Will men and women ever happily share the same clothes? Unisex fashion lines take androgynous chic to the next level, but it may be a step too far for many.
With models lining up in black outfits, an opulent setting and silver masks to match the mouldings on the walls, Rad Hourani's show last week fitted right into the couture schedule. But look again, and there's one key difference: Hourani's collection was designed to be unisex. Those masks were there for a reason – to remove any gender differences in models' faces.
This was the first unisex collection to be shown in couture, which is significant not only because couture is a growth area in fashion, but also one of the stuffiest all fashion weeks. Furthermore, Hourani is part of the establishment. Sidney Toledo, president of Christian Dior, has been mentoring him, and he was invited on to the couture schedule by the president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, Didier Grumbach.
Unisex style is hot at the moment. Richard Nicoll launched S/He for spring, a unisex line that he created in partnership with artist Linder Sterling, and JW Anderson regularly blurs the boundaries between genders, telling the Guardian this month that looking at clothes in terms of these divides is "really stale". We have also seen a shift in trends: with pieces such as bomber jackets, sweatshirts and trainers key items in both men's and womenswear.
Hourani, who is originally from Canada, is at the forefront of this trend. He launched his unisex ready-to-wear line RAD by Rad Hourani in Paris in 2007. In a bid to create clothes that "exude the essence of timeless style", his designs are deliberately genderless. Rather than the "men-in-skirts" approach, he concentrates on clothes – T-shirts, jackets, shoes – that seamlessly move between men's and women's wardrobes. It looks strikingly sci-fi even when you remove the models' masks.
Whether unisex design is actually the future of fashion, though, is up for a debate. There will always be customers, particularly in womenswear, who like an androgynous look but, in equal measure, there are those wholove ultra-feminine clothes (see Versace). Rather, unisex is the logical conclusion of the "boyfriend fit" trend, even if a mainstream acceptance of men borrowing their partner's clothes –"girlfriend fit", anyone? - is probably a long way off.
by for The Guardian UK