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December 29, 2015

Fashion, Hair Help Shatter Gender Norms

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Fashion, Hair Help Shatter Gender Norms 


By Laura Bania and Katie Harrington 


Rain Dove grew up thinking she was “an ugly type of woman.” If you asked her what she thought she’d grow up to be, she would have said something along the lines of “a humanitarian aid worker helping to dig wells.” Rain actually grew up to be a model—the face of top ad campaigns and New York Fashion Week shows. But she’s also the face of something else. A self-proclaimed, “gender capitalist,” Rain has spent the past year shattering gender norms.


Rain isn’t alone. In 2014, transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. Then came the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, followed by Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation and her Vanity Fair cover. And then there’s the fact that “Orange is the New Black” actress and gender fluid model Ruby Rose is today’s “It” girl. Yeah, times are changing.


Unsurprisingly, the fashion and hair industries have been at the forefront of this change for some time. Fashion has always played fast and loose with gender norms and androgyny, and these days, the industry is taking it a step further—supporting and advancing a major social movement and giving people more freedom than ever to be who they really are.


“Genderless and androgynous fashion is more than a trend, it’s a movement of society,” says Bumble and bumble Global Artistic Director, Laurent Philippon. “Hairstyles have always been a reflection of this movement. Hollywood in the ’40s and ’50s reflected the new freedom of women by showcasing shorter hairstyles. We saw this again in the ’60s with Vidal Sassoon’s boyish haircuts. All of this is part of the evolution.”


The genderless movement in society inspired Laurent Philippon’s 
campaign shoot with photographer Richard Burbridge.


Some of the major players in this evolution include Rain, Seth Atwell, Kris Gottschalk and Erin Mommsen, all of whom, with their beautifully androgynous features (a fierce blend of soft and sharp) are making names for themselves in Vogue and W magazines and appearing in some of the biggest Fashion Week shows, including Vivienne Hu and Givenchy. Rain recently appeared in Cosmopolitan’s “11 Women Who Are Redefining Beauty.” Kris was named one of the breakout models of spring/ summer 2016 Fashion Week by Paper Magazine.


Why is this important? Because fashion is never just fashion. It’s a means of self-expression, but it’s also a reflection of the times in which we live. Art mimics life, and seeing gender neutral models rock the runways sends a very clear message—the gender lines are blurring, and that’s OK. “I think there’s a different take on beauty than there has been for a while,” notes Fashion Week legend Guido Palau. “I don’t think young people, including models, are hung up on gender the way that past decades have been. We’re seeing a lot of diversity on the runway, and I think the blurring of gender is something that’s very prevalent.”


More importantly, the prominence of the gender-neutral model gives a voice to a group of people who’ve never really been represented in mainstream culture. “I think the more diversity there is on the runway and in fashion, the more people can relate to it in different ways,” says Guido. “We’re seeing more black models on the runway and more gender fluidity on the runway—it’s a really positive thing.”


“Fashion really does change the world.” – Rain Dove


And hairdressers aren’t just a part of it—they’re at the forefront. “Fashion is something that’s the right moment, right now,” notes Laurent. “Kids today don’t want to fake it—they want to live who they are. At the same time, designers are creating clothes that need to sell. So to stimulate profitability, hair and beauty are allowed to be more creative. Hopefully, such fashion shows will open people’s minds a little bit more.”


Earlier this year, Kris became one of the breakout stars of Fashion Week when she walked the Givenchy runway with a fresh, platinum buzz cut. Chelsey Pickthorn is the stylist responsible for Kris’s cut and the owner of Pickthorn Salon in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. For Chelsey, whose clientele consists of residents of one of the hippest neighborhoods in a city of hip neighborhoods, the so-called androgynous “trend” is actually just an extension of authentic, everyday style.


Following a motorcycle accident last year, Kris was forced to buzz her hair. Now, she’s one of the top runway models at New York Fashion Week.


“I think back to the ’90s, when designers looked to the streets for inspiration,” says Chelsey. “Then it sort of flip-flopped and went back to what the designers were dictating. But I think we’re back to that place where a lot of designers are looking at what people are wearing on the street.”


As for Rain, she’s OK with the fact that she didn’t end up “digging wells” or “tying herself to trees in the rainforest.” Her modeling career has allowed her to make more of a difference than she ever thought possible.


“Fashion really does change the world,” says Rain. “It changes how people feel about themselves, it changes what people are comfortable with sexuality-wise, it changes how people accept themselves. I’ve been able to do humanitarian work in that way, and influence people the way I want to.”

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