- Lara Franco
“The Phluid Project”: The Pioneer of Genderless Fashion
Billy Porter, who turned heads with his revolutionary tuxedo gown at the 2019 Oscars red carpet and Harry Styles, who appeared in a feminine dress on the cover of the December 2020 issue of Vogue US. Looking at these high-profile celebrities and the positive reception of their outfits in the media tells us that gender lines within fashion are starting to blur. It’s exciting to think that we’re nearing an era where soon anyone will be able to wear whatever they want without being constricted by gender norms.
While genderless fashion is beginning to establish a foothold within the mainstream, did you know that there used to be what was known as “the world’s first gender-free store” called “The Phluid Project” in New York?
The Phluid Project was launched in March 2018 as a gender-neutral fashion brand by former Victoria’s Secret executive Rob Smith in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood. Regular clothing stores tend to separate the floors by gender, and in my case, I often feel out of place in the men’s section. However, The Phluid Project had zero gender-segregated areas. The store carried products from its private-label lines, select items from other brands, as well as miscellaneous goods such as makeup and books, curated so that anyone could safely play around with their own personal style.
Additionally, the store also had a space reserved for events, which regularly hosted various events to support the LGBTQIA+ community and help raise awareness. The Phluid Project was more than just a clothing store; it existed as a safe space for people to be themselves.
The Phluid Project was founded on laudable ideas, but sadly it closed its doors as it became difficult to keep the store afloat. Nevertheless, founder Rob Smith views his departure from the store not as an end, but as a stepping-stone in the brand’s growth. The Phluid Project announced that it will redirect its energy into retail pop ups and education and will continue to be a brand worth paying attention to.
Bryant, T., (2020). After The Closure Of Its New York Store, Gender-Neutral Pioneer The Phluid Project Builds Its Beauty Business. Beauty Independent. <https://www.beautyindependent.com/gender-neutral-pioneer-the-phluid-project-beauty/>
The Phluid Project <https://thephluidproject.com/>
Translated by Yuko C. Shimomoto
Edited by Meg NH
Graphics by Emily Mogami