The crowd in the lobby of the Ace Hotel last night, before gender-blending label Gogo Graham presented its spring/summer 16 collection, was a mixture of unaware businessmen on their MacBooks and downtown diehards. One attendee wore a long white cotton tank dress with large holes that exposed much of her body and another wore denim gaucho pants, a white t-shirt and white Margiela camel boots, complete with a shoe string tied around her neck.
The invited guests formed two lines to create a makeshift runway in front of the hotel's spiral staircase. "I asked if I could use the lobby for the show because it's a big space and it's really dynamic," said designer Gogo Graham about her choice of venue. "I love high drama fashion moments, the big pillars of the space, and the fact that there would be people working in the lobby. I wanted the girls to have this experience and visibility because trans women are often asked to do a lot of dumb things in fashion," she added.
When the cast of all trans female models began to descend the staircase wearing the fashion label's fifth collection, they were covered in varying amounts of red paint. "The paint is a Gogo thing. I use really cheap materials and I like to embellish them with other cheap materials," explained the 24-year-old designer about the brand's aesthetic. "I used latex paint to match the garments. I just got stuff from the dollar store. I made muslin gowns, and it was kind of all over the place because that's how my material sourcing is."
As the models, who varied in shape, size and race, stomped down the runway to applause from the crowd, they wore DIY-style dresses and body-conscious skirts. Every look seemed uniquely styled to fit each girl's personality. "These girls are my sisters and we talk about how clothes aren't made for us. When it's hard to get dressed in the morning everything is hard," Graham told me as the model and actress Hari Nef whispered encouragements into her ear.
The vibe on the runway maintained the brand's focus on making trans girls feel empowered. "Everything was about the girls," said Gogo afterwards. "They wanted things that fit properly and things made for their body type. Each girl had her individual needs and wanted specific shapes and textures," she added. "I want these girls to be empowered in every aspect of their lives and it makes it easier when you aren't worried about your clothes - that's what I want to provide for these other trans femmes."
As part of the finale, Graham and the girls walked to a table in the middle of the runway and raised glasses of white wine in a toast to the new seasons' clothes and themselves. "The hotel said the table had to be there," Graham explained. "So I wanted to have something on it that would be good for the girls. Trans femininity isn't celebrated often."
Text Antwaun Sargent
Photography by Guang