Teddy Quinlivan, an international catwalk regular, came out as transgender at the height her modeling career in 2017. She told guests at Fairchild Media Group’s Diversity Forum that “We are really at the precipice of a cultural turning point.” She said that society has finally accepted new forms of gender expressions and representations that go beyond cliche.
Quinlivan, who was first discovered in Louis Vuitton’s creative department Nicolas Ghesquiere, said that “creatively breaking new frontiers is more important than just putting on a dress for a boy.” He has walked for Gucci and Marc Jacobs, Fendi, and Caroline Herrera, Dries van Noten, Dior, and Fendi to name a few. Quinlivan believes that the idea of a boy wearing a dress on his body is a simplified representation of gender fluidity. We can do it in an easier, more subtle way.
This conversation coincides with the Victoria & Albert Museum’s opening of “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” exhibit. London’s Albert Museum and just days before Timothee Chamet borrowed from Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Spring 22 womenswear runway to create his shirtless Oscars look with slim tailored pants, cropped beaded jacket and tailored trousers. Quinlivan doesn’t understand why fashion is so deeply ingrained in gender identity.
Ludovic de Saint sernin, a 27-year old designer, joins her on the panel. He has earned a reputation for creating menswear with no gender in mind but has created a lot of buzz at Paris Fashion Week. His focus isn’t male and female, but sexuality and sensuality. He is best known for his eyelet short, which sold out. However, he also designs transparent chiffon wrap tops in spaghetti straps and bra-style items that are worn with low-rise pants. They are part of a new generation that is breaking down the barriers that keep the international fashion industry on the same path since the beginning of fashion shows over 100 years ago. They met during Phoebe Philo’s Celine era. Quinlivan describes it as an intellectual, anti-sex moment for fashion.
Quinlivan first had to attend to some personal matters. Although the burden of keeping her secret was starting to weigh on her, Quinlivan said that she was motivated by concern over the Trump administration’s rise in violence against trans people. Fear of career backlash was outweighed by this.
Quinlivan stated that she wanted to show that trans people can achieve amazing things, and not force them into a Jerry Springer narrative. She felt that brands would be more open to her coming out at the height of her success. Would they have booked her as a transwoman if they had loved her even though she was a cis woman? She was trans, but that was not what made her unique.
Fashion is reintroducing sex as a fashion item
De Saint Sernin mentions his influences as “cultural icons with a unique relationship to sex”, such as Robert Mapplethorpe or Madonna, and references Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids. Frida Kahlo said, “I paint self-portraits because I’m the best person I know.” De Saint Sernin also used his catwalk to paint because he couldn’t find a better way. He said that he was simply living his dream and wanted to share the message of self-love.
Quinlivan advises brands to only seek the truth when exploring this exciting, yet uncharted territory. “Brands want to be provocative. She said that brands exploit people to get publicity and go viral. It’s not enough to just make headlines, but it will be meaningful to explore new expressions of gender or sexuality.
De Saint Sernin said, “We are really blessed to have the ability to express ourselves, and to be who we truly are.” He also acknowledged that not everyone is in this position. Sometimes, being true to yourself is the most courageous thing one can do. “But we are not here to tell people how to respond to us.”