There is talent tearing down the masculine fashion runway these days. From the event organizers to the designers to the models to all other creative and event team members, the fashion runway in this era of alternative masculine/trans/lesbian/queer visibility is holding us up and showing us off. The runway is now a place where our communities now tred, openly and proudly!
This past February 22nd’s event “Expanding ideas in Masculine Fashion for Female and Trans-Masculine Bodies” in Oakland was no exception. North Carolina-based organizer Fallon Davis, CEO of The F-L-Y Society Entertainment (Forget.Living.Yesterday) paired with Creative Producer Adjoa Courtney of Make Me By Joya and their co-producers, Oakland-based FiveTEN Oakland Events Christine Delarosa and Chaney Turner to put on an unforgettable night of magic on the fashion runway. Held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in Oakland, “Expanding ideas in Masculine Fashion for Female and Trans-Masculine Bodies” hosted nine fashion design teams and over 28 stud models along with all the creative support staff it takes to put on an exciting runway show. The design teams were: Original Tomboy, Immigreat Bowties, Haute Butch, Saint Harridan, Show & Tell Concept Shop, JFE Creative, Cover Your Assets, and I Heart All My Fans.
I asked Fallon Davis in an e-interview about her work putting on large events. Davis is a 23-year old event co-producer from North Carolina and CEO of F-L-Y Society Entertainment. She’s been producing events for the past 5 years was thrilled with the Oakland show. “The event was amazing!” Davis said. “It was by far the most eclectic and energetic crowd we have had yet. They were truly making the models feel welcomed as they walked down the runway.”
Davis enjoyed the collaboration of F-L-Y Society Entertainment with FiveTEN Oakland Events and described everyone’s role: “This was our first time working with them and it was by far the best experience we have had yet partnering with someone. They helped with the casting call in their area, finding our first show venue that sold out and finding a bigger one, booking the staging/lighting/chairs crew for runway setup we needed. They also handled front of house by keeping things organized and flowing, were in charge of marketing and promotions in their area, and kept the finances organized. SUCH A BEAUTIFUL GROUP OF PEOPLE!”
Want to see some footage? Have a look at the Butch LYFE video documentation of the show here and then come back to the interview!
Putting on the show is a laborious but very pleasing job. I’ve put on a few shows myself – it is a rewarding experience to work with SO VERY MANY of talented people interested in fostering positive interactions and effecting social change through art! Not only do you get to connect with all sorts of creative people (lighting designers, make-up, craft services, fashion designers, DJ’s, filmmakers, photographers … seriously, mad talent!) but you also make new friends and connect with old ones. And for what reason? To build positive community and create a limelight and platform for the multitude beauty of our community in all its manifestations. We will also always keep improving what we do, because each fashion show is a creative endeavor on a large scale. It’s a giant, moving, interactive event where human desire, personal feelings, and artistic vision/s are all put into a little room with bright lights and some water. Sometimes it is stressful. But on the other hand, it’s so important and so fun. Creating positive powerful energy and spreading it around is how we survive and THRIVE!
But modeling is not a “natural” thing for any of us to do. Being on the runway, like any performance or acting job, takes rehearsals, focus, and bravery. Two of the Oakland ButchLYFE runway models responded to my call for an interview. 30 year-old stud model Toni (Enzi) Spellman saw the call for participants on the Facebook page of event co-producer Mz. Chris. Enzi loved the runway. She said “Being on the runway was a thrill for me; almost like when I went skydiving. Nothing mattered once I was up there.”
– Toni (Enzi) Spellman, model ButchLYFE 2013. Photo Lambert W. Li Copyright 2013
Likewise, Oakland-based tomboy and CEO of FLOW Presents Gabby Valentino said she “stumbled” on the casting call and followed the recommendation of Miz Chris to sign up. A first-time model as an adult, she was nervous but excited to take to the stage. Valentino describes a highlight: “The highlight was walking out on the runway and all the love received from the crowd through hand claps and cheers. My friends were in the audience, so I heard my name being yelled.”
Each model expressed their happiness at being on the runway, and thought if asked again they’d definitely do it. But this time, with even more confidence! Everything takes practice and once you take the first step (literally!) you’re on your way! Let’s give a shout out to all the models! Click here to see them all.
Queerture: What does an event such as this do to build community and raise awareness about masculine fashion and female + trans-masculine bodies?
Fallon Davis: Our mission is to spotlight those who are systematically overlooked by society at large. The What is Butch? Movement is focused on educating , liberating and redirecting misconceptions about this marginalized, yet vibrant community. Each fashion show we produce highlights these remarkable individuals by utilizing the universally understood language, fashion. There are many communities affected by each show: the models become friends and family, the designers build their brand and gain a new community of supporters, the community who supports gains unity it a cause and all different people join together in one room and are changed forever.
QT: What is the main issue of dress for this community [of studs, masculine-of-center people, gender-queers, butch lesbians, trans-men]?
Enzi: I think the most major issue in terms of dressing would be measurements, for sure! I often feel like having things tailored, which if I could afford would be great, but since I can’t, I would like to be able to buy clothing in a store relatively fit for my body. I have an easier time than others because I have less curves than most women, so I understand that fully. The cost is also often a problem for me, but that’s because if I do have to be in clothes, I want to look good! However, this new movement/wave of designers making “men’s clothes for women” is a great concept and, in my opinion, the best solution to the problems.
FD: I think the barriers are endless when you allow clothing to define you and not define the clothing yourself. But some if the main obstacles: 1. fit, because a woman’s body will always be shaped differently than a mans. 2. Cost can be an issue as well but quality clothes are worth the money especially from designers who cater to us personally. 3. Confidence I feel is a major one, it takes a lot if personal security to be able to be a misfit or someone who is “different” in the eyes of the world. You have to make people have no reason to not accept you but to not know how to do that can make it hard to speak oth loud! 4. I feel like many people jut truly do not know how broad and diverse their style can be!
Gabby Valentino: The obstacle is that it can impede or affect certain situations. People judge people by the cover, by the media, by their past experience. These judgements play a role in interviews in the church, in courting, etc. Self-confidence is the key! Wear what you like and if you feel great about you, people will k now it. Self-confidence has to be the complement to every outfit.
QT: What obstacles do femmes (whether female or male) have in terms of creating their styles in the mainstream world?
FD: This is a very interesting topic. My partner (a lipstick femme) and I were discussing this the other day. Femmes have it hard also because society is cruel. The over exaggeration of what beauty is supposed to look like in mainstream society causes a lot of insecurities I feel. Many femmes convert to trends to stay in the “eye” of the world. They (males and females) convert to plastic surgery to fit this particular mold and look society wants.
QT: Do you think the ‘mainstream’ fashion world is starting to get an idea that female and trans-masculine models are out there?
GV: Yes, I believe that America’s Top Model did a great job of publically displaying this and opening up doors and ideas. One challenge for female and trans-masculine models is having the comfort to self-express in fashion outside the boxes …. Studs rarely wear make-up. It’s funny because that’s one of the most memorable experiences, all the studs had something to say about the amount of make-up that was going to be applied; or that the hairdo didn’t look too feminine. Once the individuals in the gay community decide that they are larger than a title, the tile will not influence their attire. People look best when they represent their true selves.
E: I definitely think that the mainstream fashion world knows we are out there. Depending on what magazines you’re looking in, you will already begin to see masculine representation by masculine-identified lesbian women. The trans-masculine representation is lacking and will take more time…to come along, but [the mainstream fashion world] knows that the trans-masculine model world exists. It’s a matter of the fashion world letting go of their fears of brining the ‘other’ world from behind the shoot to in front of the shoot.”
FD: Yes, just look at the ads and fashion shows now. The women are being made up more masculine. Models like Omyra (sp) Motta and Erica Lindarrd (sp) are making history on the runway. Ford model agency just recently signed a female as a make model! It’s about time they have finally accepted the beauty is this !
QT: Have you ever felt held back in terms of dress or does it really come down to the issue of respect?
GV: I spent over 9 years in the navy. My mother is a devout Christian and I am aware that impression is everything, so I am not that held back but I can respect certain beliefs and policies. If I researched a job that I wanted bad, I would adopt what they like. These things do not impact me in a negative way because I am making a conscious choice to maybe alter my attire as well as any other thing, for example, my behavior. Just because I am a grown up and can do what I want, I do not go around disrespecting my elders. It’s all about respect for self and knowing who you are.
E: Actually, clothing has never played a role in how I looked at my sexuality or anything like that. Whatever I was comfortable in I wore. And as I developed and changes, so did my sense of style and clothing. … However, I would like to point out that I don’t have the relationship with my ‘parents’ that would have made me care as much about how they felt about the way I dressed. I understand the difficulty for others.
FD: Clothing is a visual expression. It doesn’t translate clearly on how a person feels inside or what they have gone through or who they are today.” She continued later in the interview: “My mom didn’t purposefully hold me back. . . . I didn’t want her to be disappointed because she was so supportive of me so it took me quite a while to truly express myself. Once I left home and went to college it was all over! : ) … I appreciate how she never judged my lifestyle and truly made me feel loved no matter who I loved or what I looked like!
If you missed this one, don’t worry – – there’s another show happening in Los Angeles this September 2013! Rideshare anyone?
Get in lines early! Thanks to Nikki Ritcher for this photograph taken for at ButchLYFE.
WHERE TO FIND THE DESIGNERS:
Show and Tell Concept Shop
Owners: Alyah Baker and Nici Payton
Brick and Mortar: 1300 Clay Street #160 inside the City Center Complex in Oakland
Designer: Mary Going
Cover Your Assets
Designer: Kurt Flamer