At a time when trans rights are more under threat than ever, the spring 2019 issue of Dazed takes a stand for the global creativity of the LGBTQIA+ communities and infinite forms of identity. You can pre-order a copy of our latest issue here, and see the whole Infinite Identities campaign here.
“When I was a kid, I was like, ‘I'm going to build spaceships!’, ‘I'm going to run away and join the circus!’ or, ‘Become the next Galliano!’,” Finn Buchanan says of his early career aspirations. Apart from the spaceships, he’s actually got pretty close with the second two. The runway model of the moment and newly minted Dazed cover star is a former member of the National Youth Circus, and attended training every Sunday for five years – though he admits his skills are rusty now. “My girlfriend buys oranges, and then I bruise them all,” he says of his juggling. “(But) if anyone has a unicycle at a fashion event, I'm there. I can do that.” As for taking on Galliano, while Buchanan isn’t (currently) following in the designer’s footsteps, he has become a runway regular for his Margiela shows.
Aside from a short stint in Connecticut (that he was too young to remember), Buchanan has been a lifelong north Londoner. He was buying a toothbrush in Finsbury Park Sainsbury’s when he was scouted, and it was weird: the model scout approached him, Buchanan recalls, and said, ‘Hi! I don't know if you noticed, but I was watching you across Sainsbury's!’. “I was like, okaaay, what the fuck is about to happen? Because obviously I’d never been scouted before,” he says. She gave him a card with ‘You’ve been scouted!’ printed on it and took down his email and Instagram. That was in summer 2017, and a year later (having turned 16), Buchanan started booking his first jobs. As if in a fashion fairytale, he immediately caught the attention of super-stylist Katie Grand and casting director Anita Bitton – two of the most powerful creatives working in fashion today.
Championed by Grand and Bitton, Buchanan exploded into the fashion consciousness in summer 2018. Making his debut at the star-studded Miu Miu Resort 19 show, Buchanan was cast alongside supermodels Naomi Campbell and Alek Wek, hot new faces Adut Akech and Kaia Gerber, Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Chloë Sevigny, and emerging actors Rowan Blanchard and Sadie Sink. The very next day, Buchanan was booked for Margiela Couture (without attending a casting). Designer John Galliano was clearly impressed, because he booked the model again a few months later for the prestigious role of opening the SS19 Maison Margiela show, a riotous parade of gender-neutral glamour, with a cast of fashion’s top binary-breaking models. “That was really big for me,” Buchanan says. “(Walking) out was insane, and then it was just like any other show, except Anna Wintour was looking at me, and I'm the first one out, and it was terrifying,” he deadpans. “But I loved it.”
With his fresh-faced, nigh on cherubic good looks, boyish energy, and a platinum buzz cut that crowns his head like a halo, Buchanan channels the teen dream magnetism of a K-Pop maknae (the baby in the band), the swagger of Nick Knight’s Skinheads, and the innocence of a still-teenage Kate Moss. As a trans boy, Buchanan is comfortable with his androgyny and is in demand as both menswear and womenswear model. Alongside breakout transgender non-binary model Oslo Grace, Buchanan is part of a new wave of models who have chosen to untether their career from the limitations of the traditional binary runway categories. “Clothes are just fabric on a body,” Buchanan says, dismissing the idea that fabric is somehow innately gendered.
Still, Buchanan is psyched to book menswear jobs. It was a major milestone for both his career and his sense of self, he says, when he was cast by Hedi Slimane in the most recent Celine menswear show, becoming the first openly trans boy ever to walk for the brand. “Doing womenswear shows is just wearing nice clothes, but doing menswear shows does feel validating to me, as a man,” he says. “I’m just really happy doing both.” At 17 years (“and one month”) old, Buchanan is throwing himself into fashion full throttle. “I quit school, so it’s not like I have a back-up plan,” he says, only half-joking. He left sixth form at the end of 2018, but says he didn’t leave school for modelling: “I just really couldn’t stand school,” he says, his slight dulcet slacker drawl all but obscuring the teenage braggadocio.
Buchanan laughs at a question about whether his family is in fashion. He isn’t completely sure what his dad does (something to do with banking), but his mum writes books about women in the mafia; “Which is cool,” he says. His girlfriend, fellow model Maxim Magnus, is better placed to understand his new career. “Our agency set us up, like, ‘You’re both trans – you can talk!’,” Buchanan says. I can hear Maxim laughing with him, in the background of the call. “I don’t think being trans really had much to do with (us getting together),” he says, “But it is great. We get each other on a level that I don’t think we would if we were cis.”
“Getting messages from trans kids, who either want to be a model, or just want to be accepted, is really cute. And it’s surreal, because I'm still a kid myself” – Finn Buchanan
One of the best things about being a trans model on the rise, Buchanan says, is being visible for the next generation of LGBTQIA+ creatives, and able to engage with them. He gets a ton of DMs – “Some of them are just like, ‘How do I be a model?’, but getting messages from trans kids, who either want to be a model, or just want to be accepted, is really cute,” he says. “And it’s surreal, because I’m still a kid myself. I’m still messaging my trans icon about how they’ve helped me feel more myself.” Buchanan is conscious of the platform that can come with being fashion-famous; he namechecks Gurls Talk, Adwoa Aboah’s online safe-space for young women, as an example of what can be built. It’s something he is keen to emulate, with a focus on supporting children through the aftermath of sexual abuse.
In 2019, trans visibility in fashion is at an unprecedented high. But visibility alone cannot deliver a real and meaningful equality, and Buchanan wants to see the issue of misgendering taken more seriously in the industry. “People make excuses; but saying you’re tired, so it’s okay to misgender someone, is so fucked up,” he says. And he would be thrilled if his trans-ness wasn’t always the headline hovering above him, occluding all the other things it could be. “I’m big on eco-friendliness,” he says, for example. “I really care about the environment. I don’t eat meat or dairy, and I’m very against fast fashion. But no-one would know that, because I’m trans.” The Finn behind the headline has so much more to give.