Transforming Fashion (Student Dialogue)
date: May 2, 2017
location: Villa Sassetti

Organized by Jordan Smith, NYU Florence student

Because clothing is a primary marker of gender, the fashion industry plays a fundamental role in the way that gender is perceived in society at large. Transforming Fashion is an interdisciplinary conference that will bring people from all realms of the fashion industry and fashion scholarship, with varying political and personal views on gender, together to discuss how gender is constructed in the fashion industry from the design process to final wear.

The increased presence of gender fluidity in high fashion, exemplified by the use of transgender and gender-bending models on the runway and in editorial campaigns, in conjunction with the progress of the transgender rights movement in the U.S. and Europe, has drawn attention to the intersection of fashion, gender, and the right to personal expression. Florence’s history as a fashion mecca and the hypervisibility of trans people and trans rights issues in the media today makes this the perfect place and time to host a conference exploring this intersection. After U.S. President Donald Trump restricted the right of trans people to express themselves in public space by rolling back protection for transgender students in government funded schools in the United States at the beginning of March, many people are wondering where the trans movement will go next and how trans activists and allies will continue to fight back.

In this conference, we will look at how fashion can play a role in this process by focusing on 3 different stages, designing, selling, and wearing, and how each of these stages can be a tool of activism for revolutionizing the way society thinks about gender. Panelists will reflect on their role in gender construction as members of the fashion industry, how the wave of awareness of trans rights has affected their work, and attempt to answer the question, “What does the future of gender in fashion look like to you?”

A special thanks to Pitti Immagine and Polimoda for their support in the development of this project.