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Is it time for Australian stores to stop segregating 'boy clothes' from 'girl clothes'?

Mamamia logo Mamamia 10/09/2017 Jessica Chambers

A UK department store has become the first in the country to ditch gender labelling in its kids clothing sections. © Instagram @doowopkids A UK department store has become the first in the country to ditch gender labelling in its kids clothing sections. A UK department store has become the first in the country to ditch gender labelling in its kids clothing sections.

Parents who walk into a John Lewis department store will no longer find a “boys” and “girls” section – with the online store to soon follow. Instead, shoppers will see a section of pinks, blues, frills and prints all mixed together. Tags on the company’s house-brand clothes also now say “Girls & Boys” or “Boys & Girls”.

It’s a move that’s been widely praised by parents and LGBTI rights advocates for promoting equality and encouraging children to dress in whatever makes them comfortable, whether that be a dress or a spaceship T-shirt – or both.

So, is it time we start introducing gender-free kid’s clothing sections in Australian stores?Wendy Zakaria thinks so. She’s a mum-of-one and the designer behind Sydney kid’s clothing label Doo Wop Kids. creative director.

Wendy tells Mamamia when she launched her first collection of colourful kids clothing in 2015 she was designing with bright, fun prints in mind, not a specific gender – which is why there are no such labels in her online store.

“We’re definitely head-strong about creating clothes that don’t fall into any categories or any stereotypes. We like to create clothes that are loud,” she says.

The creative director says her two-year-old son loves bright colours and floral prints and she can’t always find what she wants in the blue-and-grey-filled boy’s section of many department stores.

“If I can’t find something for my son, I have no hesitation in going to the girl’s section and finding something there [because] I don’t feel like it should be segregated.”

She praised John Lewis for ditching gender labels and encouraged Australian retailers to do the same.

“I think that’s important for girls and boys to know that they have the freedom to be who they want to be and there’s no stereotypical way of how they should dress.

“There are a lot of smaller brands that are doing it and to have the bigger labels catch on to it is just a great movement for the future for our kids.”

John Lewis is reinforcing this idea in its new-look kid’s department with a range of unisex clothing, featuring dinosaur print dresses.

Listen: We know we’ve reached peak activewear when even kids are donning leggings and tank tops. (Post continues)

“We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear,” head of childrenswear at John Lewis, Caroline Bettis, told The Independent.

So will the big stores in Australia catch on?

A Myer spokesperson tells Mamamia the kids section of their stores is designed for convenience.

“Myer’s childrenswear offer is arranged by gender and age for customer convenience. Our customers tell us that they find the range easier to navigate when it is presented this way.”

At David Jones, a spokesperson explained, the layout of the stores’ kid’s departments is more about what looks aesthetically pleasing than anything else.

“Our offering is comprised of a comprehensive mix of brands, some of which offer more traditional styling and others that have a gender neutral aesthetic,” they tell Mamamia.

“In childrenswear, as with all our departments, we tend to group similar aesthetics together – whether it’s colour, style, modern vs classic – to create ‘worlds’ that look pleasing from a visual merchandising perspective and make it easy for customers to find what they are looking for.”

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