Gina Mei
April 09, 2015 5:55 am

ModCloth has been doing some very cool things when it comes to representation lately. Last year, they launched #FashionTruth — a company-wide initiative with the goal of changing the fashion industry for the better by celebrating women through diverse representation in their ads. The initiative promised un-retouched images, a wide offering of clothing sizes, and to always put the ModCloth community at the center of everything they do. And they kept their word: last February, the company launched a very wonderful swimsuit campaign using their own employees, which included women of all shapes and sizes. Now, Modcloth has officially hired Rye Silverman, the company’s first transgender model — and she is all kinds of awesome.

Originally from Ohio, Silverman is a 33-year-old blogger and stand-up comedian who has been a long-time contributor to ModCloth’s community-run Style Gallery — and even has a dress named after her, called “All About Rye.” That the company has chosen to add her to their roster of models proves their dedication to #FashionTruth, and we’re totally stoked that their definition of diversity is extending beyond its previous boundaries (as it should be!).

“I waited years for someone to come along and tell me that it was okay to be myself before I finally realized that someone was me,” Silverman said in an interview with ModCloth this week. “That’s what fashion is all about for me — taking how you feel and using your style as an expression of that.”

She came out at the age of 27, stating, “that’s how old I was when I finally faced my fears about it and knew I couldn’t carry the secret of it, and was tired of feeling ashamed about it.”

In Silverman’s view, gender identity isn’t black and white, nor should it be. “The way I view it is that it’s the approach of gender identity on a spectrum the same way sexuality is viewed on models like the Kinsey scale or Klein grid,” she explained. “Instead of viewing it as an argument of nature versus nurture, I tend to think of it as a complicated blend of the two. To me, it’s the idea that our identity isn’t a constant, but something that shifts and evolves through our whole lives, which I think is true outside of just gender.”

As for her fashion sensibilities, Silverman’s style is also fluid. “It evolves over time but I think right now my best way of describing it is a bit of a quirky or edgy twist on vintage,” she said in her Modcloth interview. “I love rockabilly-type stuff or circle skirts that have interesting prints on them. . .I’ve noticed in the last year or so more and more of my skirts and dresses have fun prints. But when I’m kind of just looking for a more relaxed, chill look I shift into a more 90s vibe.”

The fashion industry has been under intense scrutiny for its lack of diversity lately, including the fact that an overwhelming majority of models continue to be white, cisgendered, able-bodied, and a size 0. Trans representation still has a long way to go in fashion, but we’d like to believe change is on the horizon. Last year, high-end retailer Barneys ran a campaign called “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters,” which featured 17 transgender models for its spring 2014 catalogue; and for the past couple years, Andreja Pejic has absolutely dominated the runways. That an online retailer like ModCloth should hire Silverman is huge and we’re very excited that they did, but it’s disheartening to think that diverse representation hasn’t become second nature yet.

There isn’t one single driving narrative for transgender people. We come in a wide assortment of experiences and flavors and trying to force us all into one box of treatments or mentalities can be pretty destructive,” Silverman continued. “Trans people, especially trans women of color, are severely targeted for violence and hatred, so there’s a great need for support, understanding, and compassion that is still sorely lacking. I think people need to let go of the idea that they have to fully understand trans identities in order to have support and compassion, [because] we’re literally dying while you try to figure it out.”

What Silverman had to say just further underlies how important trans representation is across all forms of media — whether through television, movies, or fashion ads. It is only in “normalizing” diverse identities in media that we will be able to foster acceptance in real life. And it is essential that we do this in ways big and small — which is why we love that ModCloth took the initiative to hire Silverman to rep their company.

“The message we hear time and again is that only ‘aspirational’ imagery sells, and over time, the industry has converged on a very narrow definition of the word. A definition that makes many women and girls feel like they are not and cannot ever be good enough,” Susan Koger, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of ModCloth, wrote in an op-ed last year. “But the industry hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t have to be this way today.”

We’re applauding ModCloth as always for making an active effort to bring that change to the table. We’re also grateful they introduced us to the glorious Silverman, whose career we’ll be following for a long time to come.

(Images via.)

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