Redefining Religious Limitation Through Fashion

By Rivka Yeker

Hooligan had a chance to speak with  MIMU MAXI, a fashion line run by two Jewish sisters-in-laws that focus on modest and hip clothing. Following the Jewish law, they provide outfits for women that follow various faiths, or simply just prefer to dress up in what is most comfortable: oversized and fashionable easywear. We discussed their passion for dressing up, their intentions with MIMU MAXI, and their place in the fashion world.

Photo via Instagram

Photo via Instagram

Hooligan Mag: At Hooligan, we really take pride in artists that stick to their roots and create something that is completely drenched in their own culture. We love what you are doing at MIMU MAXI. How did the two of you begin doing this?

Mimi Hecht: Mushky and I are sisters-in-law (she's married to my brother), and we were spending a lot of time together. We would often talk about business ideas, ways we could use our talents and passions to create something that would make a difference and also offer us some flexibility and freedom as moms. Mushky and I always loved talking about clothing, but a lot of it was our frustration. We are orthodox Jewish women who keep Judaism's guidelines of modesty (in short, covering our collarbone, elbows, knees). We always found it hard to find clothing that lived up to our minimalistic aesthetic, that covered all the right parts, that we didn't have to make changes to, and that was affordable. We needed clothing that was just effortless, can be thrown on (without wearing things under to make it modest), that was easy to layer and play with, and that just worked. So we decided, let's just do this ourselves! We have no background in fashion. We jumped into it with a lot of willpower and vision, learning everything on the job.

HM: Did you expect the business to grow so fast and expand so much?

Mushky Notik: It was pretty amazing to see how our immediate community celebrat[ed] what we were doing. It was very clear right away that what we were designing was meeting a real need — that there were so many women like us out there who needed easy, beautiful modest clothing, but had just been "surviving" with what was out there. The real excitement began when women from outside our community starting catching on. Not only Christian and Muslim women who are modesty-minded too, but women who really couldn't care less about covering and just loved the designs.

HM: What was your intention with the garments when you first opened up shop?

MH: One of the first items we introduced was our signature Skirt Leggings, which is inspired by the ease, versatility and comfort of a good pair of leggings...but it's a skirt! When we first introduced them, they flew off the shelves. The idea that there can be a skirt that was modest, but also felt really smooth and was flattering, and can be worn every day in a new way — this was new for our community. Our intention was always to create the pieces we felt we personally needed, and it was a blessing that other women truly "got" what we were doing.

Since expanding our collection from Skirt Leggings (which is still our top seller), we've kept to that original concept: wearable, easy, uncomplicated and extremely versatile modest basics. It happens to be that our collection is very oversized. Not because a modest women can't show her form, but because we just love it. So our designs are very much a blend of our Jewish customs (the coverage) and our aesthetic (easy, flowing, loose, comfortable). Modest clothing can be beautiful and flowing and dramatic, and we love showing [that].

HM: Who buys your clothes?

MN: We obviously have a lot of Jewish customers, because that's our community and how we really took off. We also have a lot of customers who are Christian and Muslim, since their modest sensitivities are similar.

I think the most common denominator with our customers is that they are busy, confident women (often moms) who just want to get on with their day feeling and looking good, and don't want to think a ton about putting together an outfit — they want to throw on a dress or skirt that feels really easy and is flattering without doing much. All our items do that. They are simple, but still have a dramatic or fun effect. We are proud to ship all over the world, and our customer base is continuously surprising us with its diversity.

HM: In what ways are your designs reinventing the fashion world? What statement do they seem to make?

MH: I'm not sure we are reinventing the fashion world....yet! I do think we are changing people's perceptions about what makes a fashion brand. That you can be exactly who you are, put yourself out there in an honest way, be real and engaging, and have a successful business. So many women tell us they shop with us because they love how we embrace and connect women of all backgrounds, and they feel that wearing MIMU is connecting with a meaningful message. That's the best thing to hear. Clothing is important. But the people behind it, and the people who wear it, are more important.

HM: We also love the energy coming off your website, Instagram, etc. You completely destigmatize the notion attached to Chassidic Judaism, or any type of sect within a religion that practices their beliefs as a way of life. Are people ever shocked to discover that you are Chassidic because you may dress so well and stylish?

MN: Sometimes we get people who are in shock that we are wearing wigs, keep the Sabbath, Kosher...the whole shebang! We are definitely more worldly and modern than some other Chassidic sects, but that doesn't make us any less committed to and engaged with our religion. Our upbringing and lifestyle and values are always front and center, and we love showing how that's possible while having fun, doing what you love, and sharing it with other people.

Culturally, sometimes Jewish women (and men!) resort to dressing a certain way that has become custom, and sometimes that can be a bit outdated. We don't judge that. There are good reasons why certain modes of dress have become norms, and that's meaningful too. But I think what people might not realize is that religious Jewish women take pride in their appearance and love shopping and getting dressed just like anyone else! Sometimes, individuality can get a bit lost when you live in a tight community. But thankfully, with our collection we see so many women taking basics and truly making it their own. Judaism is very much about using your own voice and self expression to make the world a better place. And we see and are inspired to share how expression through clothing can be very much a part of that, even if it's just by the fact that it makes you feel more alive and beautiful — and thereby more empowered to change the world.

Photo via Instagram

Photo via Instagram

HM: What do you have to say to the people that view the way you dress as a “limitation?”

MH: Modest guidelines are inherently a limitation, but we wouldn't adhere to it if we didn't feel that it opened up a whole new time of freedom and power. In many ways, dressing modestly is our form of rebellion against a society that almost "insists" a woman's beauty and womanhood is about how much skin she shows. No, that doesn't mean we think the whole world needs to be modest. It's just how we personally choose and relate to it. Our society is so scared of limitations, but that's a very fearful approach. A lot of limitations are a "no" to say "yes" to something greater. For us, dressing modestly is a commitment that is meaningful to us for a multitude of reasons. So on days that it's hard, we just remind ourselves of that. Is it a challenge? It can be, practically. But that's why we started MIMU MAXI. And now we're just busy showing that whatever limitation that is inherent in modest dressing is simply a challenge worth embracing everyday. And that it can be beautiful, and fun, and just as fashionable as everyone else

HM: What is your overall message with MIMU MAXI?

MN: On the deepest level, our message with MIMU MAXI isn't even about clothes. It's about people. About women, connecting [with] and understanding each other, opening each other’s minds and embracing each other with authenticity and compassion. That is our social media vibe, and the energy of our brand — because it's really who we are. The clothes have become just the medium, a lucky byproduct, of a larger mission to build a positive, embracing community of women.

Photo via Instagram

Photo via Instagram

Trans Fashion is Not (Necessarily) Trans Empowerment

By Jacob Tobia

Photo by Erin Southwick

Photo by Erin Southwick

Late one Tuesday night, I was at my friend’s apartment for our usual after work ritual of arepas and red wine. Between bites of corn flour and black beans, I lazily thumbed through the fashion magazines that sat mostly unread on her coffee table.

I picked up the May 2015 copy of Vogue, noticing two headlines on the front cover that, at first, I didn’t believe. I’ve always thought of Vogue as a relatively stuffy, out-of-date archive of high fashion and elite culture as determined by wealthy women on Park Avenue. And yet, right next to the cover image of the actor Carey Mulligan appeared the words “Trans America: The Next Frontier in Gender Politics,” and below those, the headline “Androgynous Chic.”

I flipped through the front ads to the headline articles at the back two-thirds of the magazine, and there she was. Staring back at me from a two-page spread was transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic. The accompanying article began with Andreja’s, story and went on to catalogue the substantial leaps that trans and gender nonconforming aesthetics are making in the fashion industry. Sandwiched between a hundred pages of gender normative advertising, the article proclaimed the end of gender roles.

It read:

“The distinction between man and woman is disappearing.”

“Dressing across gender lines now seems like nothing more than an instinctual aesthetic choice.”  

“Nobody cares anymore.”

I continued reading through the accompanying spread and grew increasingly uncomfortable. The bodies that filled the pages weren’t bodies that I recognized, and they certainly weren’t at all like mine. These people had no facial hair, no chest hair, no body hair to speak of. They were thin, with cut cheekbones, narrow shoulders, slender waists, and graceful hands. They were unblemished, effortless, and unrealistic.

Photo by Erin Southwick

Photo by Erin Southwick

I tried to figure out why that bothered me so much. After all, this was just how fashion culture worked, right? For decades, fashion has been creating unrealistic standards of beauty for all people, from cisgender men and women to trans and gender nonconforming people; exploiting our insecurities and interfering with our sense of self worth in the interest of selling clothes. But why was it suddenly bothering me now?

As I looked at the magazine, what I began to realize is this: there is a difference between how fashion culture dehumanizes trans people and how it dehumanizes everyone else.

When you’re cisgender, models are venerated and also understood as pernicious idols, as bodies that proscribe a standard of beauty you will be judged against but can never meet. The modeling industry is certainly hurtful to cisgender people, but it is widely understood as hurtful. By most reasonable people, cisgender models are not held up as true role models.

What’s more, very few people would argue that the visibility of cisgender women on the runway means that cisgender women are empowered in society. Rarely will someone turn to a young cis woman and say, “Look at Gigi Hadid. Just look at her. Her visibility on the runway is proof that feminism is making great progress, and women are finally seeing full equality.”

Instead, most progressive people understand cisgender models—both men and women—as unrealistic embodiments of patriarchal beauty norms. And thankfully, many cisgender young people have mentors and caretakers in their lives who can remind them that they shouldn’t judge themselves against the beauty norms that are embodied in fashion magazines.

But we don’t have that. For transgender and gender nonconforming young people in America today, models are seen in a profoundly different light. As a trans person, I am not commonly reminded to be wary of the beauty norms embodied by transgender models and fashion culture. Instead, I’m told by my community and by the media that the visibility of transgender models is an unqualified indicator of the progress of transgender people in society.

But the reality is that the presence of trans and gender nonconforming people in the fashion world is not an unqualified good. Sure, as a group of people who have been historically invisible, it’s great that a handful of us are being seen by the fashion world in a new way. But this also means that our bodies are being consumed by the fashion world in the same unethical and convoluted ways that cisgender people have had their bodies consumed, all the while telling us that this consumption is empowerment.  

Currently, transgender and gender nonconforming young people are facing new kinds of body image issues and insecurities that are directly related to the rise of trans visibility in the fashion world. Now more than ever, young trans people are comparing themselves to thin, conventionally beautiful, transgender models and celebrities who “pass” as the gender with which they identify. They are looking at models like Andreja Pejic, unrealistically comparing their bodies to hers, feeling ugly and undesirable at the same time as they are being told to feel inspired.

That is the contradiction of trans visibility in 2016.  In one ear, the world is trumpeting that we should be grateful to finally be seen. But in the other ear, another voice is quietly whispering, telling us that our bodies do not deserve to be accepted, loved or affirmed if they aren’t thin, if they aren’t on the red carpet, if they aren’t beautiful according to an editor at Vogue or Vanity Fair.

I looked back at that Vogue fashion spread in front of me. And as I thought more about it, I realized why it made me uncomfortable. The “androgynous” models in the spread weren’t real people. They most likely did not identify as gender nonconforming or genderqueer. They were not actual androgynous people, people who live with the realities and repercussions of gender nonconformity on a day-to-day basis. Instead they were an idea, a fantasy; embodiments of what a cisgender fashion editor thinks gender nonconforming people should be.

But I am not a fantasy. I am a living, breathing genderqueer person who has to walk on the streets and take the subway to work and buy groceries and do laundry and live in the world in my body. I am a real, vulnerable, insecure person who has a big ribcage and a little bit of fat on my tummy and a hairy chest and a remarkable amount of facial hair. I will never be able to embody the “androgynous aesthetic” as it has been defined by the fashion world. I will never be able to live up to the fashion world’s image of what androgynous or trans people are supposed to look like.

And increasingly, I am learning to be okay with that. I am continuing the quest to love myself, my body, and my identity—regardless of what fashion culture tells me is beautiful or interesting about it.

Which is why I have to be honest about my apathy towards fashion culture and the supposed empowerment of trans people through it. I do not deeply care that transgender people are in Vogue. I do not deeply care that Jaden Smith is the new face of Louis Vuitton womenswear.

Instead, I care that trans and gender nonconforming people continue to be fired, impoverished, incarcerated, assaulted, and murdered because our bodies are not deemed “beautiful enough” for the world around us. I care that, in the face of those obstacles, our stories are finally starting to be heard by a world that for so long sought to silence us. Andreja Pejic looked beautiful in Vogue, but I will never be overjoyed by trans participation in the fashion industry until gender nonconforming and transgender people are seen not as an aesthetic, but as human beings.

Photo by Erin Southwich

Photo by Erin Southwich

Darkmatter’s ctrl/alt/gender and The Future of Fashion Accessibility

By Kenneth Miller

During this past February’s New York Fashion Week, Alok Vaid-Menon wrote on Facebook that this time of year is one of the rare moments they feel comfortable exploring their gender performance publicly. As one half of the trans South Asian performance art collective Darkmatter, Vaid-Menon’s fashion choices alert passersby that their existence is deviant — a person with masculine features oftentimes spotted in vibrant, magnificently cut gowns highlighted with larger-than-life lip colors and jewelry. Walking amongst others in the streets of Manhattan during Fashion Week, surrounded by individuals who aim for looks that guarantee the attention and applause of others, is an organic happenstance in Vaid-Menon’s everyday life — and not always a positive one, they say.

Gender theorist Judith Butler has been a pioneer on the dissection of the “state violence” enacted on individuals who indulge in their gender performativity through fashion. When a gender nonconforming person is on the street or in a bus, the act of performing one’s gender becomes dangerous; people of the state who prize gendered expectations may take action against those who challenge the binaries with their subjectively rebellious fashion choices.

As Butler-obsessed folks and victims of this subjected violence on the regular, both of Darkmatter’s Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian took to creating a digital zine that sheds light on troubles a non-binary person is dealt when expressing their authentic presentation unapologetically.

The zine, entitled ctrl/alt/gender (and in collaboration with The Ace Hotel of NYC), is a boundless exploration into the radical possibilities of fashion. The zine’s wittily-framed name pokes fun at the intrinsic binary aligned with computer interfaces, staunchly suggesting a need for society to delete its exhaustingly bland gender binary.

“Commercial looks remain binary and when they dream beyond (like Zara’s latest line), they’re kind of just drab and uninspired,” Vaid-Menon tells Hooligan. “[It’s] as if moving beyond gender is a form of mourning and not celebration.”

Inside the zine, images of the pair are found with overlays of texts that correlate to sentiments, both personal and political, that attest to their fight against the naysayers of gender-blurring fashion.

“Historically, fashion has been a site of state control,” Vaid-Menon articulates for Hooligan. “In New York City, it used to be illegal to cross dress — the police would literally come up and arrest you. That’s not an accident. It’s part of a bigger strategy of the state determining and enforcing what a good citizen (read: white, masculine, able-bodied, cisgender) looks like, and literally enforcing it.”

Aligning one’s gender identity and gender assigned at birth when assembling an outfit is a default expectation; it falls under the philosophical notion that all bodies must remain legible to society. During Fashion Week, nonetheless, it seems these guidelines are no longer applicable and are encouraged to be stretched. After all, the gender binary is so #TBT.

Whether you’re inspecting Ralph Lauren’s Summer 2016 collection, or those in attendance to runway-specific events, you’re observing an amassing of people who are recognizing the playfulness that comes with fashion and gender. Here, individuals assigned male at birth are free to wear garbs that exude “feminine” notions, and people assigned female at birth are able to perform more “masculinely” to reflect their desired appearances more readily.

Still, the idea of commodified androgynous clothing doesn’t sit well with Darkmatter. According to ctrl/alt/gender’s mission statement, society should be working to expand its definition of androgynous looks past masculine cuts, grayscale colors, and lackadaisical accessories. Specifically when looking to the future of fashion, we should be eyeing beyond gender binarism, which will ultimately create better aesthetics for everyone.

“It seems that androgynous fashion is in on the runway precisely because we still have this reductive idea that ‘gender nonconforming’ is something spectacular, something that must be staged,” Vaid-Menon informs us. “We can’t imagine ordinary gender nonconformity because it’s always about the realm of the visible and the excessive.”

Usually in fashion, we are taught to place “femininity” and “masculinity” at polar opposites. In an ideal setting, individuals would be able to sport an array of bizarre, peculiar, childlike, alien possibilities of transgressive fashion free of fear. Designers like Reno Tsosie and Calli Roche, who have both worked with Darkmatter previously on perfecting their striking wardrobes, design with a conscious effort to produce items free of gender.

Finish reading the spread here on PG 58.

POC Visibility In Plus Size Modeling: An Interview With Bishamber Das

By Sung Yim

Photos by Yours Clothing

Photos by Yours Clothing

Body positive activist and Indian/Malaysian model Bishamber Das made waves recently when she became the first British-Asian plus-size model to be signed to GC Models, as well as in the UK in general. Her determination to break barriers and redefine beauty standards as a woman of color is relieving to see in an industry where the few plus-size women inhabiting the modelling community are predominantly white.
 

Having always been on the plus-size end of things, Das has expressed how damaging it can be to internalize the negative messages the media sends larger women, especially those of color. She struggled with her body image for many years, often using food to cope with stress, and at one point facing health issues due to weight gain. With the support of her friends, she made drastic changes to her lifestyle—through regulating her eating habits, exercise, and treating herself with care and concern-as she set out to love herself unabashedly.

Armed with newly discovered self-confidence and the vision of an inclusive, loving world, Das spreads her message of positivity beyond the UK through interviews and social media. “I want to take my awareness to top mainstream publications around the Middle East and South Asia,” she told Hooligan, “as I truly believe so much positive work needs to be done in those parts of the world.” We celebrate Das’s remarkable accomplishments and message with the following interview:

 

Hooligan Mag: How did you get into fashion and what drew you to the field initially?

Bishamber Das: Fashion is a very personal thing. I have always worn clothes that have reflected who I am (my style is more modest and classy). My passion for modeling came from noticing a lack of diversity among plus-size models. I wanted to change that. So here I am two years later.

 

HM: What changes do you wish to see and influence within the fashion industry at large?

BD: Nothing annoys me more than people putting others down. When I was growing up, I was constantly reminded that I can’t be a model or an actor—basically, that I couldn’t do anything in media where my body would be seen. It made me feel like I wasn’t “normal,” and that’s the worst feeling. I just want to see women who look like me [be] accepted and given opportunities, just like a woman of a smaller size would be given. Plus-size women deserve the same respect and dignity.

HM: How has modeling shaped your self-image? Have you ever felt that certain beauty standards were inaccessible to you as a plus-size woman of color?

BD: This journey has made me realize what my real purpose is. All my life, I grew up hating my body and constantly fighting society’s negative messages. Through my modeling, I have been able to freely express what I stand for, that my imperfections are my perfections and that I am proud of them. Growing up, the only times I saw plus-size South Asian women on TV would be in a comic role where she was constantly laughed at. This always gave me the impression that plus-size women of color were not accepted or perceived as beautiful. I [wanted] to break this stereotype that has been around for decades.

HM: Do you feel your cultural heritage has an influence on your view of style and beauty?      

BD: Hell yeah! I am so proud of my heritage and culture. Over half the world can relate to my look, be it South Asian, Middle Eastern or Latin American. My culture definitely plays a big part in my look and style, even down to my accessories. I love dressing in traditional clothes, and sharing the beauty of my culture with the whole world through social media.

HM: What do you feel most beautiful wearing?

BD: I love long, flowing materials. I am a huge fan of elegant maxi dresses with Middle Eastern influences. The long dresses have kind of become my signature look—I definitely feel sexiest wearing them.

HM: Why do you think recognizing diversity is important in the modeling world?

BD: There is beauty in our differences and each one of us should be open to exploring the things that set us apart. In the modeling world, we forget how fortunate we are to be inspiring and influencing thousands of people. We learn about each other’s cultures and it allows others to relate to us. The plus-size industry is a positive movement; it’s not tied down to a particular nation or sect of people. Plus-size people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. So should the models representing them.

So much work needs to be done for this movement. Models of ethnic backgrounds generally have done well in coming forward, but still very few are classified as “top models.” From my experience, few mainstream plus-size clothing brands are showcasing varied body shapes in their campaigns. Once we overcome these hurdles, work and exposure for diverse models will become more available.

Finish reading the interview here!

Genderfluid Superhero in Couture: Hooligan Talks With Model and Gender Activist Rain Dove

By Meg Zulch

By Lucy Brown

By Lucy Brown

I almost didn't become a fashion writer because I didn't think I was feminine enough. Writing about style and beauty for popular publications had always been a dream of mine, but I feared I didn't look the part. I was unsure of my gender identity, hated dresses and hardly ever shaved. Red and pink lipsticks were boring to me, and I hardly knew how to apply them “properly” anyway. In all of this confusion, emerging icons and genderqueer trailblazers in fashion, like Rain Dove, were formerly unbeknownst to me in my limited Facebook feed and neglected Twitter account.

So last year, when I became a fashion and beauty writer for a popular women’s interest site, it felt daring as hell. Terrifying even, thanks to vicious transphobic comments and Twitter trolls. I had always felt alone in my fight to degender fashion, to normalize genderqueer bodies like my own to the couture-loving masses. That is, until I discovered Rain Dove, one of the first gender-fluid models I’ve ever seen who actively capitalizes off of her androgyny while passionately raising awareness about gender inequality.

Before she was landing modeling jobs in New York and London, Rain Dove lived in a small town in Colorado, spending much of her time fighting fires and doing farm work. Her towering height (she stands at 6’2”) and sharp masculine features enabled her to pass as a man, and put her right at home in jobs centered around masculinity and manual labor. Understandably, the rustic environment Rain Dove was raised in didn't exactly inspire a love or respect for fashion within her.

Photo by Lucy Brown

Photo by Lucy Brown

“Growing up on a farm in a small town, I had only ever heard people make fun of the fashion industry,” she told me. “The clothing, pretentious people, unattainable beauty standards and judgements. So going into this world was really awkward at first because I felt I wouldn't be able to keep myself from laughing at anything that remotely reminded me of Zoolander.”

But after losing a bet during a football game, Rain Dove was literally obligated to go to a casting. Using her androgyny to her advantage once again, Rain was immediately given the job as a male model.

At first, she was hesitant about entering the modeling world as a genderfluid person who didn't exactly fall into step with what was considered feminine.

“Fashion had never seemed like a natural fit throughout my life,” Rain Dove told me. “I was told I was an ugly girl from when I was young-so the idea of trying to wear a dress and wait for my Prince Charming seemed ludicrous.”

But she quickly discovered that fashion could expand beyond this “princess” image, and actually have the power to make a positive impact on the world. This was a crucial detail for someone who values social activism so highly.

“As I began to meet people in the industry, I began to fall in love with those that swatted away the stereotypes I had seen [on] TV,” she said. “I found fellow hearts seeking change through cloth and advertisements. Models who were seeking a doctorate, designers who wanted to start a revolution of self acceptance, and photographers who shot only honesty. When I found these people, I found my love for fashion because fashion became not just cloth and rude manners. It became art and sociopolitics.”

Photo by Lucy Brown

Photo by Lucy Brown

It became glaringly obvious to her how her very existence within the fashion community could move mountains, specifically for gender nonconforming people. After all, her androgynous appearance definitely helped her carve out a niche in the industry.

“When I got into the fashion world, everyone told me that I was a very ‘niche’ type of person, that I represent a very small demographic,” she told me. “But after sitting on this statement for a month, one day I set up a meeting with these people and I told them. ’If NICHE is a small demographic, then I'm not that. Because I’m not gender ambiguous. I represent gender [fluidity]. I represent the full spectrum. All genders. All things. There's nothing small about that.’"

In her career so far, she’s set out to do just that: represent and affirm people of all gender identities. And luckily, her androgynous looks continued to be helpful in landing her modeling jobs along the way, making a greater variety of opportunities available for her to queer the industry through her versatile look.

This ability to shapeshift between genders has afforded her a certain level of privilege in everyday life, sometimes allowing her to escape the harsh realities of gender oppression that being assigned female at birth brings.

“The thing is, as a ‘girl,’ many people tried to oppress me growing up,” she told me. “Calling me ugly or gangly or a 6 out of 10 in looks. But as a young male (white male especially), I don't have to answer to anybody. I don't have to care about my sex appeal to know if getting home safe is a thing. I don't have to worry about negotiating for the best pay on a job. I don't have to worry about people trusting what I have to say.”

She uses her platform that her passing-privilege has helped her attain in part to raise awareness about gender nonconforming identities through her presence in the fashion industry as well as her social media presence. Rain Dove dedicates her Instagram to sharing valuable messages about gender norms on the daily, debunking restrictive binary ideas while shedding light on topics such as shaving, street harassment, gendered double standards, and chest binding.

“I hope to reach all people, especially those that hate the idea of what I am,” she told me. “I want them to come to [my Instagram] and be educated. Ask questions. Get answers. The message is simple-there are bigger issues ahead for the human race than how we identify with our flesh and what we wear. Why waste our precious lives oppressing others on something so frivolous?? Food, shelter, water, and a healthy planet to foster it all are top priorities. Let's focus on that.”

But being an androgynous person in the fashion industry definitely has its drawbacks, despite her masculine looks and commanding voice giving her the upper hand in some respects. When presenting as a woman, Rain Dove still deals with pressures and unfair beauty standards surrounding what her body looks like. This is especially the case thanks to the existence of both masculine and feminine features on her body: specifically her muscular arms and large breasts (the latter which she has lovingly referred to on her Instagram account as the “largest pecs in the industry”).

“I love my muscle tone. [But] when I go to ‘women's’ go-sees, that's the one thing people hate,” she told me. “Big breasts and big muscles. It's like they feel ‘you can't have both, that's not fair’  or ‘women should be noodle-armed because it's sexier when they are defenseless.’ I hate it.”

Rain Dove has also had to deal with weird instances of transphobia, including one situation where a lazy designer wanted to cast her as “male” for their collection, with the condition that she identifies as something other than a gender-fluid human.

Finish reading the article here!