All-trans fashion show creates awareness in heated political environment

Trans Media and Fashion show
Monica Brown, 29, strikes a pose in the FashionBar Chicago ‘Trans, Media and Fashion’ show. This is Monica’s second time modeling in a fashion show.

By Madison Yauger
Medill Reports

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s proposed anti-transgender policy announcement, FashionBar Chicago presented an all-trans model fashion show on Saturday to create awareness of the importance of trans and gender non-conforming youth.

FashionBar Chicago defines its mission as building Chicago into the fashion capital of the Midwest through the advancement of emerging and established talent in the fashion industry.

“This idea came out of a dream I had last year,” said Tony Long, 48, founder and CEO of FashionBar Chicago. “Fashion does not discriminate.”

The ‘Trans, Media and Fashion’ show was held at the historic Spiegel Administration Building in the Bridgeport neighborhood, previously used for a mail-order operations and apparel distribution company.

Many of the models were sourced from the Howard Brown Health clinic, an organization that serves as a safe space for trans and gender non-conforming adolescents. HBH partnered with FashionBar Chicago to sponsor the show.

“It means a lot to me, being trans,” said model Monica Brown, 29. “I always wanted to be in modeling, but didn’t know how to go about it. I feel like I’m lucky to be in this place.”

Music pulsed and echoed throughout the open loft, as pink, blue and purple lights fused together, illuminating the runway and mirroring the fusion of genders traditionally associated with those colors.

FashionBar Chicago fashion week
Ella Jasso, 42, models House of Flayva’s Rastafarian-inspired design. “I want to bring awareness,” Jasso said. “It feels great to be a part of the inertia.”

The show featured collections from three designers: Yola Gray-Baker, Anastasia Chatzka and No Name Studio.

Gray-Baker, 71, a Jamaican native and CEO of House of Flayva fashions, said her work is inspired by the Rastafarian movement. She said the red symbolizes the bloodshed and suffering, and the green, growth and the healing of the nation.

“No one died and left me in charge,” Gray-Baker said. “I’m not in a position to judge. We should spread love. One love. One people.”

Dancers strut down the catwalk.
Two dancers sashay down the runway in preparation for their performance.

A rap performance and dance number took place after a brief intermission, where audience members were encouraged to practice their own ‘strut’ down the runway.

“To be a black trans-man and to be visible, is huge within itself,” said model and attendee Russia Brown, 28. “After recent comments from the folks in the White House, I think this was just perfect timing.

“It was the best way to be visible, and to be seen, and to let people know that you can’t just erase a whole community. We exist, and we deserve respect just like everyone else.”

Photo at top: Monica Brown, 29, strikes a pose in the FashionBar Chicago ‘Trans, Media and Fashion’ show. This is Monica’s second time modeling in a fashion show. (Madison Yauger/MEDILL)