A few decades ago the term “transgender” was still seen as a controversial subject and taboo. Although the art and fashion world were the first stratum of society to discuss this topic, it has only been until recently that our society has opened up and trans sexuality has become socially acceptable. Especially in fashion, transgender has become one of the most discussed subjects.
The most perfect example: Caitlyn Jenner’s “Call me Caitlyn”– cover of the American fashion magazine Vanity Fair. Photographed by famous fashion photographer Annie Leibovitz, the cover went viral and, although it was only published recently, the image has already become an icon. In the article Caitlyn talks about the transition from male to female and the emotional pressure of making it public. (Vogue 2015)
Figure 1. Call me Caitlyn (2015) Vanity Fair 2015, Vanity Fair, New York, New York, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-photos-interview-buzz-bissinger>.
Not only fashion photography, but also the fashion industry itself, such as & Other Stories, the daughter label of the Swedish textile company H&M, has been addressing trans sexuality by welcoming transgender-models. (Vogue 2015) The & Other Stories creative director Sara Hilden Bengtson says, the label invited five creative transgender artists to implement the project. The collection, which mainly consists of functional and organic materials, is supposed to be playful and bring new dynamics, which should break the boundaries of clichés. (Vogue 2015)
Figure 2. & Other Stories auf Transgender-Pfaden (2015) Vogue 2015, Vogue, Munich, Germany, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://www.vogue.de/mode/mode-news/capsule-collection-other-stories-auf-transgender-pfaden/(bild)/1149949#galerie/3>.
Figure 3. & Other Stories auf Transgender-Pfaden (2015) Vogue 2015, Vogue, Munich, Germany, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://www.vogue.de/mode/mode-news/capsule-collection-other-stories-auf-transgender-pfaden/(bild)/1149949#galerie/3>.
Andreja Pejic is a transgender model. In an interview with Alice Gregory for Vogue she explains, she has walked several runways. However, the Giles Deacon’s fall 2015 show in London will be her first as a fully transitioned woman after undergoing gender-confirmation surgery. Born as Andrej in Bosnia-Herzegovinia, she fled from the Bosnian War and immigrated to Melbourne. (Gregory 2015)
“She engages—and dismantles—all one’s visceral perceptions of gender.” (Gregory 2015, p.1)
During the interview, Pejic also talks about the experiences of living her life as a boy during her school years. (Gregory 2015) “Society doesn’t tell you that you can be trans.” (Gregory 2015, p.1) She said, she supressed her feelings to fit in. At the age of sixteen a scout discovered her, while working at a Melbourne McDonald’s. Although he did not know whether she was a girl or a boy, he knew she looked like a model.
Pejic started running for luxury designer brands, such as Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as Jeremy Scott, Marc Jacobs, and Thom Browne. What made her so special was the fact that she was casted as an androgynous model, which means she walked for men’ as well as women’s shows. Pejic’s flexibility of being able to model for both sexes gained her popularity and success in the fashion industry. Although she was bullied at school for being different, her identity was now appreciated and special.
Figure 4. Andrej Pejić The Daily Telegraph 2015, The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, New South Wales, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/from-andrej-to-andreja-pejic-how-australian-boy-became-worlds-first-transgender-supermodel/story-fni0cx2y-1227248076137?nk=bfdd335d54f97df8e7ff08bbda2f0954-1440222734>.
Pejic’s success also helped people to understand that gender and sexuality are multi facetted and more complicated.
Even though several people were concerned that transitioning would jeopardize the model’s career, Pejic firmly believed in herself. (Gregory 2015) Gene Kogan from DNA Model Management, which presented the model says, “she has done what no other model has ever been able to: toe the line between male and female successfully for a long time.” (Gregory 2015, p.1)
Figure 5. Andreja Pejić Vogue 2015, Vogue, New York, New York, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vogue.com/13253741/andreja-pejic-transgender-model/>.
Gender ambiguity in fashion has become a norm. Over the years women’ and men’s closets have blended into each other. Lil Wayne shops for leopard-print leggings and Kate Moss prefers curve-obscuring Calvin Klein jeans. Even Gucci dresses his male models in women’s wear. (Gregory 2015) The director, Alessandro Michele, replies: it is “a pure recording of something that is happening around us: a strong affirmation of freedom, beyond cataloging and labeling.” (Gregory 2015, p.1)
Caitlyn Jenner and Andreja Pejic have not only informed and opened up our society to sexuality and gender, but also pushed the boundaries of fashion and exemplify the transition and constant movement of fashion ideals.
Vogue 2015, ‘& Other Stories auf Transgender-Pfaden’, 17 August, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vogue.de/mode/mode-news/capsule-collection-other-stories-auf-transgender-pfaden>.
& Other Stories n.d., Vogue, Germany, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vogue.de/tags/0-9/other-stories>.
Gregory, A 2015, ‘Has the Fashion Industry Reached a Transgender Turning Point?’, Vogue, 21 April, viewed 23 August 2015,<http://www.vogue.com/13253741/andreja-pejic-transgender-model/>.