Breaking social taboos and presenting marginalised issues to a wider audience are both things the fashion industry are very good at achieving, which is why it may come as no surprise that the industry has been playing a crucial role in shifting societal preconceptions regarding transgender people.
With the increased visibility and changed attitudes towards trans* folk becoming more apparent, we are finally seeing the community being catapulted into the mainstream, garnering a voice that has gone unheard for too long.
The last few years have seen an immense surge in the visibility of trans* people, particularly in popular culture. Star of the critically acclaimed Netflix series Orange is the new Black, and vocal trans* activist Laverne Cox has been regarded as one of the movement’s front-runners, using her celebrity to address and criticise issues concerning the treatment and acceptance on a scale a majority of the trans* community would otherwise not have the opportunity to achieve (Jones 2014).
photographed by Jeaneen Lund for buzzfeed (source: buzzfeed.com)
Five years ago, the world was introduced to Lea T, a striking Brazilian-born, Italian-raised model who began her career in fashion as Riccardo Tisci’s personal assistant (Tsjeng 2015). In 2010, Lea made history as she was photographed for Givenchy’s Autumn/Winter campaign, becoming the first transgender model to appear in an ad campaign for a major luxury brand (Gonsalves 2015). More recently, last year Lea made history again becoming the first transgender model to front a campaign for an international beauty brand, as she became the face of Redken (Gonsalves 2015).
photographed by Mert & Marcus for Givenchy A/W 2010 campaign (source: dazeddigital.com)
While there is still a ways to go for the rights and recognition of trans* people in mainstream society, this year alone has seen a number of crucial events occur in the fashion industry that are all steps in the right direction. Hari Nef, New York native and recent Columbia University graduate, became the first trans* woman to be signed to IMG Worldwide alongside fashion heavyweights such as Kate Moss, Lara Stone and Australia’s own Miranda Kerr (Bernard 2015).
photographed by Ben Grieme (source: vogue.com)
Closer to home, Andreja Pejic, who was introduced to the world as Andrej Pejic, a Serbian-born Australian-raised model who served as Jean Paul Gaultier’s muse for a number of seasons, became the first transgender model to be cast as the face of global cosmetic brand Make Up For Ever (Gonsalves 2015). Earlier this year, she also became the first trans woman to feature in the pages of American Vogue, landing a four-page spread shot by internationally renowned fashion photographer, Patrick Demarchalier (Sharkey 2015).
photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for US Vogue May 2015 (source: vogue.com)
While all these events have played crucial parts in expanding the visibility of the trans* community, they are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. With the murder of trans* people, particularly trans* people of colour, becoming an all-too-regular occurrence, there is still a long way to go before the community receives the respect it is entitled to.
Bernard, K 2015, ‘Meet Hari Nef: Model, Actress, Activist, and the First Trans Woman Signed to IMG Worldwide’, vogue.com, accessed 23 August 2015, < http://www.vogue.com/13273361/hari-nef-transgender-model-img-interview/>
Gonsalves, R 2015, ‘Transgender style: How an all-accepting attitude in the fashion world is leading the way’, theindependent.co.uk, accessed 23 August 2015, < http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/transgender-style-how-an-allaccepting-attitude-in-the-fashion-world-is-leading-the-way-10458084.html>
Jones, S 2015, ‘Laverne Cox is the Woman We’ve Been Waiting for’, buzzfeed.com, accessed 23 August 2015, < http://www.buzzfeed.com/saeedjones/laverne-cox-is-the-woman-weve-been-waiting-for#.bwPak7lQp>
Sharkey, L 2015, ‘Vogue features its first transgender model ever, Andreja Pejic’, independent.co.uk, accessed 23 August 2015, < http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/news/vogue-features-its-first-transgender-model-ever-andreja-pejic-10195121.html>
Tsjeng, Z 2015, ‘Find out the touching story behind Lea T’s Givenchy ad’, dazeddigital.com, accessed 23 August 2015, < http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/23731/1/find-out-the-touching-story-behind-lea-ts-givenchy-ad>