But there is a new market sector, which by all counts is growing at usual speech, and it what is being defined as gender neutral. Catering for both male and female consumers, not to mention those who now refer to themselves as gender fluid, it rejects the notion that the purchase of fashion or jewelry items first requires one to make a binary choice.
This is not simply a political issue, or one driven by sensitivities in a society that has become extremely wary of promoting gender stereotypes. It also in borne out by research.
A survey conducted by the global marketing and consulting firm Wunderman Thompson in December last year of 1,000 American consumers between the ages of 16 and 24 showed that 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to.
“Fashion mirrors the culture and political beliefs of a generation, which are often led by younger people,” said Shawn Grain Carter, professor of fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, speaking to CNN. “If traditional retailers like Nordstrom and Saks are to survive, they must reflect the value system of this generation to gain lifetime loyalty.”
A TIPPING POINT FOR JEWELRY
In the fashion world, gender neutral clothing has been taking up a larger percentage of shelf space for more than three years, with high-end brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood, as well as more run of the mill brands like Zara, H&M and ASOS developing unisex collections.
In March 2019, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston presented what was considered a groundbreaking exhibition called Gender Bending. It featured Canadian designer Rad Hourani, who as far back as January 2013 became the first-ever designer to present a gender neutral couture collection.
But what about jewelry?
Elements from Boucheron’s gender neutral, Art-Deco inspired jewelry collection.
In the opinion of the Natural Diamond Council, a tipping point occurred last January when Boucheron became the first jewelry house to present a gender-neutral high jewelry collection in Paris last January. Art Deco inspired, the jewelry was with an intention that it could be worn by both men and women.
“If you look at history, men have actually been wearing jewelry for the last thousands of years, especially royalty in Europe and Russia, as well as the Maharajas in India. Even in ancient Egypt, the pharaohs wore jewelry. Stones, pearls, everything: They were all part of male culture during those times,” Boucheron’s CEO CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne told the Robb Report.
To create pieces that all would feel comfortable wearing Boucheron developed a shape-shifting design. Thus, a longer necklace can be transformed into a shorter version, as well as a bracelet and comes with a matching set of earrings and a ring. A geometric diamond belt can also be be worn as a choker, bracelet or tiara.
Celebrity driven gender neutral jewelry. A Cartier panther necklace popularized in Twitter by A-list celebrity Justin Bieber.
DRIVEN BY A-LIST CELEBRITIES
As is often the case, the growing acceptability of gender-neutral jewelry is big driven by celebrity demand, coupled with a growing number of designers and brands who are producing androgynous designs.
“I love seeing young male celebs like Justin Bieber and Brooklyn Beckham borrowing diamond pieces from their partners” said jewelry editor and stylist Will Kahn, as quoted by the Natural Diamond Council (NDC). “There’s nothing cooler than Brooklyn in an Anita Ko diamond line necklace. It turns traditional masculine/feminine style on its head, and it gives new life to the jewelry.”
The past year was characterized by A-list celebrities appropriating women’s jewelry.
“It’s not an easy look to pull off, which is why more designers are moving forward with gender-free styles that have a much broader appeal,” NDC said in an editorial.
“These ‘live in’ jewels echo what’s happening culturally right now; it’s clear that instead of being confined to gender rules, men and women want to express whatever suits their personal style.”