Designer Frida Bard on the role of gender fluidity in fashion.
To what extent would you say the fashion industry perpetuates conventional gender roles?
Brands are more often bound by conservative notions of gender, which are enforced by the retail industry. There aren’t many shops out there breaking down the borders. Male and female collections are presented in respective areas—sometimes on separate floors. Shops have different buyers for menswear and womenswear; brands follow suit.
How is this changing?
The way that fashion brands communicate is often rooted in traditional ideas of gender, and that takes up a comparatively large share of what we see in the media, online and on the streets. The counterbalance, however, is social media. Here, people can be their own fashion editor. Social platforms are agiler and thus better at adapting to change, whereas a company needs more time and resources to shift its direction. They worry about the short-term business aspect, and need to be at ease with that before they can allow themselves to let loose.
But the potential is there?
Fashion can be a great medium for progressive values. It can serve as a vehicle for expression, so you would think that breaking down gender roles would be a natural progression. It’s important that we let people explore; society needs to become more flexible. We have to elevate our appreciation of individuality and embrace those who challenge the norm.
Does gender fluidity serve as a principle aim in your work at Hope?
We work with separate men’s and women’s collections, but the styles are tied to an identical reference point. Challenging the perception of gender is an underlying assumption rather than a tangible input.
What do you hope to achieve?
That what we’re doing isn’t perceived as an intentional strategy to generate sales: “Oh, they’re doing that gender fluidity thing.” The goal is people not noticing. For only when the erosion of archetypal gender roles is seen as natural and doesn’t need mentioning have we truly succeeded.
Frida Bard is based in Stockholm where she works as Head of Design at Hope.