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Barneys New York Taps Transgender Models

For its spring advertising campaign, the retailer photographed 17 transgender men and women.

For its spring advertising campaign, Barneys New York photographed 17 transgender men and women. In addition to the photographs, each model’s personal story has been told by Vanity Fair contributing editor Patricia Bosworth. Usually, Barneys’ campaigns are presented in a mailer. This one will come as a portfolio with 32 plates that were printed in Italy.

There will also be several short films and a 15-minute video that will live on Barneys’ Web site.

Brothers, Sisters, Sons and Daughters, as the ad campaign is called, was photographed in black-and-white by Bruce Weber. “I hope that my photographs and films of these 17 new friends, who are transgender men and women, convey the respect I have for them and how I stand in awe of their courage to face the world,” Weber said.

Dennis Freedman, creative director of Barneys, said the desire to use transgender models had “a lot to do with the realization that such extraordinary progress has been made in the last few years for the lesbian, gay and bisexual community, but it’s striking how the transgender community has been left behind. It’s disturbing and upsetting to see that.”

Freedman said that from the beginning, the campaign was not going to be simply photographs. “It was essential that we be able to let all the young men and women tell their stories,” he said.

Barneys partnered with two organizations in the transgender movement — the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. Barneys on Feb. 11 will donate 10 percent of sales from its flagships and barneys.com to the organizations.

Barneys spent six weeks casting talent. “We ended up finding men and women all over the world,” Freedman said. “Amsterdam, England, Detroit, Milwaukee.”

Freedman wanted Weber to photograph the campaign because “he connects emotionally with his subjects,” he said. “We wanted people to really get to know who these men and women are.”

In one photo, Edie Charles, a transgender woman, wears J.Mendel embroidered beaded top, miniskirt and Manolo Blahnik pumps. She’s sitting beside her brother, Matthew, who’s holding an iguana. “It definitely made me feel really good about myself because it’s something that’s never been done before,” said Ahya Taylor, another model, who describes transitioning as a “lifelong journey. It was cool to wear pieces from very well-known designers. I loved the clothes and felt really elegant and beautiful.”