For six weeks, starting in March, Selfridges London will be ridding themselves of their perfectly organized men and women’s departments. In their place, they plan on creating a monstrous three-floor cornucopia of unisex clothing. Selfridges is a store that holds historical relevance in the retail world, a relevance of such traditional value that it was even made into a television show. Therefore, the news came as a surprise to me. As someone who lived 18 years of my life in central London, I never called myself a regular Selfridges shopper. I must admit, I even related it to those 'boring overpriced mum shops' akin to John Lewis, or even Harrods (am I the only one who finds Harrods incredibly boring and artificial?)
The extent of my experiences in Selfridges climaxed in getting my ears pierced there, aged 14, and trailing around afterwards being very very disappointed in the selection. There is no question that Selfridges is iconic in regards to the London shopping world, but I never had the urge to visit again. Hence, the idea of Selfridges making such a wild leap with such a modern, interesting take on shopping really shocked me. Not only will the store axe the dividing racks, but it will also edit its infamous window displays with androgynous mannequins, as well host an array of gender inspired film/music/design presentations around the store.
Let's be honest; an entirely unisex store has never been attempted before, let alone for 2 months. While Selfridges does stock gender-neutral clothing from designers such as Gareth Pugh, it is clearly very traditional in terms of styling and layout. I think it is a wonderful idea. For a store with as much credibility as Selfridges, I hope the high street clocks onto this concept, and takes note. As Linda Hawson, Selfridges' creative director stated, "it is not about harnessing a trend, but rather tapping into a mindset, and acknowledging, and responding to a cultural shift that is happening now" Wise words, Linda.
After snooping on various website comment boards, I discovered that most of the online population finds the idea - and I quote, from one rather angry man - "ridiculous". Another percentage of the population is excited to buy some "snazzy shared outfits". Clearly, the project is a marmite concept. Whilst some people may be sitting chuckling at the idea of a unisex store, the idea is itself is not as unusual as first thought. As Linda states, gender-neutral fashion is a "cultural shift". With women frequently appearing alongside male models, and the awash of gender bending clothes at this year's LCM catwalks, there is possibly no better time to take this wild leap. Moreover, whilst I was thinking about this post, I realized that unisex fashion is very present, in hidden corners, on high streets all over the UK. Take for example, the American Apparel newsletter I received this morning. I woke up at 7.30 for a seminar, and checked my emails with a coffee. I skimmed through the newsletter, without even realizing that the title was Unisexy Fashion. American Apparel advertises a range of unisex fashion, and has done for a good few years now.
Another example of this happened to me whilst looking through H&M over the Christmas period. I saw a shirt on a female mannequin that I loved, but couldn't find it anywhere in the women’s section of the store. On later inspection, I found it in the men’s section. Sneaky. Whilst perhaps I find buying men’s clothing pretty normal, I feel that to a multitude of female shoppers, the idea of wearing menswear, or unisex items, is deemed a bit unusual. However, I see that masculine fashion is still very much integrated in the womenswear world. Take the reoccurring trend of boyish chic, for example, a trend that began in the 1920s, and clearly takes inspiration from menswear.
On the other hand, men’s fashion clearly has links in womenswear in a variety of different forms - many of which I described below in my blog post Superheroes. To name another, my boyfriend wears women’s jeans for a desired skintight look. Blurring gender lines IS becoming a norm, and I feel that it should be embraced, and not pushed away. After all, Selfridges has teamed up with a whole band of designers for the project including Nicola Formichetti and Underground, Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons and Meadham Kirchoff, who all are backing the idea.
There is no better time for Selfridges to take on such an exciting project. Hopefully, it won't be a short and sweet, but instead a nod to things to come in the world of fashion. And hey, it means I'll be definitely making a trip back to Selfridges, and this time, not just to get my ears pierced.