Consumers increasingly view gender as fluid, and the fashion and beauty industries are reflecting this shift in mindset with products that present a neutral aesthetic. Cosmetics and fragrance brands are realizing they are ignoring a great opportunity by catering to specific genders, and are adopting a more inclusive approach.
“Today, most beauty products are still marketed toward either women or men, but consumers are looking for a new message that speaks directly to their sensibilities rather than their gender,” says David Arbuthnot, founder of skincare brand CONTEXT.
The runway has been a forerunner in blurring the gender lines, with high-end fashion designers abandoning gender signals altogether by featuring men in women’s clothes as of late and vice versa. Additionally, the rise of the transgender model has also pushed the boundaries of gender rethinking.
Many brands are intentionally blurring the lines in their offerings and outlets to embrace an increasingly flexible perception of sex among consumers.
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Recent polls suggest that society doesn’t believe gender is defined by biology as it once was. In fact, 60% of people between the ages of 14 and 34 think gender lines are blurred, and 81% of today’s teenagers worldwide claim “gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to,” according to the Innovation Group and JWT.
A new report by market research firm NDP Group, “Blurred Lines: How Retail is Becoming Less Gendered, and Why You Should Care,” suggests that retailers and brand marketers should not ignore the trend for gender-neutral clothing. It cites data supporting the assertion that young shoppers increasingly see gender along a spectrum rather than in black-and-white terms, and are much less attached to male and female distinctions than their predecessors.
The conversation around identity is now key for the retail industry.
Given the visibility that celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner have brought to the issue, as well as the political firestorm that ensued earlier this year over the controversial HB2 transgender bathroom legislation in North Carolina, for example, the gender discussion has come front-and-center in the media and society at large. The notion of neutrality is increasing in importance among consumers who are seeking new definitions of identity, which is often expressed through beauty and fashion, in particular. As a result, non-gender-specific brands are reporting double-digit growth in a challenging market, according to NPD Group.
A Wall Street Journal report looks at fit in gender-neutral fashion. Click to see video.
As noted, the global mindset is shifting toward a fluid outlook on gender that rejects traditional male-female categorizations, which is being manifested most notably across the retail, fashion, and beauty categories. Here are a few examples:
British department store Selfridges experimented with a gender-free popup store, aptly named Agender, according to Quartz. NDP also notes that American Apparel has been testing the waters of gender neutrality for years with its Unisex Tri-Blend Short Sleeve V-Necks, for example. Some brands now feature genderless clothing sections online.
While the tendency may be to cast as wide a net as possible in this genderless age, brands would be wise to carefully consider the following principles and strategies for capitalizing on the Neutral Beauty trend: