“There were a lot of girls wearing boy things – the boyfriend jacket, the jean – there’s something about sweats that is inherently unisex,” Rigutto says.
Since the late noughties, fashion has also become more casual – you only have to look at the obsession with “athleisure” – another fact that plays into the hands of unisex brands.
On the runway, everyone from Gucci to Tom Ford has shown men’s and women’s clothing together. Other designers, such as J.W. Anderson, have presented collections that don’t easily fall into predetermined gender categories.
Last year, Swedish fast-fashion chain H&M dispensed with gender specific marketing of its denim lines, while Bonds has released a unisex range for tweens. Before you ask, it includes pinks and blues.
One of the common misconceptions around unisex clothing, says Rigutto, is that it’s inherently “greige”, or unflattering. When he was starting Level, he wanted to create pieces that could fit “everyone from a ballerina to a footballer”.
“We wanted to tailor our sweats, they’re not big and boxy – they’re not shapeless bags you throw over,” he says.
Stylist Kate Gaskin says a strong shift to looser silhouettes could tempt more consumers to purchase clothes initially made for the opposite sex.
“Baggy and oversized is something the Australian consumer will embrace, we love a casual look, it suits out lifestyle,” says Gaskin, who regularly buys from the men’s section at retailers such as COS.
“Women shopping in the men’s department has been a thing for a long time but I don’t know about the men [buying women’s clothes] mainly because of sizing but there’s definitely a market for it.”
Courtney Holm, of A.BCH, has made a considered effort to remove gender from her brand identity. Her website has no dedicated men’s or women’s sections. And although she designs her pieces with a gender in mind, she doesn’t care who buys them.
“[Unisex] doesn’t have to mean a drop crotch. If a guy likes the dress, he can wear the dress. We try to let people just feel free to buy whatever they want,” she says.
Holm, 32, began her career in menswear and launched A.BCH to be something classic and not trend driven, which suits the unisex philosophy.
“We still make men’s and women’s pieces – they cross over – it’s interchangeable rather than trying to design for one body shape.”
Rigutto says it’s important that brands in the gender-agnostic space make good clothes that anyone can wear, then get out of the way.
“There’s a lot of inclusiveness in the product we do. It’s also a bit class-agnostic. We leave it to the customer to decide how they want to wear it. We don’t preach.”
Melissa Singer is Fairfax Media’s Deputy Lifestyle Editor and fashion columnist.
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