Designers at the Forefront of Non Binary Fashion

Designers at the Forefront of Non Binary Fashion

by Theo Korstanje - February 2023

Behind every fashion label or a clothing item, there is a designer who sets the tone for the entire collection. Within the past decade, some of them have been setting a different tone, one that is not constrained by the rigid binary boundaries of fashion. These fashion designers move beyond the standard menswear and womenswear, and create shapes and silhouettes suited for today’s gender free/expansive consumers. In this article, we will explore established and up and coming designers who are at the forefront of non binary fashion. We will examine who these designers are, their distinct fashion point of view, and who they typically design for.

Established Fashion Designers 

Telfar Clemens

Who is Telfar Clemens?

Telfar Clemens is a Liberian American designer. He was born in Queens, New York in 1985. Clemens founded the brand “Telfar” during 2005 while studying at Pace University. The Teflar brand has since taken the world by storm most notably for their iconic yet relatively affordable handbags. Clemens has been widely celebrated for his bold and ubiquitous designs. In 2017, he was the first black man to win the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America)/Vogue Fashion Fund. This was followed up by winning the 2020's CFDA’s American Accessories Designer of the year. He was also crowned GQ’s Designer of the Year the same year.

What is Telfar Clemens’s Fashion Point of View?

The Teflar brand formed by Telfar Clemens has aimed to create apparel that is both fashionable and inclusive. His recent collections seem largely inspired by the street style of the early 2000s. These feature a wide array of hoodies and athletic wear that goes back to iconic looks worn by Y2K fashion icons. This is visible in Clemens’ outfit from the 2019 Met Gala. This outfit which is a hybrid between a suit and a ball gown is worn with a Y2K inspired blazer. The look was completed, of course, by his signature handbag.

Who Does Telfar Clemens Design For?

Telfar’s tagline “Not for you – for everyone” elegantly expresses who he designs for. All the clothing sold by Telfar is free from binary menswear/womenswear labels. It is also more affordable compared to luxury labels, hence accessible to a lot of people. Telfar strives to make clothing for people who know what they like. In his interview with GQ for his 2020 Designer of the Year Award, he states that “I'm not trying to impose anything on anyone. I love people that have a brain and choose what they wear based on what they like. That's how I operate.”

Harris Reed

Who is Harris Reed?

Harris Reed is a British American designer who has been on the forefronts of the gender-neutral/expansive space. Currently working as the creative director for Nina Ricci, he is also in charge of his eponymous clothing line. A graduate of Central Saint Martins in London, Reed is especially known for his high-profile styling of A-list celebrities. At only 26 years of age, Reed is still at the beginning of his career.

What is Harris Reed’s Fashion Point of View?

Reed sees clothing as having power in pushing the world forward, especially in the way we view gender and sexuality. He describes the brand’s style as “Romanticism Gone Nonbinary". He seeks to make the world a more accepting and welcoming place through his designs, he states he is: “fighting for the beauty of fluidity”. His most recent collection “Mise en Scene'' takes inspiration from the dress codes of a debutante ball. Reed quite literally flips these traditional designs upside down to create a more fluid and inventive style. This type of experimental gender-bending that goes back to bygone eras is exactly what Reed’s designs are all about. 

Who Does Harris Reed Design For?

At the moment, Reed is best known for designing for some of the most prominent gender-bending celebrities of today. One notable example is Reed’s styling of British pop star Harry Styles for a 2020 Vogue cover shoot. The look would see Styles donning something akin to a zoot suit, complete with a crinoline skirt. Reed’s blend of eras and gender signifiers matches Styles’ rebellious attitude towards traditionally gendered clothing. Another memorable moment created by Reed is Lil Nas X’s outfit from the 2022’s MTV VMA. It saw the trailblazing pop star baring his chest with a feathery spiraling hoop skirt, and a gigantic black halo behind his head. This look encapsulates the inventiveness of Harris Reed’s designs.

Mike Eckhaus & Zoe Latta

Who are Mike Eckhaus & Zoe Latta?

Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta are co-founders of the genderless fashion brand Eckhaus Latta. The two met while in college where Eckhaus was studying sculpture, and Latta was studying textiles. They have expressed that their relationship did not begin well, but it slowly grew into a fruitful creative partnership. Eventually, they started the Eckhaus Latta brand in 2011 as part of a French fashion competition. Despite never hearing back from the competition, they decided to continue working together and grew the Eckhaus Latta brand.

What is Mike Eckhaus’s & Zoe Latta’s Fashion Point of View?

From floral print shawls paired with trousers to dresses with unique, free-flowing silhouettes, Eckhaus Latta’s designs are simultaneously sleek and endlessly expressive. In their work, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta also often question the existing binary structure of the fashion industry. Most of their designs are worn by both male and female models, highlighting the collection’s fluidity. In 2019, Eckhaus addressed brand's lack of definitive gendering, saying “I think we relate to gender identity a little less aggressively. It’s less binary and I think that’s something we have always felt attuned to.”

Who does Mike Eckhaus & Zoe Latta Design For?

Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta express that ambiguity is a big part of their brand. In making designs that are difficult to classify, it seems they are targeting an audience who is similarly difficult to put into any box. One common thread is that Eckhaus Latta’s designs are all sold as gender neutral. Within their sleek silhouettes, it’s up to the wearer to decide which pieces suit them.

Becca McCharen-Tran

Who is Becca McCharen-Tran?

McCharen-Tran was brought up in a religious environment in Virginia and was obsessed with fashion growing up. In their Ted Talk, they explained how their love of fashion led them to develop an eating disorder due to the ideal body types being portrayed in the magazines. They later came to realize how damaging the current idealization of unrealistic body standards is, and that a large part of their mission is to shatter those limits on what is considered beautiful. McCharen-Tran began their brand Chromat while working for a degree in architecture design at University of Virginia. They have been widely recognized ever since. In 2021, they were awarded the prestigious Cooper Hewitt Fashion Design award. They also landed a spot on Forbes 30 under 30 “People Who Are Reinventing the World” list.

What is Becca McCharen-Tran’s Fashion Point of View?

McCharen-Tran, through their brand Chromat, creates clothing that not only moves beyond gender binaries but also beyond the fashion industry’s preferred body types. Their clothes are designed for all people regardless of gender identity, size, or ability. Chromat has recently begun focusing solely on swimwear, with the goal of bringing more inclusivity into a space that has historically been restricted to a very specific body type.

Who Does Becca McCharen-Tran Design For?

McCharen-Tran has designed looks for some of the highest profile celebrities including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Madonna. However, in recent years, the Chromat brand has shifted its strategy to focus more on accessible swimwear. Featuring a vast multitude of sizes, styles, and fits, Chromat has a swimsuit for every-body.

Charles Jeffrey

Who is Charles Jeffrey?

Charles Jeffrey is a Scottish designer born in Glasgow in 1990. Jeffrey got his BA in Art Foundation and MA in Fashion from Central St Martins in London. In 2018, Jeffrey was awarded GQ’s Breakthrough Designer award. The designer's career began as an intern at Dior. Jeffrey founded the brand LOVERBOR during school. LOVERBOY emerged through the club nights hosted by Jeffrey at Vogue Fabrics, and this club scene eventually led to the brand’s identity.

What is Charles Jeffrey’s Fashion Point of View?

One needs only look at Jeffrey to see what LOVERBOY brand is about: donning a textured, ripped, denim suit with a red bandana, and pale white makeup. It’s experimental, weird, and wonderful. Looking through a Loverboy collection feels more like flipping through a comic book or looking at a Takashi Murakami exhibit than at haute couture. Brand's most recent collection is titled PHWOARR. It contains a kaleidoscopic set of colorful designs and bold takes on everything. As per their website, it “celebrates the defiance and adaptive creativity of queerness.” Defiance is an accurate word to describe Loverboy’s style.

Who Does Charles Jeffrey Design For?

By creating looks that go against the grain of both everyday streetwear and haute couture design, Loverboy is carving out a unique space for those who believe in limitless self-expression. As their website states, Loverboy is “proudly committed to making clothes that can be worn by anyone, in any conceivable way.” Most of Loverboy’s designs are made especially for the ones who are ready to proudly let their freak flags fly. 

Up And Coming Fashion Designers 

Arturo Obegero

Who is Arturo Obegero?

Arturo Obegero is a Spanish fashion designer from Tapia de Casariego, Asturias. At a young age, his mother encouraged him to pursue his creative passions, at first through performance arts and then through fashion. Like Charles Jeffrey, he got his MA from Central Saint Martins in London. Arturo often cites his upbringing in Spain surrounded by nature as his biggest inspiration in his work.

What is Arturo Obegero’s Fashion Point of View?

Arturo Obegero describes his aesthetic as "captivating, poetic, and aggressively beautiful". His style is clearly inspired by both dance apparel and subdued theatrical costume design. Surrealism and neo-noir are also visible elements in Obegero’s designs. His most recent collection, Song to the Siren, showcases a mix of masculine and feminine elements, combining flowing silhouettes and silky textures with sharp angles and metallic accents, creating designs that are both elegant and strong.

Who Does Arturo Obegero’s Design For?

Obegero’s work is designed for people who like to make a bold statement and express themselves in full liberation. He is likely best known for one of his designs that was featured in the music video for Harry Styles’ chart-topping “As It Was”. While the red jumpsuit Styles wears in the video is undeniably eye-catching, this design is only the tip of the iceberg for what Obegero has to offer.

Victor Barragan

Who is Victor Barragan?

Victor Barragan, born in 1992, grew up in the Postal neighborhood of Mexico City. He began a T-shirt line with the palindromic name "YtinifninfinitY" in 2009. The brand featured many similar elements to the clothing he produces today, namely playing with iconic logos and pop-culture imagery. He moved to New York in 2016, and started the brand: “Barragan”. Victor’s identity as a young, gay, Mexican man has shaped his outlook on fashion, giving him a unique voice in the fashion world. In 2019, he became a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund which helped to propel his brand and its unique perspective to an even bigger audience.

What is Victor Barragan’s Fashion Point of View?

Victor Barragan can easily be seen as one of the most disruptive forces on this list. One only needs to look at his most recent collection: “DESPUÉS DEL CAOS VIENE LA LUZ / AFTER CHAOS COMES LIGHT” for confirmation. The collection features a twist on American iconography featuring symbols from Mountain Dew, camouflage, tons of duct tape, and a shirt that simply reads “Meth”. Many of the clothes from this collection are controversial, satirical, and over the top. Still, the collection features a wide array of staples that could fit into anybody’s wardrobe. His main message is simple, as he states: “Have fun. Don’t take anything too seriously.”

Who Does Victor Barragan Design For?

Barragan’s clothes are designed for the ones who create a world of their own. Barragan’s styles show the endless possibilities clothing can provide for self-expression including but not limited to gender expression/identity. As he does a masterful job of blending statement pieces with looks that are simple enough for everyday wear, he appeals to many customers.

Ella Boucht

Who is Ella Boucht?

Ella Boucht is a 30-year-old Finnish fashion designer. Boucht earned her BA from the Swedish School of Textiles, and like several of the other artists on this list, got their fashion MA from Central Saint Martins, in London. They are currently residing in London. In 2020, Boucht founded the HÄN community, which is named after a Finnish gender-neutral pronoun. The community is designed to be a safe space for queer people to express themselves and form creative connections. In November 2022, Boucht released HÄN Edition 1, which compiles the most impactful pieces created in the community.

What is Ella Boucht’s Fashion Point of View?

Boucht, in and outside of work, aims to support the worldwide queer community. This is also reflected in their designs where they often play with the duality and gender fluidity. This design philosophy can be observed in Boucht’s 2020 collection which was showcased at London Fashion Week. The unique makeup and shapes of the garments show a playfulness that is difficult to describe. Looks seem to refuse any rigid definition, let alone the gender binary. Their most recent collection is titled Fist. Boucht explains that the collection draws inspiration from two very different worlds: martial arts and S&M. Boucht also believes in the complete restructuring of the fashion industry. As their designs are all completely gender neutral, Boucht has expressed that buyers struggle with fitting their distinctly fluid designs into the still binary fashion industry.

Who Does Ella Boucht Design For?

Boucht’s designs are often highly individualized with the wearer’s specific body being kept in mind. Their designs are more than clothing that happens to be suited for non binary self-expression, but are created specifically for non binary people and their unique body types. As Boucht explains, they are looking to create for those whose bodies do not fit into the standard gender binary.

Mic. Carter 

Who is Mic. Carter?

Mic. Carter is the Toronto-based designer behind the fashion brand L’Uomo Strano – italian for “the strange man”. Carter is also a lecturer at Toronto Metropolitan University. Carter explains that before starting the L’Uomo Strano brand, shopping itself was an uncomfortable experience. In browsing the women’s section of stores, Carter felt out of place due to being both “very tall and very Black.” This abjection is what ultimately inspired Carter to create the community driven brand: L’Uomo Strano.

What is Mic. Carter’s Fashion Point of View?

Carter’s point of view in fashion goes beyond just creating clothing. The designer heavily emphasizes fashion’s ability as a tool for self-expression as well as community building. Brand's website explains that Carter looks to fuse “social justice, futurity, abjection, and community with fashion.” Carter’s designs, which, like many other designers on our list, have clear elements of androgyny. The brand has recently launched "The Vers Shirt", a collaboration with Canadian musician, author, and visual artist Vivek Shraya. The shirt is the first commercial piece Carter and Shraya have collaborated on, after years of working together on other creative endeavors. They describe the shirt as a “sartorial draping disco-ball”, and explain that its numerous functional zippers allow the piece to be as “versatile as you”.

Who Does Mic. Carter Design For?

L’Uomo Strano seeks to create clothing “for the femme-identified, gender non-conformist's wardrobe”. Carter states that clothing specifically designed for "men" and "women" often requires designers to work on creating styles that specifically fit those body types whereas designing for non-binary people allows you to “design beyond a body.” Carter’s goal is not to shy away from the struggle and oppression of queer communities, but to acknowledge it as a part of their identity, and to use it as fuel to look into the future.

Adelle Renaud 

Who is Adelle Renaud?

Adelle Renaud is a Canadian fashion designer who founded the company Peau De Loup alongside Olympic champion Erin Mcleod. Peau De Loup’s mission is to create everyday clothing specifically for non-binary individuals. As their tagline states, Peau De Loup makes clothing for bodies, not gender. Adelle created the brand in 2012 out of personal need after not being able to find clothing that accurately represented their identity. Beginning with a small run of 1000 shirts, the brand grew organically into what it is today. To this day, all of the brand's designs are made out of recycled material. Peau De Loups recently launched a scholarship program to help young people looking to venture into the world of non-binary fashion. 

What is Adelle Renaud’s Fashion Point of View?

While Peau De Loup began as a collection of button-down shirts, it has since grown into a full line of clothing designed with non binary bodies in mind. Their brand is centered around what is traditionally referred as menswear such as button-down shirts, rugby tees, workwear, and jeans. These are all offered without the rigid gender labels and unflattering fits making them accessible to everybody. Their clothing is some of the most accessible genderless fashion available on the market. Instead of creating high-fashion statement pieces, Peau De Loup creates staples for the everyday wardrobes of non binary people.

Who Does Adelle Renaud Design For?

Peau De Loup’s designs are made specifically for non binary people who want clothing that fits them well and matches their identity. Adelle developed what they call the “perfect body block” which is a shirt design different from the standard blocking of traditional menswear or womenswear. Although the designs themselves are not necessarily revolutionary, the fact that they are designed specifically for non binary people is. As they state, “everyone deserves the right to align their inner identity with their outward appearance.”

By carving out the space for the in-between, these designers are not only paving the way for a more inclusive fashion, but also opens doors for more designers to embrace fashion that is beyond the binary. From the fun-loving self-expression of Charles Jeffrey to the bold political satire of Victor Barragan, and the everyday essentials made by Adelle Renaud, it’s clear the world of gender free/fluid fashion is in good hands. To find out more about Peau De Loup, check out this interview.

Theo Korstanje is a writer from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. When he’s not writing, he’s either cycling around, training jiu jitsu, or tending to his garden.