A multitude of designers and models are rewriting the rigid codes of fashion by blurring the divide between the sexes and shaking up the rules of the parades. Check out these groundbreaking personalities who are using their social media platforms as a source of good.
Model, actress, activist
Although Nef is the first trans woman to sign with international talent agency IMG Worldwide, the Philadelphia native thinks being trans isn’t the most interesting thing about her. Sex is anything. You have to listen to people, not labels, not semantics, explains the 29-year-old, who recently landed a role in the feature film adaptation of Barbie directed by Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig. After graduating with honors in Dramatic and Theatrical Arts from Columbia University, the style pioneer made her debut on the Milan catwalks at Gucci, before posing for other fashion heavyweights such as L’ Oral and Hugo Boss. Leveraging social media as a bullhorn to promote transgender rights is just part of her digital playbook, she spoke with writer-director Lena Dunham on a Women of the Hour podcast and toured the White House as part of its Champions of Change tribute to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists.
Latvian-British singer-songwriter, creative director, model
Modesta lost her left leg at the age of 15, but that didn’t stop her from embarking on a career as a model, artist and musician. Her prosthetic leg, a vintage piece studded with silver pins to pierce the body, has become part of her bionic persona on the underground night scene and on the fashion circuit. Armed with an unusual artistic flair, Modesta realized she was becoming her own best project. She helped design a series of prosthetics with the Alternative Limb Project and it has become a touchstone for those seeking to challenge society’s perception of disabilities. Subsequently, the MIT Media Lab invited her to join its Directors Fellows program, which brings together innovators from disparate areas of expertise to collaborate. These days, she’s dancing to her own beat and preaching positivity via her new music album.
Entrepreneur, model, blogger
Not having the type of hair considered feminine in the mainstream culture can hurt self-esteem, as evidenced by the medical condition of Jada Pinkett Smith, who played a major role in her husband’s fiasco in the United States. Oscars this year. However, many women are taking a different approach, including Bombay-based blogger and model Toshada Uma, who has suffered from alopecia since she was nine years old. A fan of Japanese fashion stalwart Rei Kawakubo, the petite model channels her penchant for the avant-garde and radical into her everyday attire without letting the criticisms about her hair get to her. Sportswear giant Nike may have given Uma a chance, but she’s not one to rest on her laurels. The young entrepreneur aims to put India on the map by soon launching a clothing and accessories line under the name AltShop.
Photographer and filmmaker
Known for her powerful imagery and use of vibrant color, Camila Falquez’s editorial work has graced the pages of vogue, Porter Magazine and The New York Times, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Penelope Cruz and Isabella Rossellini. But this personal project of Colombian, Mexican and Spanish photographers, Be (and its second installment), is what really sums up its deft mastery of telling stories with a single frame. The project challenges traditional ideas of beauty, putting subjects from diverse marginalized communities on a pedestal to occupy a space from which they have long been excluded. See pictures on beinginhistory.com.
Fashion influencer, model
Dubbed the best dressed man on Tik Toks by vogue, Wisdom Kaye is often admired for her contemporary, classic 1970s style and expressive sense of fashion. With eight million subscribers and counting, Kaye makes creative videos that debunk myths, such as you can’t wear navy blue and black, or boots with shorts, demonstrating these looks with panache. He takes pleasure in illustrating that there are no boundaries in fashion, incorporating pieces from the women’s section and styling outfits with what you already own. Kayes’ popularity led to major collaborations, including with Dior, Coach and Fendi, and a modeling deal with IMG. The 21-year-old social media icon made her runway debut last year at the Balmains Spring 2022 show.
Deaf and trans-male actor, artist, model
Many may know Chella Man as the mute superhero Jericho in the DC Universes original live-action series. Titans, but the New York-based creator represented the deaf community long before he landed the role. Identifying as deaf, trans, Chinese and Jewish, Man has tirelessly advocated for inclusivity through art, whether in the form of paintings, fashion or film. He was a columnist for the first queer publication of Cond Nastes Them, is the first deaf, trans-male model at IMG and collaborated with Opening Ceremony to launch a radically inclusive clothing line. Last year, Man released his first book continuumwhich highlights the revelations he discovered growing up in the face of systemic oppression.
Activist, influencer, beauty entrepreneur
Harlow loves the skin she’s in, so much so that she recently launched a line of beauty products to help other women with vitiligo, a condition that disrupts melanin production. But self-acceptance and stardom didn’t just land in the lap of the former Americas Next Top Model contestant. It took her years to overcome a period of physical abuse and derogatory insults as she slowly came to terms with being outside the norm. After showcasing her best face for brands like Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Puma and Steve Madden, the Jamaican-Canadian has continued to share her life with depigmentation through a TEDx presentation, YouTube videos and, most recently, the show -debate by actress Drew Barrymores.
Fashion and beauty model
Ellie Goldstein had her breakout moment when she starred in an international editorial campaign for Gucci Beauty in partnership with vogue Italia in 2020. She was the first model with Down syndrome to pose for the luxury brand, which garnered attention and support from fans around the world, especially those suffering from a similar condition. Since then, the 19-year-old British youngster has been the face of Laura Mercier, the cover girl of Charm UK and is currently part of the Adidas Impossible is Nothing campaign. She hopes to be a role model for people with disabilities and inspire others to be confident and unashamed to be themselves.
First large male model
Male models typically perpetuate two looks: the chiseled gym physique perfect for the runway or the gaunt, androgynous demeanor typically found in magazines. Miko fits right in between, bridging the fashion chasm with his 6ft 6in (1.98m) stature and affable boy-next-door appeal that makes him capable of selling anything. Although the former actor-comedian is known for ushering in a new wave of talent by pioneering the IMG Brawn division (the agency’s first section devoted entirely to tall men), he is also famous for having launched a podcast called Big Things, hoping men can take something away from the larger women’s revolution. Much like women speak up to overcome their struggle with body image, Miko navigates through bravado and false masculinity by shedding the negative correlation that big means big.
Nalisa Alia Amin
Body acceptance advocate, role model
Plus-size model Nalisa Alia Amin is an inspiration to many, not only for her tenacity in advocating for change in the Malaysian fashion and beauty industry, but also for her vulnerability in opening up to personal struggles with body image and mental health. Previously an editor for fashion magazines, Nalisa made her modeling debut at KL Fashion Week, the first plus size woman to do so for Min Luna in 2018 and has since done fashion campaigns with Syomirizwa Gupta, Levis and Zalora to name a few. Her wardrobe consists of many local brands, some of which she models for, including Summer & Peach, Wanderlust + Co and Ozero Swimwear.
This article was first published on April 25, 2022 (Spring/Summer 2022 issue) of The Edge Malaysia.
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