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At New York Fashion Week, Ungendered Clothes Make Appearance On Runway


Now it's time for our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand a story that will be in the news in the coming days by focusing on a key word or phrase. And while tonight may be all about football for some people - OK, millions of people - in New York right now, it's Fashion Week. And one phrase you may be hearing is ungendered fashion. That's because one of the trends we started seeing in the menswear fashion shows that just concluded were clothes described as ungendered or gender-blurring.

We wanted to learn more about this and whether we will see this as so-called womenswear as presented in the coming days at New York Fashion Week. So joining us now in our studios in Washington, D.C., is Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan. Thank you so much for joining us once again.

ROBIN GIVHAN: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So could you just paint a picture of what ungendered fashion or gender-blurred fashion looks like?

GIVHAN: Essentially, the idea is that a lot of the traditional notions that we associate with a particular gender - male or female - are now being offered for the opposite gender. So for men, that often means that the clothes have a frillier feel to them. You know, there's more color, perhaps, there's florals, things that are normally associated with womenswear.

And then on the women's side, it's not so much just sort of doing menswear for women, but it's an idea of sort of moving more toward something that is tailored, that has a bit more restraint to it, that looks a bit more sort of traditionally powerful. It differs from what we tend to think of as androgynous dressing because it's not meant to delete the notion of gender. It's meant to mix it up.

MARTIN: Now, you also wrote a piece for The Post today talking about how some of the menswear designers were inspired by recent political events. How were these political sentiments expressed on the runway?

GIVHAN: You know, it really ranged. I mean, there are some designers whose work is very much just about a nice suit, a beautiful sweater. And so for them, you know, it was just the music that they might have been playing before the show began, you know, give peace a chance or a little, you know, U2.

One collection by a guy named Willy Chavarria was inspired by the Ava DuVernay documentary "13th" and was focused on the ways in which particularly people of color have to navigate a criminal justice system. There were other designers who put, you know, protest signs in their models' hands. And then the German-born designer Robert Geller took his bows wearing a T-shirt that said immigrant.

MARTIN: I noted that the so-called menswear concluded last week and the so-called womenswear is upcoming. Harkening back to the beginning of our conversation, do you envision a moment when those categories might indeed disappear altogether?

GIVHAN: I think there's always going to be a place for separate women's and separate men's designers in part because there are some designers for whom one or the other is their expertise and they feel more comfortable there.

But I should say that probably the most anticipated show of the women's season is Calvin Klein because there's a new designer there, Ralph Simmons, and he decided that he wanted to show both men's and women's together on the same runway in one debut.

MARTIN: That is The Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer - culture writer Robin Givhan. She was kind enough to join us from our studios in Washington, D.C. Robin, thanks so much for joining us once again.

GIVHAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.