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20/10/2016

3 Cleveland fashion businesses blurring the gender standards

Adam King, a graduate of Moore College of Art and Design's fashion program and a longtime clothing designer, never felt limited by style. Until he had his first son. Rack after rack, he recalls, touted skulls and crossbones for boys and rhinestones and glitter for girls.

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"As someone who's worked in the fashion industry for my entire adult life, the aesthetic didn't sit well with me," he says. As a designer inspired by minimalist style, he craves versatility. As a parent, he craves the longevity of being able to pass clothes down from child to child – no matter their gender.

In 2014, he took thread and needle into his own hands and launched his children's clothing line, Mooi Kind ("beautiful child" in Dutch). Pieces are made with functionality and style in mind rather than gender, and they've become in-demand internationally. They're sold globally online, and locally at events like the Cleveland Flea.

King is one of the many emerging designers making clothes that aren't defined by gender. Of course, celebrities and runway designers have been blurring the lines for decades. But today, the division in fashion – and marketing in general – has come to the forefront. It was abundantly clear following Ohio parent Abi Bechtel's June 2015 tweet to Target heard around the world. The message was simple: A photo of an aisle reading "Building sets" and under it, "Girls' building sets." In the viral tweet, Bechtel plainly stated, "Don't do this, @Target."

or King, the choice was one that was economical and sustainable. He noticed when it came to clothing swaps between parents, everything was listed by gender.

"I don't want the shelf life of something to end when my child has outgrown it,'" says King. "If I had a daughter next, I wanted her to be able to wear the same things my son wore."

The demand has been so high, in fact, that King is reviewing offers to have his clothes stocked in stores and on websites across the country. He'll be moving into mass production due to the requests. He also plans to partner with artists on a line of children's books based on characters wearing the clothes.

King's leggings and headbands may sell out in 15 minutes whenever he's at a market, but that doesn't mean his black t-shirts with bold white print that reads "Clothes have no gender" don't raise a few eyebrows.

"Some people gristle at that, and seeing the resistance to the idea of what I'm doing can be a little challenging," says King. "If people want to have a conversation about it, I absolutely can. I'm not trying to making a statement about buying something gender neutral. The 'statement' is having clothes that their kids like."

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