Belgian fashion chain JBC has announced it will no longer put references to gender labels on the clothing in its children's department as part of an initiative coinciding with the start of a new school year.
This means that, from Monday, the selection of the clothing will no longer be divided by gender and all signs referring to gender will be taken away, according to Mie Van Der Auwera, manager of PR agency MMBSY, which also works together with JBC.
"This is more than a marketing campaign, as JBC is making clear it wants to support people in their own development and strive for equality and free choices and empower children in their dreams," she told Radio 1.
"It is a first step that they are taking here. When you come to the shop, there is no sign indicating boys or girls clothing, so if, for example, a boy likes a T-shirt with flowers on it, he can buy it and that is fine," she added.
The clothing department will instead place labels per age category to indicate the baby, children and teenager collections.
In a bid to "support young people and their families to step away from stereotypes", it is also launching a gender-neutral collection, which will include jumpers imprinted with the words 'When I grow up I want to be', and will include jobs such as CEO, animal doctor and game developer, professions the company believes every child can dream of.
"International research shows that stereotypes cause us to associate high-level intellectual capabilities with men rather than women. This discourages women's career choices; women are under-represented in 'smart' disciplines," Steven Gielis, lecturer in Orthopedagogy at AP University of Applied Sciences, said.
Van Der Auwera added that this move is less about trends, and more about children no longer wanting to be put in boxes, but wanting the freedom to choose and not to grow up with certain expectations and prejudices.
Alongside the neutral collection, JBC will be giving away a 'Dream Outside the Lines' gender-neutral colouring book that lets children dream about who or what they want to be, with every purchase.
JBC is the first Belgian chain to rid itself of gender labels in the children department, according to Van Der Auwera. Taking similar steps when it comes to adult clothing could be possible in the future, she added.
"Why not do this in the adult collection too? Anyway, when it comes to fashion, women and men are already much more aware of themselves and make choices for themselves and mix gender clothes now. The trend may not be mainstream yet, but it is there already," Van Der Auwera said.