The Rise of Non-Binary Fashion
Because... who doesn't love Dave?! 😍 pic.twitter.com/vdxcxIvOmZ— Londonedge Ltd (@Londonedge) May 30, 2017
THE RISE OF NON-BINARY FASHION at LondonEdge
With Offend My Eyes’ designer Jack Bean
There has always been masculine clothing; jeans, boots, checked shirts, and waistcoats. Then there’s always been the obviously feminine clothing; pretty dresses, tights and high heels… but what if you identify as neither masculine nor feminine? What if you like to wear both or switch from one to the other? That’s the place in the middle, and that’s called non-binary.
If male and female is black and white, non-binary is the grey area in-between. Non-binary clothing might not be mainstream yet, but fashion has been challenging people’s perception of gender for as long as it has existed, and nobody knows this better than colourful clothing designer Jack Bean from Offend My Eyes.
As an artist, Jack has been creating clothing for the non-binary market for over three years now, showcasing his designs at the lifestyle-led London Edge trade show.
“We were non-binary friendly before we even knew what the term meant. As a transgender man running an alternative fashion company I was already ignoring gender labels on clothing and marketing them as unisex, because to me, clothing is not about what’s in between your legs but about expressing yourself and your style. It’s why we love going to London Edge every year. We’ve been welcomed into this world where people don’t care how you identify or what your pronouns are. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people who just care about fashion and what you can create. ”
Fashion is a political statement. Someone who identifies as male walking down the street in heels isn’t just trying to look good - they’re challenging the world’s political stance whether they like it or not and LondonEdge knows this. It’s why their brands are at the very cutting edge of fashion - both mainstream and underground. It’s what makes them stand out.
Jack chose to exhibit his range at LondonEdge because of how easily they accepted non-binary clothing in the alternative market. They don’t split their brands into male or female - everyone comes together in one giant space. It’s down to each vendor how they choose to market their brand, but male, female, transgender, non-binary - you’re all welcome into the same space at LondonEdge! The problem is, the rest of the world is yet to catch up. Most high street stores don’t realize there is a third option yet, and they still market everything to either male or female. Don’t wait for the high street shops to include you - because you’ll be waiting a long time. They might be stuck in the past, but places like LondonEdge are leading the way in terms of acceptance and diversity.
“Most high street shops don’t realise that non-binary people even exist. They still sell everything as either male or female. Some big name brands have acknowledged that there are people who don’t identify as either of these genders but then they miss the mark by creating new ranges of what they call ‘genderless’ clothing when really, all their clothing is already genderless and all they have to do is change the way they market it. When we launch a new design for Offend My Eyes, like our popular ‘Mer-person’ dress, we use a diverse range of models including gender fluid and non-binary people so that when someone sees one of our adverts they can imagine themselves wearing the brand regardless of the model wearing it.”
What makes clothing non-binary - is it the cut? The colour? The people who wear it? “It’s none of them,” says Jack. “Anyone who makes clothing is already creating garments that are non-binary; it’s just the labels they put on them that makes them gender-specific. A dress is always just a dress and can be worn by everyone.”
Jack’s company Offend My Eyes now creates each product with non-binary bodies in mind.
“When I’m designing, let’s say, a pair of shorts. I ask myself, ‘will these look good on small, curvy bodies as well as tall, muscular ones?’ I make sure the fastenings and the waistband are stretchy enough to fit around all different types and sizes of people - there’s no gender involved. Genderless clothing doesn’t have to be clothing that shares both masculine and feminine traits – that’s where the big brands are getting it all wrong, They think marketing a line of baggy, oversized and bland clothing as genderless is going to appeal to people outside the binary, when really all they have to do is get rid of the restrictive gender labels they already have and let people choose what they want to wear. I like to see people wearing things their way and discovering their own style. Clothing is about the freedom to express yourself and experimenting with who you are as a person.”
Why bother? Aren’t you catering for a very small minority here? This year saw more people than ever before identifying as non-binary, but that’s not the only reason you should think about it. Doing away with the old fashioned ‘male or female’ style of advertising benefits people of all gender identities - not just the minorities. You might think it’s acceptable for women to wear shirts marketed to men, but what about men wearing skirts, or butch, muscular women wearing heels and dresses? We’ve still got a lot of work to do if we want to undo the imaginary boundaries placed on us by an oppressive society. Embracing the rise of non-binary fashion not only includes more genders but it also frees men and women everywhere from being told what they can and cannot wear.
“There’s no pressure to conform to the ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ expectations at LondonEdge - it’s about who you are as a person. That’s why we take Offend My Eyes there because we can just be ourselves.”
Independent, alternative brands are already marketing their clothing as genderless and non-binary. They’re not on the high street - they’re made by real people, and not often mass-produced. You can find these new and cutting edge brands at the LondonEdge show this September in London. Come and meet Jack with Offend My Eyes on stand VG39