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Clothing brands’ push for gender inclusive clothing ripped as ‘marketing ploy,’ ‘confusing to children’

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Fashion labels marketing “genderless,” “gender neutral” or “gender inclusive” clothing is championed by proponents as a groundbreaking movement that challenges the normal gender stereotypes, but critics of the fashionable category argue the industry is marketing off a social contagion, and might be doing irreparable harm, specifically to minors.

Erin Schmidt, a senior analyst at Coresight Research, a worldwide advisory and research firm specializing in retail and technology, said she noticed a shift within the industry about two to a few years ago when there was more discussion around gender identity and pronoun usage within the workplace and in schools.

“I think that actually helped to push the [gender neutral] category forward since it was really then that individuals became aware there have been different categories comparable to non-binary, agender and cisgender, and that individuals related otherwise to how they were born,” she told Fox News Digital.

She said younger consumers have also had a significant impact on the prominence of the gender-neutral category.

In 2021, PacSun opened a gender free children’s store within the Mall of America and Gilly Hicks, a division of Abercrombie and Fitch Co., opened its first gender-neutral storefront in Columbus.

Schmidt believes kids and youths are probably “one among the largest” markets for the genderless clothing category.

Clothing brands like Pacsun have opened stores for gender neutral clothing.Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Pacsun

The “more selections that children have” to specific themselves “will certainly have a positive impact over the long run,” Schmidt said. “It’s definitely greater than a pride month” and “it’s definitely not a trend or a movement, it’s the way in which of the long run,” she added. 

Celebrities like Jared Leto and Harry Styles, have pushed gender boundaries in fashion, often appearing on the red carpet in feminine clothing like dresses and skirts.

“Celebrities are literally really helping to push the category forward and just really legitimize it,” Schmidt said. “Especially younger generations, after they see that Brad Pitt wore a skirt to the Bullet Train premiere, that suddenly says, ‘Okay, that is okay. I can wear a skirt too.’”

But, not everyone sees this trend as a superb thing. 

Jennifer Sey, writer of “Levi’s Unbuttoned” and former Levi’s executive, said the trend could potentially be very confusing to young people, who she said ought to be encouraged to just accept who they’re of their bodies.

Actor Jared Leto and other celebrities have recently pushed gender boundaries in fashion.Actor Jared Leto and other celebrities have recently pushed gender boundaries in fashion.Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

“The actual fact is, there are biological males and there are biological females,” Sey said. “When the message is being promoted by popular brands, by your teacher at school, that those two things don’t exist … I feel it’s really confusing to kids.”

“It may well turn into very retrograde,” she added. “I used to be somewhat girl that was a tomboy and I used to be an athlete. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t a woman. I assumed that was what the feminist movement was all about.“

Sey chalked up the movement to a push by corporations and their leaders who are trying to launder their very own reputations as “do-gooders and altruists” as an alternative of about earning money.

“I feel it’s primarily virtue signaling,” Sey said. “I feel it’s popularity laundering, in a way. It’s a method to signal that you simply are on the suitable side of progressive causes without actually having to do very much.”

She highlighted the incontrovertible fact that the narrow segment of the population is non-binary or trans, which she believes signals it’s not likely about them,” but as an alternative “about all the opposite folks that want to say to support this population.“

Just one.6% of U.S. adults discover as transgender or non-binary, while 5.1% of adults younger than 30 discover as trans or non-binary, based on the Pew Research Center. 

“Positioning the brand around these woke causes will not be about selling more, it’s concerning the shield of progressivism to cover and obscure the incontrovertible fact that business is because it at all times has been,” she added. 

In November 2020, tampon brand That is L. partnered with the Phluid Project on a campaign that featured trans activist Jeffrey Marsh. 

“Trans men have periods,” Marsh wrote in an Instagram post. “Women and nonbinary people have periods. “*Periods are for people*.”

“It’s ludicrous because a trans woman doesn’t need tampons,” Sey said in response to the ad. “It’s clearly not for that population. It’s for everyone else to grasp how virtuous you might be as a brand and a business.” 

She said corporations and retailers are co-opting the present social contagion without considering any of the implications. 

“I feel it’s a method to obscure intention since the intention of any company and the fiduciary responsibility is to earn cash,” she added. “They don’t even realize or recognize that it’s really alienating to probably, I might argue, half of the population, if no more.”

Former Levi's executive Jennifer Sey said the gender neutral clothing could potentially be confusing to childrenFormer Levi’s executive Jennifer Sey said the gender neutral clothing could potentially be confusing to children.REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Some brands like One DNA, Telfar, Tomboy X, Wildfang, Kirrin Finch have made names for themselves as gender-neutral brands, while labels like H&M, Victoria’s Secret brand PINK, Nordstrom, Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch have began their very own gender-neutral lines or collections. 

Even jewelers like De Beers and Tiffany & Co. have released their very own takes on gender-neutral jewelry and Gucci launched a non-binary gender neutral section the corporate calls Mx. 

In recent times, some corporations have taken their efforts a step further, coupling their products with a charity or activist arm of their business. 

One example is The Phluid Project, which in tandem with its gender free clothes and niknaks brand, can be committed to “embarking on a mission to enhance humanity through not only fashion, but in addition community outreach, activism, and education.”

Get Phluid, which is the Phluid Project’s training, education and strategy consulting arm,provides gender expansive training for retailers and corporations to learn tips on how to create secure and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community, Rob Smith, CEO and founding father of the Phluid Project, told Fox News Digital. Get Phluid’s clients include retailers like Macy’s, Nike and Banana Republic, in addition to corporations like American Express, Uber and HBO, based on the organization’s website. 

“Sometimes corporations …just show up within the month of June, but we help them show up authentically all year long … not only during parades and parties,”  Smith said. The gender-neutral category is “less like a trend and more like a movement,” he added. 

The Phluid Project’s non-profit, the Phluid Phoundation, collects donations from corporations just like the Saks Fifth Avenue Foundation, Smirnoff and Grey Goose to provide nearly 100% of the proceeds to grassroots organizations in support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite this growing trend in gender inclusive clothing, Schmidt predicted traditional men’s and girls’s departments weren’t a thing of the past. 

“I feel there’ll at all times be a men’s department and a women’s department so long as I’m alive,” Smith said. “But then there’s the space in the center, space for people to specific how they need to specific as an alternative of how a buyer decides.”

Schmidt noted consumers are “moving more towards the center,” so retailers are marketing products to a bigger audience, but she warns that consumer motion must follow the marketing, which implies it could possibly’t be performative or use a bunch of individuals to sell a cause.

“For instance, I do know that corporations prior to now have been accused of only launching certain products during Pride Month after which for the remaining of the 12 months, perhaps you wouldn’t see or hear anything,” she said. “I feel that corporations have gotten lots more attuned to that and are truly getting behind these products because they’re aware that the market is there.”

“Retailers are opening up their eyes and searching at kids’ sections and searching on the language that they use to bolster gender stereotypes,” Smith said. “Boys can wear pink and girls can wear blue, it’s okay, the world isn’t going to crumble.”

But, some critics argue about potentially deeper harm. Kelsey Bolar, a Senior Policy Analyst on the Independent Women’s Forum and creator of the “Identity Crisis” series, which highlights the experiences of detransitioners and their families, said clothing corporations are joining doctors and therapists in profiting off of youngsters’s mental illness and distress. 

“It may appear harmless to feature a gender inclusive clothing section, but this label caters to a bunch of vulnerable children and youths, reinforcing an ideology that puts them on a direct path to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and irreversible surgery, all of which have lifelong medical and emotional implications that we as a society are only starting to grasp,” Bolar said. 

She argued that there was once a time when girls could shop within the boys’ section and boys could shop in the women’ section “with none fanfare or controversy,” but now, “in an try and break down gender stereotypes, the gender ideology movement has had the reverse effect, telling girls that in the event that they prefer to shop within the boys department, there should be something mistaken.”

“It’s very sad, regressive and corporatist that fashion brands would seek to make the most of this backwardness,” she added. 

In 2019, while Sey was working for Levi’s, the brand did its own gender-neutral campaign, but she said she has since “began to see things otherwise,” and noted that the best profit for the corporate got here from traditional gender-focused products.  

Sey stood by the incontrovertible fact that the gender-neutral campaign touted a truism concerning the brand, that men wear women’s Levi’s and girls wear men’s Levi’s, but that her position had modified.

“It wasn’t a reinvention of the product line,” Sey said. “I still think it’s woke washing. If we would like to call it that. And yes, I did it. And I might probably do things somewhat otherwise now.”

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In 2015, Sey said Levi’s women’s business “took off” after they finally found out tips on how to tailor and market jeans for the feminine body. Up until that time, she said the brand essentially just made men’s jeans smaller for ladies.

“The thing that drove essentially the most significant acceleration of Levi’s sales within the last ten years was marketing to women,” she said. “The actual fact is, is that ladies’s bodies are shaped otherwise than men’s bodies,” she said.

Bolar said she wishes she could brush off the gender-neutral trend, but feels it is a component of a bigger movement that’s profiting off of confused and mentally in poor health adolescents, which makes the brands “not only complicit, but participating in what’s ultimately the mutilation of youngsters and teenagers.“

Bolar said she sees the push from corporations and retail brands as a “marketing ploy” and “virtue signaling for profit.” 

“We’ve seen this before with the LGB movement, and now they’re profiting off of the T,” she said.

She criticized individuals working on the clothing corporations who “likely haven’t given the difficulty deep thought” or heard the stories of detransitioners to learn of the medical harms being caused when children and teenagers are encouraged to query their gender identity.  

“The pendulum has swung up to now in the other way that we’re now reinforcing them with a side dish of medical harm,” she said. 

Bolar said the ideology is “becoming not possible to flee” since it is promoted by everyone from school administrators to the executives of clothing brands. 

“They think they’re making the world a more tolerant, higher place by featuring these gender inclusive clothes, but what they’re really doing at the top of the day is determining a latest method to market a gray sweatshirt and make the most of it” Bolar said. 

“It’s just unnecessary,” she added. “If you desire to break down gender stereotypes, just let girls shop in boys departments and boys shop in girls departments. It shouldn’t be an enormous deal. We shouldn’t be encouraging children to overthink and overanalyze the way in which they dress.”

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