Truthfully, I don’t think of GUESS, but when I do, I immediately imagine their ultra-sexy campaigns with curvy models in Texas-sized hair, Daisy Dukes and pouty DSL’s. The Americana brand has never been one to pursue relevancy or act with any cultural compass at all, which is why I suppose it’s become a staple for midwestern malls and small-town billboards alike. So in this world where change is inevitable, I always believed there to be one constant—GUESS—but even they’ve gone and switched up their formula, now pursuing fashion’s favorite concept to completely fuck up: the ever-so-tricky “unisex collection.”
This morning, as I scrolled through my inbox, I caught the subject line, “GUESS to Launch HIS & HERS Unisex Collection,” and immediately began banging my head on the keyboard, while screaming in pained hysteria. “Not them, too,” I shouted, reflecting on the sheer amount of brands I’ve had to call out for missing the mark with their bandwagon projects aimed at “challenging gender roles.” First, there was Zara’s lazy “ungendered” range, then that weak Solestruck shoe line, and now GUESS, who’ve essentially just reinforced “gender” through their fall ’16 unisex capsule and new campaign.
“In a world that is always evolving and testing out new trends, it is important that GUESS, the global lifestyle brand, remains part of these gender-neutral movements that have been rapidly expanding and taking the fashion industry by storm,” said GUESS’ Chief Executive Officer Victor Herrero about the announcement. “Our newest launch, GUESS His & Hers, marks our very first gender-free offering. I couldn’t be more proud to announce GUESS’ expansion into the unisex fashion category by helping blur the line with a collection of premium staple pieces made with luxe fabrics in classic shades and styles.”
The campaign shows a cis-man and cis-woman—both white, blonde and traditionally beautiful—wearing silhouettes that GUESS’ CEO claims to be “gender-free,” despite the official press release contradictorily writing there are “noticeable menswear injections” into the full range. (Sounds especially gendered to me). What this all really means is GUESS didn’t thoroughly think through the gender-neutral movement at all, and instead designed a collection that features classic menswear silhouettes for men, from tees to joggers, and has lazily put those on a woman’s body. No lines have been blurred here; if anything, they’ve been permanently drawn in with a Sharpie and ruler. Even the name alone gives preference to a gender binary: His & Hers.
Non-binary individuals deserve genuine non-binary collections and shopping experiences—not ones that broadcast the buzzword, “unisex,” but only truly offer menswear. They deserve to see more non-binary models in commercial fashion, wearing looks that don’t favor one gender over the other. They especially deserve to be the voices of their own identities and not have them commodified by a money-hungry cis-man who sees a marketing opportunity and blindly runs with it. But then again, criticizing GUESS’ thoughtfulness is like condemning a newborn for shitting its diaper—a total waste of time.