Breakout transgender model Tyler Anderson has an astute ability to grapple with concepts she’s still in the midst of exploring. As a newcomer to fashion, she’s equipped with a fresh perspective that’s typically tainted after years of industry involvement. Her recent runway debut during LCM highlighted this youthful energy, acting as a major formative step toward greater personal development.
What better designer to help foster Anderson’s self-discovery than Charles Jeffrey, whose AW ’16 show, “MAN,” featured looks expressing a certain divergence from any strict qualifier? This exploration is no different than Anderson’s own ethos, explaining to BULLETT the importance of annulling any limiting lines that stand between gendered or otherwise segregated approaches to dress. If style is the outermost form of public and visual expression, why would we pre-characterize ourselves to one persona or another?
Anderson finds inspiration at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, where her Biblical Studies & Medieval History degree influenced the way she began approaching fashion long before she took to the runway. By dissecting the Bible, she’s able to compare age-old definitions of man and woman, and how they’ve evolved over time using dress as one of the central defining factors. We recently caught up with Anderson after her Fashion Week debut, exploring her insightful, refreshingly simplified view on the vast topic of gender fluidity in fashion.
Was walking Charles Jeffrey’s show your first experience in the fashion industry?
“Yes, and I loved it—such a surreal experience. I’ve really never put myself forward for anything like this and certainly nothing on this scale before, and, technically, I guess I still haven’t because I was street cast on a night out. It’s kind of a funny story actually: I was visiting my friend Fiona in London. I’d only just begun exploring my gender identity a month or so earlier and I was seriously craving answers and allies from the big city. I’d just got my braids redone the day before and I decided to go much longer in length, like down to my ass. It felt pretty significant for me at the time because the previous set only just reached my shoulders. My new braids shouted my femininity to the world in a way that the shorter set could only hint at.
Fiona and I arrived at Vogue Fabrics in Dalston a few hours later, and I was drunk enough to ask the guy at the door for discounted entry because I was a trans woman of color. In hindsight, that wasn’t really my finest hour and don’t worry, I recognize the problematic nature of my declaration, but it was the first time I’d publicly announced my true identity to the world. It was a true suspension of fear. That night was one of the best, most freeing nights of my entire life and it just so happened that the guy at the door wanted to use me in his work. His name was Charles Jeffrey.”
How do you feel Charles’ show broke any definitive walls between “menswear” and “womenswear” as concepts?
“I feel like the show simply refused to acknowledge the so-called ‘walls’ between ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’ as walls at all—at least in the sense that walls can be barriers that impose limitations. These traditional barriers just didn’t seem relevant. It was less a case of breaking them and more a case of transcending them. I know ‘fluidity’ has become quite the buzzword lately, but the show was truthfully fluid by nature.”
You live in the U.K. and were just in Florence. Do you feel there are differences in how people approach fashion between the cities you’ve spent time in?
“Not really, but maybe I’m just a cynic or particularly unobservant. In general, I think that notions about distinct city style (How do you dress, London?) are romantic but perhaps untrue. I find diversity and hegemony in style wherever I go. Maybe I’m just looking for it, but in Florence I saw just as many sets of silver hoop earrings paired with varying types of jeans as I do in London and even in St. Andrews. Stereotypes of style tend to exist for a reason, but they really don’t tell the whole story. Maybe one difference between cities is color palette. Florence was very earthy in hue; Jerusalem, naturally, very heavenly white. Maybe that was just how I chose to see it.”
What inspires your style?
“Transitioning has made my ‘fashion sense’ largely functional, which is both a good and a bad thing. Inspiration is less of a question now when I buy pieces, but I’m sure that this is just a temporary blip. I’m still working it all out. Before transitioning, I used to just wear whatever I liked; lots of pattern and perhaps a tad more color than I wear now. This is probably presenting things through a rose-tinted lens though as things I liked often just didn’t ‘fit’ my body in the way that I’d have liked them to (read: dysphoria).
The reality is that, for now at least, I am a woman that has been conditioned to believe that her body is a man’s. Fashion has started to take a backseat for me because I’d rather dress to make myself feel better about my naked body, and similarly to present to the world the image of the body I believe I should have, than to make any statement about my personal tastes. That said, I just bought the most amazing chocolate brown faux-fur lined coat from a charity shop. When I tried it on, I said to myself, ‘Very Anne Boleyn.’ It’s just something in the way it falls behind me like a cloak.”
How do your studies inspire you?
“My degree is Biblical Studies and Medieval History. I’ve always been drawn to various manifestations of the ‘feminine’ and studying the past has allowed me to explore so many. Throughout my life I have been intoxicated by the lives and legends of figures such as the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar, Salome and her seven veils, Saint Joan of Arc and, of course, Anne Boleyn. Period costumes don’t inspire my style, but period attitudes do. It’s in the way you carry yourself.”
The Charles Jeffrey show was defined as “MAN.” What’re your feelings on the show’s concept?
“‘MAN’ is whatever you define it to be. In fact, man is whatever you define it not to be. When are we going to stop boxing people in? Did you see the comments on the Daily Mail article? People lost their shit. It’s ludicrous to think there are still people in the world who just won’t let their conceptions of gender be shaken. I was so lucky with this show. I am so thankful for the opportunity. Charles is a genius; the collection was striking, stunning even, and, more importantly, the entire ethos is so current. It’s the future and so in line with everything that I believe in. Throughout the [runway] process, my femininity was respected in a way that I have only really experienced before from very close friends. I’m smiling and very hopeful.”
How did this show compare or contrast to some of the runway shows we’ve all seen in the past?
“Women have walked in menswear shows before. Trans women have walked in menswear shows before. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my knowledge of the history of fashion is sound because it’s not. I think the difference in this show was that any element of androgyny or gender fluidity came from a really natural place. The show was an extension of LOVERBOY, Charles’ night at Vogue Fabrics. The show was a beautiful visual representation of an entire lifestyle—a lifestyle that needs no demands. The exposure that the show gave it because it’s so great. It’s not a trend.”