With brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney leading the way, gender neutrality has taken the fashion world by storm. This idea is also blossoming around the hard luxury world, with gender-neutral jewellery and watches fronting headlines among legacy brands as well as market disruptors.
Unsurprisingly, the latest new gender-neutral jewellery launch this month comes from Gucci. Link To Love is its newest fine jewellery line. Designed to be contemporary and gender-neutral, the collection arrived just in time for Pride Month. The designs are exuberant and colourful, made for stacking, and offer a truly expressive way to wear jewellery.
As with its MX collection introduced in July 2020, Gucci presented Link To Love with bold and inclusive advertising campaign images featuring gender-neutral models and embracing LGBTQIA+ norms.
All For Love
Inclusivity has also become a part of Tiffany & Co.’s brand identity. After all, the American jewellery is all about celebrating love of all stripes, shapes, and colours. Its Stand For Love campaign supports the LGBTQIA+ community in New York by offering a platform—the Tiffany & Co. official website—to express who they are and what they stand for. Watch the campaign video here.
Loving love has also spurred Tiffany & Co. to launch its first ever men’s engagement ring in April 2021. The Charles Tiffany Setting features a 5-carat solitaire diamond in brilliant-cut with a knife-edge band, or an emerald-cut in the style of a signet ring.
Known for its progressive views on love and self-identity, Tiffany & Co. first included same-sex couples in its wedding campaign in 2015. That said, the company’s wide client base requires it to continue espousing traditional masculine-feminine aesthetics to maintain its appeal to the wider public.
Likewise, Louis Vuitton speaks to a vast target audience, not all of whom will equally embrace the notion of gender-neutrality. Yet the brand’s 2020 launch of LV Volt jewellery clearly communicates the collection as unisex.
“The entire collection is unisex. It doesn’t distinguish between sex, age, or colour. It is completely universal,” says the maison’s artistic director for jewellery, Francesca Amfitheatrof, in an interview with Vogue Singapore. When asked why such an all-encompassing label is important, she adds, “I believe that great design should be appealing to everyone. Why make distinctions? We [Louis Vuitton] should be for everyone and completely inclusive.”
Fellow French maison Cartier is in a similar position. Many if not most of its creations fall in either feminine or masculine categories. But there remains a fairly sizeable group of gender-neutral jewellery and timepieces overlapping between the two.
Its Pasha de Cartier makes a great example. Celebrities Rami Malek, Jackson Wang, and Troye Sivan, along with Willow Smith and Maisie Williams, collectively front this timeless classic watch, each with equal aplomb.
Evolution In Progress
To some extent, gender identity has little relevance to iconic jewellery pieces such as the Cartier Love bracelet, the Just Un Clou, the Bulgari B.zero1, the Boucheron Quatre… Simply put, their timelessness of design places them on neutral territory by default. Wearing one—or not—is merely a question of style or size.
The high jewellery world is a little less nuanced, although Boucheron has made good progress here by including pieces for men in its Histoire de Style, Art Deco high jewellery collection. Gucci’s first high jewellery collection, Hortus Deliciarum, also took the gender-free route.
Other brands that are fully committed to making gender-neutrality a part of their brand identity include John Hardy. After a collaboration with British model Adwoa Aboah, the rebel jeweller relaunched its iconic Kami collection in new genderless styles. Handmade in Bali and using recycled metals, the slinky, woven chain motif is designed for all wearers.
Meanwhile for some watch brands, there’s simply no need to appropriate the creation for either gender because customers want what they want. Luxury watch atelier Richard Mille learned this in 2019 when it debuted its outrageously irreverent Bonbon collection.
Says the brand’s global sales director Alexandre Mille: “It is true that the current trend towards gender-free is a very good thing. But our developments haven’t ever necessarily been guided by the positioning criterion of ‘men’s versus women’s’ watches. And when we do imagine a gendered watch, our customers have appropriated it in their own ways.”
Themed around sweet confections and colourful fruits, Bonbon had been categorised a feminine collection by default. Yet numerous exchanges with its customers—and sales as well—proved to Mille that the collection was as popular with men as well as women.
Committing To The Cause
Following that, Richard Mille’s first true unisex timepiece came a year after. The RM72-01 Lifestyle In-House Chronograph. Obviously not as hefty as some of its sportier watches tend to be, this downsized model is also kept as slender as its complex mechanics allow.
Then came the RM74-01 and RM74-02 in-house automatic tourbillons released this month. With their elongated cases and elaborate movement architecture, they are clearly unisex even though Richard Mille hadn’t officially said they were. Something about the elegance of the slim cases that make them perfect for all audiences.
Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 is also fairly new to the scene. But straight out of the gate, the manufacture wants it to break all the boundaries of time, geometry, and gender. Dressed and consistently updated in seasonal colours—something not typical in luxury watchmaking—Code 11.59 is the first Audemars Piguet watch consciously designed for both men and women.
Speaking of colour brings us back full circle to Gucci and its numerous bold vibrant designs created for all genders, not just men or women. Whether in the fine or high jewellery space, and timepieces as well, artistic director Alessandro Michele never fails to break out his signature maximalist, New Romantic touch.
Because at Gucci, gender-neutrality does not mean design-neutrality. If anything, abandoning traditional gender codes has made Michele more creative than ever. And with gender-neutral jewellery growing steadily in demand, don’t be too surprised if Gucci became the fashion brand giving legacy jewellers a good run for their money.