FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE UNAPOLOGETICALLY THEMSELVES
EDITOR IN CHIEF MORGAN MARTINEZ MANAGING EDITOR BECKY YEKER CONTENT EDITOR MEG ZULCH EDITORIAL ASSISTANT KENNETH MILLER SUBMISSIONS COORDINATOR ANNA BRUNER ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR OLIVIA SCHROEDER SPECIAL THANKS JACOB TOBIA, ERIN SOUTHWICK, RAIN DOVE, LUCY BROWN, DARK MATTER, MIMUMAXI, WHITNEY MADUEKE, AJEE GRAY, BISHAMBER DAS, SUNG YIM, HANS CAHILL, FRANZISKA MILES, BRIAN MARTIN, DANA LAND, SAM SYLVERNE, SABRINA GIANGIULIO, KATIE BURKE, DANA WIERZBICKI, SOMMER RODRIGUEZ, JILLIAN POWERS. STAFF ANNIE ZIDEK, BRIAN MARTIN, CHARLENE HAPARIMWI, IAN KERSTETTER, JAC MORRISON, JACLYN JERMYN, JOSEPH LONGO, KAT FREYDL, KEVIN ALLEN, LYNDSEY BOURNE,, NIKITA REDKAR, ALLIE SHYER, ROBI FOLI, SIOBHAN THOMPSON, SKYLAR BELT, ASHLEY JOHNSON
ag issue #14
Curating a fashion issue that resembled different alternative sects of fashion, sprinkled across the world, felt positive and powerful. It felt like we were exploring something we had not ventured into, something that we’ve always been afraid of, considering high fashion and Vogue never really once catered to our full and curvy bodies. When we began understanding that fashion was much more than that “other” world, when we realized that there is a whole separate fashion world, and it’s filled with everyday people doing groundbreaking things, we became dedicated to making sure that we focus on those voices and stories, rather than the ones we see in the traditional fashion universe. In typical Hooligan fashion (pun intended), we started asking people we know about everything that made them feel good, which outfits and makeup made them feel like themselves. We selected a handful of unique non-men and celebrated their individuality by asking them to wear whatever outfit they felt best in. We also worked with talented make-up artist Sommer Rodriguez and photographer Jillian Powers. This collaboration was something that spilled with self-love and empowerment, something that felt overwhelmingly Hooligan. With each photo, there is a world existing from the top left corner to the bottom right. Each person featured in this spread is unapologetically themselves, living their truths through beautiful identities that speak with such loud veracity. These people are everyday people, but in no way are they ordinary. These photos represent honesty, they show the real life revelation of what it’s like to be a human that not only wears, but embraces their identity. These photos are about loving who you are.
Morgan and Becky
“I LOVE MY SELF-AWARENESS. I LOVE MY ADAPTABILITY AND DURABILITY IN A WORLD THAT ISN’T ALWAYS KIND TO NEURODIVERGENT TWINKY WEIRDOS LIKE ME. I LOVE THAT I’M ALIVE AND CAN MANAGE TO SEE THE BEAUTY I’M SURROUNDED BY EVERY SINGLE DAY, EVEN ON DAYS THAT MY BIPOLAR BRAIN TRIES TO EAT ITSELF. MY FRECKLES ARE PRETTY GREAT, TOO.”
“THE THING I LOVE MOST ABOUT MYSELF IS MY STYLE. I EXPRESS MYSELF THROUGH FASHION, ALWAYS CLASSY AND A LITTLE SASSY. I LOVE THAT PENCIL SKIRT THAT HUGS IN THE RIGHT PLACES BECAUSE IT ALWAYS MAKES ME MORE CONFIDENT. MY WALK CHANGES, THE SWAY IN MY HIPS JUST A LITTLE MORE RHYTHMIC. FASHION IS THE STRONGEST STATEMENT AND AN ARTISTIC FORM.”
“MY HABIT OF SCRUNCHING MY ARMS UP TOWARD MY CHEST AND SCREECHING LIKE A DINOSAUR WHEN I FEEL THREATENED.”
“HELPING OTHERS HEAL AS A FORM OF ART IS SOMETHING THAT I’VE FOUND AS A HIDDEN TALENT OF MINE AND IS THE THING I LOVE MOST ABOUT MYSELF. I NEVER THOUGHT I HAD AN ART LIKE MANY OF MY FRIENDS DO AND FELT BAD ABOUT THAT FOR A LONG TIME. HOWEVER, I’VE FOUND A TALENT IN HELPING PEOPLE HEAL AND GROW. IT GIVES ME THE GREATEST SENSE OF PURPOSE AND SELF LOVE TO SEE OTHERS LOVE THEMSELVES.”
“I LOVE MY ABILITY TO EMPATHIZE AND TO TEACH. I LOVE MY PHYSICAL EXISTENCE. OH, AND MY EYES. THEY’RE GREEN.”
“I LOVE MY RESILIENCE, DRIVE, AND FREE-SPIRITEDNESS. IT’S TAKEN ME YEARS TO ACHIEVE A SENSE OF STABILITY, WHICH FOR ME READS AS SELF-ACCEPTANCE. I WAS 21 WHEN I TOOK MY FIRST BREATH OF FREEDOM FROM A MECHANICAL SURVIVAL-BASED EXISTENCE, AND EVER SINCE I’VE TAKEN TO EMBRACING EVERY ASPECT OF MY HUMANITY. I’VE LEARNED TO LOVE MY MOODS AND VALIDATE MY SELVES WITH FREE FLOWING CHARACTER BY ENGAGING IN A VARIETY OF INTERESTS AND OUTLETS WITHOUT CONFLICT. I LOVE THAT I DON’T FIGHT MYSELVES ANYMORE AND HAVE CHANNELED WHAT WAS ONCE A MAJOR SOURCE OF DISTRESS INTO A DYNAMIC AND ENRICHED SENSE OF FLEXIBILITY. IT IS NO LONGER A DESIRE OF MINE TO CONSOLIDATE AN IDENTITY, BUT INSTEAD TO LIVE FOR FULFILLMENT OF MY WHIMS AND INTERESTS WITH A SENSE OF ADVENTURE AND EXPLORATION RATHER THAN SETTING OUT WITH A GOAL OF ORGANIZATION AND UNDERSTANDING. I LOVE THIS ABOUT MYSELF; I LOVE THAT I’M FLEXIBLE, ACCEPTING, AND OPEN TO BEING A GENUINE ME THROUGH A NUMBER OF GENUINE SELVES. I CAN BE AN ARTIST, WRITER, ACADEMIC, AND A SLEAZE - I CAN BE THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER AND DOMINATRIX - I CAN BE THE RESPONSIBLE SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATE, AND THE MANIC WILD CHILD WITHOUT IT FEELING LIKE BETRAYAL.”
“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN EXTREMELY EMPATHETIC, WHICH I USED TO CATEGORIZE AS A FAULT. I CRIED SO OFTEN WHEN I WAS A KID THAT MY PARENTS HAD TO BE CALLED INTO SCHOOL SEVERAL TIMES. EVERYONE WAS REALLY WORRIED ABOUT ME. I’M JUST SENSITIVE AS HELL. I DON’T WANT TO SEE ANYONE IN ANY KIND OF PAIN. I LOVE PEOPLE VERY DEEPLY AND QUICKLY. I USED TO GET FRUSTRATED WITH MYSELF, BUT NOW WHEN I CRY I KIND OF MARVEL AT IT. IT’S PRETTY AMAZING THAT I CAN BE AFFECTED BY THINGS THAT STRONGLY, EVEN IF THEY’RE HURTING ME. I KNOW THAT IT’S WHAT MOVES ME TO BE KIND TO OTHER PEOPLE. THIS QUALITY IS WHAT TOLD ME THAT I HAD TO START WORKING IN ART THERAPY. I DON’T REALLY SEE MYSELF DOING ANYTHING ELSE. PHYSICALLY, I WOULD SAY THAT I LOVE MY WHOLE BODY. I’M TRYING REALLY HARD NOT TO PICK ANYTHING APART LATELY, EVEN IF I’M PICKING OUT WHAT I THINK IS “THE BEST.” AFTER HAVING AN EATING DISORDER I’VE JUST SPENT TOO MANY YEARS SEPARATING MYSELF INTO PARTS. I’M TRYING TO LOVE IT ALL. STRETCH MARKS ARE JUST REALLY TINY RIVERS AND CELLULITE IS JUST A REMINDER THAT WE ALL CAME FROM THE MOON.”
“I’M MOST PROUD OF HOW MUCH I’VE SEEN MYSELF CHANGE AND GROW OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. I’VE BECOME MORE CONFIDENT AND CONTENT WITH MYSELF. I’VE LEARNED HOW TO ACCEPT MY FLAWS AND INSECURITIES AS I CONTINUE TO MEND THEM, AND I’M PROUD OF THE STENGTH I’VE FOUND WITHIN MYSELF. I LOVE WHO I AM AND I LOVE WHO I’VE BECOME.”
“I LOVE HOW UNDERSTANDING I AM, I’M ALWAYS THERE TO LISTEN AND COMFORT. FOR THIS SHOOT SPECIFICALLY, I LOVE BEING ABLE TO DO WHAT I LOVE AND BEING ABLE TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SO COMFORTABLE WITH THEMSELVES AND OFTEN DISCOVERING PARTS OF THEMSELVES THEY HAVE NOT YET UNLEASHED. MAKEUP IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL THING, AND IT IS VERY OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD AND I LOVE THAT I AM SO PASSIONATE ABOUT IT. IT SAVED MY LIFE.”
TRANS FASHION IS NOT NECESSARILY TRANS EMPOWERMENT WRITTEN BY JACOB TOBIA PHOTOS BY ERIN SOUTHWICK
Late one Tuesday night, I was at my friend’s apartment for our usual after work ritual of arepas and red wine. Between bites of corn flour and black beans, I lazily thumbed through the fashion magazines that sat mostly unread on her coffee table. I picked up the May 2015 copy of Vogue, noticing two headlines on the front cover that, at first, I didn’t believe. I’ve always thought of Vogue as a relatively stuffy, out-of-date archive of high fashion and elite culture as determined by wealthy women on Park Avenue. And yet, right next to the cover image of the actor Carey Mulligan appeared the words “Trans America: The Next Frontier in Gender Politics,” and below those, the headline “Androgynous Chic.” I flipped through the front ads to the headline articles at the back two-thirds of the magazine, and there she was. Staring back at me from a two-page spread was transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic. The accompanying article began with Andreja’s, story and went on to catalogue the substantial leaps that trans and gender nonconforming aesthetics are making in the fashion industry. Sandwiched between a hundred pages of gender normative advertising, the article proclaimed the end of gender roles. It read: “The distinction between man and woman is disappearing.” “Dressing across gender lines now seems like nothing more than an instinctual aesthetic choice.” “Nobody cares anymore.” I continued reading through the accompanying spread and grew increasingly uncomfortable. The bodies that filled the pages weren’t bodies that I recognized, and they certainly weren’t at all like mine. These people had no facial hair, no chest hair, no body hair to speak of. They were thin, with cut cheekbones, narrow shoulders, slender waists, and graceful hands. They were unblemished, effortless, and unrealistic. I tried to figure out why that bothered me so much. After all, this was just how fashion culture worked, right? For decades, fashion has been creating unrealistic standards of beauty for all people, from cisgender men and women to trans and gender nonconforming people; exploiting our insecurities and interfering with our sense of self worth in the interest of selling clothes. But why was it suddenly bothering me now? As I looked at the magazine, what I began to realize is this: there is a difference between how fashion culture dehumanizes trans people and how it dehumanizes everyone else. When you’re cisgender, models are venerated and also understood as pernicious idols, as bodies that proscribe a standard of beauty you will be judged against but can never meet. The modeling industry is certainly hurtful to cisgender people, but it is widely understood as hurtful. By most reasonable people, cisgender models are not held up as true role models.
"there is a difference between how fashion culture dehumanizes trans people and how it dehumanizes everyone else."
What’s more, very few people would argue that the visibility of cisgender women on the runway means that cisgender women are empowered in society. Rarely will someone turn to a young cis woman and say, “Look at Gigi Hadid. Just look at her. Her visibility on the runway is proof that feminism is making great progress, and women are finally seeing full equality.” Instead, most progressive people understand cisgender models—both men and women—as unrealistic embodiments of patriarchal beauty norms. And thankfully, many cisgender young people have mentors and caretakers in their lives who can remind them that they shouldn’t judge themselves against the beauty norms that are embodied in fashion magazines. But we don’t have that. For transgender and gender nonconforming young people in America today, models are seen in a profoundly different light. As a trans person, I am not commonly reminded to be wary of the beauty norms embodied by transgender models and fashion culture. Instead, I’m told by my community and by the media that the visibility of transgender models is an unqualified indicator of the progress of transgender people in society. But the reality is that the presence of trans and gender nonconforming people in the fashion world is not an unqualified good. Sure, as a group of people who have been historically invisible, it’s great that a handful of us are being seen by the fashion world in a new way. But this also means that our bodies are being consumed by the fashion world in the same unethical and convoluted ways that cisgender people have had their bodies consumed, all the while telling us that this consumption is empowerment.
"I will never be overjoyed by trans participation in the fashion industry until gender nonconforming and transgender people are seen not as an aesthetic, but as human beings." Currently, transgender and gender nonconforming young people are facing new kinds of body image issues and insecurities that are directly related to the rise of trans visibility in the fashion world. Now more than ever, young trans people are comparing themselves to thin, conventionally beautiful, transgender models and celebrities who “pass” as the gender with which they identify. They are looking at models like Andreja Pejic, unrealistically comparing their bodies to hers, feeling ugly and undesirable at the same time as they are being told to feel inspired. That is the contradiction of trans visibility in 2016. In one ear, the world is trumpeting that we should be grateful to finally be seen. But in the other ear, another voice is quietly whispering, telling us that our bodies do not deserve to be accepted, loved or affirmed if they aren’t thin, if they aren’t on the red carpet, if they aren’t beautiful according to an editor at Vogue or Vanity Fair. I looked back at that Vogue fashion spread in front of me. And as I thought more about it, I realized why it made me uncomfortable. The “androgynous” models in the spread weren’t real people. They most likely did not identify as gender nonconforming or genderqueer. They were not actual androgynous people, people who live with the realities and repercussions of gender nonconformity on a day-to-day basis. Instead they were an idea, a fantasy; embodiments of what a cisgender fashion editor thinks gender nonconforming people should be. But I am not a fantasy. I am a living, breathing genderqueer person who has to walk on the streets and take the subway to work and buy groceries and do laundry and live in the world in my body. I am a real, vulnerable, insecure person who has a big ribcage and a little bit of fat on my tummy and a hairy chest and a remarkable amount of facial hair. I will never be able to embody the “androgynous aesthetic” as it has been defined by the fashion world. I will never be able to live up to the fashion world’s image of what androgynous or trans people are supposed to look like. And increasingly, I am learning to be okay with that. I am continuing the quest to love myself, my body, and my identity—regardless of what fashion culture tells me is beautiful or interesting about it. Which is why I have to be honest about my apathy towards fashion culture and the supposed empowerment of trans people through it. I do not deeply care that transgender people are in Vogue. I do not deeply care that Jaden Smith is the new face of Louis Vuitton womenswear. Instead, I care that trans and gender nonconforming people continue to be fired, impoverished, incarcerated, assaulted, and murdered because our bodies are not deemed “beautiful enough” for the world around us. I care that, in the face of those obstacles, our stories are finally starting to be heard by a world that for so long sought to silence us. Andreja Pejic looked beautiful in Vogue, but I will never be overjoyed by trans participation in the fashion industry until gender nonconforming and transgender people are seen not as an aesthetic, but as human beings.
in couture I almost didn’t become a fashion writer because I didn’t think I was feminine enough. Writing about style and beauty for popular publications had always been a dream of mine, but I feared I didn’t look the part. I was unsure of my gender identity, hated dresses and hardly ever shaved. Red and pink lipsticks were boring to me, and I hardly knew how to apply them “properly” anyway. In all of this confusion, emerging icons and genderqueer trailblazers in fashion, like Rain Dove, were formerly unbeknownst to me in my limited Facebook feed and neglected Twitter account. So last year, when I became a fashion and beauty writer for a popular women’s interest site, it felt daring as hell. Terrifying even, thanks to vicious transphobic comments and Twitter trolls. I had always felt alone in my fight to degender fashion, to normalize genderqueer bodies like my own to the couture-loving masses. That is, until I discovered Rain Dove, one of the first gender-fluid models I’ve ever seen who actively capitalizes off of her androgyny while passionately raising awareness about gender inequality.
BY MEG ZULCH PHOTOS BY LUCY BROWN
Before she was landing modeling jobs in New York and London, Rain Dove lived in a small town in Colorado, spending much of her time fighting fires and doing farm work. Her towering height (she stands at 6’2”) and sharp masculine features enabled her to pass as a man, and put her right at home in jobs centered around masculinity and manual labor. Understandably, the rustic environment Rain Dove was raised in didn’t exactly inspire a love or respect for fashion within her. “Growing up on a farm in a small town, I had only ever heard people make fun of the fashion industry,” she told me. “The clothing, pretentious people, unattainable beauty standards and judgements. So going into this world was really awkward at first because I felt I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from laughing at anything that remotely reminded me of Zoolander.” But after losing a bet during a football game, Rain Dove was literally obligated to go to a casting. Using her androgyny to her advantage once again, Rain was immediately given the job as a male model. At first, she was hesitant about entering the modeling world as a genderfluid person who didn’t exactly fall into step with what was considered feminine. “Fashion had never seemed like a natural fit throughout my life,” Rain Dove told me. “I was told I was an ugly girl from when I was young so the idea of trying to wear a dress and wait for my Prince Charming seemed ludicrous.” But she quickly discovered that fashion could expand beyond this “princess” image, and actually have the power to make a positive impact on the world. This was a crucial detail for someone who values social activism so highly. “As I began to meet people in the industry, I began to fall in love with those that swatted away the stereotypes I had seen [on] TV,” she said. “I found fellow hearts seeking change through cloth and advertisements. Models who were seeking a doctorate, designers who wanted to start a revolution of self acceptance, and photographers who shot only honesty. When I found these people, I found my love for fashion because fashion became not just cloth and rude manners. It became art and sociopolitics.” It became glaringly obvious to her how her very existence within the fashion community could move mountains, specifically for gender nonconforming people. After all, her androgynous appearance definitely helped her carve out a niche in the industry. “When I got into the fashion world, everyone told me that I was a very ‘niche’ type of person, that I represent a very small demographic,” she told me. “But after sitting on this statement for a month, one day I set up a meeting with these people and I told them. ’If NICHE is a small demographic, then I’m not that. Because I’m not gender ambiguous. I represent gender [fluidity]. I represent the full spectrum. All genders. All things. There’s nothing small about that.’” In her career so far, she’s set out to do just that: represent and affirm people of all gender identities. And luckily, her androgynous looks continued to be helpful in landing her modeling jobs along the way, making a greater variety of opportunities available for her to queer the industry through her versatile look.
"THE MESSAGE IS SIMPLE THERE ARE BIGGER ISSUES AHEAD FOR THE HUMAN RACE THAN HOW WE IDENTIFY WITH OUR FLESH AND WHAT WE WEAR."
This ability to shapeshift between genders has afforded her a certain level of privilege in everyday life, sometimes allowing her to escape the harsh realities of gender oppression that being assigned female at birth brings. “The thing is, as a ‘girl,’ many people tried to oppress me growing up,” she told me. “Calling me ugly or gangly or a 6 out of 10 in looks. But as a young male (white male especially), I don’t have to answer to anybody. I don’t have to care about my sex appeal to know if getting home safe is a thing. I don’t have to worry about negotiating for the best pay on a job. I don’t have to worry about people trusting what I have to say.” She uses her platform that her passing-privilege has helped her attain in part to raise awareness about gender nonconforming identities through her presence in the fashion industry as well as her social media presence. Rain Dove dedicates her Instagram to sharing valuable messages about gender norms on the daily, debunking restrictive binary ideas while shedding light on topics such as shaving, street harassment, gendered double standards, and chest binding. “I hope to reach all people, especially those that hate the idea of what I am,” she told me. “I want them to come to [my Instagram] and be educated. Ask questions. Get answers. The message is simple－there are bigger issues ahead for the human race than how we identify with our flesh and what we wear. Why waste our precious lives oppressing others on something so frivolous?? Food, shelter, water, and a healthy planet to foster it all are top priorities. Let’s focus on that.” But being an androgynous person in the fashion industry definitely has its drawbacks, despite her masculine looks and commanding voice giving her the upper hand in some respects. When presenting as a woman, Rain Dove still deals with pressures and unfair beauty standards surrounding what her body looks like. This is especially the case thanks to the existence of both masculine and feminine features on her body: specifically her muscular arms and large breasts (the latter which she has lovingly referred to on her Instagram account as the “largest pecs in the industry”). “I love my muscle tone. [But] when I go to ‘women’s’ go-sees, that’s the one thing people hate,” she told me. “Big breasts and big muscles. It’s like they feel ‘you can’t have both, that’s not fair’ or ‘women should be noodle-armed because it’s sexier when they are defenseless.’ I hate it.” Rain Dove has also had to deal with weird instances of transphobia, including one situation where a lazy designer wanted to cast her as “male” for their collection, with the condition that she identifies as something other than a gender-fluid human. “They wanted me to identify as a transgender [man] to anyone who asked just so that I could be with the other models in the restroom and wouldn’t need my own,” she told me. “I declined the show, and the designer hasn’t called me back since.” Taking stands against transphobic microaggressions and actively rejecting gendered beauty standards is very important to Rain Dove as both a public figure and a gender nonconforming person herself. And since she’s one of the few people in the fashion industry bringing visibility to trans issues, she’s of utmost importance to trans and gender nonconforming folks like me. Because without figures like Rain Dove, we wouldn’t be able to see ourselves reflected in our very cis-washed media. She agrees it’s important for everybody to see some relatable version of themselves in advertising, media, and fashion campaigns.
“Every billboard and magazine, every photo and film are indicative of proof that whoever is represented in them has acquired enough basic human survival elements to live comfortably or to be seen,” she told me. “Advertisements and media give hope that perhaps there’s a path that can be taken to comfort somehow in some way despite any element of ‘uniquity’ or oppression standing in the way. When you see that, you feel better about sticking solid to who you love to be instead of living in misery trying to conform to something you’re not just to get the basics.” In order to achieve more diverse representation, the fashion industry has to welcome more people like Rain Dove, as well as represent people of color, disabled people, trans people, and plus-size people. If compassion and a desire for diversity isn’t enough, she suggests that designers conform to the recent trend of equality and visibility regarding marginalized people in the media. Campaigns targeting gender-fluid audiences, like Zara’s latest genderless line, certainly exist. But with much of fashion’s idea of androgyny expressed in a sea of cis white faces in neutral-toned masculine pieces, these campaigns don’t normally reflect the rainbow of people who are the potential buyers. “By not diversifying the types of people you use to represent your collections such as different ages, races, genders etc. you might be cutting yourself out of customers,” she said. “There are more choices and brands for us to purchase from, so don’t be surprised if you keep to your conservative ways and we give our money to someone else.” As for Rain’s own plans, she’s got a lot in store for this year. She was just signed onto a modeling agency in London, transitioning from her days as a New York City-based model. “This is the year I expand beyond the US and beyond fashion,” she told me. “It’s the year we take what has been created so far and turn it into a platform for other voices. You will see more educational public talks about sexuality, gender, and sociopolitics in general. Collaborative content with other movers and shakers in the world. And intentionally created editorials to speak about issues we face as humans. It’ll be an exciting year!” And next week she is heading to North Carolina to protest HB 2, a law which was recently passed with the intention of policing trans and gender nonconforming folks in public bathrooms. True to Rain Dove’s usual methods, she’s taken to Instagram to raise awareness about the issues going on in North Carolina as well as her future involvement with the activism surrounding a subject that is so important to her. In a recent IG post, accompanied with a beautiful photo of the model herself looking deeply concerned in a plaid button down and a snapback, she wrote: “I will not sit silently just because a law tells me to. It’s a voice that makes a law. It’s a voice that can change the law. That’s why I’m going to North Carolina this month. Join me? DM.” I DM’d her. And although I won’t be able to be in North Carolina myself, this loyal follower will anxiously await any updates of her plans for peaceful protests. Because fashion isn’t just about the clothes. It’s about effecting real change through clothes and the platform those clothes afford you. Using her own platform as a megaphone for gender activism, I’ve got a feeling that Rain Dove is about to shake things up in an even bigger way than she already has.
ctrl/alt/gender AND THE FUTURE OF FASHION ACCESSIBILITY BY KENNETH MILLER PHOTOS BY ANDRE WAGNER
"IT SEEMS THAT ANDROGYNOUS FASHION IS IN ON THE RUNWAY PRECISELY BECAUSE WE STILL HAVE THIS REDUCTIVE IDEA THAT "GENDER NONCONFORMING" IS SOMETHING SPECTACULAR, SOMETHING THAT MUST BE STAGED."
During this past February’s New York Fashion Week, Alok Vaid-Menon wrote on Facebook that this time of year is one of the rare moments they feel comfortable exploring their gender performance publicly. As one half of the trans South Asian performance art collective Darkmatter, Vaid-Menon’s fashion choices alert passersby that their existence is deviant — a person with masculine features oftentimes spotted in vibrant, magnificently cut gowns highlighted with larger-than-life lip colors and jewelry. Walking amongst others in the streets of Manhattan during Fashion Week, surrounded by individuals who aim for looks that guarantee the attention and applause of others, is an organic happenstance in Vaid-Menon’s everyday life — and not always a positive one, they say. Gender theorist Judith Butler has been a pioneer on the dissection of the “state violence” enacted on individuals who indulge in their gender performativity through fashion. When a gender nonconforming person is on the street or in a bus, the act of performing one’s gender becomes dangerous; people of the state who prize gendered expectations may take action against those who challenge the binaries with their subjectively rebellious fashion choices. As Butler-obsessed folks and victims of this subjected violence on the regular, both of Darkmatter’s Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian took to creating a digital zine that sheds light on troubles a non-binary person is dealt when expressing their authentic presentation unapologetically. The zine, entitled ctrl/alt/gender (and in collaboration with The Ace Hotel of NYC), is a boundless exploration into the radical possibilities of fashion. The zine’s wittily-framed name pokes fun at the intrinsic binary aligned with computer interfaces, staunchly suggesting a need for society to delete its exhaustingly bland gender binary. “Commercial looks remain binary and when they dream beyond (like Zara’s latest line), they’re kind of just drab and uninspired,” Vaid-Menon tells Hooligan. “[It’s] as if moving beyond gender is a form of mourning and not celebration.” Inside the zine, images of the pair are found with overlays of texts that correlate to sentiments, both personal and political, that attest to their fight against the naysayers of gender-blurring fashion. “Historically, fashion has been a site of state control,” Vaid-Menon articulates for Hooligan. “In New York City, it used to be illegal to cross dress — the police would literally come up and arrest you. That’s not an accident. It’s part of a bigger strategy of the state determining and enforcing what a good citizen (read: white, masculine, able-bodied, cisgender) looks like, and literally enforcing it.” Aligning one’s gender identity and gender assigned at birth when assembling an outfit is a default expectation; it falls under the philosophical notion that all bodies must remain legible to society. During Fashion Week, nonetheless, it seems these guidelines are no longer applicable and are encouraged to be stretched. After all, the gender binary is so #TBT.
Whether you’re inspecting Ralph Lauren’s Summer 2016 collection, or those in attendance to runway-specific events, you’re observing an amassing of people who are recognizing the playfulness that comes with fashion and gender. Here, individuals assigned male at birth are free to wear garbs that exude “feminine” notions, and people assigned female at birth are able to perform more “masculinely” to reflect their desired appearances more readily. Still, the idea of commodified androgynous clothing doesn’t sit well with Darkmatter. According to ctrl/alt/ gender’s mission statement, society should be working to expand its definition of androgynous looks past masculine cuts, grayscale colors, and lackadaisical accessories. Specifically when looking to the future of fashion, we should be eyeing beyond gender binarism, which will ultimately create better aesthetics for everyone. “It seems that androgynous fashion is in on the runway precisely because we still have this reductive idea that ‘gender nonconforming’ is something spectacular, something that must be staged,” Vaid-Menon informs us. “We can’t imagine ordinary gender nonconformity because it’s always about the realm of the visible and the excessive.” Usually in fashion, we are taught to place “femininity” and “masculinity” at polar opposites. In an ideal setting, individuals would be able to sport an array of bizarre, peculiar, childlike, alien possibilities of transgressive fashion free of fear. Designers like Reno Tsosie and Calli Roche, who have both worked with Darkmatter previously on perfecting their striking wardrobes, design with a conscious effort to produce items free of gender. When it comes to expressing one’s gender through fashion, anxieties surrounding vulnerability seem to be at the front lines of the wearer’s mind. In our current socio-political climate, dangers plague individuals who task themselves with navigating through our capitalist, white-washed, heterosexual, male-dominated society. ctrl/alt/gender spurs a dialogue that employs one to embrace these uneasy feelings, but at the individual’s own pace and comfort. “[It’s] often on the days that we feel best and most confident in our own skin that we experience the most harassment,” Vaid-Menon says on behalf of both themselves and Balasubramanian. “Vulnerability doesn’t have to be a public expression, it can also be a relationship with oneself. Sometimes the privacy of one’s own mirror can help unlock new worlds.” Although ctrl/alt/gender has only one installment currently set, Vaid-Menon isn’t counting on future editions. To Darkmattter, there’s still a lot fashion has to do in terms of accessibility for those of many genders, sizes, abilities, and identities. The only way to be accountable for the future of fashion accessibility is to be voicing these concerns actively; so that one day, gender nonconforming folks don’t have just one week of every season to feel safe in their skin. To stay updated on all things Darkmatter, Like their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram and Twitter at @darkmatterpoetry. Check out ctrl/alt/gender at http://platformshealnyc.acehotel.com
redefi n i n g religious limitation
through fashion by becky yeker editorial shot by melody melamed
Hooligan had a chance to speak with MimuMaxi, a fashion line run by two Jewish sisters-in-law that focus on modest and hip clothing. Following the Jewish law, they provide outfits for women that follow various faiths, or simply just prefer to dress up in what is most comfortable: oversized and fashionable easywear. We discussed their passion for dressing up, their intentions with MimuMaxi, and their place in the fashion world.
Hooligan Mag: At Hooligan, we really take pride in artists that stick to their roots and create some-
thing that is completely drenched in their own culture. We love what you are doing at MIMU MAXI. How did the two of you begin doing this? Mimi Hecht: Mushky and I are sisters-in-law (she’s married to my brother), and we were spending a
lot of time together. We would often talk about business ideas, ways we could use our talents and passions to create something that would make a difference and also offer us some flexibility and freedom as moms. Mushky and I always loved talking about clothing, but a lot of it was our frustration. We are orthodox Jewish women who keep Judaism’s guidelines of modesty (in short, covering our collarbone, elbows, knees). We always found it hard to find clothing that lived up to our minimalistic aesthetic, that covered all the right parts, that we didn’t have to make changes to, and that was affordable. We needed clothing that was just effortless, can be thrown on (without wearing things under to make it modest), that was easy to layer and play with, and that just worked. So we decided, let’s just do this ourselves! We have no background in fashion. We jumped into it with a lot of willpower and vision, learning everything on the job. HM: Did you expect the business to grow so fast and expand so much? Mushky Notik: It was pretty amazing to see how our immediate community celebrat[ed] what we
were doing. It was very clear right away that what we were designing was meeting a real need — that there were so many women like us out there who needed easy, beautiful modest clothing, but had just been “surviving” with what was out there. The real excitement began when women from outside our community starting catching on. Not only Christian and Muslim women who are modesty-minded too, but women who really couldn’t care less about covering and just loved the designs. HM: What was your intention with the garments when you first opened up shop? MH: One of the first items we introduced was our signature Skirt Leggings, which is inspired by the ease,
versatility and comfort of a good pair of leggings...but it’s a skirt! When we first introduced them, they flew off the shelves. The idea that there can be a skirt that was modest, but also felt really smooth and was flattering, and can be worn every day in a new way — this was new for our community. Our intention was always to create the pieces we felt we personally needed, and it was a blessing that other women truly “got” what we were doing. Since expanding our collection from Skirt Leggings (which is still our top seller), we’ve kept to that original concept: wearable, easy, uncomplicated and extremely versatile modest basics. It happens to be that our collection is very oversized. Not because a modest women can’t show her form, but because we just love it. So our designs are very much a blend of our Jewish customs (the coverage) and our aesthetic (easy, flowing, loose, comfortable). Modest clothing can be beautiful and flowing and dramatic, and we love showing [that]. HM: Who buys your clothes? MN: We obviously have a lot of Jewish customers, because that’s our community and how we really took
off. We also have a lot of customers who are Christian and Muslim, since their modest sensitivities are similar.
I think the most common denominator with our customers is that they are busy, confident women (often moms) who just want to get on with their day feeling and looking good, and don’t want to think a ton about putting together an outfit — they want to throw on a dress or skirt that feels really easy and is flattering without doing much. All our items do that. They are simple, but still have a dramatic or fun effect. We are proud to ship all over the world, and our customer base is continuously surprising us with its diversity. HM: In what ways are your designs reinventing the fashion world? What statement do they seem to
make? MH: I’m not sure we are reinventing the fashion world....yet! I do think we are changing people’s per-
ceptions about what makes a fashion brand. That you can be exactly who you are, put yourself out there in an honest way, be real and engaging, and have a successful business. So many women tell us they shop with us because they love how we embrace and connect women of all backgrounds, and they feel that wearing MIMU is connecting with a meaningful message. That’s the best thing to hear. Clothing is important. But the people behind it, and the people who wear it, are more important.
HM: We also love the energy coming off your website, Instagram, etc. You completely destigmatize the notion attached to Chassidic Judaism, or any type of sect within a religion that practices their beliefs as a way of life. Are people ever shocked to discover that you are Chassidic because you may dress so well and stylish? MN: Sometimes we get people who are in shock that we are wearing wigs, keep the Sabbath,
Kosher...the whole shebang! We are definitely more worldly and modern than some other Chassidic sects, but that doesn’t make us any less committed to and engaged with our religion. Our upbringing and lifestyle and values are always front and center, and we love showing how that’s possible while having fun, doing what you love, and sharing it with other people. Culturally, sometimes Jewish women (and men!) resort to dressing a certain way that has become custom, and sometimes that can be a bit outdated. We don’t judge that. There are good reasons why certain modes of dress have become norms, and that’s meaningful too. But I think what people might not realize is that religious Jewish women take pride in their appearance and love shopping and getting dressed just like anyone else! Sometimes, individuality can get a bit lost when you live in a tight community. But thankfully, with our collection we see so many women taking basics and truly making it their own. Judaism is very much about using your own voice and self expression to make the world a better place. And we see and are inspired to share how expression through clothing can be very much a part of that, even if it’s just by the fact that it makes you feel more alive and beautiful — and thereby more empowered to change the world. HM: What do you have to say to the people that view the way you dress as a “limitation?” MH: Modest guidelines are inherently a limitation, but we wouldn’t adhere to it if we didn’t feel that
it opened up a whole new time of freedom and power. In many ways, dressing modestly is our form of rebellion against a society that almost “insists” a woman’s beauty and womanhood is about how much skin she shows. No, that doesn’t mean we think the whole world needs to be modest. It’s just how we personally choose and relate to it. Our society is so scared of limitations, but that’s a very fearful approach. A lot of limitations are a “no” to say “yes” to something greater. For us, dressing modestly is a commitment that is meaningful to us for a multitude of reasons. So on days that it’s hard, we just remind ourselves of that. Is it a challenge? It can be, practically. But that’s why we started MIMU MAXI. And now we’re just busy showing that whatever limitation that is inherent in modest dressing is simply a challenge worth embracing everyday. And that it can be beautiful, and fun, and just as fashionable as everyone else HM: What is your overall message with MIMU MAXI? MN: On the deepest level, our message with MIMU MAXI isn’t even about clothes. It’s about
people. About women, connecting [with] and understanding each other, opening each other’s minds and embracing each other with authenticity and compassion. That is our social media vibe, and the energy of our brand — because it’s really who we are. The clothes have become just the medium, a lucky byproduct, of a larger mission to build a positive, embracing community of women.
Whitney Madueke BY AJEE GRAY
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. I am Whitney Madueke. I am currently living in Nigeria and am a Youtuber at LeazzWay, a fashion blogger at Desourire, and a model.
How did you get into fashion? I have always been in love with fashion. From an early age, I loved surrounding myself with fashion related things like tv shows, learning how to sew, modeling and now owning my fashion blog - Desourire. One thing led to another, and I was able to connect the dots to be here.
What inspired you to start a blog that showcases everyday fashion,, to top notch couture,, especially for women of color? I have always loved the idea of owning a blog and making it fashion-related. I woke up one day and realised I wasn’t being me, by not dressing the part. I changed my whole look, my wardrobe, my makeup skills. The complete package to make myself be the part. With my YouTube channel becoming so successful, it really showed me I can do whatever I want. I started Desourire and a long the line, I created it to showcase my modeling skills with my extreme love for fashion! At the end of the day, I want people to feel good about themselves and to be proud of whatever it is they do or are.
If you could style any three people, who would they be and why? Rihanna, she can pull off anything! Zoe Kravitz, she’s so beautiful with this unique vibe. Zendaya, she’s so empowering to the youths and knows how to slay.
What are three pieces that you have to have in your closet? A leather skirt, a huge blazer and a cool leather jacket!
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS? I am obsessed with dogs and all things French. Oh, and flowers!
How has your culture and background shaped your perception of fashion? Culture serves as a source of inspiration. It teaches me how to appreciate it without appropriating it in fashion.
To keep up with all things Whitney Madueke, donâ€™t forget to check out the links below.
An Interview with Bishamber Das by sung yim photos by yours clothing
"THERE IS BEAUTY IN OUR DIFFERENCES AND EACH ONE OF US SHOULD BE OPEN TO EXPLORING THE THINGS THAT SET US APART."
Body positive activist and Indian/Malaysian model Bishamber Das made waves recently when she became the first British-Asian plus-size model to be signed to GC Models, as well as in the UK in general. Her determination to break barriers and redefine beauty standards as a woman of color is relieving to see in an industry where the few plus-size women inhabiting the modelling community are predominantly white. Having always been on the plus-size end of things, Das has expressed how damaging it can be to internalize the negative messages the media sends larger women, especially those of color. She struggled with her body image for many years, often using food to cope with stress, and at one point facing health issues due to weight gain. With the support of her friends, she made drastic changes to her lifestyle— through regulating her eating habits, exercise, and treating herself with care and concern－as she set out to love herself unabashedly. Armed with newly discovered self-confidence and the vision of an inclusive, loving world, Das spreads her message of positivity beyond the UK through interviews and social media. “I want to take my awareness to top mainstream publications around the Middle East and South Asia,” she told Hooligan, “as I truly believe so much positive work needs to be done in those parts of the world.” We celebrate Das’s remarkable accomplishments and message with the following interview.
Hooligan Mag: How did you get into fashion and what drew you to the field initially? Bishamber Das: Fashion is a very personal thing. I have always worn clothes that have reflected
who I am (my style is more modest and classy). My passion for modeling came from noticing a lack of diversity among plus-size models. I wanted to change that. So here I am two years later. HM: What changes do you wish to see and influence within the fashion industry at large? BD: Nothing annoys me more than people putting others down. When I was growing up, I was con-
stantly reminded that I can’t be a model or an actor—basically, that I couldn’t do anything in media where my body would be seen. It made me feel like I wasn’t “normal,” and that’s the worst feeling. I just want to see women who look like me [be] accepted and given opportunities, just like a woman of a smaller size would be given. Plus-size women deserve the same respect and dignity. HM: How has modeling shaped your self-image? Have you ever felt that certain beauty standards
were inaccessible to you as a plus-size woman of color? BD: This journey has made me realize what my real purpose is. All my life, I grew up hating my body and constantly fighting society’s negative messages. Through my modeling, I have been able to freely express what I stand for, that my imperfections are my perfections and that I am proud of them. Growing up, the only times I saw plus-size South Asian women on TV would be in a comic role where she was constantly laughed at. This always gave me the impression that plus-size women of color were not accepted or perceived as beautiful. I [wanted] to break this stereotype that has been around for decades. HM: Do you feel your cultural heritage has an influence on your view of style and beauty? BD: Hell yeah! I am so proud of my heritage and culture. Over half the world can relate to my look,
be it South Asian, Middle Eastern or Latin American. My culture definitely plays a big part in my look and style, even down to my accessories. I love dressing in traditional clothes, and sharing the beauty of my culture with the whole world through social media. HM: What do you feel most beautiful wearing? BD: I love long, flowing materials. I am a huge fan of elegant maxi dresses with Middle Eastern influ-
ences. The long dresses have kind of become my signature look—I definitely feel sexiest wearing them. HM: Why do you think recognizing diversity is important in the modeling world? BD: There is beauty in our differences and each one of us should be open to exploring the things that
set us apart. In the modeling world, we forget how fortunate we are to be inspiring and influencing thousands of people. We learn about each other’s cultures and it allows others to relate to us. The plussize industry is a positive movement; it’s not tied down to a particular nation or sect of people. Plus-size people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. So should the models representing them. So much work needs to be done for this movement. Models of ethnic backgrounds generally have done well in coming forward, but still very few are classified as “top models.” From my experience, few mainstream plus-size clothing brands are showcasing varied body shapes in their campaigns. Once we overcome these hurdles, work and exposure for diverse models will become more available.
HM: What are your personal aspirations regarding your work in the coming years? BD: These past two years have been such a blessing. I was recently signed to GC Models and I am
really excited to see what my future holds with them. All that’s come my way was never planned. All I knew is that I wanted to bring change—with passion and determination, I went on alone. I have no burning desire in me to be the next Top Model, I am doing my own thing and being true to myself. I have and always will carve my own way. HM: What is one thing you would say to comfort or motivate a younger version of yourself? BD: Too often we are told how to dress or look. I always urge people to just do their thing. You want
to wear it? You wear it! Explore yourself, learn new things. We will never truly find happiness or feel content if we constantly look for validation from others. Always push yourself, because I truly believe the best things are attained when you’re out of your comfort zone.
Spilled Ink spilled ink spilled ink
HAIRCUT by Allie Long Fourteen inches of hair fall to the floor like a veil thrown behind a bride, revealing for the first time the way her stomach protrudes when she slouches and the way her chest peaks through her shirt like teardrops, no longer in the trappings of a calculated femininity arbitrator of the rivalry between youâ€™ll want to wear a bit of makeup and leave a little mystery. Strand-by-strand, falling the impurity of it all. A thick, mass of I will lead you to the threshold of my bedroom door just to shut it - a blue-sky invitation to look on the condition that he will never imagine what is underneath until the vows remove her shame. God made this woman for you, the officiator will say, donâ€™t you see her locks? The scissors open and close like fingers slowly wrapping around a crown to lift it from her once unblemished head. In one moment, she is free. In the next, she turns and says, Is this it, God? Because I feel like Samson.
CLEAN by Catherine Keller Clean An empty fridge, an empty stomach, Overprotected and oblivious, To what’s outside the chipped front door. Scissors, lighters, and empty bottles, Cluttered under the bed, The scale is a monster, Reading lies, Spelled out loud and clear, Evicting what remains into the porcelain throne. It’s a miracle at all how you’re alive, After all that blood spilled out of you like paint, And how we managed to get it out of the carpet, In the house that was never quite home. In and out of twelve step, Clean and pure as snow, An unpolluted mindset, Refusing to stoop so low. You ejected all the poison, That was coursing through your veins, From your scissors, cries and tear streaked eyes. Within this, one can see, How dark the mind can truly be.
[Paris, France. Friday, November 13, 2015. 9:44 pm.] by Anna Girgenti This is how the world ends, not with guns but with scissors, the swift clench of fist that renders razor-edge division it looks like the pull of a trigger the placement of fingers children in school desks, bodies found in the wreckage of rivers the irreversible cut the clean break between paper dolls all made from the same substance.
IT’S THE WEATHER by Becky Yeker Today I got sunburnt while being in a forest while it hailed in April. Chicago is known for its severe changes in weather, just like I’m known for my loud voice, how it carries over and I’m told to shhh every time I get excited. Chicago is known for its dramatic changes, the fluctuation from sunny to snow storm switch to shower in minutes, just how my mood peaks and then drops like that ride that I was too scared to go on at Six Flags. It always seemed like something I had already once experienced. Sometimes the weather is stagnant. It’ll be gloomy for days, even when kids are begging for sun as they swing back and forth under the teasing grey clouds, circling around their droopy heads. Sometimes the weather stays so still that people are screaming from their rooftops, praying for some kind of awakening, kind of like I do when I’ve stayed in one state for too long. We all gotta feel something, the weather just gives us something to blame when everything is moving without our control.
Bloated & Blue by Nina Gregor You save stranded earthworms from rainy sidewalks, because they remind you of yourself. You are a cytoskeleton of confusion and fickle bones, already ruined, used, hurt, cracking at the age of 22. You are distorted mirror reflections, and bitter memories of flesh spread too thin and sour kisses and musty fleece sheets and, You are inflating like a balloon. No, like a soggy blue earthworm soaked in rain on the sidewalk.
AT THE BAR by Morgan Martinez At the bar there are men who promise you that they are the worst person you will ever meet. They cannot promise you that they will lick your wounds. They’d like to prove to you that they will not faint at the bravery of your heart, they’d like to take your bravery and wear it like a weapon, but you are not his mothers hard wooden floors, you are the glass that breaks and he is scared of the shattered glass. If he would have told me that June that he’d be the last man I’d ever love, I would have not compared him to the rain. I would have let him go.
Published on Apr 9, 2016