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Photography by Georgia Bayliss

How the Menswear Buyer at Ssense Is Expanding the Role of Women in Fashion

"I’ve always just tried to be the best at what I’m doing and build strong relationships with whoever I am working with. "

Even today, when a woman is named creative director of a fashion house, it still counts as big news. Yet we barely bat an eye when we encounter talented male stylists, male hairdressers and male buyers dressing women. That’s not to say women aren’t in menswear, they are. Swear. There just aren’t a lot of them. So, sorry (not sorry) please indulge us as we draw attention to Alix Rutsey and her interesting fashion job. Rutsey is the senior menswear buyer for luxury online retailer Ssense in Montreal. We asked her how she got her start, whether gender neutral fashion is here to stay and if work influences her own style at all.

How did you get your start?

I always had an interest in fashion but initially never imagined it as a real career. I went to school for business, and the summer after I graduated, I decided to take a risk and apply for an internship in the buying department at a luxury department store. I got the internship which eventually turned into my first job as an assistant buyer.

Is it unusual for a woman to be doing this job?

It’s funny, my name is Alix, and I’m a menswear buyer, so most people who I’ve only spoken with over e-mail automatically assume I’m a man. I get a lot of confused looks the first time I walk into a showroom and introduce myself. That being said I wouldn’t say it is unusual, but there are not a plethora of women buying menswear. I have never really put much focus on being a woman working amongst mostly men. I’ve always just tried to be the best at what I’m doing and build strong relationships with whoever I am working with. I am extremely fortunate to work within a community and industry that is supportive and inclusive of women.

How would you define your personal style.

I’ve always found this question hard to answer. Mostly I aim to be comfortable. I mix a lot of accessible staple pieces, jeans and sneakers, with key designer investment items. Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of boxy shirts or blazers layered over t-shirts and jeans. I also incorporate a lot of vintage pieces, which is really the only shopping I do while I’m traveling. I recently went to Tokyo for the first time and was completely blown away by all the vintage stores. Day to day my uniform is pretty simple. White t-shirt, jeans or trousers, and a pair of sneakers. I almost always have some jewelry on but again it’s all quite simple – small hoops, a chain, my watch, and some rings. Fashion weeks can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming with the pressure to turn out a great outfit for the shows but the reality is that I’m there working, running from showroom to showroom. I can’t afford to wear something that’s uncomfortable or makes it difficult for me to work.

What menswear trends are you predicting for 2018?

While there are common themes that run through the collections every season (i.e. the printed short sleeve shirt for SS18), our focus is less on buying into seasonal trends and more on showcasing the narrative told by each individual designer. Menswear has blossomed so much over the past few years, and with this comes a greater propensity for play and experimentation. We continue to see designers, as well as our customers, move further away from a traditional, conservative take on menswear to a more imaginative approach embracing colour and patterns and experimenting with varying shapes and proportions.

Do you think menswear and gender neutral clothes are connected in any way?

Certainly, both menswear and womenswear are connected to gender neutral clothing. Fashion speaks to the world we live in and strict gender confines are becoming increasingly antiquated. Clothing is a form of personal expression, an outward manifestation of one’s identity. Despite the fact that I wear a great deal of menswear I would not necessarily describe myself as having “gender neutral” style. It is just my style. I think the less we try to box style into different trends or categories the more we encourage freedom of expression which is when the most fun happens.

What are some under-the-radar menswear designers that you are championing?

I am a big fan of Martine Rose and love the NAPA x Martine Rose collaboration. I’m also very excited about Kiko Kostadinov and GmbH, both new to SSENSE for this season.

What designer always gets it right?

Rei Kawakubo, both as a designer and as a strong female role-model.

Do you think gender neutral fashions are a trend or here to stay?

While it does feel like a bit of a trend, I do believe it is something that we will continue to see. Menswear designers are increasingly exploring what would conventionally be defined as femininity and vice versa for womenswear designers.

Of course, there are people adopting a more gender neutral aesthetic because it seems to be having a moment, and these people will eventually move onto a new trend, which is normal. There will however, also be people, like myself, who continue to live in this space as it is where he or she feels most comfortable. I’ve never consciously set-out to achieve a gender neutral look, I suppose it has just happened through the items I’m naturally drawn to.

Can a curvy girl wear this look?

Of course. There are no rules for who can and can’t wear something. By far the most important thing is to feel good in what you’re wearing. Confidence is sexy.

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