The idea of gender-neutral fashion struck 26-year-old Arie during his graduation in New Delhi. “I made my women’s wear assignments in such a way that I could wear them later and not abandon them in a brown box. My graduate collection at NIFT Delhi, inspired by a mélange of saree and lungi, had pan-gender designs. I no longer have a gender in mind when I design clothes. For most part of the history, every gender dressed alike than different. Gendered clothing is a byproduct of our sexist and misogynist past.
My fashion philosophy is to ‘ungender’ the clothes.
The social role of women and trans people is also changing and their clothing needs to facilitate similar functions. Gender-neutral fashion looks beyond the binary notion of gender and offers same functionality in clothes regardless of gender. With gender barriers fading, we’re heading towards a future where you will share clothes with all sexes.
And by sharing you’re not only spreading love, but also minimising consumption,” begins Arie who was perhaps one of the first people to blog about men’s fashion. His first collection Beyond Binary looks beyond the binary black and white way of seeing the world.
“Black and white are polar opposites of a spectrum with many shades of grey. Black and white, masculine and feminine, vanity and functionality, curves and sharp lines, structure and fluidity, saree and dhoti, pinstripes and ruffles, and several other polar opposites come together to create new aesthetics that looks beyond binary, and hence the name,” explains Arie. The clothes are all a mélange of saree and lungi.
All the garments are cut from handloom lungis by Tirupur weavers. Gatherings, ruffles and bell sleeves of vintage Indian saree-blouse lend inspiration to the crop tops which are ergonomically designed to fit both a man and woman’s body. The kara border of veshti is retained on front plackets and hem, weaving together elements of traditional Indian menswear and women’s attire to shape the new look of tomorrow.
Green signifying progress, harmony and fertility, dominates the earthy and subtle colour palette of the clothes. However, designing this line hasn’t been an easy task. “It’s a bootstrapped underground model. Launching a conventional fashion business is very tedious and expensive process. Conceptualising a practical and sustainable business model without giving up on personal values was probably the most challenging aspect. Internet provided a democratic platform where I found my voice as a blogger and it has once again proved the ultimate platform to express hitherto overlooked ideas through my new collection,” muses Arie who has collaborated with more than 50 retail and luxury brands, and rated one of the most followed fashion bloggers in the country. How has the response been to this new line?
“The enquiries have been good and what I had forecast. What’s more fascinating is the number of questions the collection raised. Many people asked why a sculpted man was wearing feminine clothes. That’s the whole objective of the line – to raise questions and break notions and boundaries we’ve laid for ourselves.
Questions open dialogue which generates ideas to keep the stone rolling from stagnation. And if my line manages to do that, I couldn’t be happier,” says Arie.