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(from ‘sustain’ and ‘ability’) is the process of change, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations’.

Sustainability is fast becoming the biggest single issue facing business and commerce around the globe. Whether one is sceptical of the science behind climate change or not, the impact of human industry on the environment is becoming more difficult to ignore. The depletion of fossil fuels and natural resources, the erosion of wild habitats and the depopulation of species cannot surely be a seen as in anyway beneficial to ourselves or our planet


Fashion may not be the first industry that springs to mind as a major contributor to environmental destruction but it has hardly been immune from the negative side-effects of intensive production methods and mass consumption culture. Its exponential growth in the last few hundred years, has left fashion with a very large carbon footprint indeed. A visit to the V&A’s ‘Fashioned from Nature’ exhibition provided a sobering insight into this often ecologically unsound history.

What began as a voyage of discovery, a fascination and desire to document, showcase and harness the visual aesthetics and the innate practical qualities of the natural world, is now a billion dollar industry that has turned rare, exotic specimens into high-fashion products. With that follows the consumption of vast amounts of water to produce even the most natural of fibres, not to mention the use of harmful chemical processes, which have all  been created in the pursuit of cheaper, synthetic alternatives.

The promotion of mass consumption through the availability of cheaper and cheaper items has also given rise to an abundance of waste clothing and materials as well as sanctioning the unethical treatment of a number of its global workforce. In short, fashion is no small player when it comes to the imbalance between material gain vs. environmental cost.

From this assessment it would seem that the modern fashion industry is long overdue a rethink of its sourcing, production and manufacturing processes as well as the way in which it promotes buying culture. In some quarters, from independent labels to big name designers such as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Raeburn, are making the utilisation of the latest technological advances, cutting waste, upcycling, recycling and supporting not-for-profit organisations and global charities the new-norm.

These practices are gradually becoming more common but in order to make them commonplace it will be up to the high-street companies and fast-fashion retailers to adopt a similar ethos up and down their supply chains.


Any root and branch overhaul of industry processes along with the standardisation of ecologically sound methods, while having a significant effect in cleaning up the industry, will no doubt require considerable investment. Despite the bulk of these costs being absorbed by the consumer, profit margins will inevitably be hit. In this regard full sustainability is an unattractive proposition for many large commercial fashion enterprises. As such  token gestures, heavily promoted and disguised as corporate responsibility will run the danger of becoming insubstantial. Though the end-user is perhaps the most powerful proponent for industry change, they are currently finding themselves faced with a barrage of terms such as ‘conscious’, ‘ethically sourced’, ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘recycled’, with little information as to what they actually mean. Leading to fears that ‘sustainability fatigue’ will set in even amongst the most ethically aware and educated consumer.

What is the ratio of recycled material in each product? Has the ethically grown cotton t-shirt been stitched by an under-paid worker in order to bring the costs down? The complexity and multifaceted nature of the fashion production process and a lack of transparency at every level means that consumers can be left feeling that shopping truly ethically is an almost impossible task and therefore not worth the bother. Perhaps this is what the industry is relying on to stall the progress of sustainability, the reality of consumers voting with their wallets would offer little option but to follow a more sustainable business model and swing the pendulum vastly in sustainability’s favour.

In future, fashion may find itself with no choice other than to adopt wholesale sustainability. Government legislation, or in the worst case scenario, difficulty in obtaining and maintaining current resource requirements, may force the hand of it and other industries altogether.

For one that prides itself on its ability to be a forerunner of innovation and invention this would be a poor demonstration of its powers and as some designers are already proving, sustainability is achievable. The pre-emption and future-proofing of the industry for such events is not just financially prudent in the longer term but could ultimately prevent fashion finding itself on the endangered species list.




‘Without a gender (nongendered, genderless, agender; neutrois); moving between genders or with a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender.’


In a generation more at home with the concept of gender fluidity than ever before, businesses and public services are realising the importance of catering to a gender-neutral audience so it is no surprise that fashion, with its reputation as a progressive creative medium, is wholeheartedly embracing this new age of Agender.


For an industry that has both influenced and reacted to the zeitgeist as well as remaining a principle agent for self-expression, this new chapter in the equality movement is an ideal time to position fashion as an empowering force. However, like many other industries, fashion in particular has multifaceted motives for joining the gender-neutral equality crusade.


His n’ Hers – the evolution of Unisex fashion

Before ‘genderless’ there was ‘unisex’, a term most commonly employed to describe clothing ‘suitable for both sexes that allowed men and women to dress in a similar way’. For women in particular, the adoption of a unisex aesthetic was initially controversial, yet a combination of practicality and social acceptance led it to become omnipresent in women’s fashion. The current rebranding of ‘unisex’ as ‘genderless’ is arguably the natural progression but it also offers fashion an opportunity to showcase itself as progressive while reigniting and in turn, increasing profit from a now ubiquitous sector.


Though the term ‘unisex’ was first coined in the 1960s, the Clothing Reform movement of the 1850s was instrumental in relieving women of the burdens placed upon them by their fashions. For centuries, the old notions of men and women being distinctly different in terms of physicality, psychology and intellect made for very rigidly prescribed gender roles, which in turn, were reflected in the forms of dress to which both sexes were expected to comply.

The Clothing Reform set out to introduce infinitely more practical, less restrictive and therefore more male associated dress codes into women’s attire, aiding their progression in society through more active participation. Closely intertwined with the women’s suffrage movement, these reforms not only broke down the physical barriers to women’s advancement but a visual blurring of gender lines also served to assimilate women into a man’s world.


While unisex dressing retained its feminist roots, women entering work also found it necessary to adopt a more masculine approach to dress in order to garner the respect and authority required to compete on a level playing field. Advice tomes such as John T Molloy’s ‘Dress for Success’ outlined the importance of clothing in business and in assimilating the style of current employees in order to achieve. Molloy candidly acknowledged that in the male dominated workplaces of the late 1970s, female applicants would automatically be at a disadvantage. The popularity of ‘power dressing’ amongst career women in the 1970s and 80s clearly illustrated the need for women to disassociate themselves from the subconscious gender associations attached to fashion that could hinder their careers. The sharp suiting and bulky shoulder pads that defined a decade closely resembled the attire of their male counterparts with any feminine aspects reduced to armour-like elements, amounting to what is essentially a disguise to help women ‘fit in’.

In that case it would appear that unisex fashion is an oxymoron, a practical solution to a problem no doubt, but one that does not really address or challenge the gender stereotypes laid down by society. Despite its equality movement origins unisex fashion has not been without its critics. An equally apt definition would be that it is ‘the adaption of clothing entirely male in origin’ and therefore it could be argued that unisex clothing is responsible for not only upholding these stereotypes, but also unwittingly continuing to perpetrate a negative view of anything overtly feminine.

As long as unisex fashion continues to draw on all things male as a basis, it can never be truly ‘equal’ so in many respects the genderless clothing rebrand is the opportune moment to address these disparities by introducing adaptations of more female orientated items into mainstream fashion. As a creator and an innovator, the industry is perfectly placed to do so but the recent crop of genderless initiatives do not necessarily bear this out.

‘Non binary’ fashion – a profitable promise for the future?


A browse through the gender-neutral rails on the high street reveals that many of these collections, from the likes of Zara or H&M, are simply a repackaging of unisex basics, consisting of little more than a range of oversized t-shirts worn by a suitably androgynous model.

Critics have opined that the industry’s approach is another example of a style over substance approach to a potentially significant social revolution, reducing the equality movement and the debate surrounding gender to a mere marketing ploy that is reliant on presentation and promotion rather than challenging a design-led product. Likewise the combining of male and female runway collections appears to be as much about taming spiralling industry costs as it is about the cross-pollination of the genders and uniting them on a single platform and though the SS18 Men’s Fashion Week events generated headlines for the preponderance of female inspired fashion worn by male models and despite the likes of Katherine Hamnett, Rick Owens or Rad Hourani producing collections that harmonise and hybridise traditionally male and female garments for some time, commercial clothing still seems to be immune from this particular catwalk trickle-down effect.

The most noticeable misstep made by the industry was US Vogue’s August 2017 cover, featuring Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik. Described in the piece as ‘breaking gender codes’ the couple were pictured wearing masculine tailored suits and discussing borrowing each other’s clothes.

Not only did the magazine spark anger for it’s rather flippant attitude toward those who genuinely identify as gender-fluid, the implication that it also requires women to adopt male attire rather than take the more challenging but certainly more equitable approach of putting Malik in a skirt is a prime example of the genderless fashion’s perceived inequality, the same critic levelled at its unisex predecessor.


On the positive side, the Selfridges Agender concept, a single space free of gender assigned products that brought sexes together, floated the idea of consumers choosing fashion items based on personal preference rather than gender specifics. They stocked collections from a range of designers known for their gender-neutrality and started the conversation not just on the clothes themselves but the way in which men and women thought about and shopped for fashion.

The fact that the space was only temporary is unfortunate. The opportunity to provide safe spaces for those identifying as gender-neutral or gender binary on a permanent basis would have made a bigger impact on the current retail model with its pop-up status potentially giving the impression that the fashion industry sees gender-neutral as just another flash-in-the-pan trend rather than a real movement deserving of being taken seriously.


Conversely John Lewis’s recent gender-neutral overhaul of their children swear department illustrates a certain amount of readiness among retailers to make a change and although responses were mixed, it has perhaps encouraged other outlets to consider how they would provide a more equitable service and product range.

Overall, despite sparking healthy debate into society’s views on gender, the current ‘agender-lite’ attitude does a disservice to both the industry’s potential for creative visionary and the important role that unisex fashion has played in the lives of women and the role it could potentially play in the lives of every gender identity. In the same way that the mini skirt came to signify sexual liberation for some but a despised symbol of patriarchal society for others, continuing failure to address thesecriticisms could be the downfall of the unisex rebrand. If the fashion industry cannot be bold and show a genuine commitment to positive change could we see gender-neutral fashion become the next pariah of the equality movement?


WHO: Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat 4

WHY WE ARE INSPIRED: A contemporary and close friend of Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat was a true maverick of his time, refusing to be pigeon-holed and confined to just one art form, he was a poet, a musician and a graffiti artist. All of which fed into his influences that created explosive works so raw with character, style and expression.

Basquiat’s nascent career coincided with the advent of a major shift in the artworld from Pop to Neo-expressionism, a new bohemia with a wild nexus of music, fashion and art, ushered in Punk and New Wave movements which created a whole new state of mind.

What radically changed the art world by the time Basquiat entered the scene was money. In the early 1980s, Wall Street’s bull market engendered an interesting offspring: Soho’s bull market. The new money of the eighties was increasingly invested into art. By 1983, the art market in New York alone, was estimated at $2 billion. Gallery dealers became power players, barely distinguishable in lingo and lifestyle from their Wall Street clientele. Banks began accepting art as collateral for loans. Corporations began stockpiling important contemporary-art collections. Every weekend, Soho was clogged with a parade of art lovers slumming at openings. At auction houses, packed rooms applauded as records were set for everything from van Gogh’s “Irises”$53.9 million to $17 million for “False Start” by Jasper Johns.


Jean Michel Basquiat 1d   Jean Michel Basquiat 2a

Above: Photos taken of Jean Michel Basquiat

Being an artist of Afro-Caribbean decent, with Hispanic roots through his mother, Basquiat’s black identity is manifest throughout his art. Although not overtly political, his sense of what it means to be a black man in contemporary America couldn’t be more clearly conveyed, whether it’s in the grinning heads in “Hollywood Africans,” or the poignant tribute to his idol Charlie Parker, “Charles the First” or the ironic “Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta.”

Jean Michel Basquiat 1a    Jean Michel Basquiat 1b

Above: Left, Basquiat’s Philistines 1982 painting. Right, Untitled 1982 

Many of his stylistic trademarks such as the heavy colour collages, intertwined with black lines and scribbles with heavy limbed figures caught in a moment of absolute emotion are themselves a recognisable part of the of the well-established African-American aesthetic tradition. Not to mention the iterated drumbeat brought here by men sold into slavery, to the call and response of gospel, the repeated blues refrain, jazz’s improvisational rifting, and the sampling technique of rap.

Jean Michel Basquiat 1e   Jean Michel Basquiat 1

Above: Left, Untitled by Jean Michel-Basquiat. Right, Skull 1981 by Jean Michel-Basquiat

Moreover in the paintings themselves, boys never become men, they become skeletons and skulls. Presence is expressed as absence whether in the spectral bodies and disembodied skulls or the words he crosses out. Basquiat is obsessed with deconstructing the images and language of his fragmented world.

Jean Michel Basquiat 1f

Above: Force 129, mixed media by Jean Michel-Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat 1c

Above: Untitled (Diptych) 1982 by Jean Michel-Basquiat

It is no wonder his work became so popular amongst cultural icons. In the last year alone pieces have been sold from the collections of David Bowie and Johnny Depp fetching millions at auctions.

Jean Michel Basquiat - Untitled 1982

Above: Untitled 1982 by Jean Michel-Basquiat

Earlier this month Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, Founder Zozotown helped set the record for the highest sold piece by an American artist with Basquiat’s work ‘untitled’ bought by Maezawa, for $110.5 million. Art is, of course subjective, but you don’t reach the big time, selling pieces at such prices without some serious ‘steal appeal’. For the masses who enjoy his work both during his time and after however, it is difficult to put a price tag on the kind of things he felt, thought and promoted.

Jean Michel Basquiat 2b

Above: Photo of Jean Michel-Basquiat 1981

Inspirational characteristics – Though he died very young (27 years old) almost far too soon from unveiling his full talent, Basquiat goes onto inspire a whole new generation of creatives with his effervescent brilliance, fearlessness and his radical approach to disseminated the traditional structures of an elite art world. For that you will always be present in our work.

WHERE TO SEE THEIR WORK: He is often featured in his own shows in his hometown of New York so make sure to look him up if your ever in the big apple. In the UK his works feature in a showcase at the Barbican later this year: Basquiat Boom for real