Standing out at the Met Gala is a hard thing to do given that everyone there takes “dressing to impress” very seriously indeed. Rihanna managed it in 2015 with that incredible Guo Pei dress, its train like a river of gold-flecked custard. Sarah Jessica Parker stole the show in 2006 wearing Alexander McQueen’s tartan and by having the designer himself, resplendent in the same family tartan, as her date. 2019 was the year Harry Styles garnered all the column inches. It wasn’t for his rather nice custom Gucci jumpsuit with its lovely sheer top and lace cuffs or for his heeled boots. It was because Styles was sporting a pearl earring. That small accessory transformed him into the living embodiment of Susan Sontag’s comment in “Notes on ‘Camp’” – the essay that formed the narrative structure for last year’s theme and exhibition – that “Camp is the modern dandyism.” Styles looked dashing, witty, almost piratical. And he had also pre-empted the biggest trend of 2020 – gender-neutral jewellery.
Designers such as Stephen Webster, Shaun Leane and, more recently, Hannah Martin have been pushing the notion of jewellery that can be worn by anyone for a while. However, although there were some men around willing to experiment with adornment, the average chap was resistant to anything more flamboyant than a colourful cufflink.
This is now changing thanks to the likes of Styles, Timothée Chalamet, who wore a diamond-encrusted vintage Cartier brooch to the Oscars, and the Jonas brothers, all of whom like to sport some sparkle. That’s why more brands are launching collections with cross-gender appeal.
“In the same way I love to slip on my husband’s denim jacket or favourite sweatshirt, or he likes to wear one of my bracelets or rings, it felt more interesting and playful to me to explore jewellery as a unisex collection,” explains New York-based jeweller Eva Fehren, whose XX/XY flirts with the line between masculine and feminine and features rakish pieces such as diamond-set huggies in blackened white gold, from which hang unusually cut stones, alongside more traditional signet rings and dog-tag-esque pendants. “I find the delicate line between masculine and feminine to be very appealing and I think it feels more compelling to play with that duality in the collection, as well as within each of us.”
Fehren isn't the only one fascinated with that duality. Anwar Hadid, brother to supers Gigi and Bella, has teamed up with Yoni Lahram, the musician also known as Bridge, to create gender-neutral brand Martyre; a collection with a punk-goth aesthetic and campaign pictures modelled by former One-Directioner and all-round pretty boy Zayn Malik. Then there’s Louis Vuitton’s new fine jewellery collection Volt, which is rumoured to be launching later this year, and comprises angular, architectural pieces designed to be layered and shared.
Renowned purveyor of pearls Mikimoto has even got in the on the act with its collaboration with Comme des Garçons. In keeping with designer Rei Kawakubo’s unisex aesthetic, the collection has, in Kawakubo’s words, been designed “regardless of age or gender”.
Expect Styles to be rocking one of these on a red carpet soon.