Norma Kamali has witnessed firsthand the evolution of gender fluidity in fashion, having dressed both women and men since her first collection. Having noticed younger men shopping her designs, she removed the women’s and men’s labels and now designs a gender-fluid collection for all of her customers.
Kamali has been shooting her versatile clothes on male and female models for quite a few seasons, and with more interest geared toward the gender-neutral, the designer wanted to try a new, fun process. Aside from her female model look book, which displayed the entire collection, the designer tapped four men — two models, two employees — to model the collection and style it any way they wanted.
“I told them, bring your own accessories, you can pick anything you want to wear and you can style it any way you want. I’m not going to say anything but sit with the photographer and you do what you want.”
The result was free expression, movement and a palpable joie de vivre. Single-shoulder jumpsuits, sequined suits and tracksuits in neutral tones, 3-D geometric patterns and a zebra-inspired prints appeared avant-garde, daring and androgynous. Even a traditional feminine style — a studded jumpsuit with an open back — was brought to life by the male models.
“It was such a happy shoot. Laughing, and the creativity was on fire and I thought, this is really where it’s at, this is where it should be,” said Kamali. One model styled a bold, one-shouldered jumpsuit with a contrasting bright patterned shirt, which actually belonged to a matching blazer and trousers.
That one-shouldered, rounded jumpsuit is part of a series inspired by Kamali’s Sculpture Dress that Beyoncé wore in her “Spirit” music video for “The Lion King,” while the Puley style was one Kamali had done in the Seventies that she started to see come up more on Instagram. Also noteworthy was that the designer’s parachute style with ample flou that was reinvigorated in her sleeping bag coat for the first time.
Kamali referenced other past styles like a dress from the Seventies that was very popular with men at the time and was worn “front ways and back ways for a skirted look to do over pants,” she said.
“This is a real transformation of the industry. We have to find another way of talking about clothes and how they make you feel,” said Kamali.