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Photography Andrew Tess

A group of trans Latinas were behind No Sesso’s SS20 beauty looks

The LA-based brand made history again this NYFW – collaborating with work co-operative ‘Mirror’ and Michael Angelo of Wonderland Beauty Parlor

Last season, Los Angeles-based brand No Sesso – founded in 2015 by Arin Hayes and Pierre Davis – made history at New York Fashion Week. Pierre Davis became the first trans designer to ever show on the official NYFW calendar. With intricate knits, corsets for men and reworked sweat suits, the AW19 collection was as diverse as the designers and cast of models themselves.

For SS20, Davis and Hayes wanted to push their mission of inclusivity and community even further. Inspired by their own experiences of speaking at the CFDA Leadership Conference in New York this spring about how members of the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be limited to front-facing roles such as designers, No Sesso formed a partnership with Michael Angelo of Wonderland Beauty Parlor, who lead his salon team in backstage along with a group of five co-oped, immigrant transgender Latina cosmetologists from a group named ‘Mirror’, whom Angelo has been mentoring for the past year.

Founded this year, Mirror was created by Joselyn Mendoza, Jonahi Rosa and Lesly Herrera. At the moment, they are in the process of raising funds to open their own co-op salon. “They’ve formed their own cooperative precisely because of the discrimination that they faced as transgender women,” says Angelo. “They want to create a safe space where they feel safe to work and be able to provide job opportunities for other trans people.”

“The deeper story about the beauty direction for the show is pretty straightforward in the sense that we’re treating a collection of looks for a complete cross-section of gendered people all going to the same party,” explains Angelo on the concept for the latest show. “The idea is that this party, nobody’s cut out of a stamp. There’s no cookie cutters invited. So really backstage, everyone’s getting a different look, which makes complete chaos for me. But I think out of chaos, some of the most beautiful stuff that gets born.”

The designer duo dubbed the collection, I’d Rather Save Myself, inspired by a motif they found in Tokyo. “It’s about the trials and tribulations that we’ve been through these past few years,” explains Hayes. “There’s been a lot of highs and lows, so it was just about the fact that we're kind of like our own superheroes, whether that means you as an individual or you as a group, you as a community, you as a culture – you just have to save yourself.”

“We wanted to incorporate a superhero feeling in all the hair that we’re doing,” added Davis. According to Hayes, the collection’s DNA spoke to the concept of integrating Mirror with the beauty team this season. “It’s really great to be able to integrate people within our community,” he says. “Even us being here, the second time for fashion week, it still feels like imposter syndrome because we definitely worked hard to get where we need to be, but at the same time it’s so new. The fact that we can bring people along from our community with us, it feels really community-driven.”

“The deeper story about the beauty direction for the show is pretty straightforward in the sense that we’re treating a collection of looks for a complete cross-section of gendered people all going to the same party. There’s no cookie cutters invited” – Michael Angelo 

For the show, each model had a completely different beauty look, with all focus on the hair. There were long, curled wigs, colourful No Sesso logos stencilled onto the hair and colourful threads woven throughout different textures of hair. Many of the colours, which were sprayed on using temporary hair paints, were inspired by the clothing in the SS20 collection.

No Sesso is also particularly known for its knitwear, and the loose, colourful threads mimicked SS20’s chunky, eccentric knits. “We did a lot of deconstructed embroidery on the models that have more natural hair, looks like braids and dreads,” explains Malcolm Marquez, who helped to creative direct the beauty. “Hair has always been a really big part of the brand identity because we’re so strong in representation, particularly black representation. Hair is always such a big piece of our culture that we have to include it in anything that we do.” For each model who wore a wig, the process took several days, from styling and dying in the salon to customising it to match the outfit of the model wearing it, whether by weaving in colorful strings or spraying on a thick No Sesso logo.

While No Sesso made may have made history last season in a broader sense, they broke barriers again, this time from a beauty standpoint – by bringing in a group like Mirror to work on the hair. Hopefully, it’s the first of many moments like this to come in the backstage space. According to Angelo, everyone involved in the beauty team backstage was also paid – a surprising rarity in the world of editorial beauty backstage. “I’m really trying hard to do a little reset on an old programme; it’s a little bit dated and out of touch,” he says. “When I tell you that this is a dream come true, you have to imagine a little transgender boy in Latin America watching fashion from poverty and fear – this is almost an impossibility come true.”