The there is a great deal of buzz surrounding the new Givenchy campaign, due to its early release (summer hasn’t even started and already we get a fall campaign, further proof that the 24/7 fashion cycle thrives on immediacy) but also due to the fact that it prominently features a transgendered person amongst its lineup of beauties. For all fashion’s proclamations of inclusiveness and acceptance, you’d be hard pressed to find examples of trans individuals in editorials and campaigns. Fashion flirts with androgyny on a daily basis, it flaunts sexual imagery whenever it can, but only rarely does it touch on something legitimately topical. Benetton
Givenchy F/W 2010
Riccardo Tisci is one of fashion’s most continually fascinating characters and not simply because he is one of the few designers you can call an artist without resorting to irony, whether intentionally or through some divine providence Tisci has been blessed with the ability to create dialogue with his work. Much in the same way Calvin Klein used to stir up controversy every few years with a campaign, that got people talking (or yelling) Tisci understands the importance of imagery. While he shares Klein’s knack for skillful media manipulation, he has a considerably subtler touch. How many CK ads have banged you over the head with their obvious attempts at making you blush? S/S 09’s strangely sexless CK Jeans denim orgy was downright desperate, instead of resorting to that, the Givenchy ad shows a Benetton-esque combination of all races and sexes that blends together seamlessly, much like it did in last season’s eerily similar campaign. The unstated, yet underlying message of uniformity and connection is a strong one; would anyone have even known that Lea T. was any different from the other models, had there not been a strategically timed WWD article?
Asexual Revolution, ph. Steven Meisel
Which brings us back to the reason why images like this are so rare; fashion is after all a business above all other things. Politicizing an image (and in the world we live in any visual with a strong connection to the LGBT community is automatically imbued with a political statement) can be bad for business. It is easier to show something vaguely sexual, that stirs up a few moments of controversy, than it is to represent a marginalized group as being beautiful, or gasp normal. It will be interesting to see the public reaction; depictions of gender in fashion always provoke feedback, especially when they challenge the status quo. Remember the canceled subscriptions and angry letters W received after its publication of Meisel’s landmark, Asexual Revolution spread? Or the brohaha the occurred after Tom Ford-era YSL dared to a nude male in the ads for M7? Fashion can challenge our sensibilities, it can make us think about things other than what to buy; here’s to hoping that this ad makes a few people open their eyes and broaden their perspectives.