With debates surrounding models’ size, skin color, and provenance showing little signs of waning, suffice it to say “diversity” remains the most fashionable of bywords these days. Last month, Riccardo Tisci added another layer of buzz to the mix following the unveiling of his latest Mert and Marcus-helmed Givenchy advert for fall. The designer’s fit model and longtime personal assistant, Lea T., was featured, alongside the likes of Joan Smalls and Mariacarla Boscono.
Lea–lithe, delicate, and at least as striking as her peers–also happens to be transgender. Her inclusion in Tisci’s lineup shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following sartorial or pop culture these days. In fact, signs point to faces (and bodies) like Lea T.’s becoming the wave of the future.
Fashion’s current yen for androgyny, manifest in labels like Rad Hourani, Rick Owens, and Tisci’s Givenchy, has undoubtedly allowed for the blurring of lines once thought clearly demarcated. Granted, the wheels have been in motion for some time now: Andre J’s gender-bending Paris Vogue cover appeared in August 2007; transgender A contestant Isis made her television debut nearly two years ago. Ditto actress Candis Cayne’s stint on Dirty Sexy Money. Add shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and VH1′s TRANSform Me to the pot and you might be tempted to argue that masculine/feminine dichotomies are becoming mainstream. On the publishing front, Candy, the just-launched magazine “dedicated to celebrating transvestism, transexuality, cross dressing, and androgyny, in all its manifestations” boasts photography from fashion heavyweights Bruce Weber, Tim Walker, and Terry Richardson.
For her part, the twentysomething, part-Brazilian Lea T. is exotic, supremely stylish on and off camera, and has ambitions beyond the modeling world (Tisci told WWD that she’ll be studying veterinary medicine in Milan). Regardless of whether she remains a fixture in the high fashion world, Lea T. will be regarded as a groundbreaker. Paradoxically perhaps, she will also be considered emblematic of a natural progression already in the works.