Marco, Marco Designer Highlights Trans Models In Historic Fashion Show

Marco, Marco Designer Highlights Trans Models In Historic Fashion Show

By Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Marco Marco (L) and Dominique Jackson walk the runway at Marco Marco Debuts Collection Seven with Style Fashion Week at Hammerstein Ballroom on September 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for Marco Marco)

On September of 2018, history was made in New York Fashion Week by LA-based designer Marco Morante for his Marco, Marco SS19 fashion show.  Collection Seven, his latest from his Marco, Marco line, featured a cast completely comprised of transgender and non-gender conforming people.  While trans models do work within the fashion industry (often having to relegate their trans identity to the background in order to have a viable, marketable career), Marco, Marco’s high profile runway show was revolutionary in its attempt highlight and celebrate the casting of its 34 trans models.

“‘This was an opportunity for their presence to be undeniable and reinforce that trans is beautiful.'”

While Morante has always featured trans and non-gender conforming models in his runway shows, this time he opted to go even further, using his runway as a platform to celebrate trans bodies.  His runway was like a “who’s who” of rising trans stars within the trans community; from Pose FX’s Dominique Jackson and Angelica Ross, Transparent’s Tracy Lysette, and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Carmen Carrera to YouTube sensation GiGi Gorgeous.  Even more so, the Marco, Marco show featured the single largest group of trans men to ever walk in an NYFW show.  When asked about his casting, Morante was quoted as saying, “ This was an opportunity for their presence to be undeniable and reinforce that trans is beautiful.”

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Models walk the runway at Marco Marco Debuts Collection Seven with Style Fashion Week at Hammerstein Ballroom on September 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for Marco Marco)

As momentous as this was, this was a long time coming from the designer, who was always a champion for the LGBTQ community at large.  

Coming from Los Angeles, the half Dominican, half Puerto-Rican designer’s career wasn’t intended for fashion, but theatre.  Attending the California Institute for the Arts, his major was costume design. In 2003, he launched his brands Marco, Marco (his designer, costume line) and his Marco, Marco Underwear (his men’s underwear line).  While Morante has dressed many celebrities, from Fergie to Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears, he has always been a true supporter and staple within the LGBTQ community. He has worked and had his designs featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race since 2009, and regularly dresses the queens from the hit television show, as well as feature them in his runway shows.  

“Fashion has always been about moving the culture forward.”

Marco, Marco runway shows are spectacles, complete with a diverse cast including drag queens, cisgender gay men, and transgender individuals alike, and Morante’s decision to do an all-trans runway show was intentional; citing the fact that the trans presence in his shows tend to be overshadowed by the cis gay men and the drag queens.  Morante felt it was important to make space for trans men and women in an industry that often erases their identity or tokenizes their existence and expression for commodification. As a cis gay man himself, Morante felt that it was his duty, with his ties and connections to the community, to create a show that wasn’t rife with tokenism or fetishism of trans people and show that they are not a trend.  

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Models walk the runway at Marco Marco Debuts Collection Seven with Style Fashion Week at Hammerstein Ballroom on September 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for Marco Marco)

While Marco, Marco may not be the first all-trans show (a few years prior, New York-based designer Gogo Graham held an all-trans fashion show for her collection, designed specifically for trans women), the high profile and reach of his brand is driving forth the message of not only diversity, but true inclusion and representation.  Fashion has always been about moving the culture forward. Recently fashion has taken more to corporatization and consumerism; at its core, it’s an art that is about the freedom of expression. While it will be a long road to true inclusivity, the Marco, Marco fashion show truly serves as a watershed moment for the hopeful change to come.  

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