Clothing brands like Abercrombie and Target are diversifying their reach.
Boys can look pretty in pink, too.
Abercrombie & Fitch introduced its first-ever gender-neutral children’s collection this past week. The promotional campaign for the 25-piece line features guys in pink hoodies and floral shorts, and girls in black and camo-print bomber jackets ranging from $19.95 to $69.95.
“It’s about time that the fashion Industry caught up to the cultural conversation on gender, unconscious bias and all of the constructs that tell girls to wear pink and boys to wear blue,” Wendy Sachs, mother of two and author of “Fearless and Free – How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch their Careers,” told Moneyish. “The judgment comes so early – as early as preschool, when some boys want to play dress up in tiaras and dresses. My son did! We should not be assigning colors or certain clothes choices to children based on gender.”
It’s the latest step in a more inclusive direction from a brand infamous for its catalogs and topless male in-store models that sexualized pretty young (white) things. But sex stopped selling after a while; Abercrombie had to close dozens of stores last year after its operating income plummeted from $72.8 million in 2015 to $15.2 million in 2016. So the company has been listening to customer feedback and revamping its image, such as cleaning up most of its provocative ads and removing its once ubiquitous logo off of many pieces.
“Parents and their kids don’t want to be confined to specific colors and styles, depending on whether shopping for a boy or a girl,” said Stacia Andersen, brand president of Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie Kids, in a statement.
The Everybody Collection will be displayed in the center of the Abercrombie Kids sections in stores, and the pieces will be posted on both the boys’ and girls’ product pages on the website. More tops, bottoms and accessories will be rolled out for summer and for back-to-school. They’ve also been cut in uniform sizes.
Many parents – and childless adults who just wished they could have shopped the collection when they were kids – took to social media to praise the unisex line.
My son loves pink. Most pink clothes are labeled "girl." For him, it matters a great deal to his self-esteem when the clothes are not labeled as such. When they are, he feels as if he's wearing something "wrong."
— Elisabeth Staab (@ElisabethStaab) January 19, 2018
@Abercrombie Well guys where were you when I was growing up ??? I love the new gender neutral line you are putting out for kids!!! you’re making childhoods better in ways you just can’t imagine ! thanks for being hip to the times!!
— Shawn Duquette (@ShawnDuquette4) January 19, 2018
Abercrombie isn’t the only label ditching gender labels. Brands including Baby Blastoff, Free To Be Kids and Jill and Jack have also crafted unisex clothes that are interchangeable for girls and boys. And last year Zendaya introduced her Daya by Zendaya line with mostly gender non-specific pieces because “That’s the future of fashion,” she told InStyle.
Target has also hit the Bullseye with its latest inclusive campaign. It introduced its Cat and Jack collection last year, which replaced itchy, skin-irritating details like tags and traditional seams with heat-transferred labels and flat seams for kids with sensory processing sensitivities, such as those on the Autism spectrum, as well as bottoms for children with disabilities that featured wider legs to dress more easily (such as pulling up over diapers), and flattened seams to reduce pressure points when sitting in a wheelchair. They run just $4.50 to $7 in sizes XS to XL for big kids, and 2T to 5T for toddlers.
And the retail giant recently announced that it is bringing some of these sensory-friendly and adaptive apparel features to the women’s department, as well, with its new Universal Thread collection debuting on Feb. 4. The company also worked with almost 1,000 women with diverse shapes, sizes and ethnicities to develop the denim collection running from size 00-26W for just $5 to $39.99.
“Universal Thread is all about making great style available to everyone,” Mark Tritton, Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “At the core of this brand is amazing denim based on fashion trends and firsthand guest feedback.”
But this isn’t all altruistic – companies hope that this will boost their bottom lines, as well, by not only giving the customers what they want, but also catering to previously untapped niche markets, which helps them stand out in the crowded $218.7 billion U.S. apparel industry.
“One size doesn’t fit all, and one lifestyle doesn’t reach all. [And] Consumers want products, and even more so fashion, that mirrors their taste and lifestyle,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of the NPD Group market research firm, told Moneyish. “Stores and brands that demonstrate a desire to be more in tune with the consumers of today reap the benefits of added sales, as well as huge loyalty.”
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