Trans Fashion Icons That We Love
Written by Mollie Knight
Tomorrow is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Every year on the 20th of November people across the globe come together to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia. It is not just a day about remembering, however, it is also a day to platform and draw attention to the enduring and unending violence faced by transgender people everywhere. Tragically, this year alone at least 375 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been the victims of fatal violence, as recorded by the Human Rights Campaign , making this the deadliest year on record. This fatal violence disproportionately impacts transgender women of colour, especially black transgender women. Due to a lack of data, misreporting and misgendering it is likely that this number could be even higher. That is why the TDOR is so significant.
"Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people - sometimes in the most brutal ways possible - it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."
- Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith (via https://www.glaad.org/tdor)
The first Transgender Day of Remembrance took place in 1999 as organised by Smith. It began as a vigil in memory of Rita Hester, a black trans woman who was brutally murdered in 1998 in Allston, Massachusetts. At the vigil, other transgender people were commemorated who’s lives had been taken under similar circumstances. Since then it has progressed into an annual tradition and expanded into ‘Transgender Awareness Week’.
To mark Transgender Awareness Week + TDOR, we would like to use this platform to raise visibility for transgender people and demonstrate the diversity + resilience of the community. At OWF freedom we are (obviously) all about fashion, so here are some of our fave trans fashion innovators + icons that deserve to be celebrated.
Credit: @nosesso via Instagram
Pierre Davis, designer of the LA based brand ‘No Sesso’, was the first ever Black trans designer to showcase a collection at New York Fashion Week. Her brand made a splash as a result of the inclusive designs - even the name ‘No Sesso’ translates to ‘no-gender’ in Italian. Through her ground-breaking + innovative garments, Davis is able to celebrate and upfit the black community by helping demonstrate how fashion can be for all, not just white cis women + men. In addition to this, she also aims to make her collections sustainable, re-using materials and upcycling old pieces – can you tell why we love her yet??
Credit: Sally Payne
English model April Ashley was born in Liverpool in 1935 + is renowned for being the first successful transgender model. She is also known as one of the earliest British people to have undergone sex reassignment surgery, which she did at 25 years old. Ashley’s move to London from Liverpool sky-rocketed her modelling career + she began working with the top photographers + artists of the time, landing spreads in magazines + walking the runway for major fashion houses. This all changed, however, after ‘The Sunday People’ newspaper outed her as trans in 1961. Despite this, she is still an important figure in the trans + fashion community, having continued to pioneer for trans rights to this day.
Credit: @indyamoore via Instagram
Named one of Time's most influential people in 2019, Indya Moore uses their platform as a model and actor to advocate for trans + gender-nonconforming representation. Before starring as Angel Evangelista on FX’s Pose, the non-binary babe modelled for Christian Dior + Gucci as a teen. More recently they have done runway work for the likes of Jason Wu during New York Fashion Week last year. Their activism has made a big impact in fashion + Hollywood, so I couldn’t not include them on this list!
Credit: Ben Buchanan
Terry Toye, pictured here with Andy Warhol, was an absolute ‘it girl’ + blonde bombshell in the 80’s club scene in New York. She was the muse to Stephen Sprouse, a pioneering pop art fashion designer + can be found in photos with major names from the creative scene of that time, like Keith Harring + Nina Hagen. As a result of mingling with such creatives, she fell into modelling + ended up walking for Sprouse in his fashion shows. As her career progressed, she signed with Click Models + began modelling for huge designers like Mugler + Gaultier. At the end of the decade she faded from the modelling scene, but her impact can still be felt today, paving the way for trans models for generations to come.
Credit: @chellaman via Instagram
You may have seen Chella Man’s photos floating around social media, as he has become a prominent figure in the online Queer community. He is a model, artist, author + activist, using his platform to share his trans journey. More than that though, he describes his experience as a trans, deaf, Chinese + Jewish person of colour, making him an advocate and role model for different communities and those at the intersections of those communities. Other than being beyond beautiful, Man’s honest + intimate content has earned him 483k followers on instagram at just 22 years old. Included in his portfolio of success are campaigns with Gap + Calvin Klein. Cannot wait to see what he achieves next!
Credit: @gogograham via Instagram
Gogo Graham is a Brooklyn-based designer who hand-makes clothes for the trans community. She sells her items via her Depop shop (@gogograham) + the garments are made out of recycled materials, which we of course loooveee. Graham’s designs are subversive + innovative, all of which accommodate all kinds of bodies. For select pieces, the proceeds go towards organisations that support black trans communities. Before her Depop shop, however, she designed for other brands + even designed a fit for RuPaul! Changemakers like her are securing an inclusive future for fashion.
Credit: Cruz Valdez via Interview Magazine
Connie ‘Girl’ Fleming, is a Jamaican-born model who grew up in Brooklyn, NYC. Her first form of notoriety came from being a ‘show girl’ in the drag and ballroom scene of New York in the 80’s + 90’s, where she performed in nightclubs and ballrooms. It was here that Stephen Meisel, an American fashion photographer, discovered her. This kickstarted her modeling career, leading to interest from designers like Thierry Mugler and Vivienne Westwood. Her career wasn’t exclusively in modelling, Fleming also worked in production, makeup, styling + runway coaching. In 2012, she did an iconic cover posing as Michele Obama for Candy Magazine - seriously google it, it’s a must-see! Throughout her career she faced much transphobia, but remains a figure of strength + resilience which we all can look-up to.
Credit: @ceval via Instagram
Ceval Omar is a plus-size trans model who most recently has done a shoot with Paco Rabanne + has become the first trans woman to model for YSL Beauty. Of Somali-Norwegian descent, she is an absolute fashion icon. Her instagram is full to the brim of style-inspo + every post gives me bad b*tch energy (if that isn’t goals idk what is). Not only is she a drop-dead gorgeous model, she advocates for her community + keeps it authentic about real-world issues, like racism, transphobia and the climate crisis. Im telling you - you need to run, not walk, to follow her on insta.
Credit: Elite Model Management
Aaron Philip is a Black, trans + disabled model, author + activist. She is signed to Elite Model Management + at just 20 is capturing the fashion world. Philip is originally from Antigua + Barbuda, but her family moved to the U.S. to seek better treatment for her cerebral palsy. She gained a following on instagram + through that was able to launch her modelling career. She currently also uses her instagram to platform the ‘Go-Fund-Me’s’ or payment info of black trans women in need. She also continues to share her experiences of ableism, racism + transphobia in her captions + stories. Outside of modelling + activism, she has written an autobiography about her teenage years and childhood called ‘This Kid Can Fly’. Another certified icon + changemaker - I can’t wait to see what else she achieves in the coming years.
Credit: Eivind Hansen
Munroe Bergdorf is an English model, who started modeling in order to challenge the lack of diversity in the fashion world. She has walked numerous catwalks + splashed the pages of many magazines. Most notably, she became the first transgender woman to be a face of L’Oréal Paris in 2017, which she was subsequently dropped from after making anti-white supremacy comments. Recently, this re-surfaced and L’Oréal faced (deserved) backlash for their unfair dismissal, which pushed them to re-hire Bergdorf as part of the ‘Diversity Board’ + issue a formal apology. Aside from her modelling career, she is also an activist who stands with her community + against racism + transphobia.
Make sure to follow any of the people in this article on insta and support your own fave trans icons, and trans people you know irl tomorrow. Of course this is something we should be doing all the time and not just performing activism one day a year, but tomorrow may be especially difficult for those who are directly impacted by transphobic violence or have lost someone close to them, so let’s spread some extra love this TDOR.
If you were affected by anything in this article, or for resources and further info, please check out the list of UK charities that offer support to transgender and non-binary folx on the Terrance Higgins Trust Website
* No Copyright Infringement is intended by any of the content in this post.