In a compelling Details feature earlier this week, three models – Elliott Sailors, Rain Dove, and Erika Linder – discuss their gender fluidity, the changing attitudes of the fashion industry, and the overall morphing perception of the gender binary. Here are our five takeaways:
1. You can be both
“It’s not essential to even call it menswear or womenswear anymore,” said Sailors who, in 2013, infamously chopped off her long blonde hair to begin modeling for men’s fashion in a YouTube video that’s racked up more than 200,000 views.
2. It didn’t used to be this easy
When the self-described gender-queer model Rain Dove landed her first gig, as a Calvin Klein lingerie model on the runway, it wasn’t actually discovered that she was a “she” until Dove put on the requisite briefs two minutes before starting. She promptly “was buttoned into a shirt and paid $200 not to attend the after-party. The organizers didn’t want anyone to realize she was female.” Swedish model Erika Linder faced a similar sense of isolation in her home country, and found that moving to the US opened her up to more possibilities. “[Y]ou’d think Sweden is more edgy or more fashion,” she says. “I think [Sweden is] scared of taking risks because it’s such a small country . . . As soon as I got my visa, I just moved. I couldn’t work as a model and live in Sweden. They wouldn’t like me over there.”
3. Fashion is about the individual
Menswear designer Loris Diran brought Dove onto his runway last summer at NYFW. About the choice to feature a gender nonconforming model, he said, “Rain Dove happens to be a woman who came into my models call and wore the collection perfectly. Clothing is clothing and certainly doesn’t ‘make the man.’ It is meant to allow one to assume a certain identity at that particular moment in time, free of gender roles or expectations.”
4. It doesn’t have to be high fashion
The gender nonconforming movement isn’t isolated to the somewhat exclusive world of fashion: this year, Target announced that it would remove gender-specific signage in its stores to adapt to the changes that are being made as more and more people explore gender-fluidity. Selfridges in London and clothing retail giant H&M have made similar moves in embracing this change.
5. It’s not a trend: androgyny is here to stay
As with so many social movements, embracing androgyny – not in fashion but in every day life – is not a trend that will be over with by NYFW 2016. People are depending less and less on the gender binary to define themselves, and for Elliott Sailors, Rain Dove, and Erika Linder, fashion is about much more than what you wear. “We’re living in a world where people don’t want to have to worry about those things anymore,” Sailors says. It’s about embracing the identity that speaks to who you are as an individual, regardless of the pronoun.
Photos via Instagram/Rain Dove and Erika Linder
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