by Antonio Lilliu
Close encounters of the 3.rd kind: UNISEX fashion!
‘If I was allowed to choose from the multitude of books that will be published 100 years after my death, you know what I would ask? ... Simply a fashion magazine, to see how women will dress a century after I'm gone. And those veils would tell me about future humanity much more than all philosophers, novelists, preachers, scholars.’
Anatole France (1844-1924)
Since the beginning of this year, the topic of "Gender-freedom" is contending to the one of "Fake in trade" the primacy of the interest of fashion professionals and public within the fashion community. Both topics are of strategic importance to the industry and more interconnected than it may seem at first sight: on the one hand, there is a loss of revenue for the clothing industry of 85000 million euro only in the European Union, and nearly 350 billion euros worldwide (2.5 per cent of world trade) according to the report presented in Paris by the OECD and the European Bureau of intellectual property; on the other hand, if the new millennium’s customer will accept the abolition of gender in clothing, it will suppose a revolution both in cultural terms and manufacturing processes, with opportunities for increased sales and profit margins for the most committed companies.
The provocation to the "Gender-freedom" has reached its climax with the presentation of the new collection of Gucci signed by Alessandro Michele. In spite of the wave of reactions (some very positive…others terrific up-set!) caused by the first collection of the new creative director for the Florentine Maison, the latest Gucci’s scoop just confirms the parable, which would fascinate Anatole France by browsing our fashion bibles to understand more the convulse times and society at the dawn of a new era.
First of all, Anatole would be impressed that societies like ours, increasingly populated by seniors, idealize not that much youth at its utmost, between eighteen and twenty-eight, but pre-adolescent age. Types likes Cara Delevigne and Miley Cyrus, and a plenty of models 13 year old or so, maintained by anorexia and Photoshop into a state of eternal puberty, are the ambassadors of the new ideals of beauty and elegance, predestined, for purchasing power, to a customer over 40. A man like Anatole France who lived in his time the myth of Sarah Bernardt, the sumptuous beauty of Queen Alexandra of England and the Majesty of Queen Mary, who had the chance to see Mata Hari on stage and the breathtaking beauty of Garbo in her early silent films, would be hit by the new icons of beauty flaunting an anemic complexion, immature bony legs, virginal breasts and hips, besides thinning hair.
A sociologist would ask himself, of course, if this is once again a youth reaction to pressure and repressions of the previous generation. A bit like it happened in the late 60's when the student revolution, hippies and the Swinging London with "SEX, DRUG and ROCK 'N ROLL" proposed an alternative way of life to imperialist policies and bourgeois mentality of their parents earned at the court of Doris Day, Rock Hudson, J.F. Kennedy and Celia Cruz.
The reality of the new beauties is actually far more prosaic: interviews reveal that the new supermodels don't drink alcohol, they never took LSD and amphetamines, do not smoke either, do sports (you can't tell!), use to sleep every night at least 8 hours, follow the Mediterranean diet, Vegan sometimes, assume low carb-because you know, carbohydrates are the new fat, and fats are bad for your arteries- some are celiac, and many have done since early childhood intolerance tests thanks to careful parents (No dear, don't give Tatiana that peacock, she hasn't been tested in yet. She had a bit of a reaction to strawberries, and now we cannot be too much careful!), whom they invariably thank during interviews for having supported them morally during careers-starts, whom they never miss to visit between a business trip and the other also to say Hallo to family dog (How long do dogs live?). For the moment they are single but dreaming of an own family as biological mothers but also with adopted children, possibly living in a ranch in contact with nature. What ideals of beauty inspire them? – Audrey Hepburn (it's always the default option ... When asked about a beauty-ideal, in case of doubt, just tell Audrey ... YOU CAN NEVER BE WRONG, INDEED she was so sweet!). In short, it will be clear even to Anatole France that these beauties have nothing in common with Cher, Janice Joplin and Marianne Faithfull.
Similarly, the new males are light years away from rebels such Ringo Star, David Bowe and Mick Jagger. Banished healthy faces a la’ Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and manly bodies like Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock", the new masculine ideals are the ugly ducklings, which at most can aspire to the role of best friend of female classmates, certainly not Prince charming .... since girls’ male ideal is still forged on the archetype of the father, who is just the product of Tom Cruise’, Brad Pitt’ and Ken’s Era (Yes, that Barbie’s Ken!). A Volk of sad teen-agers, with oversized short-sighted glasses and ascetic complexion, fringes to hide obvious shyness: Millennials fanatic of the Web….so, you got it.
If the girls have successfully passed the oedipal relationship with their mothers, these guys don't seem to have had a father. In fact, the most important experience for a man in order to learn loving himself as a man, is to have experienced the love of another man, his esteem, his acceptance, even admiration – the first man in every man's life is the father. This is, of course, the ideal situation for raising awareness of male identity, beyond any sexual orientation that everyone is more or less free to choose later. In less fortunate circumstances the road will be harder, but life always offers other opportunities, but unfortunately no shortcut.
Coco Chanel had said once that women aren't born, you become one ... a great truth for men, too. In the parable of the Gender-freedom there's, by the way, a truthful side: that men do not want to give up the opportunity to be beautiful and showy as women, which role they historically have abdicated to at the beginning of the 19th century. So the new "Gender-freedom" issue is like the fable of the little pig that used to cry ' Help…Wolf, Wolf ' ... and when the Wolf is really there, no one will come to help him!