces such as skirts made from suit jackets that showcase fluid possibility. Last year, Davis became the first trans woman to present a collection on the official New York Fashion Week calendar. “No Sesso started as just us making things that we see ourselves wearing, and our community really related to that,” says Davis. “It’s important that we continue to show our clothes on Black trans, queer, and non-binary people.”
“Fluidity offers an alternate way of being, crossing and merging masculine and feminine.”Harris Reed
Art School’s 26-year-old non-binary creative director, Eden Loweth, made a brilliantly simple technical innovation: using a bias cut in tailoring. “As a trans person goes through hormone treatments, it changes the way that fabric sits on their body,” says Loweth, explaining the utility of a construction technique normally used to give silk dresses stretch. The London-based label’s blazers have also found fans in unlikely corners—cue the amputee mountain climber and local U.K. politician who walked with young trans and non-binary creatives in the most recent show. “You don’t need to be trans to understand what it’s like for your body to change shape over time,” Loweth adds.
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Loweth’s work has also won over MatchesFashion, which welcomed Art School and Harris Reed to its Innovators incubator program this fall. “We spend a long time searching for a diverse curation of design talent that will appeal to our global customers across genders,” says Natalie Kingham, fashion and buying director at MatchesFashion. Working with the luxury retailer gave Reed unexpected insight into his base. “I have guys, I have women, I have transgender people,” he says. “I have 50-year-olds in New York and 14-year-olds in Dubai. It could not be more all over the place, in the best way possible.” Next on his agenda for making the world more beautiful and inclusive is reimagining bridal. “My message is self-expression and just owning who you are in the biggest, most maximal way possible,” says Reed. “I think the potential reach for gender-fluid fashion really is everyone.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US