Clothing stores with separate women’s and men’s sections are beginning to feel positively quaint. Binary-rejecting fashion has always been around (athleisure, anyone?), but as challenging gender norms has become more—for lack of a better word—normal, unisex brands are gaining commercial traction. New York even has a fully gender-free boutique, called The Phluid Project, which opened its doors this past spring at 684 Broadway. It’s the first of its kind worldwide.
Local independent labels that embrace a gender-neutral or gender-free aesthetic are happy that this fashion philosophy is gaining favor. “It’s about time!” says MI Leggett, founder of the brand Official Rebrand. “Strict gender norms limit us, tell us what we should like, how we should emote, and how we should present ourselves. Expectations for what we should wear are a big part of this. Genderless clothing allows some people to feel more like themselves, as opposed to being lumped into a gendered category that doesn’t work for them.”
Along with Official Rebrand, we love the duds from these follow-your-own-non-gendered-heart brands.
The inspiration behind Wilde Vertigga’s asymmetrical designs is playwright and aesthete Oscar Wilde, who in 1885 wrote, “The oblique line […] conveys an impression of dignity as well as freedom” in the New York Daily Tribune. Colorwise, Wild Vertigga uses a neutral palette for pants and T-shirts, but goes for brighter hues in outerwear. Its signature Georgia double-breasted coat, for example, comes in cadmium yellow and dusty pink, and Oscar (a shorter version of the coat) is available in cobalt blue. The label’s in-house fragrance, Wilde Kush, is one that lovers of a certain plant, no matter their sex, will appreciate. Available at Flying Solo
The definition of “menswear” as opposed to “womenswear” is becoming more and more vague, and Kirrin Finch deftly demonstrates this by creating garments—mainly shirts and pants—in the “dapper” aesthetic. Particular attention is given to the fit, with features such as a “reduced boob gap,” which avoids having shirts gape unsightly around the bust thanks to the addition of extra buttons. Kirrin Finch also likes color accents in the collar, cuffs, and gusset areas, an inspiration taken from English tailors. What’s more, the collars are structured, which means the shirts can be worn with accessories without bunching up or losing their shape.
One DNA prides itself on making gender-neutral clothing basics. Given that mastering a solid rotation of basics is a challenge for people of any gender, we can’t help but admire its collections of boxy, oversize hoodies; tunics that are appropriate both for the office and for a night out on the town; and timeless wide-leg pants, which, crucially, are not overly flared. The prices land on the higher side ($230 for the hoodies; $285 for the pants), but with basics that fit a wide variety of body types, a little investment goes a long way. Available at The Phluid Project
S.K. Manor Hill
Vintage garments and classic silhouettes are the inspiration behind S.K. Manor Hill. Designer Dominic Sondag refined his eye by studying in Florence, Italy, where he became acquainted with the craftsmanship aspect of fashion. This is also reflected in his choice of fabrics, which are all 100 percent natural and sourced from Europe and Japan. Generally, expect loose-fitting silhouettes in pants, shirts, and jackets, with a neutral color palette and a fondness for beige. The label’s most recent collection has oversize overcoats reminiscent of the famed Max Mara camel coat, but at a third of the price. And since no palette is complete without an accent color, the brand also has a varied selection of bright orange sweaters.
Brooklyn-based Cilium pairs skillful design with a strong environmental conscience. In fact, its garments have multiple uses, with no wrong or right way to wear them, which works great as a budgeting technique, a space-saving device, and an environmentally conscious choice. The brand’s tankTube, for example, can be worn as a tank top, skirt, dress, and hooded tank; while the wrapper is, at the same time, a vest, a hood, a wrap dress, and even a pair of “wings.”
Designer MI Leggett has been working on their gender-free fashion label since their college days in Ohio. Through a technique called Rebranding, which consists of altering used garments, as well as painting and drawing on them, Leggett gives pieces that had been formerly discarded a new life, going against mainstream tendencies of fast fashion and overconsumption. Their most iconic collection is the “water” project, which, through the repurposing of pairs of jeans, highlights the high amount of water needed to craft a new pair. Available at The Phluid Project and Otherwild
“We want to wear what we want to wear, and we want you to do the same,” reads the mission statement of the Brooklyn-based brand Beau Novo, which stands for “new man.” The name the sprang from the time the company’s cofounder once met a woman named Beau at a bar, which fit with the label’s plans for designing gender-neutral fashion. The custom-made collection consists of a series of crop tops, leggings, skirts, body-con dresses, backpacks, and T-shirts, all adorned with black and white photographs and motifs.