Gender-Neutral Fashion: On the Verge of Becoming Mainstream in Southeast Asia?
Non-binary mixed-media artist Alok Vaid-Menon once declared on BoF Voices 2019 that, “We are not a trend. We are not a moment. We are a movement.”
Gender neutrality in fashion is indeed here to stay, mirroring global social changes in the 2010s. ‘They’, a pronoun preferred by non-binary individuals such as Vaid-Menon, Demi Lovato and Sam Smith, registered a 313% increase in searches on Merriam Webster, indicating a growing awareness of the non-binary movement.
In a 2021 poll by U.S. LGBTQ+ magazine The Advocate, half of Generation Z (and 56% of millennials) thinks that traditional gender roles and labels related to the gender binary are outdated.
Tapping Into the Movement
Fashion retail brands are tapping into the change by retailing more genderless apparel in recent years. According to Omnilytics’ data analytics platform, Puma, Topshop, Adidas and Collusion launched a higher amount of unisex apparel between January 1 and June 28, 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Fast-fashion label Topshop led the pack with near 100% full price sell-out, albeit at a lower median price of US$23.
Beyond Tops and Activewear
While these brands share common unisex categories such as footwear, outerwear and t-shirts, inclusive label Collusion offers a more extensive assortment. The brand’s collection comprises gender-neutral bottoms across jeans, pants & leggings and shorts – providing more variety for consumers who wish to express themselves.
Collusion also achieved a promising full price sell-out of 58% with a median price of US$22.57. Affordable and inclusive, the ASOS exclusive label has gained a growing resonance among fashion enthusiasts alongside labels that offer diverse ranges of gender-neutral everyday apparel such as Nudie Jeans.
Nudie Jeans may be putting out fewer products compared to larger labels such as Puma, Topshop and Adidas; but they have recorded higher sell-out rates at full price between January 1 and June 28, 2021. Together with Collusion, Nudie Jeans retailed a total of 7,508 products this year, 2.8 times the SKU’s produced during the same period in 2020.
Meanwhile in Southeast Asia…
Beyond the western markets, how prevalent is the gender-fluid movement? In Southeast Asia, Filipino-born trangender model, Geena Rocero, and Miss International Queen Singapore 2020, Andrea Razali, have further expanded the scope of representation for gender-diverse people in the region.
Despite making strides in pop culture, the journey towards equality for Southeast Asia’s LGBTQ+ community is far from over. Same-sex relationships are legal in The Phillipines and most parts of Indonesia, but homosexuality is still criminalised in Singapore and Malaysia, although the law is rarely enforced.
Market Opportunities in Singapore
As far back as 2016, local news platforms like The Straits Times highlighted the rising popularity of gender-fluid apparel among millennials. The individuals interviewed in the article, all of whom were aged between 25 and 28 at time of publishing, expressed a preference for combining pieces from both the men’s and women’s section in their daily outfits.
Gender-fluid fashion has since continued to flourish, with local gender-fluid designers receiving co-signs from retailers in Singapore. In 2020, gender-fluid virtual fashion influencer Ava Gram received media coverage when she made her debut on Instagram. The brainchild of LASALLE student Reyme Husaini, Ava Gram entered into a collaboration with retailer BHG Singapore to launch its new in-house label last year.
LGBTQ+ awareness and support have also increased within the city-state, with brands and bricks & mortar businesses showing commitment to the cause through tailored offers and promotions. Loewe and The Body Shop lit up their store entrances in pink in support of Pride, while Naomi Hotel partnered up with LGBTQ+ publication Dear Straight People to promote free staycation vouchers. Key opinion leaders in Singpoare’s LGBTQ+ community are also exploring long-term partnerships with brands, suggesting that both awareness and support is here to stay.
Gender-Neutral Fashion in Singapore
The strides made in the Singapore fashion industry are also significant , as retailers continue to expand their assortments of gender-neutral apparel.
While Topshop and Nudie Jeans currently do not retail any unisex SKU’s in the city state, the Omnilytics dashboard revealed that Puma, Collusion and Adidas have established a significant presence in this market for 2021. These labels recorded 2,417 total products between January 1 and June 28, 2021, which is 287% higher than the same period last year.
The popular gender-fluid categories under Puma and Adidas consist of activewear and accessories, while Collusion recorded an increase in tops and co-ords.
Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines
Gender neutral-focused brands like Collusion and Nudie Jeans may not have captivated the hearts and minds of local retailers and consumers just yet, but activewear brands Puma, Adidas and popular local street brand IndoClothing retailed a total of 9,513 unisex products in this region for 2021.
Graphic t-shirts, hoodies and jackets with unisex patterns, designs and sizes that suit any gender have proven popular for these labels. Versatile, chic and easy to pair up with different outfit styles, these apparels have become bestsellers within these markets.
For brands planning to follow in the footsteps of Puma, Adidas and Collusion by launching gender-fluid apparels in Southeast Asian markets, selecting the right assortments is crucial.
Trends and styles can change with the blink of an eye, and today’s popular unisex tops and activewear may make way for more diverse product categories in the future. The gender-neutral pants, leggings and jeans that are making waves in international markets could start to resonate with Southeast Asian consumers someday soon.
To keep track of shifting consumer sentiment, brands have to rely on real-time data and insights now more than ever. To optimise your assortment according to market demand, try out the Omnilytics dashboard and see the trends in action here.
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