A typical Saturday afternoon on any high street. Thousands of shoppers dipping in an out of shops and long queues for the changing rooms as people try on the latest fashions. But I wander through the aisle of clothes increasingly disappointed. Where are the shirts that appeal to my sense of style? A quick pop into Superdry reveals some check shirts that look ok, but when I try on the L size I find that it is too tight across the stomach. In the Superdry world L equals a 14 oh dear, it seems this shop does not want my custom and is clearly aimed at the younger and skinnier person. I used to shop in Gap for shirts, but now, inexplicably the sleeves are too tight around my arms. No, my arms are not abnormally large - Gap has changed the design of its shirts to fit twiglet armed women.
This is by no means an uncommon occurrence for me, shopping trips which last for hours only to return home with one or two items chosen as a compromise so I at least have something to wear, even if it's not what I want.
I do not like frills on a shirt, I do not like rounded collars or shirts made out of shiny fabric or heaven forbid in various shades of pink. I do not like three quarter length sleeves on a shirt. I do not like to wear only check shirts. I do not like green eggs and ham sir. What if you are a women but your eyes are drawn to the clothing in the men's section? What if you like bold colours and amusing patterns on a fantastic short sleeve range? What if you then make the decision to try on some of these men's shirts? Well, it is likely they will not fit you. Men's shoulders are broader, their hips are narrower, so you can put the shirt on - but it's likely you will not look good in it, they're just not designed for a more feminine shape.
Why are men's and women's clothes so different? Why is there a range of clothes called 'boyfriend' style. What? You have to pretend to appropriate your boyfriend's clothes to wear a style that you like? So it comes down to this. The high street shops are lazy and it is easier for them to design for gender stereotypes rather than offer both men and women a full choice of styles. But this is not all about me - there are many other women who are frustrated at the lack of choice available to them. And of course there are men who would like to enjoy more playful or soft styles, but all of us when we go shopping are forced to turn left into the women's section or right in to the men's section.
Restrictive clothing is particularly obvious for children, where not only are they forced into blue things for boys and pink things for girls but the slogans on the T shirt are very different - active and naughty for boys, pretty and cute for girls. And if you are a girl who is really into dragons or dinosaurs you have to accept that these will be found in an aisle marked 'Boys'. "Why mummy? I don't want to be a boy, but do I want a duvet cover with rockets on". Why are our poor children forced to have their tastes and choices so rigidly restricted from birth? It's not a new phenomenon but if anything it seems this problem has got even worse over the last 20 years.
I believe that there is room for everybody to enjoy their style choices - without the restriction of gender assumption. I have recently made a range of shirts where gender is irrelevant. One size will not fit all - male and female shapes are different so I have designed around body shape based on a cut that you like - not what you are being told to wear because of your gender.
I will be revealing my new range of gender neutral clothing on 16th March 2016 in Brighton's Lanes which can be seen here
CEO, Gender Free World