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Wednesday 22 April 2015

Gender Neutral - Fashion Management with Marketing's FYP

Students from the BA (Hons) Fashion Management with Marketing programme recently undertook their final major project: a fashion show featuring daring designs that put gender identity firmly under the spotlight.

The students who organised and created the show. (From left to right) Tedd Luzylenne Gabrillo, Tayla Banks, Siobhan Daniels and Charlotte Lucey

Titled Gender Neutral, the show was a reaction to the increased attention being given to gender issues in popular culture. This has manifested itself in a range of media including Selfridge’s ‘A Gender’ window display, Conchita Wurst’s polarising Eurovision performance, and a BBC documentary series exploring how gender issues affect young people.

We managed to catch up with some of the team who brought the Gender Neutral fashion show to life, and talked fashion with the designers who filled the catwalk with their couture collections.

Tell us more about ‘gender neutral’ and what it means in relation to society today.

Siobhan: Gender neutral is a concept that is currently prevalent in the fashion industry, as well as in wider society.

Fashion should be a reflection of the world around us, so recent trends that lean towards unisex or androgynous styles just go to show how important gender equality (and equality in general) has become in mainstream culture. This was also helped along by the increasing number of trans-gender role models in the public eye working to raise awareness of the issues that the LGBT community faces.

The 21st century has given us the ability to tap into any sub-culture, or instantly create one online. This means that we no longer have as much of a need to fit into certain societal roles – our clothing is simply a reflection of this.

Male and female models wearing womenswear designer Claudia Hammond-Tanner’s collection.

How was the planning process? Did the event go off without a hitch, or was it a bit more complicated than that?

Tayla: I feel the show went really well, especially considering that we had such a short time to organise and implement everything. I’m really passionate about our theme and concept and I feel we showcased the issues really well, while at the same time celebrating individuality and artistic freedom.

I’ve learnt a lot during the live project and have developed many skills that will benefit me in the future. Our tutors and other members of staff were always on hand to offer support and help out, which definitely aided our success.

Charlotte: To start planning an event from scratch with the intention of ‘going live’ in only six weeks was really daunting. It didn’t even get easier once the day of the event arrived – we were wrestling with dropped-out models and delayed staging right up until show time.

Model Daniel Downey wearing a design from menswear designer Ffian Jones.

Doing a live project has really helped me to develop my interpersonal skills, as well as transferable skills in events and project management. There was constant communication and feedback from our tutors throughout, and it was really nice to hear at the end that we have been one of the most coordinated final major project groups too.

Did you work with anyone else from around the University?

Siobhan: We roped in a lot of students from various different courses to assist with the show – our event would not have been feasible without them. From lighting technicians to stagehands to sound designers – each extra pair of hands was sourced from the University’s own pool of talent.

We’d love to hear more from the designers themselves. What are your backgrounds and what inspired you to create these designs?

Jack Kindred-Boothby: The Break In The Beam is a collection I made to explore structural form using reclaimed pre-consumer waste – it takes silhouettes from sportswear, particularly the layering of cycling clothes, and reimagines them.

Twins Gareth and Mason McLaughlin wearing designs from Jack Kindred-Boothby’s Break in the Beam collection.

Mostly it was inspired from trying on women’s clothes and finding that very often the structure of the clothing created in me a feeling of vulnerability that menswear never subjected me to. I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of creating clothes for men that do not provide so much emotional armour as they are used to experiencing.

Ffian Jones: Gender identity is so well defined in our modern society, nowhere more so than in the fashion industry. Men are granted the least liberation in terms of their gender to express themselves through clothing as they are, generally, imprisoned by gender stereotypes.

I wanted to accentuate a safe middle ground commonly known as androgyny or ambiguity. If we think of gender stereotypes in colour, in between pink and blue on the colour wheel is purple. Through this, I wish to see gender portrayed not as two opposing identities but as an individual creation, different to each person.

To find out more about BA (Hons) Fashion Management with Marketing or any of our other fashion programmes, please visit the Southampton Solent University course homepage.