Forget taboo — the cartoonish gay man playing dress-up with straight women has become the fashion world’s most wearisome cliché. Now qnotes’ summer style issue introduces some of the real-life figures breaking ground in a rapidly diversifying industry.
E. Jaguar Beckford
Founder and producer,
Rainbow Fashion Week
For E. Jaguar “Jag” Beckford, design is more than art — it’s activism. Her ambitious Rainbow Fashion Week made its New York City debut in the run-up to Pride 2014, and the festival now bills itself as “the world’s first carbon-neutral fashion brand.” Speaking to The Advocate in anticipation of last year’s iteration, Jag cited such innovative productions as a pet fashion show supporting a dog waste composting law, a spectacular drag performance “shedding light on anti-trans violence,” and a celebration of sneaker design “addressing LGBTQ+ teen homelessness.” RFW 2017 takes place June 16-23 in New York.
Danielle Cooper &
Designers, step aside. These days it’s the Internet, not the sketch pad and sewing machine, that can move at the speed of fashion.
Two queer style blogs, Danielle Cooper’s She’s a Gent and Sara Geffrard’s A Dapper Chick, are leaving convention in the dust — and the industry is beginning to take notice. In 2016, Cooper and Geffrard defied precedent as the first women to create original content for the biannual Liberty Fairs trade show, a hotspot for influencers, social media pros and brands eager to tap into the ever-expanding sharp-dressed-not-necessarily-man market. “I think the most surprising part for me,” Geffrard said, “was seeing the impact we made.”
Fashion designer, filmmaker
Tom Ford is, if not quite a household name, certainly getting there. Formerly an acclaimed creative director for style superpowers Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, Ford launched his own clothing line in 2005. He had no intention of restricting his work to the catwalk, though, and he established film production company Fade to Black the same year. His first feature was 2009’s “A Single Man,” an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s powerful novel depicting a man’s debilitating grief following the death of his partner. The project earned accolades including an Oscar nod for star Colin Firth and a GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Film nomination for Ford. The combination writer/director/producer garnered similar praise for 2016 follow-up “Nocturnal Animals.” Ford married partner Richard Buckley in 2014.
Hanne Gaby Odiele
This 29-year-old is nothing if not courageous. She left her native Belgium to pursue a globe-trotting career in a cutthroat field, she struts in stilettos while blinded by spotlights… and in January of this year she became one of the biggest names in LGBTQ fashion when she went public with her experiences as an intersex woman.
Odiele’s decision was motivated in part by a desire to challenge societal obsession with the aesthetics of binary bodies, but even more vehement is her demand for openness and education on conditions like her own androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS). She argues that, having been denied these resources, neither she nor her parents could give informed consent for the traumatic medical procedures she underwent from childhood. “I am proud to be intersex,” Odiele declares, “but very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
Vanessa Newman &
Founders, Butchbaby & Co.
Sellers of maternity garb work their empire waists off to convince us we need not allow growing a human to get in the way of looking feminine. But what if you view that prospect with a level of enthusiasm traditionally reserved for swollen ankles and cataclysmic mood swings? Well, there’s good news and bad news.
A few years back, Michelle Janayea and Vanessa Newman took one giant leap for personkind when they launched “alternity” firm Butchbaby & Co. Aimed at genderqueer, trans, androgynous and other masculine-presenting individuals looking to expand their families through pregnancy, Butchbaby recognized that an experience as unique as childrearing shouldn’t begin with prospective parents crammed into identical floral boxes.
The bad news? Despite fantastic early press coverage, Janayea and Newman’s brilliant idea doesn’t seem to have become much more than that. The company’s website is no longer online, and it’s been crickets from its official Twitter account since February 2016. Here’s hoping Butchbaby & Co. has a sibling on the way.