London-based activist collective Transmissions are calling for better representation on the world’s runways
On Friday morning, a group of activists staged a trans-inclusive runway show outside the main London Fashion Week showspace on the Strand. The collective, Transmissions, weren’t just there to turn looks and showcase their talents, though: together, they were demanding trans-inclusivity on the capital’s catwalks and a turn towards true representation within the fashion industry.
These calls for change were echoed on Saturday night at their ‘fashion week after party’, only this time they were surrounded by their own community in the sweaty, crowded basement of cult queer club VFD. As the drinks flowed and music pounded from the speakers, a cast of trans+ models stormed another makeshift runway and struck their fiercest poses while clubbers lapped up their looks, cheering and embracing them. This may have been a protest, but the atmosphere was of love, joy, and celebration.
Amidst the chaos of high-octane performances, a gag-worthy runway, and the never-ending chorus of rallying cries, the collective made pains to double-down on their mission statement: change the fashion industry, now.
Leading these calls was Lucia Blake, a performance artist best known as the ‘mother’ of Transmissions. In the aftermath of this euphoria, we sat down with her to talk binary beauty standards, the importance of finding your community, and the fashion industry’s potential to normalise a community that’s so often misunderstood.
How did the idea for the fashion week after party come about?
Lucia Blake: For years, trans+ people like us have only been invited to these kind of events as a token. This season, we decided not to let other people benefit from our identities: we decided to create the first ever fashion week afterparty to be run by trans+ people centred around trans+ political issues.
Why do you feel like a specifically trans-inclusive after party is still so necessary?
Lucia Blake: The after party was a place for us all to rejoice, and to celebrate the victory of our protest for trans-inclusive fashion. But our parties more generally are also really necessary because they allow people a space to find themselves. One example is that we get a lot of older trans people who only feel comfortable presenting their trans identities at Transmissions – they literally wait for our next party just so they can be themselves for a night. These nights are so vital for people like that.
Trans models are still more accepted when they fit binary beauty standards, but, of course, not everyone wants to bend to these. Do you think the fashion industry recognises that there’s no one way to be trans?
Lucia Blake: I would say that people definitely need to be educated more. I am mostly misgendered and made to feel uncomfortable at fashion events by photographers, makeup artists, and stylists – they think I’m doing this whole ‘androgynous’ thing. This isn’t a trend, an aesthetic, or a gimmick to me. I’m a woman – it’s as simple as that.
Which designers do you think are doing the best job of representing the beauty of trans and non-binary communities right now?
Lucia Blake: Our good friend Josephine Jones made her fashion week debut last Friday. The cast was all trans+ models and, as a trans fashion designer herself, it’s important that we support the idea of her being the one to portray us – she knows our pain, and she knows what we have to say. Art School have also cast a few Transmissions members, and they’ve been giving visibility to those who need it for a while now. I’d also say Gypsy Sport, Charles Jeffrey, and AAMO Casting are doing good work right now.
“I hope that people will look back on the fashion of today and see that we were on the cusp of great social change: that gender was being revolutionised and that trans+ people were at the forefront of that” – Lucia Blake
Your mission is, first and foremost, a political one. Do you believe the fashion industry has the potential to spark long-term political change?
Lucia Blake: I believe that the fashion industry has the potential to normalise us within society. There is immense power in saturating media with positive imagery and positive representations of our identities and experiences. But we don’t just want more representation, we want meaningful representation. They need to help us tell our stories through print, film, and runways; to show that we aren’t just exotic enigmas, that we’re human beings with dreams and ambitions, and yet we’re being targeted and ostracised around the world. It’s also not just about sparking social change, it’s about recording it. In 2017 National Geographic released a documentary and a magazine entitled The Gender Revolution – that is how our era will be remembered, so fashion, art, and media should reflect that.
What is the general feeling towards the fashion industry within the Transmissions community – do you believe it’s making efforts to be inclusive?
Lucia Blake: Generally, our feelings come from love. It’s with love that we’re advising the industry to evolve and adapt to contemporary understandings of gender. I personally moved to London for the fashion scene – I knew it would be an industry likely to let me experiment with my gender. A lot of us are becoming more involved in writing for fashion publications, as well as designing, photographing, filming and just generally creating. We want more creative control so we can tell our stories accurately.
You mentioned that people are often misgendered or treated carelessly in fashion – do you see this changing in the near future?
Lucia Blake: If publications make efforts to educate their staff, and adapt their language and terminology. Recently I saw a publication misgender my friend and fellow activist Jamie Windust whilst referring to them as non-binary – that amazed me.
What do you envision the industry looking like in 20 years?
Lucia Blake: The fashion industry in 20 years will have more trans+ and queer people in positions of power, making big decisions on how we’re represented and how we can accommodate the needs of gender-diverse people. I hope that people will look back on the fashion of today and see that we were on the cusp of great social change: that gender was being revolutionised and that trans+ people were at the forefront of that.
Finally, what do you hope people would take away from the after party?
Lucia Blake: I wanted them to leave knowing they’re part of a fierce community that loves and cherishes them for who they are, and they don’t exist just to entertain or to be fetishised, erased or abused. I wanted them to take a piece of our power with them, and to be inspired to exist relentlessly. They exist for themselves, for love and to be happy.