PICK AND MIX: The Kenzo show in Paris on Tuesday night drew an eclectic crowd: Charli XCX, Olivia Palermo, South Korean pop star Jessica Jung, Héloïse Letissier (aka Christine and the Queens), Jean-Paul Goude and Leigh Lezark and Geordon Nicol, the DJ duo known as The Misshapes.
Also among the guests was Hari Nef, who last week appeared on the Paris runway for H&M Studio alongside Andreja Pejić, Amber Valletta and Ashley Graham. WWD caught up with the “Transparent” star, who last year became the first transgender model to be signed to IMG, to talk about diversity.
WWD: What was it like to take part in the H&M Studio show?
Hari Nef: Oh, wow. You know, when you think of H&M, you’re thinking of something that’s accessible to a broad range of people, perhaps far broader than most of these beautiful shows this week. I felt like the casting, not only just the inclusion of me, but also my girlfriend Andreja, Pat Cleveland, Amber Valletta, Ashley Graham — you know: Sizes! Ages! Gender identities! — I think it was the cast of the season that actually was for everybody and reflected a global perspective. There’s been a lot of talk this week about diversity, I think, or kind of over the past month. I would say I’m waiting for, I guess, designers to open up their vision.
WWD: Do you feel like progress is too slow?
H.N.: I think it can be a little bit slow sometimes. I understand, because if you cast someone like me, or someone like Ashley, or someone like Pat, it’s like you’re making a statement about women, and most of the time they just want to see a cast that shows the clothes. But I feel like you can’t just have fashion for fashion’s sake. It needs to be a conversation about the people wearing it too, and you know, the community I represent buys clothes. We consume luxury. We participate in the image industry in a meaningful way, and we have a look and a background that should be taken on its own terms.
WWD: You appeared in a campaign for & Other Stories last year. Do you have any new campaigns coming up?
H.N.: Let’s just say I’m going from Paris to Mallorca for something exciting.
WWD: What about on the acting front?
H.N.: I have a short film coming out soon. It premieres on the 19th in New York. It’s called “Crush,” directed and written by Katherine Bernard. Cecilia Corrigan stars and also cowrote, and it also stars Alex Karpovsky from “Girls.” It’s a quick and dirty film about women in the art world.
WWD: How do you feel about dressing in men’s and women’s clothes?
H.N.: I can kind of fit the women’s and the men’s samples in a very similar way, just because of where my body is in my life, and I feel like it’s modern to mix. I don’t really understand, when we have so much conversation about the barriers being broken down, how you can have one side of the store and the other side of the store, and men’s wear is cheaper. I feel that women and men should free themselves up. It took me a while to get over my dysphoria about shopping in the men’s section, trying on men’s clothes, but when I was thinking about my life and the kind of woman I wanted to be, it was never just this by-the-book feminine thing. I was always looking at, you know, Helmut Newton photos with the Le Smoking suit and Stella Tennant in Self Service magazine. It was never just about an ultrafeminine woman for me. It was always about, you know, that middle ground that’s somewhere I could aspire to, so that’s where I wound up and I think that just because I’m trans, and I feel like I have to prove to people that I’m a woman sometimes, I’m never going to sacrifice my vision of femininity to make it clearer for other people. Even if it sometimes gets cloudy.