Gender fluidity, a perennially favorite topic of the fashion industry, is moving beyond aesthetics with a growing number of women’s designers taking the plunge into the men’s category.
A trend that’s been on the rise for several seasons (notably, The Row Men’s Fall 2018 collection launch), the crossover hits critical mass for Spring 2019, with industry stars Prabal Gurung and Simon Porte Jacquemus joining the ranks of Isabel Marant—who launched her men’s line in Spring 2018—with collections of their own. For labels deeply associated with their feminine aesthetic, it prompts the question: Why now?
“Today, the differences between men and women are less pronounced—we talk more and more about transgender, and it is a world that interests me,” says Marant. “I have always integrated men’s tailoring techniques into my design process for women. It was fair to give back to men what belonged to them!”
The blurring of gender lines is also what drew Gurung to the challenge. “We live in a multifaceted world where traditional identifiers are breaking down,” he says, describing the look of his men’s line as a nomadic spirit paired with urban streetwear, inspired by the grit of New York City and bright colors from his homeland of Nepal. “Our brand ethos is founded on the idea of promoting diversity. It felt like now was the time to expand our offering to include men.”
For Jacquemus, whose self-titled women’s collection exudes a free-spirited sensuality, he admits that the foray into menswear has been surprisingly difficult. “I am my first customer, but that can be a danger! I have to find a good balance—making something desirable that is also wearable.”
To that end, Jacquemus’ menswear is inspired by the south of France, where he grew up. “I wanted to address stereotypes of different Mediterranean men,” he says. Major influences include Picasso’s workwear, lifeguard uniforms, the film Le Grand Bleu, and le gadjo—the name of Jacquemus’ debut collection and, as he describes, “men with open shirts and gold chains, the cliché of ‘bad taste.’”
Like Gurung, who is known for dresses cut to flatter every curve, Jacquemus has created a new visual language for menswear that moves away from his signature ultra-feminine style. On the other hand, Marant’s transition seems more natural given the Parisian designer’s frequently tomboyish aesthetic. Her collection for Spring 2019 is a blend of Cabo resort and Americana influences, mixing delicate embroidery and plaid flannel in the way that only Marant can. If the past two seasons are any indication, she’s found her fan base.
“I realized for a while now that men love to borrow stuff from my women’s collection,” she says. The looks walk the line between refined and effortless, a territory that appeals to Gurung as well. “There is a need for colorful pieces that fall somewhere between sharp suiting and sneaker-and-hoodie culture,” says Gurung. “It felt like the right moment for us to speak to these men, to provide them with our perspective and invite them into our world.”