A presentation regarding the business of gender-neutral fashion was recently held in New York City at The Fashion Institute of Technology.
It was an extensive program, complete with a chronology of gender fashion that identified high heels for men in the late 18th century right up to Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich's pants, "Annie Hall" neckties and David Bowie's changing looks touching my contemporary consciousness.
But while the audience anticipated the guest panelists who would speak of their contribution to the "future of fluidity" — the most moving part of the evening was the fashion show and its models: male, female, and nonbinary (defined as a gender that is not exclusively either male or female.).
We have seen evidence of marketers courting this new sensibility: fragrances, cosmetics, designer fashion for all. But what stood out that night was not the apparel, the handbags or accessories — though they were kind of cool. It was the people themselves — from every walk of life — walking the runway and giving us some idea of how they are walking through their lives.
Each participant was asked to tell the audience a little about him/her/themselves. There were actors, bartenders, carpenters and plus-size models. There were people who asked to be called "he", "she" or "they.” There were people who identified their passion projects in art, film and dance. And as they spoke I realized that these are all our people, the ones you will sit next to on the subway tomorrow morning, or stand in line with while waiting to vote next November — the people who are graduating from our classrooms in June or the people who teach in those classrooms next September too.
As the evening wore on, an audience member asked the panel about the here and now — what can be done to help young people still struggling to find their identity? The consensus was swift and certain: listen to the voices of the future — the young people who will live, embrace, accept and include all people.
It may be idealistic, but the young shall lead us as we all walk together.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.