Barneys New York features transgender models, stories in new ad campaign

Barneys New York, the iconic high-end department store, is introducing a spring campaign called "Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters," which features 17 models who are transgender and gender non-conforming, and will donate proceeds to LGBT organizations.

"Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters" provides an insightful look into the diverse lives of trans models Arin Andrews, Edie Charles, Valentijn de Hingh, Ashley de la Cruz, Sawyer Devuyst, Peche Di, Dezjorn Gauthier, Trevon Haynes, Katie Hill, Eve Lindley, Niki M’nray, Ryley Pogensky, Ines Rau, May Simon, Ahya Taylor, Maxie Neu, and Gisele Xtravaganza. They will be styled in fashions by designers including Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga, Lanvin, and Manolo Blahnik.

Alongside the models in the photos, taken by Bruce Weber, are members of their support networks -- be they friends, family members, pets, and more. In addition to appearing in photo ads in major publications and in Barneys' catalogue and magazine, the models were interviewed by Vanity Fair contributing editor Patricia Bosworth. These interviews "address a range of issues from bullying, discrimination and abandonment to empowerment, self-confidence and unconditional love," according to Barneys' blog, The Window. 

The models come from a wide range of countries, races, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. This campaign, created by former creative director of W Magazine Dennis Freedman, is meant "to represent both the struggles and triumphs a trans person may face in relation to their gender identity," as written on Barneys' blog.  The company added, "Barneys New York is proud to support the transgender community by telling a few of their incredible stories." Furthermore, it's intended to bring attention to a community that is often left out of mainstream social movements.

“I was exquisitely aware that in the last decade, the L.G.B. communities have made extraordinary advances, and the transgender community has not shared in that progress,” said Dennis.

Those involved behind the scenes and in front of the camera hope that the campaign will make consumers more familiar with the trans community and the issues it faces. Valentijn, one of the models, explained: “In this capitalist consumerist society, things only become acceptable when they become marketable... [The campaign] was done so honestly and so beautifully and with so much integrity. It’s a really important, big project," reported TIME.

Another model, Sawyer, said he believes in print media's ability to start new conversations and ultimately shift the greater culture towards acceptance. No stranger to the hardships trans people must confront, Sawyer has already lost six trans friends to suicide. Moments of education keep him optimistic though, such as when a Rolling Stone feature on a trans woman taught Sawyer's aunt more about the trans community. He told TIME, "Trans people live in shame and fear of themselves and their bodies, but to be recognized with dignity and respect, and on top of that, celebrated, was an amazing experience."

On February 11, Barneys will donate 10% of the sales from flagship stores and to the National Center for Transgender Equality as well as the LGBT Community Center in New York. Both organizations are working with Barneys to create an employee training program on trans-related topics.