Happiness is to be found when in pursuit of it, in the soothed expectation, on the way, not only upon the arrival. Accepting detours, just going the way, which is anyhow not this obvious to anyone.
Thomas Bettinelli

Happiness is just a hairflip away.
Chris Crocker


"The way the system works now, you see the clothes, within an hour or so they're online, the world sees them. They don't get to a store for six months. The next week, young celebrity girls are wearing them on red carpets. They're in every magazine. The customer is bored with those clothes by the time they get to the store. They're overexposed, you're tired of them, they've lost their freshness".
Tom Ford


New models : not what they look like

In an increasingly gender-neutral climate, Elliott Sailors, Rain Dove and Erika Linder are carving out legitimate careers as menswear models -and galvanizing a community in the process.
Model Elliott Sailors, 33, is standing in front of a mirror while being tucked into a gray woolen Frank & Oak suit with a gray Lacoste turtleneck. It’s about 95° on the third floor of a SoHo loft space as she prepares for a magazine photo shoot, but she looks more at ease than anyone else in the room. She tells the two guys dressing her to add one more pin “because I have hips". In a few minutes, she’ll promise not to send them flying when she sits down in the makeup chair. Or rather, the "grooming" chair : for men’s shoots, she is pretty much all natural.
Her first professional shoot was with Bruce Weber in 2001 at age 19. But it wasn’t until 2013 that she careered into headlines for cutting off her long blond hair to start modeling menswear. Despite her telling the New York Post that "it wasn’t so much about my hair -it’s just hair", the haircut became the story. A writer for Slate even accused her of exploiting transgender narratives to circumvent the early expiration date affixed to female modeling.
Two years later, she seems not so much hurt by such claims as she is bored by them. "It’s not essential to even call it menswear or womenswear anymore", she says while the grooming guy brushes her thick brows up and contours her cheeks into ravines that would make Olivier Rousteing envious. Elliott Sailors, along with Rain Dove, Casey Legler, Erika Linder, Marcia Alvarado, Tamy Glauser, Kris Gottschalk and Harmony Boucher, is part of a crew of women who are carving out legitimate careers as male models. Collectively, their chiseled visages and toned limbs have been featured in campaigns by brands ranging from H&M to Public School to Gucci.
Rain Dove, 26, who stands six feet two and identifies as gender-queer, was on a very different career path before she signed with Major Models as both a male and a female model in 2014. She was working as a landscaper when she lost a bet with a friend who made her go to a casting call. She went to the call and noticed all the models were blondes. "I was like, 'Oh, I guess they divide it by hair color'", the dark-eyed, heavy-browed brunette recalls. "I came back the next day, and it was all guys around. So I decided that I would just do the casting anyway since I was already there". She ended up landing the gig, a Calvin Klein lingerie charity show. After emerging wearing only the obligatory briefs that were thrust into her hands two minutes prior, she was buttoned into a shirt and paid $200 not to attend the after-party. The organizers didn’t want anyone to realize she was female.
Of course, androgynous models are not a new phenomenon. WWD first reported on the burgeoning vogue for mannish dressing back in 1931. In the Eighties, Jean-Paul Gaultier put men in skirts, and Alexander McQueen celebrated mixed-gender runways in the Nineties. Stella Tennant modeled Givenchy menswear on the runway in 2012, a year before Elliott Sailors’ husband, Adam Santos-Coy, filmed her haircut video (which has since racked up more than 280,000 views). Comme des Garçons and Rick Owens have also been provocateurs of agender aesthetics, and some of fashion’s most exciting niche brands, like Eckhaus Latta and Gypsy Sport, have made gender-blurring an integral part of their message. So when Proenza Schouler sent a gorgeous dude down the runway at their womenswear show in last year, many people didn’t even notice.
All this has led people to ask whether it’s time to call it quits on fashion weeks dedicated solely to menswear or womenswear. The shift toward gender fluidity has not just permeated fashion; it’s all over. In the past year, the Oxford Dictionary adopted a gender-neutral prefix and Seattle embraced gender-neutral public bathrooms, while Pantone singled out gender-neutral colors in its latest color-trend report. This is before you even consider the mainstream pop-culture power of transgender narratives both in real life (Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox) and onscreen ("Transparent", "The Danish girl"). As mainstream culture begins to shift away from binary notions of gender, shouldn’t fashion follow suit ?
But then New York Fashion Week : men’s 2015 wedged itself into the crowded international fashion-week calendar this past July. If the week followed conventional gender divisions, it also defied expectations. "I didn’t think I was going to get cast in any [shows]", rain Dove said. "Most people are nervous because it’s the first men’s Fashion Week -they don’t want to take a risk on having a female in their show". Nevertheless, she was cast in four of them, as many as the week’s top men. Menswear designer Loris Diran, who describes his aesthetic as "hypermasculine", had his initial doubts about casting her laid to rest as soon as he saw her in his collection. "Rain Dove happens to be a woman who came into my models call and wore the collection perfectly", he stated. "Clothing is clothing and certainly doesn’t 'make the man'. It is meant to allow one to assume a certain identity at that particular moment in time, free of gender roles or expectations". Loris Diran even listed his new recruit as "Miss Rain Dove" in the show notes.
It’s easy to forget that it’s not just the designer’s vision that’s played out on runways and in ad campaigns. Though notions of gender today are different than they were a decade ago, there is also the nagging fear of alienating customers. Or, just as important, advertisers.
One model with a very personal understanding of how this works is Swedish Leo DiCaprio lookalike Erika Linder. The 25-year-old spawned effusive listicles after appearing in Katy Perry’s "Unconditionally" video and a viral campaign for Crocker Jeans, in which she plays both the male and the female roles. She moved from Sweden to Los Angeles the day after the latter was released online. "People always get more surprised by that, because you’d think Sweden is more edgy or more fashion", she said. "I think [Sweden is] scared of taking risks because it’s such a small country... As soon as I got my visa, I just moved. I couldn’t work as a model and live in Sweden. They wouldn’t like me over there".
Somewhat surprisingly, some of the brands embracing change most aggressively are big retailers like Target. The department-store chain is phasing out gender-based signs to better reflect a more gender-neutral culture. Selfridges also made waves last year by launching its Agender pop-up concept inside London department stores. H&M’s latest eco-conscious campaign video, themed around rule breaking, features a suit-clad Elliott Sailors encouraging viewers to "Dress like a man". These nationwide brands speak to a broader, more diverse population than high-end designers ever could, moving the conversation beyond fashion insiders who can namecheck Andreja Pejic.
Then there’s another crowd modeling like Erika Linder, Rain Dove or Elliott Sailors that's striving to serve : the LGBT community. Inadvertently or not, models are in the business of showing girls (and boys) that their brand of beauty is valuable. "When I turned 30, I decided that if I were to keep doing this, that I was going to do it in a way that was true to who I am", Ms Sailors said. "And I like that there are now people who feel represented in fashion who didn’t feel represented before... feeling like they can be comfortable in their own skin".
Predictably, social media have played a huge role in reaching that community. Most of the models are close friends on their various platforms and frequently post supportive photos of each other with hashtags such as #MCM and #WCW (or both). Elliott Sailors, Erika Linder and Rain Dove, who all have large online followings, are surfing a democratic wave that essentially allows people to vote with their smartphones. Ms Linder has 112k followers on Instagram -much more than most of the hottest male models. It’s that kind of support that makes it hard to disregard the gender-fluidity-is-a-passing-fashion fad.
"I’m really grateful that people are realizing [androgyny] is not a trend, that it is not something that’s 'cool' right now", Ms Sailors says as she selects a pair of (model’s own) sneakers to anchor her gray suit. "We’re living in a world where people don’t want to have to worry about those things anymore. I think designers want to please people, and they’re realizing that people are not as concerned about gender". Indeed.

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