2015: A Year of Awareness
Last week we began our trilogy into the deep waters of gender and fashion. This week we are exploring the huge advances and incredible moments of 2015 which have sent a tsunami of motion catapulting the conversation of gender constructs into the public discourse. Obviously the sheer number of pivotal moments is too vast for one (or even three) articles, so we have once again chosen to stick with the top media moments from the past year.
Perhaps of those massive media moments, the biggest was Caitlyn Jenner’s debut into the world. Caitlyn Jenner (previously Bruce Jenner) announced her true identity to the world in April of 2015. Her grand reveal was highly publicized with a cover and feature in the July Vanity Fair issue and a heart-felt interview with Barbara Walters on 20|20. That now infamous television special drew 20.7 million viewers. Caitlyn set a new Guinness World Record after she rapidly gained 1 million Twitter followers in a mere four hours and 3 minutes. She quickly racked up a slew of awards. Although we do not feel that she is the best representative of the community and that she has a great deal to learn, we do need to acknowledge the public conversation that this generated throughout 2015.
Long before Caitlyn Jenner was stealing all the headlines, Laverne Cox was gracing the cover of Time for their feature issue “The Transgender Tipping Point” in 2014. She is perhaps one of the most prominent and out-spoken celebrity advocates for the community. In Time’s 2015 “100 Most Influential People List,” Cox was featured and her entry written by young transgender activist Jazz Jennings. Laverne Cox was also the first transgender woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy and to be immortalized in wax at Madame Tussauds.
2015 was the year when many people first learned what gender-neutral, agender, and gender-fluid was. These facets of the transgender spectrum have until recently been a rather unknown entity. Ruby Rose was at least partially responsible for bringing these terms into the mainstream consciousness. Her portrayal of Stella Carlin on Orange is the New Black catapulted the Australian model/actor/DJ into fame… and made a ton of straight women questions their sexuality. Ruby Rose is openly gender neutral and a loud voice for the non-binary community.
Transgender models were some of the most prolific models in the fashion industry through 2015. Models like Andreja Pejic and Carmen Carrera have been a highly visible presence since the early ‘10s, but new faces have been appearing in print and on the runways. Hari Nef was signed in 2015 and quickly shot up the fashion scene to walk for Gucci. The talented writer and actor has also appeared on the television show Transparent (check it out on Amazon) and numerous fashion campaigns. The androgynous Rain Dove quickly rose to infamy modeling both men’s and women’s clothing. Referring to herself as a gender capitalist, the activist model’s goal is to shatter the social construct of gender and encourage others to simply be themselves. Lea T, muse to Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, was named one of Forbe’s “12 Women Who Have Changed Italian Fashion.”
- Andreja Pejic
- Carmen Carrera
- Hari Nef
- Rain Dove
- Lea T.
With the growing number of transgender, gender-neutral and androgynous models flooding the runways, it is no surprise that the garments they are wearing on the catwalk are headed in a similar direction. Previously, pushing the boundaries of gender was left to more experimental and avant-garde labels like Rick Owens, Rad Hourani, and Martin Margiela. Now Gucci was sending romantic chiffon blouses down the runway for SS16 Menswear, jumpsuits weren’t just for the girls anymore, male and female models were in both the men’s and women’s shows, and unisex aesthetics were gaining prevalence.
It has always been more acceptable for women to experiment with garments from the other gender, whether it is suiting or casual basics. Men “have traditionally been immune to gender-neutral fashion trends,” says Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, a fashion historian and author of Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But that mentality is changing. “Losing the labels is what it’s about,” said Lucas Ossendrijver, creative director of Lanvin Homme. “This isn’t about a man wearing a skirt; it’s about a changing mind-set with men – their eye for fashion has changed. Men aren’t so concerned about their masculinity anymore.” This was a much-needed shift.
This shift in perception was felt in retail. Selfridges launched their Agender store in April of 2015. The gender-free shopping zone was set-up like an art gallery. Pieces could be viewed through peepholes or on cards which describe the pieces. The campaign suitably starred the beautiful Hari Nef. [Read more here] Other stores began following suit, mingling the collections or positioning them nearer to each other for easy access for all shoppers.
“Five years ago we weren’t ready for this,” said Humberto Leon, a founder of Opening Ceremony and a long-time proponent of gender-fluid fashion. “The difference today is that this trend has a label and it’s gained acceptance by a mass audience.”
Leon’s belief of mass acceptance could be seen in high-profile male celebrities like Kanye West, Jared Leto, and Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s son) sporting skirts as part of the sartorial style.
“Fashion really does change the world. It changes how people feel about themselves, it changes what comfortable with sexuality wise, it changes how people accept themselves.” ~ Rain Dove
Pantone’s 2016 colours paid homage to this forward momentum in gender deconstruction. The report stated that “colours this season transcend cultural and gender norms.” The Rose Quartz and Serenity shades (a pale pink and blue respectively) were an echo of the Transgender Pride Flag colours. “Globally, we are experiencing gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted colour trends throughout all other areas of design. This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity,” said the company.
Although not part of the fashion industry, fashion had an impact in generating the conversation that impacted the decision made by 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in Washington. The singular “They,” a gender-neutral pronoun, was named Word of the Year in a landslide vote. It was acknowledged that the singular “they” symbolized a shift towards understanding and accepting transgender and gender-fluid people, some of whom reject traditional pronouns.
2015 went out strong for the conversation regarding gender and has carried into 2016. Stay tuned for our third and final article regarding the current motion in fashion and what impact that may have on the community.
Read Part 1 of this series HERE.
This article is written by Anna Crooke, our non-binary Director of Marketing & PR.