As trends shift towards more unisex and genderless styles, many are wondering if this is a win for the sustainable fashion movement.
The thought is that the more people who can wear a given garment, the more use the garment will have, and therefore the longer its lifecycle will be. Which, when it comes to sustainable fashion, is key.
We hear people talk about the “lifecycle” of a garment all the time, but what does that really mean? The idea is simple: all clothing ends up in the trash eventually, so when we throw out a garment, its lifecycle has ended. The goal of sustainable fashion is to 1) extend the lifecycle of existing garments (upcycling, repurposing, etc) and to 2) design with the lifecycle of the garment in mind from inception (biodegradable, regenerative materials, etc).
So when it comes to genderless or unisex fashion, the hope is that the lifecycle of non binary clothing will, on average, be tremendously longer than the lifecycle of traditionally female or masculine clothing because more people can wear it once it’s produced and when it’s eventually discarded — which is a win for sustainability.
The question, however, is if unisex fashion is just a trend or if it’s the future of sustainable fashion?
If all we’ve done is have more girls buy baggy clothing and have more guys buy cropped clothing to fit into a trend, and within a few months it will all get tossed aside, then we’ve missed the mark.
And if we’ve produced more oversized hoodies and baby tees because we think we’ve double our customer count, and therefore have allowed ourselves to produce twice as much, then that defeats the purpose.
Just because something is genderless, does not mean it’s inherently sustainable. And if we aren’t careful, unisex fashion will be yet another trend that fast fashion has taken from us and exploited to yield larger returns.
So we have to be careful. When we shop genderless, we still need to think twice and ask ourselves the usual questions: who made this product, what is it made out of, how often will I wear it, and so on.
But if we do our homework, and shop slowly, genderless fashion has the potential to be a catalyst for the future of sustainable fashion.