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20 Jun

The rise of Transgenders in the fashion industry

By: Rabeea Basheer

While fashion has been more than often written off as frivolous, the industry has finally been able to portray themselves as a progressive and powerful force by attempting the impossible, blurring the traditional lines between ‘male’ and ‘female’.  The fashion industry has finally become inclusive and the glass ceiling has shattered in the most beautiful manner by one simple yet MASSIVE change. Enter transgender models.  Living up to the duty of the fashion industry in the words of Nina Simone, fashion is supposed to accurately reflect the times we live in. And what better way than letting the transgenders hold up the mirror for the society?

You would have thought this newly found diversity would have ended right up at the point where incredibly gorgeous BUT plus-sized models were found splashed across the front pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. Did they not raise some eyebrows?  And why not? Hasn’t the premise of fashion industry always been built upon exclusivity? It’s almost hard to believe how far we have come. Pushing the boundaries in terms of gender aesthetics, these transgender models have finally graced our magazine covers, podiums and our runways with their presence as fashion icons and activists. Hari Nef, Valentijn de Hingh, Lea T., Andreja Pejic, Geena Rocero, Aydian Dowling, Isis King, Carmen Carerra are just a few names on the long list. Of course, the ride hasn’t been easy. Back in 2010 when Givenchy decided to cast Lea T in their Fall 2010 campaign, it caused many ripples and history was made. But 7 years on, such castings have become a part of the natural ebb and flow of the fashion seasons.

However, there are questions that one cannot help but ponder over, is this rage caused by transgender models in the fashion world a sign that alternative sexual identities are not controversial anymore? Does this mean that the society’s acceptance of these binaries and gender blurring will hopefully trickle down to the mainstream, dissolve in the roots of our culture and help demystify and de-stigmatize the trans experience?  Are these brands using these binaries only to stand out and gain popularity?  Or is it something bigger than that? Is it about making a statement in the world, promoting acceptance and pushing these trans models as role models, to reach out to the common people and teach them how to see? Will we ever know for sure? Maybe not.


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