Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Smith, was announced to be the new face of Louis Vuitton this spring, but he won’t be modeling men’s clothes.
Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière announced in January that 17-year-old Smith will be modeling in their spring/summer 2016 women’s collection. Ghesquière explains why he believes Smith is the right fit to represent this collection in a press release from the New York Times.
Ghesquière wrote: “He represents a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is free of manifestos and questions about gender. Wearing a skirt comes as naturally to him as it would to a women who, long ago, granted herself permission to wear a man’s trench or tuxedo.”
He’s absolutely correct.
The first ad for the collection was released in January and photographs Smith in a pleated skirt posing alongside three female models. At first glance, it looks like any other high fashion ad featuring thin legs, killer poses and deadlier facial expressions. It comes across as a normal fashion ad because it is normal.
As Ghesquière said, women have been modeling loose men’s jeans and ankle length coats for many years. A man modeling a skirt shouldn’t be a big deal. In fact, it should be normalized rather than picked apart by naysayers.
Men have modeled for women’s collections before, but Smith’s case is slightly different. He isn’t a man in transition, nor is he a man wearing women-inspired men’s clothes. He is a man wearing pieces directly off the runway from the latest women’s show during Paris Fashion Week in October of last year.
Smith wearing women’s clothes isn’t gender neutral or gender bending because the clothes are still technically made for women.
“The clothes and their conceptual allegiance have not changed at all,” according to the same article from the New York Times. “The person wearing them has.”
Smith has been praised and criticized in the past for his bold fashion statements.
“I’m just expressing how I feel inside, which is really no particular way because every day it changes how I feel about the world and myself,” Smith told GQ in June when asked about his fashion choices.
Some of the biggest menswear companies, such as Burberry and Saint Laurent, use men to model in women’s wear ads. Ford Modeling Agency, one of the biggest modeling companies in the world, signed female model and former Olympic swimmer Casey Legler in 2012.
Legler was 18 years old when she qualified for the Olympic Games. When her male teammates described the feeling of swimming with a bald head, Legler decided to shave her head with them.
“That was the beginning,” Legler said in an article from Time magazine. “It was always one of those things: ‘These people get to do it, I really want to do it — why can’t I?’”
This is the type of attitude Smith expressed when he decided to stop caring what people thought and began dressing how he wanted. If the fashion industry is encouraging gender-fluidity, why can’t everyone else?
Fashion critics often search for hidden meanings behind pieces on the runway. They try to get inside the mind of the designer and make sense of the decisions they’ve made. The decision to put different genders into different clothing wear is interesting and draws attention to the ways we are the same rather than different.
Another model signed to Ford, Erika Linder, was recognized for her striking resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio and now has her own Erika Linder brand to inspire other young, androgynous models.
Gender has been a huge topic of conversation over the last decade. People of all ages and sexual orientations have become more accepting of the differences in people. These differences and unique qualities should make them stand out, not feel embarrassed or unusual.
Entering gender-fluid models into agencies and runways will encourage others to be proud of who they are. The days of rigid gender guidelines are coming to an end, and this is a step toward change.
Email Laura Schmidt at email@example.com