gucci's new zine is a powerful call for gender equality
Adam Eli talks to i-D about his new project for Gucci's Chime For Change charity.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.
The multifarious universe of Gucci isn’t just about gender-fluid clothes, covetable shoes and luxurious beauty. Since 2013, the Italian house has put its money where its mouth is and raised more than $15 million for its Chime for Change charity, which focuses on promoting gender equality in 89 countries.
To mark the International Day of the Girl tomorrow, Gucci has launched its latest Chime for Change campaign. This time it partnered with Oscar-winning Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on a film and campaign to end child marriage, which effects approximately 12 million girls around the world. It is also launching a ‘Chime’ zine devoted to gender equality and edited by New York-based activist and writer Adam Eli.
The zine includes a polemic by non-binary activist Jamie Windust, an op-ed by 18-year-old trans artist Sage Dolan-Sandrino, a photo story by Beirut-based photographer and filmmaker Mohamad Abdouni and a poem by South African poet Lee Mokobi — as well as an entire section devoted to Brazilian trans rights and dedicated to the late Matheusa Passareli, who was murdered in Rio last year simply for being trans. It’s a brilliant document that grapples with burning issues at the centre of the trans rights movement — and compellingly illustrates why there is still much more work to be done.
We caught up with Adam Eli about it to find out more….
Firstly, congratulations on this incredible zine! How did this project with Gucci happen?
Thank you so much! I met Alessandro and members of the Gucci creative team at a party in New York in May 2017 and we hit it off quickly. In August 2018, they reached out to me about a special project. That September after their SS19 show we had a big meeting and Gucci made a ‘Shidduch’ between me and my creative partner MP5.
A Shidduch is a yiddish word for arranged marriage but is more colloquially used as a third party making a beautifully and well-suited match. I don’t know how the Gucci creative team knew but MP5 and I clicked right away. By October 2018 we were hard at work on issue one!
What did you want the message of this zine to be?
The message is simple; we have the power to create a world with complete gender equality, where every form of gender expression is treated equally, but we can’t do it alone. The first step in achieving this vision is to give a global platform to our world's most marginalized voices — a place where they can tell their stories and provide solutions to the issues they are facing.
Did you have any particular references?
The first month of the project I spent researching and sourcing zines. I took a pretty deep dive into the world of Star Trek fanzines and science-fiction zines. I also looked at Riot Grrrl zines from the 90s which usually included a page that introduced the editors and encouraged readers to submit their own contributions. To be crystal clear, in regards to inclusion and diversity, CHIME zine and Riot Grrrl differ greatly, but zines like Bikini Kill did inspire our credits page, which has a submission address and the Instagram handles of our contributors.
Another source of inspiration is Mario Mieli, a controversial writer, “pamphleteer,” leader of the Italian queer liberation movement and, in my humble opinion, a fashion icon. I quickly learned that zines and self-publishing played a large role in the Italian queer rights movement and have sourced a variety of those.
Throughout my research what stuck with me the most is the idea that zines and self-publishing are a way for people to print and proliferate ideas that mainstream media simply won’t. My favourite anecdote is about a group of science-fiction 'fanatics’ in the 30s who felt like a certain popular science-fiction magazine was publishing stories they deemed unrealistic and poorly researched. The editor grew tired of receiving angry but well written letters trashing the publication and his role as editor. To give the angry sci-fi nerds a taste of their own medicine the editor began publishing the letters alongside the original return addresses! Unfortunately for the editor his readers loved the letters and began writing to each other, passing stories and zines through snail mail, cutting out the magazine completely. This story teaches us that the power truly does lie with the people. When the media no longer serves the people they will create new forms of media that do service their needs. One of our contributors Sage Dolan Sandrino writes beautifully about how Gen Z is doing exactly that today.
How do you think it relates to the world of Gucci?
When I first began to work with Gucci I read a profile of Alessandro Michele in T Magazine where Frank Bruni said: “The Michele message, which never falters, is that Gucci is a palazzo with room for everybody and that the way to live is together, in harmony, in all of its overstuffed rooms”. That makes total sense to me. The zine is about freedom, art, self-expression and how the gender binary can violently suffocate those noble pursuits. I see those same themes in all of Alessandro’s work.
How did you select your contributors?
When it comes to picking our contributors I am looking for voices that often go unheard. For example, Gabe Passareli who is on the cover of our Brazil spotlight section, is a black trans woman with a powerful but untold story. Within the already marginalised LGBTQ+ community, black trans women are often underrepresented, underfunded and overlooked despite the tremendous danger they face. This marginalisation is further compounded in Brazil, the country which kills the most trans women per year and has an astronomical rate of black youth homicide. Now factor in a hostile political environment fostered by an openly homophobic and openly racist President…
Gabe and her sister Matheusa were “it girls” of the underground queer and art scene in Rio de Janeiro — known for their beauty, charm, talent and the presence they commanded as sisters. Last year, Matheusa was in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time and was brutally murdered for being trans. The event united the queer scenes in Sao Paulo and Rio. I had to learn all of this through Instagram DMs and friends of friends. There was next to nothing about Gabe online. Her story is the centrepiece of the zine.
In the zine, you say that "the future of gender equality is place where empathy reigns supreme”. Do you think fashion has become a more empathetic industry? What would you like to see change?
I do not think the fashion industry has become a more empathetic place. I think we are seeing some diversity in fashion because houses literally have no choice — consumers have had enough! We are simply no longer buying things that are exclusively modelled or promoted by skinny cis able bodied white people.
It is unfathomable to me that all of the major fashion houses in Paris, Milan, London and New York still send out almost exclusively sample sized models. Just how many skinny people are there out there and how much are they buying!? The runway is used to articulate a creative director's clearest and most exciting vision of their brand. I think that vision should include people of different sizes – I can’t believe it doesn’t already.
How would you describe your relationship to fashion? How does it help you express who you are?
Fashion is certainly a tool I employ in my work. To fix a problem you often need to get people to pay attention to that problem first and fashion is a great way of doing that. I was recently in an editorial in M Le Monde, with a print circulation of 302,624 I felt there was an opportunity for a transatlantic statement.
In 2018, hate crimes, harassment and discrimination against Jews in France rose 74 per cent with 95 per cent of Jews in France reporting that anti-Semitism is a moderate to severe issue in their lives. That is more than respondents from any other European Union country despite France being the home to the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third-largest of any nation in the world.
Homophobia is also on the rise in France, which I experienced firsthand during my visit this time last year. Recently several football games have been drawn to a halt after crowds began homophobic chants as well as unravelling banners with homophobic sentiments. Reported hate crimes, harassment, and discrimination against queer people in France increased by 15 per cent last year to a record 1,905 instances in 2018. Of these complaints, the largest amount (22 per cent) were born of online harassment, along with several vicious hate crimes in Paris at the end of 2018.
I walked on set with an agenda and told the stylist [and i-D's Fashion Director] Carlos Nazario that I wanted to wear my kippah, star of David and usual pink makeup to represent queer and Jewish people in France and everywhere. He didn’t bat an eyelash, said he “loved it” and off we went! I don’t think a single photo of me looking really gay and really Jewish in a fashion magazine is going to change the world. But it might make someone's day.
Gucci’s ‘CHIME’ zine will be distributed at the Gucci Garden in Florence, the Gucci Wooster Bookstore in New York and select bookstores worldwide, and available in Italian, English, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish where applicable. A digital version can be viewed and downloaded here .
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.