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The BoF Podcast: Clothes Have No Gender

At VOICES 2019, performance artist and designer Alok Vaid-Menon lifted the lid on fashion’s ‘regressive’ gender stereotypes and urged the industry to ‘de-gender’ and redefine the meaning of beauty.
Alok Vaid-Menon speaks during #BoFVOICES | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion

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OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — "Gender neutrality is not the death of fashion — it is the renaissance of fashion," declared performance artist and designer Alok Vaid-Menon at BoF VOICES 2019. They began with a powerful spoken word delivery championing the beauty of transgender and non-binary people.

In their impassioned address, Vaid-Menon revealed that they were once cut from a shoot by a major fashion publication after overhearing the photographer whisper to the editor, “Do you want the best photo, or do you want the politically correct photo?”

It is because of dealings like this that Vaid-Menon called for the industry at large to be held accountable for proliferating an archaic notion of beauty and what it means to be considered “high-fashion.”

“My beauty is so tremendous it has to be edited out of magazines and movements… just to prove it does not exist,” they said.

Vaid-Menon encouraged companies to revise hiring structures and amplify trans and non-binary representation at a senior leadership level, stressing the need for a diverse range of genders, races and sizes on runway shows and in campaigns — and “not just [in the] perfunctory Pride collections, which at this point are so unimaginative they feel positively homophobic.”

They also reminded the global thought-leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in the audience of what representation shouldn’t look like: the notion that trans people are “newly in-fashion” and the use of cis heterosexual models to promote gender neutral clothes in marketing campaigns and publications.

Vaid-Menon — who has created and modelled three gender neutral collections over the past few years under their namesake brand — urged the industry to question whether binary fashion week shows still hold value and if it is time to move beyond “gender-segregated stores and men’s magazines and women’s magazines."

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering.

Subscribe to BoF Professional for unlimited access to BoF articles, plus exclusive benefits for members. For a limited time, enjoy a 25 percent discount on the first year of an annual membership, exclusively for podcast listeners. Simply, click here, select the Annual Package and use code PODCASTPRO at the checkout.

To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

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