Natalia Manzocco is no stranger to thrift stores. The owner of an online gender-neutral clothing website spends hours sifting through racks of used garments for pieces that accentuate both a man’s muscles and a woman’s curves.
Manzocco, a 27-year-old Riverdale resident, began selling clothing and accessories meant for both sexes at Future is the Future. She’s yet to hear of anyone else in the GTA operating under the same concept, but in the U.S. and Scandinavia gender-analogous stores are starting to take off. Manzocco’s crusade to break store gender divisions was born from her penchant for mixing menswear pieces into her wardrobe.
“I was thinking wouldn’t it be awesome if I could find a vintage men’s tuxedo, but shopping for vintage clothing is difficult because of the variation in how things are cut,” she says. Instead of taking a second-hand men’s tux to a tailor or settling for a similar women’s version, she put together Future is the Future in hopes of giving others facing similar predicaments a place to shop. Among the handful of used items she has in stock is a patterned blue-and-white Joe Fresh button-down for $15 and a bright green, vintage varsity jacket emblazoned with the name Herman for $35.
“If something really leaps out at me, I will buy it,” Manzocco says. “If I find something glittery, I will throw that in there, too, because people of all genders like sparkles.”
For each gender-neutral piece, Manzocco provides the length, chest, waist and arm or sleeve measurements alongside traditional size labels for both men and women. A black, one-button, second-hand tuxedo jacket from J. Crew, for example, is marked as fitting like a men’s medium and women’s large. Manzocco also carries accessories, including handmade reversible bow ties and floral lapel pins from Toronto accessories-maker Just Sultan and triangle-shaped, orange earrings from local jeweller Moonlight for Violet.
Future is the Future, which opened in November, functions primarily as a website, but Manzocco says she occasionally does markets and pop-ups. If interest grows, she will consider opening a bricks-and-mortar store in Toronto.
When Ben Barry, a fashion professor at Ryerson University and the founder of a self-named modelling agency, heard about Future is the Future, he says he was excited because he believes it is opening doors for “a lot more play, a lot more experimentation and an explosion of the gender binary.” Women can get away with slouchy boyfriend jeans, oversized men’s dress shirts and even ties, but Barry says men garner more critical looks when they borrow their sartorial sense from women.
“Playing with colourful socks, bow ties and pocket squares can be seen as stepping outside the box of masculinity, so for men to be more outside of that box and wear floral shirts, skirts or heels, that could be seen as jeopardizing their masculinity even more,” he says.
Though designers such as Yves St. Laurent transformed the smoking jacket look into a women’s trend and J.W. Anderson filled his runway with skirt-wearing men, Barry says “the fashion industry is divided.” It’s hard to change the industry because buyers browsing collections for their stores are shopping for men or women — not both, he says, adding that is bound to change.
“For some (Future is the Future) may be seen as radical, but a lot of people are rejecting these gender categories because they are a lot more playful with shopping in different sections and wearing garments that are made for men and women,” he says. “It’s the future of the fashion industry.”
Sara Medd, the founder of a Los Angeles-based clothing start-up, agrees. Her soon-to-launch company, Greyscale Goods, scours the world for gender-neutral brands, which they pack into boxes based on an individual customer’s style. Buyers who receive the boxes rummage through the items choosing what they like before sending the rest back in a prepaid package within five days.
“The true heart of the fashion industry is open-minded,” she says. “Androgynous clothing is nearly there. It’s the next step.”
Source: The Star