Unisex fashion – feeling comfortable in the skin you’re in
The unique range made for her major final year project, helped Chloe Bethwaite secure a First Class BA Honours degree in Fashion from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) this summer.
After reading articles about how transitioning men and women were treated in the workplace and the difficulty they have in finding appropriate clothes she went to a support group for local people to hear their thoughts on the issue.
“There were some teenagers who were 17 or 18 but one person had been transitioning for 40 years so it was incredible to have their opinions and they were excited their feedback was being used for research which turned into a 30-page report,” she said.
Designing clothes aimed at the 20 to 30-year-old market which could be worn comfortably for either sex tested her strong technical skills.
“Trousers had to be low-rise with a draw-string to suit different sizes and the consensus was that red was the big unisex colour. Shape was the most important thing and the length of where things were going to hang on the body, so the armholes had to be lower than on a traditional women’s garment,” she explained.
Her collection was snapped by fashion photographer and former CCAD student, Richard Leeson, and it was paraded on the catwalk at the highly-anticipated end of year show.
“Everyone who has tried the clothes on said they are really comfortable – they were made of melton wool and a double wool crepe which cost £90 per metre.”
Selfridges’ flagship store on Oxford Street in London has picked up on the surge in androgynous dressing by axing its separate women and menswear departments earlier this year. It’s launched ‘Agender’, three floors of unisex fashion which blur the lines between the traditional shopping concept of ‘his and hers’. Along with five unisex collections and pieces from 40 of its staple brands it has also combined beauty products and accessories for men and women.
Chloe, 21, added: “The transgender issue is out there but it is not being addressed or catered for in terms of fashion here. There is a huge gap for people who are changing before they are comfortable with their new identities as well as a big gap in the unisex market in general. I think there should be more gender neutral ranges out there too.”
Although she now wants to specialise in menswear, her experience covers designing trainers, childrenwear and womenswear. One memorable college project involved a collaboration with celebrated North-East lingerie brand, Talulah Love, and Chloe is proud of the delicate underwear she created.
Originally from the Lake District, Chloe has settled in Hartlepool after studying in the town and lives with boyfriend, Judd, who also gained a First Class degree from CCAD in Production Design for Stage and Screen.
She blogs about her career so far at sassysewnsew.wordpress.com and is now seeking her first job as a design assistant with the aim of having her own menswear line one day.
The final catwalk show was a big highlight of Chloe’s time at CCAD, and she credits the course tutors for their unwavering support, talent and expertise.
“To see the clothes go down looking like they should after all that work was amazing. It made me realise that this is definitely what I want to do.”
Blog – sassysewnsew.wordpress.com
Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) – 01642- 288000