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
“…Do not cross legs, do not cross arms, do not pose. Do not stop. Be pure. Be Unisex. Be Couture.” Rad Hourani's artful poetry decorated his Haute Couture invitation and underlined his blended vision of his unisex namesake label. Born in Jordan and raised in Montreal, Canada, he was the first designer to be invited by The Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture in Paris to exhibit his unisex Haute Couture collection. He also designs a unisex ready-to-wear line, Rad by Rad Hourani and continues to break barriers with his innovative take on gender unification in fashion. #EXTRAORDINAIRE spoke with the designer backstage during Paris Fashion Week to find out: what is extraordinaire?
Would you classify your design palette as androgynous? And how do you distinguish androgynous from unisex?
I do not define my look as androgynous. Androgyny is a style that is being either feminine or masculine. My style, on the other hand, is more unisex. Unisex style is genderless and timeless. The collection unites the sexes by abolishing borders. My designs are not limited to gender, age, religion or season. Creating garments that are suitable for both genders is the backbone of my collection. I also like to work on transformable pieces, which are items that can transform into a skirt, a corset, a dress, etc. This provides the two sexes with endless possibilities to display their own personal style.
What motivated you to design unisex couture ?
It is important to be inquisitive. At the beginning of my career I asked myself who decided why men should be dressed differently than women? Why exactly do these trends exist? For instance, at the time of Louis XIV men were wearing heels and women were wearing corsets… and then things changed. I soon realized that in a way we as a society have invented these codes. My role as a designer is to erase these codes and start something new.
How would you describe your creative process?
The creative process is always linked to the unisex. It took me a year to understand a man’s body and a woman’s body and then I created one canvas to fit both. I sketch each season on the same canvas. This collection is constructed alike for both men and women, except with a variation of separate looks. I design graphic lines and architectural shapes. These shapes can be a garment, a building, a car, or even an object. When I design, I think of myself and how I like to dress. I think that the way we dress is a form of expression and it is something that reflects our personality and the way we are. My clothes reflect my way of being and my way of thinking that is free from any restrictions. I like to add another dimension of sophistication to my work and to be challenged.
You debuted your first collection at age twenty-five, what advice do you have for young aspiring designers?
I tell them to have a vision. It is very important to respect your vision and do not compromise. Do not create a brand just to create a brand. Do not look at fashion to create fashion, do something else, or something new. Quality comes first. I never look at collections or even fashion photography to get inspired. If you seek inspiration in other people’s art, you are simply just recycling and not inventing. Think of a complete vision from A to Z and also be ready to work extremely hard to succeed. I would never be where I am today if I did not work twenty-four hours straight, day and night. The design world is not easy.
What is #EXTRAORDINAIRE for Rad Hourani?
Feeling good is extraordinaire.
Interview: Chloe Rash
Illustration: Alexandria Coe
One-on-one with the first unisex couturier
Photography Alexandra Utzmann
Words Ray Siegel
For all of the lip service that designer’s pay the notion of timeless fashion, designer Rad Hourani is a true devotee to the cause. Taking that ideology several steps further, he prides himself in design that is timeless, seasonless, ageless, genderless and was built using the first-ever unisex pattern—and his own “set of rules.” According to Hourani, it all begins with one graphic shape that could evolve into anything—a building, a piece of furniture, a sculpture—but eventually morphs into his collection, one that stands out amidst the typical ruffles and embellishments that are quintessentially couture.
In 2005, Hourani arrived in Paris to work as a stylist and two years later, launched his namesake ready-to-wear collection. Only six years later, he became the first unisex couturier in history to be invited by the Fédération Française de la Haute Couture.
“I did my first collection for my personal wardrobe and had no idea that it would go this far,” Hourani explains. “I believe that using what I would like to wear as a starting point for the design process is the most truthful and straightforward approach. It allows me to stay focused on my aesthetic and assess my commitment to wearability, functionality, and comfort. I have always been interested in creating something that looks minimal, but is complex to make. For me, that is the most challenging part of my work. I also admire the craftsmanship of making something extremely luxurious without it being showy. Attending to complexity and simplicity at the same time is a very long process. It’s all about “savoir faire” which is working with the best of the best in every aspect: fabrics, tailoring, cutting, fitting, and proportions.”
His style is based on symmetry and rectangular shapes that help him realize his unisex concept. He blames it on an subconscious attraction to architecture, but his main focus always comes backs to the timeless nature of his designs. “I want to free my collection from all trends or seasons or references from the past. Given the nature of the fashion calendar, I have to present my collections on a bi-yearly basis, but I design them with the idea that they could be worn by anyone, at any time. Therefore, I do not start every new season with a specific concept, but rather try to establish continuity from one to the next. My pieces are timeless and freed from any strict differentiations. My methodology revolves around the notion of the present existing without a past.”
As for what is different about the collection that went down the runway today: “Extreme femininity and masculinity. I wanted to give both of these sides a place in this collection. I hope to reach people who do not define themselves in strict terms.”