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Men's fashion designers celebrate androgyny trend

Lacy, racy menswear is the latest fashion trend.

Guys, get ready for lace collars, sheer shirts and an occasional dress or skirt. Men's fashion designers are taking a more androgynous approach to their offerings this year.

Feminine elements are making their way into the latest collections, following several years in which even fairly mainstream celebrities have embraced styles that eschew traditional gender norms.

"The classic male archetype has changed and evolved," said David Hart, a menswear designer who is a Severna Park native. "You are seeing different ways of dressing for men. You see this movement of men wearing neoprene and wearing a skirt over leggings."

The movement has been building for a while. It was heavily featured during the fall fashion shows, where there was a definite gender-blurring feel among the menswear collections.

David Tlale dressed his male models — including supermodel Tyson Beckford — in skirts and layered flowing fabrics that softened traditionally masculine pieces such as blazers and pants. At the Custo Barcelona show, male models dressed in Bohemian-styled ponchos and heavily layered outerwear similar to their female counterparts. And Hood by Air sent out male models in slit dresses.

It carried over during this summer's shows in Europe.

Designer Alessandro Michele led the charge in June when he sent male models down the runway in sheer lace tops, blouses with bows and flared Jacquard pants for Gucci's show in Milan. Rick Owens included a slew of dresses and oversized layered frocks for his men's collection in Paris.

Last week, during New York's inaugural men's fashion week, the trend was solidified when more than more than 50 menswear shows unveiled the latest fashions, including a noticeable amount of feminine details.

Celebrities have been successfully rocking gender-bending looks for years. And it's not just the man-bun moment popularized by Jared Leto, Orlando Bloom and director Cary Fukunaga. Celebs have continued to incorporate style tips from their female counterparts' fashion playbook.

Jaden Smith, the 17-year-old son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, ditched the traditional tuxedo when he attended a prom in May. Instead, he opted for a midi-length white skirt, long black tunic and a cavernous black blazer. He completed the ensemble with black pants, sneakers and fingerless white gloves.

Three years ago, Kanye West wore a leather Givenchy skirt from the men's spring-summer 2012 collection during a concert at Madison Square Garden.

Ewan McGregor, Vin Diesel, Gerard Butler and Diddy have all worn skirts in recent years. And who could forget when rapper Lil' Wayne wore women's jeggings during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards?

"It's an exciting time," said Hart, who showcased last week in New York. "There really is going to be a big interest and a big influx in the United States. You'll start seeing what we're seeing in Paris, Milan and London."

Will Baltimore men follow the trend?

Christopher Schafer, owner of Christopher Schafer Clothier in Harbor East, thinks so.

"I think it depends on where you're going," said Schafer, who likes the trend. "If it's for nightlife and you are going out to the clubs? Yes. Is this going to be daytime street wear? I doubt it. This will be more for that club-like atmosphere."

Schafer said that the trend will likely only work in certain situations.

"You have to have the right body type to pull it off. If you are very tall and slender, then the androgynous look will work better," he said. "When you think of the king of androgyny, David Bowie, he was thin. He kind of set the standard."

Toni James plans to stock her menswear Baltimore boutique, Angel Park, with garments that have feminine inspiration such as oversized leather scarves, white suede pants, colorful leather pants, knits and pieces in pastel colors.

"Baltimore men have stepped their game up," she said. "They are on fire. The young guys, the older guys, they are saying, 'Give me something different for the weekend.'"

The owner of the Fells Point boutique added: "I'm glad that Baltimore men are taking a chance on a different way of fashion. The women want to see their men in something different. They don't want to be the only one that everyone is looking at all the time."

Stevie Boi, the Baltimore-based eyewear and fashion designer whose fans include Lady Gaga and Rihanna, has been mixing feminine garments with his male fashion staples since 2009. Prior to that point, he said, he didn't have a personal style that distinguished him from others. He made a conscious effort to stand out when he sat down with photographer Michael-Antonio to develop a new image — and it turned out to be a more gender-ambiguous image.

"I was very lost with my fashion," he explained. "I realized that I could wear female and male and intertwine. Before that I felt that no one was paying attention what I was wearing. Now they are."

Boi's fashion collections, which feature unisex over-sized dresses and cloaks, reflect that gender fluidity.

"It is now being more embraced," he said. "People are a little more open-minded. They are designing for all people. It's changing and evolving. I do see a big push for it."

He added: "Ten years from now we won't be having this conversation. We'll just be talking about clothing."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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