Gender-free apparel store The Phluid Project opens its doors in Manhattan

The Phluid Project, a gender-free apparel store which is being described as the first of its kind and aims to make genderless clothing accessible to all, hosted its grand opening in NoHo on Thursday, March 22.
 

Models Mominatu, Anya Volz and Shaquille pose for a The Phluid Project campaign with the store's genderless mannequins - Instagram: @thephluidproject

The space, which boasts open-to-all changing rooms and a staff tapped from the local community, organizes its products by aesthetic and displays them on custom-built genderless mannequins. Brands on offer include Gypsy Sport, Oak and Dr Martens, as well as Phluid’s in-house label.
 
Pieces are priced between $35 and $150, averaging out around $50, with emphasis placed on products that are affordable for everyone, but especially for younger consumers who may have more limited disposable incomes.
 
As explained by store owner Rob Smith in a recent interview with Vice, “There’s a lot of gender-free brands in the world, most of them over at the higher price point of $500 and higher, so it was a challenge to find product that was accessible to young people.”
 
“A lot of the brands have a high, high price point right now, and I’m not really against that but I am also respectful to my customer,” he went on to say.
 
The location also doubles as an online platform and community center, hosting talks on a range of subjects related to gender, diversity and identity. Recent additions to the events calendar include talks from gender non-conforming models Rain Dove and Cory Wade, as well as diversity and inclusion coach Aaron Rose.
 
To celebrate its grand opening on March 22, the store held a launch party hosted by New York-based drag queen Pearl, who participated in the seventh season of hit TV show Rupaul’s Drag Race, and featuring performances from LGBTQ youth charity the Hetrick-Martin Institute and Zenobia.
 
From the runway to the high street, gender-neutral clothing is picking up momentum as it gains more space in the fashion industry. On the one hand, it is part of a larger trend toward androgyny in the sector, a shift which saw Jaden Smith don a skirt for a Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign in 2016 and propelled the rise of epicene models such as Erika Linder and Ruby Rose.
 
However, it would also appear to reflect more concerted efforts by brands seeking to cater to consumers whose gender identity does not necessarily fit into the binary norm. Labels such as Telfar, Vaquera, and Eckhaus Latta, for example, have received positive attention for their inclusion of gender-neutral apparel in recent collections, while the headline of a recent article from Racked about The Phluid Project proclaimed "Gender-free shopping is a movement, not a trend".
 
The move towards genderless apparel has also gained particular traction in the childrenswear sector, with a range of retailers, including Abercrombie Kids and British store chain River Island, introducing gender-free kids lines in the past few months as they seek to appeal to parents anxious about imposing potentially regressive gender norms on their sons and daughters through limited clothing choices.
 
The Phluid Project is now open seven days a week at 684 Broadway, New York.

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