Barneys New York has released its latest catalog, a weighty little publication destined for the mailboxes of the style-minded and the pages of major glossies. But there is something different — and yet increasingly normal — about the catalog for spring. The models sporting the season's finest aren't just a racially diverse bunch, a refreshing sight for the store recently accused of racial profiling. They are also transgender.
"I was so lucky to be able to photograph these transgender men and women for Barneys," Bruce Weber told Hint. "They have more courage than any football player, explorer or astronaut combined. Working together gave us a chance to visit a new world."
While gay rights have made significant strides of late, perception of those who've undergone gender reassignment remains largely transphobic. News of the horrific fate suffered by Islan Nettles, a transgender young woman and budding fashion designer, and the outrageous failure to prosecute the known assailant continue to resonate through the LGBT community, resulting in a rally last week outside police headquarters.
Which makes these 17 models all the more courageous, so let's meet some of them...
Valentijn de Hingh
As we previously reported, Valentijn (a male name in her native Dutch) walked for Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons some years ago. But when she reached 6'1 (some reports claim 6'3), she was let go by her agency. Nonetheless, Valentijn has been photographed for Candy and Love magazines. Should the Zeitgeist for transgender models prove short-lived, Valentijn is one step ahead, graduating in literature science from the University of Amsterdam.
Arin Andrews & Katie Hill
These two Oklahoma teens transitioned together, but in different directions. Upon completion, they were an item for a while, amassing fans all around the world for their unusual love story. Sadly, they broke up just a few weeks ago, but have pledged to stay friends.
As he says on Twitter, Ryley is a "tattoo'd gender queer foodie with a love of bourbon and a serious case of Cacoethes Scribendi." When was the last time a fashion model professed, in Latin, an urge to write? Good looks and a brain to boot! For added chic, Ryley's adoptive — and clearly very supportive — grandparents also feature in the catalog.
As the name suggests, Gisele hails from the storied house of Xtravaganza, which recently celebrated 30 years of ballroom vogueing fierceness. Gisele is no newcomer to the spotlight, but this may be her most glamorous appearance yet.
Born and raised in Greenwich Village, Edie is fairly new to the hormone replacement process, but says she has support from everyone around her, including her parents and her boyfriend, who's getting his PhD in gender studies. The two live in London, where Edie is studying jewelry design at Central Saint Martins and continues to model on the side.
On February 11, Barneys will donate 10% of sales from its stores and Barneys.com to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBT Community Center in New York. Both organizations are working with Barneys to create an employee training program on trans-related topics.
Though she retains a baby face, Josephine Skriver has come a long way since her wee years modeling for Pampers. In 2011, the Danish model was among the freshest of that year's fresh faces, walking for the likes of Calvin Klein, Gucci, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent, and memorably closing the Prada show. Then last year she graduated from newcomer status with a stroll down Victoria's Secret runway. Indubitably, she's all grown up now.
But Skriver is hardly content to keep eyes ogling, male or otherwise. You see, she's the proud daughter of a gay mother and father — actually, two sets of gay parents — and is emerging as a vocal advocate on behalf of the LGBT community. Starting last year, the self-described rainbow kid has been speaking openly and eloquently about her unconventional yet perfectly normal family. It won't be long before she gets more activist, we hope, perhaps even dipping her toe in political waters. Plus she has one of the cheeriest Instagram pages you'll ever see, full of funny face-making. That, too, is a cause to célèbre.
Backstage model behavior: Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Kenzo, Juun J. Men's Fall 2014
Photos by Sonny Vandevelde