08 May KRISTEL PUENTE ON PHOTOGRAPHY, GENDER FLUIDITY & MR. SELFRIDGES!
IMAGES OF KRISTEL’S JOURNEY THROUGH GENDER FLUIDITY FASHION
“You can see a running thread of crazy outfits since I was little. I pretty much was always wearing boys clothes or mens stuff. Lots of men’s Blazers. The blue one I had on in a few pics was Eric’s. I still have it. The black and white long jacket was my grandmothers. Which is why I always wear those glasses with it. She had some just like it.”
Left, Kristel A. Puente, Center, Agosto Cuellar, Right, Trina Bacon
“I’m Addicted to Mr. Selfridges”
By: Kristel A. Puente
I get obsessed with things. Lately, I am addicted to Mr. Selfridge, the PBS show. Now before you get immediately bored with me and stop reading. I will explain with one word why you should keep reading, AGender. It is the name of Selfridge’s new department where all the clothes are gender neutral. No men’s department, no ladies’ department, it is simply for humans. Selfridges is known for being a retail innovator. So, I was not surprised it was this store that has addressed gender neutrality. But, I was definitely ecstatic about it. It tied many things I am very interested in or know about…retail, english stuff, gender fluidity, and fashion.
I began my career in retail and worked it for 17 years. I understand it, all aspects of it. I decided to watch Mr. Selfridge, an early 1900’s period show done by PBS about a London department store. It immediately brought back memories of what it was like to work a grand opening, the sound of chatter on the sales floor and the quest to sell a customer. I ended up binge watching both seasons. It was entertaining to watch the store progress, the fashions, and see the innovations Selfridges brought to retail. I had no idea he did so many “first” in retail, many of which are standard business practices today.
Just a few things that you could not do before Selfridges. You could not touch merchandise. It was behind a counter, and you had to ask for one item at a time. You could not see a whole selection of gloves for example. You would have to tell the clerk what you were looking for, and they choose what selection to show you. Women’s beauty products were hidden away in the “pharmacy” section to keep ladies secrets private. It was Mr. Selfridge who moved beauty products to the front of his store in their own section. As a former makeup artist, I could not imagine it NOT being in the front of the store. He also innovated fragrance for the modern woman. Making a “Selfridge” brand scent that was more affordable than the high cost fragrances at the time. Again, putting it in its own department in front of the store. He orchestrated beautiful store display windows and hired artist to produce them along with celebrity promotions that would take over the whole store.
BUT…Back to today…Selfridges…and gender fluidity. Selfridges has chosen a designer to carry out their in store displays for this experiment of making a non-gender specific department in their store. All products are displayed very plainly. Very democratically. While this is a refreshing and clean look. Gender neutrality here seems interpreted as almost generic. I like things that make a statement with class and distinction. Most fashion forward folks I know do not want anything to do with being plain, simplistic, or generic. I applaud the effort to address gender fluidity, and Selfridges for the innovative thinking, it just is not what I hoped it would be. The effort is exciting and the fashion industry is just scratching the surface of a much more systemic conditioning. It is leading to a deeper questioning of what this effort really means for someone who is truly gender fluid. Hopefully this is a reflection of us as human beings questioning ourselves to look beyond stereotypes to a new neutral. Fashion often mirrors the state of humanity at any given moment. For once, it was a nice reflection. More of my thoughts on gender fluidity on my blog…