Transgender-Only Modelling Agencies Giving Visibility To An Underrepresented Fashion Demographic

In the 2016 Spring and Fall diversity reports from The Fashion Spot, data regarding diversity in the fashion industry on the runway gave a mostly bleak picture of what we see today. For Fall 2016, eight transgender models were cast at Fashion Weeks in New York, Paris and London. That’s a slight increase from the Spring 2016 season, which saw five transgender model castings in total. For Spring 2017, transgender models constituted 0.11% of all runway castings — in other words, 10 appearances.

Clearly the industry has a long way to go, but thankfully we don’t have to only wait for the bigger events or brands to lead the way. In fact, the most disruptive change, when it comes to plus size models, older women, differently-abled models and racial diversity, is coming from influencers, boutique brands and publications who are choosing to buck the trend and pave the way.

We’re starting to see much better representation of the transgender community also, which is needed at a time when (at least in the US), the trans community has become a target of myth-driven, discriminatory policies seeking to take away their rights and dehumanize them (Donald Trump’s tweet about banning transgender people from the military, for example).

Instead of waiting for bigger modeling agencies to start representing the trans community properly, it’s exciting to see companies exclusively dedicated to repping trans models launching in major cities. In Los Angeles, Slay Model Management exists, and New York City has Trans Models. Both agencies are the first transgender-only agencies in the city, and they are breaking new ground.

Slay Model Mgmt was featured in an Oxygen network TV series called ‘Strut’ in 2016, which followed the lives of the models (including former ‘America’s Next Top Model’s first transgender contestant Isis King) as they went on castings and competed for high-profile fashion jobs. It was the first time viewers got to see an inside view into the world of fashion from the transgender point of view, without trivializing or demeaning the people involved. These models are pursuing serious careers while having to navigate personal and professional barriers that cisgender people don’t necessarily have. The show was a way to humanize an underrepresented demographic, while of course including typical dramatic moments seen in most reality TV series’.

Trans Models in New York is also giving visibility and voice to the transgender models working in one of the four major fashion capitals of the world. The agency was founded by Peche Di, a 27 year-old entrepreneur originally from Thailand, in 2015. Due to her own personal experiences with discrimination, she was inspired to start an agency where others like her would be supported and be able to fight back.

“Our mission is to carve out a more inclusive space for trans and queer people within the fashion, and entertainment industry. Fighting to be approved and get signed by top modeling agencies has been my top priority for a decade. We hope by making trans people more visible through shows and campaigns, this will help combat some of the overwhelming obstacles we face in society.” she told in an interview.

She recalls a time when photographers refused to work with transgender models, but thanks to her agency, she has been able to see some of her clients featured in the likes of Teen Vogue. Her determination to create space for her community in an industry that has been slow to change earned her a spot in Forbes 2017 “30 under 30” list for Fashion and Style. Yet it was a long journey getting to this stage for Peche.

Attending an all-boys military school in Thailand, Peche remembered feeling pressure to “act manly” so as not to let her family down. Eventually she would start entering beauty pageants, working for companies like Toni & Guy, before moving to New York to study and model.

She says one of her highlights was working for a Barney’s New York campaign with famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber, alongside other trans models.

“Coming to work and seeing all my 16 trans brothers and sisters as a community producing a campaign for Barneys New York and working with Bruce Weber and top artists on set – it was a blessing,” she said.

In an interview with Teen Vogue in 2016, Peche says she hopes to see more trans models, especially trans Asian women, landing major beauty campaigns to further increase visibility.

“Diversity is both external and internal. Our goal is to change not only the visible landscape of the fashion world, but also to help people recognize the multitudes that they contain within. Trans Models represents both types of diversity,” she said.

Peche mentioned a couple of trans models who are starting to become bigger names in the industry and beyond, Andreja Pejic and Hari Nef. Andreja has been notching up a list of “firsts” for the trans model community, by becoming the first trans model to be on the cover of GQ magazine (in Portugal), Glamour Magazine (Spain), and Harper’s Bazaar (Serbia).

According to, there are a handful of other major publications which have also made headway by featuring a trans model or personality on their cover – Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner, Time – Laverne Cox, Women’s Running – Amelia Gapin software engineer at Tumblr and co-founder of MyTransHealth, Men’s Health – German model Benjamin Melzer, and National Geographic – 9 year-old Avery Jackson.

These changes within the mainstream media and fashion industry may not seem like much when you compare it to overall data regarding diversity, but they are serving to chip away at prejudice, discrimination and marginalization even in small ways. We need disruptors like Peche Di and agencies like Slay and Trans Models to continue the momentum.

“Our action is small, but we have created a ripple in history so far. I’m grateful to be part of the movement,” said Peche. Learn more about Trans Models agency in the short video below:


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