By Kristen McCallum
Photos By Lola Waters (adventuresoflolawaters.blogspot.com)
This past Saturday, December 6 at the Brooklyn Museum, dapperQ, the popular fashion resource for masculine women and trans-identified individuals, put on an impressive display of genderqueer genius. Juxtaposed to the museum’s current Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe exhibition, which highlights the history of the high heel, (un)Heeled: A Fashion Show for the Unconventionally Masculine served as “an alternative narrative.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Jaguar Beckford, CEO and designer of Brooklyn-based clothier, Jag & Co. “I felt as if we were the yin to the Killer Heels yang.” When asked what she saw as her company’s role in the fashion show, Jaguar was very candid about the opportunity to help “redefine gender identity and expression.” She went on to say, “dapperQ has been helping inspire, as well as tutor in the realm of androgynous style for nearly six years. We are doing the same and were featured as a bespoke tailoring company designing for the masculine-identified gender and some in between.” This was not an event to miss. ELIXHER was in the building so our readers wouldn’t have to.
By 7 p.m., Beaux-Arts Court, a beautifully lit space within the museum (think: high ceilings, historic archways, and glass-tile floors), was buzzing with live music by DJ M.O., designer pop-up shops, and how-to lessons from tying bow-ties to styling socks. As the crowd of well-dressed attendees grew, I bumped into Brooklyn-based fashion designer Lauren Hailey who spoke briefly about her line of “classic menswear and war-time pieces for the genderless and for those interested in style over trends.” She had definitely come to the right place and she clearly knew it as she comfortably continued to network.
The fashion show began a little after 8:30 p.m. with selected music from Brooklyn’s own DJ Mursi Layne, who also played a live set after the runway portion concluded. As the audience engaged in rightful ogling of the models and their showcase pieces, I was excited by the visibility of the queer people of color community.
Modeling for the L.A.-based “queer-centric” suiting company, Sharpe Suiting, was professional rugby player and 11-year Team USA veteran, Phaidra Knight (who is also currently training as a 2016 USA Rugby Team Olympic hopeful).
“I identify as Phaidra and although I have androgynous characteristics, I am a female,” she told ELIXHER. “I love and embrace that. And I think it’s important that girls and boys of color, alike, who are similarly situated witness examples of others who have gone beyond the scope of traditional social barriers and live the life they choose to live. Everyone in the show had their own identity, whether they choose to be referred to as ‘he,’ ‘she,’ or ‘they’ and it’s a beautiful thing for them to have received the spotlight for positive self-expression.”
As the show progressed and the designers continued to showcase their crafts to an engaged audience, the celebration of style soon moved to honoring a cause that now sits front and center in our society — #BlackLivesMatter — beginning with the models of Saint Harridan walking the runway with posters carrying the powerful mantra, a gesture met with applause by many.
“Black Lives Matter,” responded Mary Going, founder of Saint Harridan, when asked why she chose to make such a political statement during her presentation. “We must keep saying these three words whenever the camera is on us. More than bustling shopping districts, more than sleigh bell soundtracks, more than selling suits: Black Lives Matter. None of us have anything to lose by checking our assumptions, our actions, our laws against this simple and revolutionary idea: Black Lives Matter.”
This acknowledgement was continued into the show’s closing where the production team took the stage and stopped with their hands up in the place of a standard bow. This sign of solidarity was met with an intense applause followed by a standing audience — hands raised in unity.
“I asked my co-producers, dapperQ founder Susan Herr and member of the dapperQ collective Deeba Zivari, if they would stand in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and #HandsUp by putting our hands up at the end of the runway, rather than simply bowing,” explained Anita Dolce Vita (un)Heeled executive producer and dapperQ editor-in-chief. “Recognizing that dapperQ is more than just about fashion and that style is inherently radical and political for the queer community, they fully embraced this act of solidarity.”
Needless to say, dapperQ provided a night full of necessary statements, community, and a showcasing of talent I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of.
Kristen McCallum is a writer living in Washington Heights, NYC. Growing up in a Jamaican family has made coming out quite the journey. Determined to finally find her place in the QWOC community, Kristen feels new to all of this but it still feels like home. To see more of her work, including her original poetry, visit her website at www.kristen-mccallum.com.