Last night, June 23, I attended a panel called “Redefined and Redesigned: Defying Gender Norms in Fashion” hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society and moderated by Owner, Creative Director, and Editor-in-Chief of Dapper Q, Anita Dolce Vita. The room was loaded with incredible fashion folks who are working to make positive changes in the fashion industry by defying gender norms in various ways. The panel included: Rae Tutera of Bindle & Keep, Zahyr Lauren of Bklyn Boihood, Peche Di, founder of Trans Models, and Andre Landeros Michel of LANDEROS NEW YORK.
First, a little bit about each of these organizations:
DapperQ: A queer style and empowerment website with a focus on masculine leaning women and transgender/trans-identified individuals.
Bklyn Boihood: A collective aimed at redefining masculinity, and empowerment for those outside of the gender binary particularly for “queer, black and brown collaborators, vendors, contractors and contributors.”
Trans Models: One of the world’s first transgender modeling agencies, founded by trans model Peche Di, and located in NYC!
LANDEROS NEW YORK: A fashion brand that challenges gender conventions.
Now, about the panel:
The panel was extremely thought provoking. With wonderful prompts and input from Anita, the panel discussed the ways their work brings gender issues to the forefront. Among the topics discussed were: gendered silhouetting, body types, the (in)accessibility of fashion, the (in)visibility of various communities in the fashion world and beyond, the limitations of sizing, gender neutrality as a fashion trend, the cultural (lack of) acceptance for varying gender presentations, the safety of people outside of traditional genders (especially in unsafe communities), clothing as an important aspect of identity, the importance of building supportive, safe queer communities in person and online, etc.
Listening to this panel had my head spinning in the best way. I was left with so many questions and tid-bits to consider on my train ride home. Some of my many questions include: Why are the new “gender neutral” or “agender” clothing lines that are coming out masculine leaning? Does neutral clothing have to be modest in order to hide or diminish the features of our biological genders? Does neutral clothing have to be practical in ways that menswear often excels and women's clothing falls short? Why is it generally less acceptable for men to wear women’s clothing than for women to wear menswear here and around the world? Is it related to male patterns of violence? Is it related to a history ofcontrol, power and misogyny? What role does race play in the intersection of fashion and gender? What role does history play in the intersection of fashion and gender? What cultural shift needs to happen to empower a broader range of queer fashion brands and individuals? How can we build audiences quickly enough to ensure the survival of the new queer companies that are tackling some of the challenges in the fashion industry? How can we work to celebrate different bodies through fashion without making people feel excluded or inadequate? How can we give people of varying social and economic classes access to representative clothing? How can we ensure the safety of our community so that people are comfortable representing themselves in whatever way they want? How can we promote and push for more representative models? These are only some of the many questions that this panel raised. Now I am left feeling inspired and hungry for answers.
I hope to have some of these questions answered, not through speaking with people, but through actual change. I’d like to see more representation, more affirmation, more positivity, more accessibility, more consideration, and more love for queer people from the fashion world. In short, I loved this panel. I hope there are more events like it in the future. I am itching to find more ways to be a participant in the changes that I’d like to see in fashion, in my community and in the world at large.
What can we do? We can follow queer (including trans) companies on social media. We can support queer brands/companies/individuals. We can do our best to be ourselves (safely). We can talk about our issues. We can reach out about the things that are challenging. We can support each other in online communities. We can take action.
Let’s start a conversation.
Let’s work together.
Let’s tackle these issues.
Love and gratitude,