For Spring/Summer 2021, Luigi Bianchi Mantova has launched their first women’s tuxedo collection entitled Flirt. Featuring two single-breasted jackets and two trousers, Luigi Bianchi Mantova masterfully combines their signature sartorial styling and Italian textiles while paying close attention to the “understated elegance” of today’s women—bestowing their womenswear with the same level of skill, practicality and timelessness as their menswear collections.
Flirt is the perfect example of what today’s fashion brands should be doing—focusing on the harmony between masculinity and femininity by subtly mixing the two into garments that are inconspicuously contemporary. This collection will allow “nonconformist, independent and free spirited women” to authenticate their identity in an ever-evolving social world. The photoshoot is conducted synonymously with their menswear collection, with a somewhat inherently fixed male gaze as a result of—until this point—being a traditionally masculine menswear brand (I hope their approach to womenswear evolves to align with current feminist scripts). The brand does all this without placing any emphasis on claims for gender-bending or groundbreaking shifts in fashion and this—in my opinion—is the optimal way to evolve the zeitgeist. Luigi Bianchi Mantova has proven cunning in their use of simple colours, traditional style lines, and timeless separates to “masculinize” womenswear. I hope a similar reversal of gendered fashion staples can be used to “feminize” some of their future menswear collections.
Many brands are apt to “masculinize” their womenswear collections because of perceptions valorizing masculinity for its invisibility, immutability and taken-for-grantedness. Femininity is often seen as pretentious, especially for men who opt to refute traditionally powerful masculine mores over traditionally undervalued effeminacy, and as a result, brands are still largely favouring the masculine. Take for example, Harry Styles’ Vogue America cover from November 2020, or Lil Nas X’s Call Me By Your Name music video from March 2021. Both examples feature men pushing the restrictive boundaries of masculinity by seamlessly incorporating the feminine, and yet both examples received criticism surrounding the perceived immorality and weakness of men who willingly deride their masculinity in favour of the feminine. These claims are effeminophobic, homophobic and sexist, and clearly missunderstand the necessity for such a change in regards to undoing the patriarchy from men’s perspectives.
If Luigi Bianchi Mantova was to “feminize” some of their menswear styles, slowly but surely we could blur the divisional chalk line between masculinity and femininity from both sides—sharing the residual dust of each side’s values until there is seldom recognition that a line ever existed. This, of course, will not be realized until many years into the future, and this can never be realized unless we acknowledge its necessity and attempt to blow away that chalk line through small cumulative gusts. The premiere of Luigi Bianchi Mantova’s womenswear collection is laudable, we look forward to seeing more.