One small [fashionable] step for a the transgender community…
Luxury retailer Barneys will feature 17 transgender models in their spring campaign to bring awareness to gender identity issues. Photographed by Bruce Weber, the campaign is titled “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters,” and showcases models of different races and countries decked in Balenciaga, Derek Lam and Yves Saint Laurent, among others. This news adds to the front row chats as New York nears yet another fashion week.
Models are pictured with supportive members of their families and friends with personal interviews of the models conducted by contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Patricia Bosworth, to accompany each shot. The advertisements will run in publications such as The New York Times and Vanity Fair.
Barneys will donate ten percent of the sales from 11 flagships and online store on February 11th to the National Center of Transgender Equality and the LBGT Community Center (known as The Center) in New York. Both organizations will help carry out a training program about transgender issues for the community.
“Barneys New York is bringing the wholeness and internal beauty of transgender people to the public,” National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling commented in a press release. “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters’ is a powerful reminder of how far we have come culturally as transgender people, and it will help push us further.”
Glennda Testone, Executive Director at the Center, also spoke positively about the campaign.” It puts a spotlight on the transgender community and I do think Barneys did a smart thing for including their stories because it showcased their the struggles and strengths,” she told The Observer over the phone. Ms. Testone, who carries out the vision of the center through various programs and fundraising, continued, “Capturing the whole picture of who these people are by sharing their personal stories and having people close to these young people to support them be part of the shoot helps deliver a much more powerful and authentic message.”
The Center is opened 365 days a year and sees 6,000 people walk through their doors each week. “We make sure everything we do is inclusive and helps to lift everyone in the community.” The proceedings from Barneys’ sales will fund The Center’s Gender Identity Project that has run for over 20 years and focuses on helping trans people maintain a healthy and successful lifestyle. Ms. Testone described this as an “empowerment program,” adding that membership is opened to anybody in New York City.
The staff and board members, which include a transgender member, are delighted over the Barneys project, Ms. Testone said. “ They’re excited to see the focus on our trans brothers and sisters. [I’ve not] seen anything to this extent, you know, including multiple models. It brings something new to the table and exposes to the public a whole new range of beautiful people.”
The upper echelons at Barneys stated the idea for the campaign was conceived to raise awareness and acceptance of transsexual individuals, a group who has seen little progression within the LGBT community. With only 70,000 trans people currently residing in the United States, this group makes for a small portion of the nine million who identify themselves gay, lesbian and bisexual in the country. In North, South and Central Americas, transgender peoples alone have suffered 50% higher rates of in 2013 compared to the gays and lesbians, according to statistics from the Organization of American States. Just two years ago, a Harlem man viciously beat and killed a 21-year-old victim after he discovered she was a trans woman whom he had hit on.
The campaign comes as a milestone and follows a history of transgender exposure and acceptance in the fashion industry. Model April Ashley was the pioneer of transsexual movement by not only being the first person in the UK to undergo realignment surgery, but also gracing the pages of British Vogue in the 1960s. Reality TV show America’s Next Top Model played muse featured Isis King, the first trans woman model, in 2008. And most recently in 2010, Brazilian transgender model Lea T to Givenchy’s ad campaign.
Check out the Barneys’ blog for the full film and models’s bios.