Givenchy made a bold statement to the transgendered community when designer Riccardo Tisci cast Lea T., formerly Leo T, in the brand’s Fall/Winter 2010 ad campaign. Lea may not yet be a professional model, but Tisci found that his former assistant personified the androgyny that defines his collection.
But while we celebrate Tisci’s forward thinking, other battles are still being fought — and in this case won — in the transgendered community. Today, the NY Daily News reports that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has required American Eagle Outfitters to change some of their employee rules, one of which banned cross-dressing.
Though the retailer denied that a clause in their employee handbook which forced its workers to dress in gender specific clothing was discriminatory against the transgendered community, they agreed to settle. In a statement, an American Eagle spokeswoman said:
“To avoid further expense and the distraction of a prolonged argument, [we have] agreed to a compromise settlement in this case, with the understanding that AEO is not admitting to the findings.”
Hm. Your rule book says women can’t dress in men’s clothes and men can’t dress in women’s clothes. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Over 2,000 people in New York are employed by American Eagle and were required to sign an altered employee handbook which noted the change. “This shows me that there’s faith and hope. There might be a domino effect, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Joi-elle White, a transgender member of Make the Road New York told The Daily News.
One ad campaign; one clothing store reprimanded. Both are great positive steps in the direction to end the hate, the negative stigma that has consistently been attached the transgendered community. But like other minority groups before them, it’s going to take a lot more work where this comes from.
While many believe the fashion industry is one defined by its exclusion, one of the most wonderful things about it is its acceptance — often times celebration — of the different. Doesn’t American Eagle know that androgynous is in? YSL, Givenchy, the very concept of the boyfriend jean — and I think they actually sell those.
So Richard Tischi and Andrew Cuomo for the win! And shame on you, American Eagle Outfitters, for thinking you have the right to tell people how they can and cannot dress.