Photography by Jett Johnson
Watching models walk through the Ace Hotel lobby, surrounded by friends, family and members of New York’s queer scene, felt like having an impromptu living room fashion show with your best friends. Members of rising designer Gogo Graham’s trans girl squad, including performers Charlene and Macy Rodman, each wore a piece customized to her own body type and personal style; it was refreshing to see clothes designed with the wearer’s spirit in mind, rather than something mass-produced for an umbrella audience. Gogo is in the business of empowerment, making clothes that complement women by playing to their individuality.
Models varied in race, shape and size, each inherently contributing their own personality to the show. I approached several girls to reflect on their experience; for many it’d been their first time even walking a runway, although to the casual observer they all seemed like seasoned pros. Brimming with confidence, they strutted, sashayed (and even texted) down the runway, confident that the ruffles, paints and patterns that adorned them were honest representations of something fundamental within them.
When I asked Gogo to describe the collection in three words, she responded saying, “About the girls.” It’s this straightforward sentiment that guides her brand philosophy—that discovering and expressing oneself fully is the only route to radiance. There is an obvious shift in confidence—in one’s beauty—that shines when someone wears Gogo’s clothes. For people who don’t subscribe to traditional masculine and feminine archetypes, dressing yourself to feel completely comfortable is much harder than an outsider might assume. Rather than referencing a place, time or theme, as most designers do, Gogo chose to use her models as catalysts for the aesthetic direction of each garment.
Though this concept may not be new, her execution is what’s fascinating. Even other designers who celebrate diversity seem to create collections that emphasizes the clothes first and the models after. Gogo’s cast was the central vehicle to present her clothes, and in everyday life—off the catwalk—we too are vehicles, whether we realize it or not. Clothes complement and augment our personal narratives; they are not the authors.
Gogo’s designs all seem to fight this notion that our clothes are what dictate how we will be viewed in the world. Rather she creates clothes that immediately inform the world exactly who her girls aim to be: themselves. For the show’s finale, Gogo’s girls warmly gathered for a white wine toast, surrounding a table, which had partitioned the runway just moments before. The show was a celebration for Gogo—a celebration of trans power and a celebration of self.