Binary-Busting Designs Well-Represented at Emmys, Met Gala and NY Fashion Week

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 21, 2021

Gender-defying boldness has long been a vital force in the fashion industry, but ever since Billy Porter wore a stunning gown to the Oscars last February, it seems as though designers are chafing harder than ever at being corseted into binary thinking.

This year's binary-busting edition of New York Fashion Week felt of a piece with an accelerating evolution in fashion sensibilities that look toward a less bi-modal, more gender-liberated vision. The 2021 edition of the annual event brought a broader, more unrestrained sense of style to the catwalk, with a healthy representation from brands that seek to shed staid "Mars and Venus" constraints.

HypeBeast took particular note of a handful of designers who proved their vision isn't limited to a gender binary.

HypeBeast zeroed in on fashion brand Eckhaus Latta, a "gender-neutral label" that "remind[ed] the industry that fashion is simply meant to exist as a vehicle for self-expression."

"The brand's creative constructions — long-sleeve tops with punctured holes in their torsos, tank tops with sheer chests and abstract layers, sweaters with asymmetrical cuts down one arm — transcend masculine and feminine design and instead depict how fashion exists as a medium for artistic expression," HypeBeast explained.

Another notable brand, Helmut Lang, the article noted, displayed "a singular, unisex Spring 2022 range, exploring themes of intimacy and novelty through a curated range of nautical-inspired assemblages".

HypeBeast posited that "Lang's androgynous reinventions of the classic silhouette prove the changed sentiments towards gender-confined fashion."

Another gender-defying label, Private Policy, offers designs "without labels, inviting people to shop without the confinements of gender norms," HypeBeast observed. That remained true of its NYFW showing.

The label, which "has put forth a unisex vision since its conception," boasted a collection "defined by entirely gender-irrelevant design codes" at the event.

"Thom Browne has never been one to lawfully adhere to traditional gender codes in his design practice, either," HypeBeast noted. "The label's approach to genderless fashion, though, is less about removing labels and more about pushing the boundaries within those confines."

The brand's Insta posts below celebrate its designs for the 2021 Met Gala — another proving ground for gender-liberated innovation — and give a feel for its willingness to stretch the imagination and get inventive about playing with old-school binary ruts.

Speaking of the 2021 Met Gala, Thom Browne found an ideal model in openly gay actor Lee Pace, who donned the label's modern take on the classic tux (and rocked a wedding ring, igniting speculation that he may have married his longtime partner, Matthew Foley).

Of course, New York Fashion Week and the Met Gala aren't the only places gender-free, gender-neutral, and gender-creative clothing has been making a statement of late. Last weekend's Emmys offered a red carpet opportunity for a constellation of stars to show their true colors, slipping into gender-relaxed couture while stripping away outmoded strictures.

As UK newspaper The Guardian reported, "Top fashion honors went to Carl Clemons-Hopkins from "Hacks," who wore a Christian Siriano ensemble: a slashed shoulder-revealing top that recalled Princess Diana's "Revenge Dress," matched with a cummerbund and sash in the colors of the non-binary flag."

In the meantime, out "SNL" comic Bowen Yang paired his classic tux with metallic silver platform heels.

Fashion's gender-transcending trends are unlikely to disappear any time soon; indeed, they seem to be still gathering steam as more labels join in on reinventing the relationship between clothing and the bodies it's designed for.

Case in point: Japanese label ADEAM has entered the fray with its own line of gender-neutral designs, HypeBeast noted in a separate article. Called ADEAM ICHI, the fresh new collection "hones in on looser shapes, stronger urban ties and more playful silhouettes."

"ICHI is the Japanese word for 'one,' " HypeBeast pointed out. See a few examples from ADEAM's Insta for an idea of the label's looks.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.