Alexandre Mattiussi founded his menswear label AMI Paris seven years ago. Formerly a designer for Dior — where he had seen a marked female enthusiasm for Hedi Slimane’s “clean, minimal designs” — he was already aware of the commercial potential for unisex design.
“I created AMI with this idea of designing clothes for my friends, and I have a lot of girlfriends,” he says. “So, although it’s a men’s line, I always pictured the pieces on both men and women. From there it just snowballed: I started to put women in my fashion show and in the collection shoots and the clients soon followed.”
Mattiussi says the popularity of the shared wardrobe isn’t hard to fathom. “From a pure product perspective, the movement towards less restrictive womenswear more generally means the men’s market is now an on-trend option for women, too. In addition, menswear has become infinitely more interesting in the last decade. And movements like gender-neutrality have paved the way for it being socially acceptable and even cool for women to wear men’s clothing.”
Interestingly, there’s also gender parity in the most popular styles. “The best-selling product for both men and women is our carrot-fit pant,” he says. “They look so cool on women it’s hard to believe they are men’s.”
Lest you think this is all a one-way street, there are signs that men are starting to rummage in the womenswear departments as well. Sofia Prantera, the creative director of the streetwear brand Aries, will launch a unisex collection of 20 pieces on Mr Porter this month, due, she says, to an increased demand for more masculine versions of her womenswear staples.
“I like to see women in what is traditionally seen as menswear, or men’s styles, anyway, and so it was never a choice to do a specific collection for men,” she says. “These clothes fit men, and men like them, so we have expanded our sizes and styles to accommodate that.”
She, too, suggests that the changing cultural landscape has allowed the shared wardrobe to flourish. “At the beginning, when Aries was first devised, it was a unisex concept, but it was hard to commercialise — the buyers weren’t ready — so we ended up making a women’s brand with unisex pieces.”
She, too, thinks times are changing. “I believe the division of gender-specific collections is becoming redundant. For me, clothes are a vehicle for an idea or culture and it’s about connecting with the people who share those ideas. Many women’s fashion environments don’t really connect with those references, or see women’s casualwear as ‘elevated’ enough; for me it’s often menswear departments where the culture is fit for Aries — and so I’m excited about this next chapter.”
Sharper, more sophisticated and more sustainable: if you consider longevity and cost-per-wear when buying clothes (and it does help when you’re about to shell out £1,490 on a herringbone Connolly overcoat), the appeal of the shared wardrobe is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. But as the wardrobe becomes increasingly mixed, one question still remains: who will get to wear what first? Set your alarms, people.