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Why Genderless Fashion Is the Future

Performance artist and designer Alok Menon argues that the fashion and beauty industries need to ‘de-gender’ fashion to better celebrate trans and nonbinary people.
Alok Vaid-Menon speaks during #BoFVOICES | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion
By
  • Cathaleen Chen

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — When Alok Menon was asked to be on the cover of a magazine a few years ago, the poet and performance artist was excited to showcase their eccentric style: six-inch heels and a dress "that would make even the most gnarly substitute teacher in town blush."

But ultimately, Menon was cut from the cover, after hearing the photographer whisper to an editor: “Do you want the best photo, or do you want the politically correct photo.”

This type of conduct, Menon explained, depicts the fashion industry’s glaring blindspot when it comes to diversity and inclusion. “People want the aesthetic of diversity, but they don’t actually want us,” Menon said. “I am not an idea. I am not a symbol. I am not a prop. I am a person.”

It’s also why the fashion and beauty industries need to be completely “de-gendered,” they added.

What does this look like? For starters, the narrative that trans people are “newly in fashion” should go away, Menon argued, in addition to allowing cis straight people to represent gender-neutral fashion in ads and glossy magazines.

Companies should also hire more trans and non-binary creatives in leadership positions, and support organisations that fight for trans rights.

Also vital is “casting a diverse array of genders, sizes, abilities and races in every show and campaign, not just perfunctory Pride collections which at this point are so unimaginative they feel positively homophobic,” Menon said.

Some more points: “Ending ‘men’s fashion week’ and ‘women’s fashion week,’ and just having fashion week” or “moving beyond gender-segregated stores and ‘men’s magazines’ and ‘women’s magazines.’"

“Fashion should proliferate possibility, not constrain it,” they said.

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.

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