This Fashion Trend Invites More Customers Into Existing Spaces – Sourcing Journal

This Fashion Trend Invites More Customers Into Existing Spaces – Sourcing Journal

The recent PROJECT New York show held a fireside chat with the description “fashion is constantly changing and in its current iteration it’s making room for gender fluidity.” The message was clear: Stores and brands that embrace gender-fluid clothing and merchandising stand out for broader customer appeal.

For the uninitiated, the PROJECT show chat was a lively course on how to reach consumers who don’t necessarily want gender-specific clothing.

“It’s about the freedom of choice of what you want to wear and not being limited to the binary of what we’ve been created to wear,” said Travis Weaver, founder of One DNA Clothing, describing what genderfluid fashion means. “It is like breaking the binary and feeling that you are not so tied to what is said to our society. In Western culture, a man must wear a business suit. But in an African country, a man will wear a different garment than in Western culture would be considered a dress. So flowy fashion is about having that freedom and not feeling like you’re tied down to a certain type of clothing. You should feel free to express yourself in any way that shows who you authentically are.”

Rob Smith, founder of The Phluid Project, a genderless fashion, activism and education brand, likened the word fluid to navigating between two spaces like water in a river.

“It flows easily from one side to the other,” Smith said at the PROJECT event. “And if you think that each side of the river is a construct, whether it’s gender, religion, race or age, our ability to look at each of these and say, ‘Am I this or that, or am I this? Y that’, I think a lot of us are more ‘this and that’. Being curious and authentic is what brings it out.”

A majority of consumers (70 percent) say they would like apparel brands and retailers to be more inclusive in both their products and advertising, according to the 2019 Cotton Incorporated report. lifestyle monitor™Survey. And more than 8 in 10 consumers (83 percent) say they would like the fashion industry to offer additional fits and sizes.

An NPD Group survey found that 40 percent of American consumers said they purchased clothing or footwear outside of their gender identity, according to Kristen Classi-Zummo, director, industry analyst, apparel.

“The main reasons for these purchases were size and fit (22%), comfort (21%), and price (16%),” says Classi-Zummo. “The active and comfort movement that has gained momentum in recent years is helping to amplify the gender-neutral trend. In addition, personal reasons are also involved, such as purchases that are actually ‘social statements’ or ‘aligned with gender expression’, which applied to 5 percent of respondents. While this number may seem small, this trend is gaining attention as social movements have also been a catalyst for self-expression, breaking the mold of outdated concepts of gender identity.

Weaver said One DNA appeals to consumers through its extended size. But the brand is also working to educate customers on how One DNA sizing works.

“We’re very conscious of communicating sizes, measurements and displaying clothing online to a diverse group of people,” Weaver said. “We offer a relaxed fit and our pants have an elastic waist to accommodate different sizes.”

Loose fits and elastic waistbands have universal appeal for today’s consumers. When it comes to factors in a clothing purchase decision, shoppers listed comfort (95 percent) and fit (95 percent) at the top, according to Display™ research. Those factors are followed by price (89 percent), durability (89 percent), style (85 percent), and color (83 percent).

While selling genderfluid fashion has its rewards, it is not without its challenges. Weaver said the fashion industry is still very binary, and it also keeps its merchandising separate.

“So we have to put some pressure on buyers and educate them on what it would look like if the clothes were placed in various sections of a company’s website,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to work with the buyer and let him know that he will have more people to sell to.”

Weaver and Smith noted that gender fluid marketing could work in all areas of retail. Currently, consumers buy their clothes at mass stores such as Walmart and Target (59 percent), according to the Display™ research. It is followed by Amazon (46 percent), chain stores like Kohl’s (40 percent), department stores (34 percent), specialty stores like Gap and American Eagle (33 percent), and discount retailers (33 percent).

Smith agreed that retailers still predominantly segregate their men’s and women’s departments in the store, but said there are ways to overcome that, even in established brick-and-mortar locations.

“There are people who buy men’s clothing and others who buy women’s clothing and that’s where they feel comfortable,” she said. “I like to add a third section. If you have an existing business, create a small space in the middle and make a shop for all genders.

“A lot of it is also how you label the product,” Smith said. “Maybe a sweater could be labeled as men’s and women’s. Some products are for all genders, but will be sold exclusively to women. I think it’s about communication, and you have to learn to communicate differently. Even when I work with big retailers, I say, ‘Why don’t you take away the women’s dresses and just say dresses? Instead of men’s suits, make him suits. Change the game. You are growing your business by inviting more people to your space.”

Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey is an ongoing research program that measures consumer attitudes and behaviors related to apparel, shopping, fashion, sustainability and more.

For more information on the Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, visit

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