In a departure from its traditional spring marketing, luxury retailer Barneys is launching a campaign to raise awareness about transgender issues. Barneys’ campaign, called “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters,” is the latest in a long history of trans-acceptance by the fashion industry. In the early 1960’s, British Vogue featured a transsexual model April Ashley and in the latter part of the decade, Candy Darling was Andy Warhol’s transgender muse. Decades later, as transgender people began to emerge more fully in the public eye, “America’s Next Top Model” broke convention by casting a trans woman named Isis King in 2008 and a Brazilian transgender model, Lea T, appeared in a 2010 ad campaign for Givenchy.
There are an estimated 700,000 trans people living in the United States, according to the Williams Institute, which is relatively small compared to the estimated 8 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults in the US. In the US, transgender people are unemployed at double the rate for the general population—four times for trans people of color—and they are more likely to be homeless and commit suicide. In August, close to Barney’s flagship store a man in Harlem reacted angrily after discovering a woman he’d hit on was transgender, he killed her.
“While the lesbian, gay and bisexual community has made enormous strides in this country in this last five to ten years, it has always been glaring to me that the trans community has been left behind,” said Dennis Freedman, Barneys’ Creative Director. “It seemed an important time to do this.”