Transforming the Fashion Industry

Two models are breaking boundaries in an industry that has changed very little in 50 years.

2013 has been a year of social change for the world in many ways. Gay marriage is legal in France and the United Kingdom, and controversial entertainer Miley Cyrus was a finalist in Time Magazine’s Person Of The Year poll. As a community, fashion has always played a role in pushing the boundaries of the social norm, yet as an industry, it has been reluctant to change itself. Whether some of these recent social shifts can be attributed to the fashion world’s in- fluences or vice versa, we can’t help but notice how one the world’s most progressive industries has finally witnessed some change as well.

More fashion industry barriers have been broken down this year than almost any before.

More then ever before we’re seeing models in every shape, size, color, and most notably, gender, in the glossy pages of our favorite publications and on the runways for our favorite designers. Fashion seems to have entered a new cycle in which people like Andrej Pejic and Carmen Carrera models once outsiders to the selective set now not only being welcomed by the industry, but celebrated.

Back in November, a petition by went viral on the Internet requesting for Elite model and former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, Carmen Carrera, to become the first trans- gendered Victoria’s Secret Angel. While the petition received the normal backlash from conservatives, the amount of support for Carrera was something unprecedented. With over 40,000 backers already on the model’s side to gain one of the most coveted titles in the fash- ion industry to date, Carmen has become another figure in the fight for global brands, and the world in general, to recognize and embrace the new face of fashion.

In a recent article published in the Daily Beast, the model stated the following about becom- ing the first transgendered Angel: “I mean, in all honesty, let’s keep it real. I know how these things work in the industry. I mean I understand the casting process and I understand that it’s difficult to get into a show like this,” she said. “But at the same time, I definitely feel that I meet all the requirements.” Having already had a major spread in W Magazine alongside indus- try heavy hitters like Linda Evangelista this year, the model’s climb to the top is evident and serves as a true testament as to how the industry is changing for the better.

While Carmen is one of the few warriors on the front line in the fight, she surely isn’t alone. Andrej Pejic, the Australian-bred supermodel who’s set a new industry bar by working as both a man and woman for some the world’s biggest designers, has been one of the most promi- nent faces in the media since she was 17-years-old. Her ability to portray both gender roles with seamless grace has led the model to become the poster child for the new movement in the fashion industry where a person’s gender stops at their birth certificate. We spoke with Andrej at the Galore Magazine holiday party and she had much to say about the subject.

“Strictly speaking in the fashion industry, I think there is a whole movement of tapping into beauty beyond the boundaries of gender. There is a huge rise of transgender models. A huge rise of androgynous boys and girls”, she said. “In the beginning when I set out, we all thought it was a fad. But I think it has become a good part of fashion. Its interesting to see what’s go- ing to happen next. Its proved that it can survive beyond a fifteen minute trend.”

While the use of this niche group is becoming more common, you have to wonder why, in such an open industry, it’s still such a taboo subject. “I think that fashion is interesting because it is run by open minded, homosexual people but it tries to give off a heterosexual image” Andrej said. “These campaigns are so different from the people who make them. There is an appre- hension of what will the consumer think, how to relate to the consumer if we put a trans woman in the campaign. Its more to do with the people who run fashion rather than the consumers, but that thinking is changing and so is society. Its proving to be more accepting of what we thought would never be accepted.”

Regardless of whether or not the transgendered community is here to stay, the fight for equal- ity continues everyday through people like Andrej and Carmen. If there’s anything we can learn from both the civil and women’s rights movements, it is that you can only hold people down for so long, and once they’ve won, there’s no going back. As people open up to a more progressive way of thinking and become more understanding of difference, we will hopefully enter a new age of unity around the world where everyone is considered the same, regard- less of their gender or sexual identity. After all, it’s 2014, and intolerance was so last year.

Text: Jeremy McClain Photo: Jacob DeKat