J.W. Anderson, unlike Hourani or Targon and Studenberg, has separate menswear and womenswear lines, yet a splatter-painted tunic from one line can easily end up in the other. And his clothes, for men and women, play with the idea of traditionally feminine details, such as ruffles, juxtaposed with tough fabrics like leather or suede. “These sources of tension—exploring different forms on different body shapes—make fashion,” Katherine Bernard, a writer for Vogue.com, says. “It’s exciting to see how a ruffle moves on a male body.”
And just as women have taken up oxfords and flat shoes, men are also incorporating previously “female” garments into their wardrobe. Take Kanye West, who wore a floral Celine tunic to Coachella a few years back; or Marc Jacobs, who for a good year was hardly seen in something other than a Comme des Garcons kilt; or A$AP Rocky, who has taken to wearing skirts by his friends at Hood by Air.
“Have I seen a J.W. Anderson ruffled shirt on the street? Probably not,” Bernard says. “But terms like ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ or ‘borrowing from the boys’ just don’t apply to the way we wear clothes anymore.”
Which is a reason why so many of these designers chafe at the term “unisex” or “postgender.” Unlike, say, Pierre Cardin or Rudi Gernreich—whose experiments with unisex dressing in the 1960s and ’70s had a radical, political edge—designers such as Targon and Studenberg and Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver are merely creating clothes that fit the lifestyles of the increasingly diverse people who wear them.
Indeed, take a look at Oliver’s runway, and you’ll realize that gender—as well as race and nationality—is not only fluid, but almost beside the point. Hood by Air’s presentations are by far the most diverse in the Fashion Week calendar: with African Americans, Asians, whites, mixed-race people, females, males, and transsexuals all represented—many of them close friends of the designer. (The hair-whipping vogue-ers he got to close his Fall 2014 show? High school buddies.) “Sexuality isn’t something to be held down by,” Oliver says. “We take what people know of masculine, feminine, and make them veer away from the structure of it being associated with a man or a woman and instead have it be associated with a feeling, a moment, a look. It’s about an attitude or a gesture rather than being male or female.”