Louis Vuitton ends Paris Fashion Week with a beat, on the debut of a very futuristic and gender-neutral spring 2019 collection. The fashion house pulled a Beyoncé and JAY-Z having their runway show at the famous Louvre museum.
Under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, the spring ’19 collection featured many gender unbiased looks with a very futuristic, space and science fiction theme combined with geode-inspired prints. It was very reminiscent of LV’s 2012 spring collection and also had nods to Virgil Abloh’s S/S ’19 menswear collection with a number of sharply tailored menswear looks. It’s a sportier and youthful aesthetic with plenty of gender-blurring pieces – but perhaps the main talking point was the casting.
Making their way down the runway – alongside veterans like Natalie Westling, Sora Choi, and Selena Forrest – were a few less familiar faces. Styled mostly in dressmaking, these models initially perplexed the audience both IRL and on Twitter. ‘Menswear!’ went the internet’s immediate response, but no; this wasn’t exactly true; the looks were part of the regular women wear line up, just worn by both transgender male and androgynous female models.
Modelling is not something that seemed like an option – until a surprise message about the show came through as said by the transgender male and androgynous female models. ‘I was born as a woman, but I always felt like I was in the wrong body,’ explains one of the show’s models, Jessica Espinosa, who also goes by Jay. ‘In Guadalajara, Mexico, my place of birth, being transgender is practically impossible. There are no laws to help us change our ID, so in my country, if you are born a woman, even when you do changeover you’ll always be a woman.’
Jay started acting more like a boy as a teenager – getting a shorter haircut and wearing men’s clothing. ‘Brisa, the agent at MM Runway in my city, found me via Instagram and told me that Louis Vuitton was looking to cast transgender models. After being flown to Paris for a go-see to meet Nicolas and the team, the confirmation came through, Jay burst into tears upon hearing the news.
In the show, Jay wore a white blazer over a polo neck and black trousers but there were a lot of different outfits tried before the winning look was nailed. Feeling comfortable in the clothes was important for the team: ‘I was so happy when they asked me if I chose to walk in more men’s style clothes,’ Jay shares. ‘I said: ‘Yes, yes as a man please!’ For Jay, walking in the show is proof that being true to who you really are is worth it, no matter the obstacles you may face along the way.
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Infinite thanks for being part of this show as an exclusive model from Mexico to the world! Words can describe what I am feeling now! @nicolasghesquiere @bertmartirosyan @hottattack @ashleybrokaw @lannyzenga @brisa_m_alvarez @mmrunway #mexicanpower 🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽 #lgbt #support #louisvuitton #lv
Another model, Krow, who walked in a structural grey suit, boots, and a graphic t-shirt, had some experience modelling – but back when he was still presenting as female. ‘I ended up quitting so I could transition and be myself,” the Canada native told us. ‘I enjoyed modelling but it also was hard because it was a constant reminder that I was acting like something I wasn’t truly inside.’
This was his first job as a male model – having been signed to Lizbell Agency in Vancouver after they reached out over the summer looking for trans models for LV. To him, the fact that a brand with the reputation and status of Louis Vuitton is eager to seek out models across the gender spectrum is an important statement on visibility: ‘I’ve noticed fashion is really starting to push the limits and boundaries that have been set on gender and stereotypes, he says.
Aside from Jay and Krow were androgynous, cis-gendered female models – including Miriam Sanchez, who grew up playing football before being signed to Traffic Models in Madrid. Her outfit – black trousers and a boxy, graphic vest – was a style of clothing she feels comfortable in. ‘I believe the casting in the show was very important because it proved to me that being yourself can take you a long way,’ she said.
Sanchez was joined by Alyssa, a 19-year-old from Paris represented by C Models. ‘I guess I can define my style as androgynous,’ Alyssa adds, that it’s just how she’s dressed her whole life. In the show, she wore a black leather jacket with low-slung army green trousers –an honest representation of what I like in fashion.’
That question was one a series of designers explored this season – from Hedi Slimane’s men’s tailoring to John Galliano’s first co-ed runway show for Maison Margiela, which felt like the first truly gender neutral show from a major fashion house.