Critics say Zara's 'ungendered' line plays it safe but Enza calls it a positive step
Models show off clothes from Zara's new 'ungendered' line in this image from the retailer's website.
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016 3:52PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 8, 2016 6:10PM EST
A new clothing line that caters to a wider range of gender options is receiving mixed reviews online.
The new line, launched by Spanish fashion retailer Zara, adds an ‘ungendered’ category to the retailer’s online shopping options.
While the site still offers separate sections for men and women, the new ‘ungendered’ section appeared recently. The section offers sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, jeans and other items modelled by a young man and woman.
While some welcomed the move, others took to social media to say the retailer had missed the point.
i so love zara's ungendered— Patricia (@ongtish) March 8, 2016
@ZARA I appreciate the idea, but from the looks of your ungendered line, its nothing new. Wal-Mart sold the same thing a years ago.— Daniel Jordan (@Danjordan22) March 8, 2016
However Toronto transgender activist Enza Anderson told CP24.com Tuesday that while the line might not be earth shattering , she sees it as a positive thing overall.
“I think for the younger generation gender is becoming more fluid and I think they’re becoming more expressive in terms of what they wear and how they look. They’re starting to accept that it’s not just he or she – it can be in-between,” Anderson said. “For Zara to do this, I think it’s a great marketing tool and it always takes someone to get things going. When you’re first starting something there’s always going to be criticism.”
She said that so far the retailer appears to be testing the waters with its ungendered line.
“I think that Zara right now is playing it safe. You can see by the designs – it’s just like hoodies and shirts and jeans.”
However Marilyn McNeil-Morin, chair of the fashion studies program at George Brown College, told CP24.com that the Zara line’s simple shapes fall short of defining a new category.
“I don’t think it’s found its voice,” McNeil-Morin said. “This doesn’t really push the envelope at all. It’s not that different from the pieces that young men and women might have in their closets already and I don’t see it as being very different from what a student might wear to school already.”
That said, McNeil-Morin said the new Zara line taps into a growing interest in creating clothing that is not gender specific. She said that interesting, gender-stripped designs have come out fashion centres like Japan, Antwerp and London in recent years.
“I know there’s a collective consciousness that’s sort of looking toward having gender-neutral design because I’ve seen even from what our students are designing in their design projects right now, more interesting things, but things that are intended to be worn by either a man or a woman. But there definitely is an interest in it – no question,” McNeil-Morin said.
However the Zara designs may be so safe that its’s difficult for the company to gauge the success of the ‘ungendered’ idea, she said.
“It could have been pushed a little further, maybe done something with that T-shirt that makes it look a little different, but it’s so safe,” McNeil-Morin said. “I don’t really know that it tests the waters well enough for them. As a company if you put this out and you get a response, do you know if people are buying it because they want to be gender neutral or they’re just buying it because they need another T-shirt. It doesn’t really make a statement to me.”
Still, Anderson said Zara deserves kudos for adding an option that could help relieve stress for individuals who are questioning their gender identity.
“This is a great way to start that transitioning process and get comfortable with wearing clothes that kind of don’t define you right away,” Anderson said. “For those that are on the edge where their minds say they are female and their bodies say they are male and they’re caught between the two, this is also a great way to get into that level of comfort. That way they’re not really forced into wearing men’s clothes or wearing women’s clothes and functioning that way.”
She said she’s hopeful that with a growing interest among young people in defying traditional gender norms, the new line could eventually blossom into something more daring.
And while Zara might take some blowback in the short term for playing it safe with the new line, Anderson points out: “You know what they say right - -any publicity is good publicity.”