the future of the catwalk is non-binary
Representing a full spectrum of age, gender, shape, colour and orientation not usually seen on the catwalk, Art School celebrate difference and unity.
Photography Alina Negoita
“I really wanted to reawaken minds to what dressing a trans or queer body is about today,” Eden Loweth, half of the creative partnership behind Art School, explained while covered in post-show glitter, sweat and emotion. “The cohort of people that represented us are the truest representation of what we are about.” From the moment it launched in late 2016, this queer fashion practice has been based on the collective process between friends. Shining the catwalk lights onto excluded identities, they continually give a platform to the unrepresented. The message has always been: “We are here and we stand proud of who we are and where we’re going. For their final MAN show, Art School’s High Concept Character cast screamed it louder than ever.
“The cast this season is made up of strong characters,” Eden explained over email after the show. “There are the defiant and resilient trans-icons Josephine Jones, Kevin Le Grand and Munroe Bergdorf, and also the return of the younger trans-girl Francesca Martin, who I have been friends with online for years now and seen how she has blossomed into a stunning young woman. To have these girls appear together in one show is an especially important moment for us, as they are leading figures of non-binary gender and each show a unique perspective of the trans reality.” As i-D teams up with model and activist Munroe Bergdorf to unravel why the future of fashion is non-binary, London-based photographer Alina Negoita shoots the High Concept Characters straight up. We asked them to tell us what it means to be part of the Art School family and what wider society can learn from one of the capital’s most exciting labels.
“Art School is the future or fashion. As society moves forward to be more fluid -- when it comes to sexuality, gender and how we express our identity -- I think it's fair to say that fashion will eventually follow suit and become less binary. Walking for them was such a dream. The casting of the show was so diverse and representative of identity as a spectrum. I loved everything from the deconstructed make-up to the finale featuring models falling and getting up again, as a metaphor for the persistence of the queer community. I'm very proud to have been a part of it. Following Art School’s lead, I hope people learn to accept people for who they are and to not be afraid to express yourself. That there's a freedom in letting go of labels and just being who you truly are.” @munroebergdorf
“I'm thrilled to be included. Now I'm getting older, I feel it's important that not only the spectrum of gender and sexuality come into the equation but age too. It's a lot of fun walking, everyone should have a go! It's sort of daunting though too. Art School like to incorporate an element of theatricality into the mix, it can be quite subtle at times, a bit off kilter but always stylish... a bit like their clothes actually. The wider world should learn to switch it up!” @hrhprincessjulia
“Art School kick the genre in high fashion; ethical and fierce is all we need now. All my life I’ve been fighting for things that Tom and Eden fight for and believe in too -- and we all love some couture. They make the magic I just put the drama in. I hope people learn that no tags looks amazing.” @kevin.cordo
“Ever close to my heart and ever glamorous, not just LGBTQIA ‘accepting’, Art School continues to celebrate difference and creative irreverence every season. The name itself references the artistic spark present in all the models -- Eden and Tom included! As artists, designers and creatives we sort of just gravitated towards each other. Dancing and dressing up in clubs, inspiring each other from the get go! Being a transgender orphan in London has been… interesting, to say the least, and Art School’s continued love and support really does mean the world. It feels, I presume, akin to any other close-knit family -- with added looks, of course!
Following Art School’s lead, I hope the wider world learn that transgender people are, shock horror, just normal (chic) people! In all seriousness, the potential of bodies otherwise subjugated is not being explored by others and to the fullest by anyone else. I believe Art School harness these intimate connections in a unique innovative way, on a level playing field. Enabling carefully constructed garments and looks to blossom and bloom in harmony, with the essence of personalities of all different shapes and sizes. We believe that gender, as in fashion, is a spectrum, darlings!” @josephinejonessdiary
Kevin Le Grand
“Art School means a ‘good old knees up’ with a fabulous bunch of people in tinsel wigs! This family goes beyond Art School, it’s really only the surface of what is an amazing community and it’s fantastic that they’re showcasing that. A lot of us met when we were first years at various different ‘art schools’ and I don’t get to see many of the people in the show very often, it’s fantastic to see them all doing so well. The wider world can learn integrity from Art School. And to stop using queers as a game of Buckaroo.” @mskevinlegrand
“Art School push the boundaries of modern day fashion, presenting non-binary collections that are made for each and every person. It’s so important when you’re working with a brand to feel as though you’re being completely accepted for who you are. Being in a space where it doesn't matter what type of body you have, what gender you identify as, what your sexuality is etc… is something I really stand for, and being a part of the Art School family has been just that. I feel completely accepted for who I am.
Walking for them was a very proud moment for me, as not only am I showing my support for two extremely talented designers but also for having my face on delivering an important message, and giving a different voice to 'menswear'. The message is wear whatever you want. It doesn't matter who you are, there are no restrictions." @lowrenthighfashion
“Art School means inclusivity and a platform for communities that have otherwise been ignored. It’s great to be working and collaborating with people that are doing something so different, exciting and important. To walk in the show, which included pieces that I’ve worked on, alongside a community that Art School are championing and celebrating, makes me feel quite proud. Even though Brexit and Trump may make us feel like the world is turning sharply to the right, there are still people working hard to change the status quo.” @dominicmyatt
“Eden and I grew up in the same isolated area in the south east of England. We both studied the same fashion course at the same college but he left for London the year I started. He came to give a talk to my class when I was 15 and the only queer person in my year. I later went on to the first year of Ravensbourne where Eden was getting ready for his final collection, which is when I also met the lovely Tom. Eden’s presence and determined attitude has continued to be comforting, encouraging and inspiring for me and my identity. And that is exactly what Art School means to me, it's kind of like the queer big sister that I never had.
Modelling can often compromise my politics and my activism. I am aware of how the fashion industry tokenises and profits off my identity as a queer, gender fluid womxn of colour and so, more often than not, I say no to brands because I question their integrity. But Art School is family -- I am more than an image or a ticked box. I put my fist up at the end of the catwalk because that's how it feels to be part of this moment -- proud and powerful. Love and rage always. They show how to respect, nurture and platform your audience and your communities.” @bad.gal.rene
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.