To combat the lack of diversity at New York Fashion Week, queer style website dapperQ decided to host its own fashion show in the fall of 2013. The show catered to masculine-presenting females and trans-identified individuals. More than 300 people packed into the rainbow-bedecked This n' That dance club in Williamsburg to check out designers and models who represented a community that is often neglected on the catwalks of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Tomorrow, dapperQ will host their third semiannual fashion show—this time at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The show will be titled (un)Heeled: A Fashion Show for the Unconventionally Masculine and will offer an alternate narrative to the popular Killer Heels exhibition currently on display at the museum. This show will be dapperQ's largest yet, with over 2,000 expected attendees and models like Elliott Sailors and Rain Dove.
In addition to looks by transgender-friendly brands like Sir New York and Bindle & Keep coming down the runway, the festivities will also involve the Dapper Academy. The Dapper Academy will feature brands like the Goorin Bros. instructing attendees on how to pick a hat that works best with the shape of their face and Jag & Co. teaching attendees how to to style with statement socks. Although, the event celebrates queer style, dapperQ hopes to forge a space where allies can be created and an understanding and appreciation can be shared between every type of person.
I called up Anita Dolce Vita, the editor-in-chief of dapperQ and the producer of the show, to talk about why this event is so important and how fashion can be revolutionary.
VICE: How did the website get into hosting fashion shows?
Anita Dolce Vita: We expanded into events because Fashion Week is something that people get really hyped about in New York City. The restaurants, bars, and clubs are tailored to all these designers and events. Our readers, however, were not really included. A lot of the times the fashion hype was around fabulous gay men and the fabulous men that they dress. We wanted to create a space where designers like Bindle & Keep, [who make bespoke suits for masculine-presenting women and trans customers], could show their work and use models who are interested in booking gigs where they would not have to femme it up.
Do you ever get criticized for investing so much into fashion?
Some people have questioned why we have a fashion focus. They see it as consumerist or superficial or even taking away from some of the other movements that are really important right now. But our fashion focus is for our readers. Masculine clothing is not just a part of their identities, but how they express themselves on a daily basis. In doing so, and in being true to themselves, that simple act of dressing in a manner that is comfortable for them becomes a political statement and a radical act. [Women] are still harassed at work for wearing a suit and on the street for appearing too masculine.
What are you trying to achieve with this event?
Our goal is to empower and honor the trailblazers who boldly and fearlessly dress masculine in the face of daily oppression. We think of ourselves as a queer fashion revolution and one of the most stylish forms of protest for our generation. What we want to do is not only show the fashion, but also build community, educate people on our mission, and build allyship.
How is this show different from the others?
We have been doing fashion shows for our readers primarily in queer spaces. So this is the first show that is going to be in a non-queer specific public space. There is also going to be the Dapper Academy, which will include "how-to's" and mini pop-up shops. Given the number of designers, attendees, and models, this could be the largest runway show ever in New York City specifically for celebrating the style of trans-identified individuals and masculine presenting women
Will most of the clothing be suits and formal wear?
I think because our readers have been told for so long that they have to present as feminine, a lot of them are coming into their own for the first time in menswear. Now they are starting to explore their aesthetic. [High-end streetwear brand] Sir New York is interesting because out of all of the brands that we have, the majority are responding to demands from people who have to go to weddings or wear to professional attire to work everyday. There haven't been a lot of androgynous menswear brands that are doing streetwear and sportswear [like Sir New York].
Why are events like these so important for people outside the LGBTQ community?
I think it is important to check out because while marriage equality is making its way across the country, we are still dealing with the reality that members of our community don't fall neatly into gender binaries. They are oppressed and are disproportionately victims of violence. I think building this allyship is very important, because it breaks down barriers for people who dress and identify this way. We want people to understand that everyone should have the freedom to express themselves. Using this kind of medium builds bridges and understanding.
(un)Heeled: A Fashion Show for the Unconventionally Masculine
Saturday, December 6
7 PM to 11 PM
Beaux Arts Court, Brooklyn Museum
Visit dapperQ.com for more info
Follow Erica on Twitter.