How much demand actually exists for transgender models? “The pie chart isn’t that big for [transgender models], but I feel it’s about to get bigger,” says Christian Alexander, the director of Front Management, a boutique fashion agency in Miami that used to represent a transgender model. “I think any company seeking to expand their clientele while making a bold statement would be the reason.”
“It’s never easy, in my experience, to get a transgender [model] work,” saysHarold Milton, the former director of Click Models in Manhattan. Milton has represented transgender models for most of his three-decade career. In 1991 he signed Caroline Cossey, who became the first transgender model to appear nude in Playboy, and Click Models also represented the big-name trans model Teri Toye. “We’re at a time,” Milton continues, “where acceptance for [transgender people] has reached the public more than ever, and what’s really important is diversity in the fashion world and on the runway.”
That lack of diversity, in fact, led Bethann Hardison, a former modeling agent, along with the supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman, to form the Diversity Coalition, an organization aimed at drawing attention to designers who regularly use just one or no models of color. Gender, in addition to race, is now a part of that conversation, and design houses such as IMG, H&M, and Givenchy have responded by featuring transgender models and diversifying their casting calls. Peche Di, in fact, was one of 17 transgender models featured last year in a Barneys spring campaign shot by Bruce Weber—one of her few local successes before founding Trans Models.
But whether or not opportunities for transgender models are abundant enough to support ventures like hers remains to be seen. “It’s easy to get models and it’s easy to build up a roster, but it’s not as easy to get them work,” Milton says.
Peche Di, meanwhile, isn’t dwelling on what could go wrong. She’s busy planning an all-trans fashion show for New York Fashion Week in February 2016. She’s also laying the groundwork for a conglomerate called Trans Media that she hopes will encompass Trans Models, a TV channel, and a slew of other yet-to-be-created subsidiaries. There’s also an official Trans Models launch party to plan for, scheduled to take place next month.
“Every day I get emails and phone calls from transgender people around the world who want me to represent them,” she says. “But right now I want to focus on local models. They’re the most interesting.”