In Scandinavia, emerging designers and inspirational brands show their versatile and inclusive approaches to gender in fashion.

By Berna Vismara

Gender issues in fashion are on debate, with designers breaking free from societal norms and creating collections that allow individuals to express themselves regardless of their gender identity. The gender-neutral style was often characterized by its minimalist and androgynous nature, featuring neutral colors, simple silhouettes, and versatile pieces that can be worn by anyone. Recently some designers have taken this concept to new heights by incorporating playful, sculptural details and unconventional silhouettes that keep it intimate and alluring.

Recent Beckmans College of Design graduate Samuel Westerberg’s collection focuses on the phenomenon of partners dressing in each other’s clothes. By using classic menswear and tailoring, he creates an exchange through physical garments that challenge traditional gender norms. “The concept is well known within women’s fashion, for example, boyfriend jeans, but has not been presented in menswear yet,” says the young designer. “By shifting the wearer’s gender, the obvious markers that shaped the idea disappear and create a space for communicative symbolism.”

BITE STUDIOS, a global creative collective founded in 2016 by Veronika Kant and William Lundgren, redefines the concept of luxury by gender through a balanced and refined approach instead. The luxurious brand’s Autumn /Winter 2023 collection seamlessly blends femininity with masculine elements, resulting in an expressive minimalism that embodies the agency of women in dressing. The juxtaposition of sharp masculine tailoring and sculpted feminine forms creates a harmonious blend that compliments the wearer’s unique sense of style.

Undoubtedly one of the key expressions of creativity in fashion emphasizing gender is the emergence of new forms in couture. The shift in values and lifestyles in gender issues has resulted in a departure from traditional monochrome suits, paving the way for gender versatile expressions of creativity that highlight designers’ strong craftsmanship, attention to detail, and thoughtful selection of materials. Tim Bunwassana’s Couture collection, created as a student project at Beckmans, showcases adaptable and multifaceted approach to tailoring in relation to gender norms. NK Young Talent award winner Niklas Gustavsson ‘My work is a surreal portrayal of the individual’s inner struggle to try to fit in’ says describing his collection Houdini. The techniques he uses is a crevé technique which involves making holes in the fabric to make the inside visible, like a trompe l’oeil effect using digital print. The idea is a tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli.

Danish designer Jens Ole Arnason also aims to create clothes that break down narrow gender stereotypes. His garments combine classic menswear cuts and details with drapy and voluminous shapes created by elastic techniques. “By doing this, I’m combining cuts, details, and shapes that refer back to both menswear and womenswear into the same garments,” explains Arnason. “My work is about equality for all.”
Young designer Pierre Westerholm instead takes a playful and whimsical approach to gender-free fashion. “I strive to showcase the people and objects that encounters from different perspectives, aim to present them as contrasts, unaware of each other’s existence, and fuse them into wandering hybrids,” describes his work Westerholm. His creations are not confined to gender-specific categories such as men’s or women’s wear but exist as “wear”, open to interpretation for all individuals.

Copenhagen based RENÈ is another fashion brand that pushing the boundaries of diversity and gender fluidity. Their commitment to inclusivity cannot be overlooked. RENÈ’s work stands out for its bold silhouettes, embracing a voluminous and genderless aesthetic that challenges traditional fashion norms. Their new collection Common Ground is crafted with the focus of versatility. ‘We present a collection not restricted by traditional notions such as gender and sex, as we want to create a beauty that can exist beyond. Arisen from our perception of feminine and masculine we create clothes that can inject an energy that indulge a feeling of refinement and style.’

Images: Samuel Westerberg, BITE Studios, Tim Bunwassana (photography: Mathias Nordgren), Niklas Gustavsson, Jens Ole Arnason, Pierre Westerholm (photography: Isak de Yong), RENÈ Photography Sebastian Vistisen Toft.