IFA Paris will organize a seminar this coming fall on gender fluidity led by Michael Lojacono, Client & Trend Specialist at WGSN. We had the privilege of meeting him before his appointment scheduled for September 2019 with our MBA students.
IFA Paris: You are currently working at WGSN, one of the most prestigious trend agencies. Could you tell us in a few words, how you would describe your primary role within this international institution?
Michael: WGSN is a world-class agency. As a specialist of the French market, my job is to ensure that our international customer portfolio gets the most out of our information and trend services.
To help them develop trendy products that will reach the right consumer at the right time. I give presentations on trends, train our clients in the use of our libraries and trend platforms, assist them in their daily confidential research, run workshops and teach them how to better understand our services and their consumers.
I am particularly fortunate to be able to work with students from French fashion and business schools, it is one of my favourite roles: it is so exciting to be able to collaborate with people who will change the future of our industries.
IFA Paris: What are the reasons that made you write your thesis on the problematic of gender fluidity?
Michael: My thesis for the multidisciplinary “Gender(s), thoughts about differences, gender relations” Master’s Degree at the University of Paris VIII and their department, the Centre d’Etudes Féminines et de Genre (“Centre for Women and Gender Studies”), was actually on transidentity and the acceptance of trans humans by feminist communities, in France and the United States.
As an American, it was very important for me to do comparative work for both contexts, and to show the importance of the transidentitary / transgender women’s community to feminist communities. That said, gender fluidity is an issue that has always fascinated me, especially when I first entered the fashion world, where gender on its own is so full of possibilities! Gender and its’ expressive power can really be seen as the ultimate way of expressing one’s individuality, and of playing with the gender codes of our society.
As a result of my role in a company that creates content for a very fashionable audience, I am passionate about the impact of gender and the fluidity of gender in these markets.
IFA Paris: In what way do you think the gender fluid style gets a special resonance in the fashion world?
Michael: Masculinity and femininity become de facto tools through which we express our influence on society – and fashion.
This important mirror of our zeitgeist – is a true key to the expression of our state of mind. The gender fluid style is an outcome of the mindset of the new generations. We no longer want to describe ourselves simply as a”manly man” or a “feminine woman”. We now wish to characterize ourselves as individuals with personality traits that do not correspond to the gender expectations of our parents and grandparents.
IFA Paris: What are your favourite brands today? Or the most important ones in this niche… unless they are the same!?
Michael: Sometimes they are indeed the same! One brand I really like is the Spanish men’s ready-to-wear brand, but prima facie it doesn’t look like Palo Spain. The brand offers a real eye-catcher collection and breaches the codes of the men’s PAP, in favour of both stylish and unmanly looks. Personally, I am very interested in Martin Margiela’s work and his records like many others, and I consider his work as a highly thought-out reflection on how clothing and silhouette should be detached, undone, gender-free and using the codes of masculinity and femininity in an almost parodical way.
I see a lot of opportunity to get out of our gender stereotypes, especially through the fashion accessory market, and I think we should pay much more attention to it in the future. The clothing itself will increasingly be like a generational uniform, while the way its’ accessories are conceived will be an expression of our genderless individuality. There is a real societal and commercial opportunity in this market in the coming years.
IFA Paris: You know better than anyone else that fashion is built on cyclical trends. Is the gender fluid trend driven by the millennium part of this same mechanism, or is the identity based approach overshadowing aesthetic choices?
Michael: Indeed, trends may seem cyclical, but I believe that like any cycle, the basis of a cycle is actually a pattern! Trends are linear too, and we need to draw inspiration from our very own archives and our past as an industry, to build new prospects. The gender fluidity and its importance for fashion is not just a trend but a real change of mentality within the Millennials generation as well as Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010), who are no longer happy with the mere heavy identity labels of men and women. These new generations are looking for a definitive way out of this narrow and unfair duality in order to find an individual, brilliant and, above all, vibrant aesthetic.
IFA Paris: Although omnipresent in the media landscape in recent years, isn’t the practice of gender fluidity more marginal in reality than that depicted by the media?
Michael: No, or else fashion wouldn’t pay so much attention to it! I believe that this underlying trend will really affect our industries in the next few years. This matter must therefore be treated with as much sensitivity as the wearing of pants by women in the 20th century.
IFA Paris: Would “no gender” clothing be a pacifist response to the upsurge in human rights violations? A tribute to tolerance? What is your personal interpretation of it?
Michael: For me, “no gender” clothing does not mean a universalism of human rights – a very much French expression for me. “No gender” clothing speaks of a new way of seeing clothing, the world and people-in a real equality, since this equality depends on an experienced and perceived individuality.
IFA Paris: If we project ourselves in 50 or 60 years, will the duality between men and women still be meaningful within the collections?
Michael: Just as a parody or nostalgia, I would like to believe it will.
IFA Paris: Our realistic and visionary fashion school has its’ own vision of the evolution of the fashion industry and has chosen to add a seminar entirely dedicated to gender fluidity to its’ MBA Fashion Management program. As an expert in the field, what do you think of such a pedagogical choice? Why did you accept to intervene?
Michael: Honestly, I find it very difficult seeing myself as an expert! I was really flattered to have been approached by IFA Paris to run this seminar and would be very happy to interact with the students. I think talking about gender fluidity is a very interesting way to inspire students about the future of our industries. This is how we see the future of fashion, first by asking people the simple and personal question: “What do you want to wear and what does it look like? »
The revolution will begin within educational institutions and I am delighted to start a great talk with students about the importance of gender in their own lives. I am a very talkative person and the prospect of starting a talk with fashion students is a fascinating opportunity, I am flattered to be able to converse with them around these exciting topics.
IFA Paris: What is your objective? What would you like to pass on to your students? What do you expect from the students’ involvement? How can they understand the way you plan your intervention?
Michael: As earlier said, I simply want to open up the horizons of reflection of these young people, and give them a new viewpoint on fashion. Maybe that’s a lot to hope for! Nevertheless, I hope we all have fun. That’s also the objective: gender fluidity can be fun, just like fashion.
IFA Paris: To conclude, while waiting for your big debut?
Michael: Every revolution starts with a conversation, and for gender fluidity in fashion, it will be the same! All I hope to do is create an atmosphere of acceptance, where we can think about new futures together.
For more information on the program involved, please visit MBA in Fashion Business