Fashion Maniac: Keeping tabs on Buffalo’s fashion industry, including models, catwalks, retailers, designers, stylists, visual merchandisers and jewelers.
An androgynous individual is a female or male who has a high degree of both feminine (expressive) and masculine (instrumental) traits. A “regular” feminine individual is high on feminine (expressive) traits and low on masculine (instrumental) traits. A “regular” masculine individual is high on instrumental traits and low on expressive traits. Persons with androgynous traits either have no gender value, or have pronounced aspects generally attributed to the opposite sex.
During the ‘counter-culture’ revolution in the 1960s, the music and fashion industries inspired a trend towards self-exploration emphasizing individual freedom and self-realization. This allowed men and women to start self-defining who and what they were, the evidence being men and women basically wearing the same clothes and hairstyles; and men, more than ever, adapting what was traditionally women’s wear. This is best seen with both men and women in tight, low-slung denim, tight, body-forming tops and headbands, jewelry and other accessories taking on a non gender-specific role. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, also of the same era, was an eye-opening cult film that celebrated the confusion of sexual identity. Tim Currie, the star, played a female with strangely seductive characteristics. In fact, most of the female temptresses were played by males.
The notion of androgyny wasn’t fully accepted in society until 1974 when Dr. Sandra Bem, who was honored the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award in 1976, introduced the concept of ‘psychological androgyny’ to describe those men and women who did not fit into traditionally defined gender roles. She also put forth the view that a blending of masculine and feminine dispositions is more adaptive than stereotypic emphasis on either alone. On the heels of Dr. Bem’s theological revelation, the gay liberation movement embraced the idea of androgyny, for it allowed lesbians and gay men to show their gender characteristics openly in society. Subsequently, the prevailing wind for social changes started to sweep across the globe, empowering women and softening the image of men, while altering the perception of human nature consisting of opposite sex roles to human nature unifying two complimentary sex roles as a legitimate gender.
As with everything else connected to the 70′s, evidence of androgyny (and its basic tenets) being embraced by society appeared everywhere. Trendsetters in the entertainment and fashion industries played an influential role in advancing a challenging perspective on human sexuality for modern times. Carrying forth into the 1980s, androgynous musicians – Boy George, David Bowie, Adam Ant, Annie Lennox, and Prince – made headlines as they captured the world’s fascination with their sexual ambiguity. Perceived as a worldwide idol, Michael Jackson personifies androgyny with his falsetto voice and effeminate manners. Hollywood’s propensity for gender-bending gained a wider acceptance in the 1980′s as many films played with this theme of sex role reversal. Victor/Victoria, Tootsie, and Yentl were just three movies which addressed the inequities of socially imposed gender roles from the perspective of the victims of cultural stereotyping. Movie producers attempted to make “gender blending” humane and less threatening through these artistic comedies. As people became familiar with androgyny they also become de-sensitized to its transgressions of cultural norms. It became an acceptable, if alternate, norm to a portion of modern culture. And on stage, the 60′s fascination with sex in general, with productions like Hair and O Calcutta, became in the 80′s a fascination with homosexuality (and blending the sexes) in particular, with La Cage Aux Folles competing -and winning- the Tony Award for Best New Musical in 1984.
Artists in film like Leonardo Vicario and Toby Maguire sported the “skinny” look in the 1990s – a clear departure from traditional masculinity which resulted in a fad known as “Leo Mania”. Likewise, the phenomenal rise in popularity of “pretty” boy bands in the late 1980s and 1990s like New Kids on the Block, Take That, the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync “redefined masculinity” for our time. Following sports stars like England’s FA Premier League like David Beckham in the 1990s, men became increasingly conscious of fashion and their looks, and were full-throat in their embrace of traditional female interests like an overly vested interest in clothing, fashion accessories, hairstyles, manicures, spa treatments and so on, something that has long been seen as being inherently female.
The fashion industry also capitalized on the growing social affinity to androgyny. Fashion’s borderline androgyny trend showed up in dresses, full-length skirts, and heeled boots for men on the runway and on the streets, especially in fashion-forward places like New York’s downtown neighborhoods. While women began adopting menswear into their wardrobes as early in the 20th century, it is fair to say that men has only recently began experimenting with adapting women’s clothing for their use. This modern movement has nothing to do with free love, and everything to do with the fashion-fo
rward freedom to blur traditional gender lines in expressing one’s personal style. Still somewhat controversial, the trend of androgynous fashion is sparked the creativity of apparel designers, fashion-loving tastemakers, and style icons alike. First, designers such as Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier and Rick Owens (and others who can’t be named here for space purposes) began experimented with alternatives to trousers for men in the late 90′s and early 2000′s.
It was only in the 1960s, when the hippie movement ushered in colorful clothing and jewelry for men, and today, where men and women share unisex trends such as skinny jeans, hoodies, and fashion scarves.”
The fashion industry also promoted the meteoric rises of fashion designers – Helmut Lang, Giorgio Armani, Rick Owens, Pierre Cardin, to name a few – for their unisex-styled clothes. Mr. Owens’ surreal and utterly beautiful Spring/Summer 2012 men’s fashion show in Paris (this past July) showed male models wearing skirts and long dresses. He also showed semi-fitted jackets, long overcoats and vests with these pieces. But the most surprising aspect of all was the fact that these models, despite wearing skirts, were extremely masculine. One didn’t doubt for one second that they weren’t comfortable in those clothes and their skin. If anything, I was most reminded of the inherent masculinity of men of Arab descent as seen in books, magazines and on television in their robes and outer garments. One particular model was the very essence of a stylish Dalai Lama with his bald head and stern expression. This embracing of androgyny can also be seen in the Fall/Winter 2011 Dolce & Gabanna print campaign, presently seen in all the big September fashion magazines.
While in the 1990s society slowly developed an affinity for unisex clothes, the trends in fashion only hit the public mainstream in a big way in the 2000s, which saw men (and women) demonstrating a new confidence in themselves and their outward appearances. Calvin Klein, a brand long known for its adherence to strict and uncompromising minimalism and typically associated with its unisex fragrances has also expanded into jeans, underwear, and even swimwear for both men and women with its CKOne line. Agnès Troublé, aka Agnès B., French designer of the influential agnès b. line based in Paris, is yet another designer whose masterful unisex aesthetic has found a ready audience around the world. Her simple yet elegant and original designs are coveted for their casual simplicity and timelessness, and are truly catholic and egalitarian in their scope. Her first collection was inspired by classic workers’ uniforms – overalls, loose pants, and short jackets – that she tweaked, streamlining them for streetwear and having them done up in worn, white cotton. soon she had a long line of classic pieces that are still part of her collection today: Long- and short-sleeved t-shirts done in striped Rugby cotton, iconic white shirts, timeless pants, dresses with mignon touches such as tiny buttons and pin pleats, buttery-leather jackets that came already broken in, and her signature snap cardigans made from sweatshirt cotton and fastened with a long line row of pearl snaps. These pieces established the streamlined aesthetic that has made her an influential member of the international fashion community. Her client list includes John Waters, David Lynch, Yoko Ono, Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Portman, Philippe Starck, David Bowie, and a multitude of famous and non-famous customers who reveres her and would follow to the end of the earth.
The other major market value of male androgyny is much less new to the world of fashion – shock value. Designers will often use androgynous models or outer-worldly settings to create an attentive buzz to their various lines. During fashion week when you are competing with 200 or more other designers to grab attention your collection, it’s about showing all kinds of possibilities. You want your brand to become more visible. You want Cathy Horyn, the chief fashion critic from The New York Times, to attend and talk about your show in the paper. Co-opting this trend communicates to your intended audience that that you are a label that is open and available to all kinds of people. The flip side of this coin, of course, is whether or not you are successful in this venture. Fashion people are incredibly cynical (as well as smart) and not easily fo
oled. Therefore, if using androgynous models or staging your show using androgynous imagery, it has to have some sense of genuineness about it. It can’t be all fake.
Asked which of his customers are buying clothes that fit into this new phenomenon, Louis Terline, owner of Soho (new York City) designer boutique Oak, states that he’s not seeing one specific demographic of shopper pick up this trend. Instead, “It’s only about confidence. It’s the people who have this sort of sense that ‘it’s just clothes.’ We’re seeing more shoppers who feel that maybe we’ve all taken this whole [gender] thing too seriously for too long, and that we should be able to explore.” But Terline also sees this movement as being about more than self-esteem. “This is the most comfortable environment we’ve seen in retail. People aren’t as worried about whether something is designed for women or for men – it’s all about the garment. In a way, this trend is eradicating sexual identity from clothing.”
Designers who specialize in unisex dressing are also echoing this sentiment. Louis Mairone, whose line Dominic Louis has been picked up by Oak in its first season, pretty much echoes the same sentiment: “I don’t use androgyny to wow people – it’s about expressing what I love from both men’s and women’s clothing, and showing who carries it well from both worlds. The unisex aspect of the collection is more about unifying people.”
Mairone designs in unisex because it frees him to focus on innovation and quality, rather than the restriction of gender tradition. He says he shares the same garments between his parents and his friends. “My mom and I both look great in the same garment. We have different bodies obviously, but it’s the same fit. Unisex clothing is powerful because it has the ability to serve clients across ages as well as genders.”
Currently seen as the tiniest of niche markets, unisex and androgynous clothing may actually be the opposite. In some ways, this, “all things to all people” philosophy is already found in every mall across America. If you pay close attention to the marketplace, you will find that unisex lines out there already- and striving. Labels like J. Crew, H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Unable, the Gap, American Apparel, Alexander Wang, Old Navy, Thom Browne, and Band of Outsiders, all have unisex lines – they sell the exact same garment to men and women, just with different cuts.
Does this trend have legs? Is this the beginning of solidifying it into our minds? Or it will be gone in the blink of an eye? Who knows? We shouldn’t be surprised the trend is coming back – everything runs in cycles, and as the saying goes ‘everything old is new again’. Lady Gaga is the modern day David Bowie (in his Zingy Stardust and Tall White Night phrase), as Adam Lambert could be today’s Adam Ant. Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert, the most contemporary glam king and queen of androgynous fashion today do bear a striking resemblance to the androgynous artists of an earlier era. (And whether or not Gaga is androgynous in both the physical and psychological sense, does it really matter? She rocks just the same. Thank you.) The androgynous figure in the fashion realm, as well as on a personal level, is looking for a place to call their own, to find redemption and a safe, emotional place from the hurts outside. The main message coming from these androgynous artists is individual expression. No doubt, this message holds a lot of appeal to fans– those who want an excuse to rebel as well as those who genuinely want to be appreciated for just being different.
Last year, Lady Gaga made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show and told her that she wants her fans to know that “It’s OK” to be a “freak”: “I didn’t fit in at high school, and I felt like a freak. So I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with and they don’t feel alone…This is really who I am, and it took a l
ong time to be OK with that…Maybe in high school you, Ellen, you feel discriminated against. Like you don’t fit in and you want to be like everyone else but not really, and in the inside you want to be like Boy George–well, I did anyway. So I want my fans to know that it’s OK. Sometimes in life you don’t always feel like a winner, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a winner. You want to be like yourself… I want my fans to know it’s OK.” So does Andrej Pejic.
Models: Jenna Murray, Ashley Graves, Sara E. Bishop, Stefan Valentine Furlani
Leave it to the Fashion Maniac team to show that Buffalo has what it takes when it comes to fashion trends and models who like to showcase the latest and greatest. Check out the other shoots to see the national trends and where to find them locally: United We Stand @ Tifft Nature Preserve, bathing suits on the Spirit of Buffalo, Black Velvet, James Scissorhands, kicks and handbags at Niagara Square, Morgen Love, bowling, blue jeans on tracks, 1950′s, rockingscarves, warrior, the workplace can be sexy, raingear and the twins, Summer Whites, Li’l Black Dress, Lingering Nights, concrete jungle,Hay Fever, Freeze Frame, the custom hatter, night moves in Allentown, Spring into Summer, Who Did It?, Good Clean Fun, Love Never Dies, Buff Designs, Oh What a Night, and the sultry bridesmaid.
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Photos starting top left Clockwise: Kimberly Cohen, Andrew Brown, Whitney Curry, Dani Weiser, Cheryl Gorski, Todd Warfield, Cassie Elsaesser, Michael Merisola, Lucy Perrone-Mancuso, Phillip Johnson
Cheryl Gorski | Photographer & Creative Director | 716-895-1689 | 716-903-0600 | email@example.com | Also on Facebook specializing in: Fashion, Head shots/modeling/acting, Editorial, Portraits, Bands/ CD/ Press Kits, Corporate events, Web photography, Run-way
Cassie Rose: Specializing in Visual merchandising, Styling, Fashioneditorial and Media arts, personal shopper, and blogger | E-mail is Cassandraelsaesser@yahoo.com | Facebook-Cassie Rose | Twitter-CassieRosee
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Lucy Perrone-Mancuso: Prop Stylist | Owner of Moda | 1509 Hertel Ave 725-6636 | Specializing in accessories, antiques, jewelry, furnishings, buy & sell, motion pictures/films, photo shoots.
Todd Warfield: Prop Stylist Extraordinaire | 716-289-1078 | Specializing in special effects, production of designing and building sets, theatre and photo shoots.
Whitney Curry: Hair stylist for photo shoots, films, bridal, personal | Whitfemale@gmail.com | Chezannsalon.com
Phillip Johnson: Freelance Writer specializing in the fashion industry, and beauty | firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-512-2528
Michael Merisola: Set Stylist & Expert in Antiques /Modern Furniture | Owner of Coo Coo U | 1478 Hertel Ave, Bflo, 716-432-6216 | www.coocoou.com.
Andrew Brown: Hair & Makeup stylist and owner of Salon Rouge 700 Elmwood Ave | 716-884-1010 | Specializing in Up Dos for weddings, color, cuts, Halloween, Run Way and photoshoots.
Kimberly Cohen: Casting director and model/ actrss for movies, plays, photography and films | email@example.com | Twitter: kmcohen | Facebook Kimberly Cohen.