FALLEN ANGELS: The Runway Show that Gives You the Trans Inclusive Fantasy That Victoria’s Secret is Missing Out On.
I talked to Lucia Blake, founder of TRANSMISSIONS, a radical trans activist group based in London (UK), about the fashion show and resistance campaign she created as a big f**k you to Victoria Secret’s trans exclusive vision.
If you have ever walked down Stoke Newington Road in Dalston (East London), you probably have passed a nondescript doorway several times without giving it a second glance. From the outside, it looks like an average retail space, maybe an old storefront or a door leading to someone’s apartment. However, if you happen to pass by on a Monday the doors will be open. If you decide to go in, you will travel down a narrow hallway and down a flight of stairs into another world. This place is called Vogue Fabrics (VFD), it is a place embellished with hot pinksparkly penises painted on to swinging toilet doors, a lit up mini bar with a DJ booth attached to it and the smallest stage you have ever seen. It is also a safe space for letting it all hang out- a home for queer and trans folx to collectively organize, to form new relationships and to attend the only events of its kind in London.
Creating such a collective safe haven is a radical trans activist group named TRANSMISSIONS. A project that hosts meets ups that gets trans folx (and allies) together aconscious effort to take up more space. Remaining true to their “Tranifesto”: Trans people deserve respect, self-belief and love, the social project has been running since August 2018 and provides support for trans individuals through organized workshops with guest speakers as well as advice sessions and resource information for attendees. Even further, TRANSMISSIONS has been making a mark with community events involving themes such as queer magic, queer fitness, voice exploration classes, spoken word poetry, film nights, events celebrating black history month and drag performances. Above all, the TRANSMISSIONS unhinged dance parties (all with a cause) are an amalgamation of queer, gender bending, zombie, death, radical punk and alternative fashion themes. In recent months, the tiny
basement has been fully packed with people coming to see guest speakers such as Georgina Beyer, a politician in New Zealand who was the world’s first openly transgender mayor. In February, Munroe Bergdorf, a trans activist will appear to speak about trans inclusivity in the fashion world.
The brains behind this creative organizing- in the name of trans support, celebration and social justice- is Lucia Blake, a performance artist and activist (originally from Liverpool) who lives in London. Lucia is the founder and director of TRANSMISSIONS and when I asked her about the success of the project she explained, “since we began in August, our reputation has spread around the country like wildfire, I believe this is because we are a signifier of a new breed of trans. Trans without boundaries, trans and unapologetic”. In other words, Lucia isworking to illuminate the multi faceted ways one can be trans demonstrating that representation doesn’t (and shouldn’t) fit neatly into societal expectations of the gender binary. Lucia’s philosophy was instrumental to her latest and most popular TRANSMISSIONS event entitled, Fallen Angels- a fashion show of gender non-conforming f**kery held in the basement of VFD. Fallen Angels featured a runway, camera and photography crew, guest performers and a diverse collective of the hottest alternative trans angels. The fashion show was a response to the latest Victoria’s Secret controversy, in which Ed Zalek, Victoria’s Secret executive, made comments on having no interest in featuring trans or fat folx on the Victoria Secret runway because it wasn’t his idea of a ‘fantasy’ that would appeal (to predominantly) male viewers. In response to this intentional sidelining, the concept of Fallen Angels emerged as a way to challenge transphobia that is often perpetuated within the mainstream fashion world. The event doubled as a campaign to promote inclusivity and diverse representation of trans people in the media. Fallen Angels was also a way to support trans beauties in London by
giving them a platform to vocalize and aesthetically speak out against Victoria’s Secret.Needless to say, it was an absolute hit.
Beginning on the prior Monday, TRANSMISSIONS formed a placard making event that shamed Victoria’s Secret transphobic ideals. Several protest cards were made bolstering the validity of trans and queer bodies while others addressed Zalek’s ridiculous comments. Some statements on the placards included, “Queer Bodies are Sexy”, “Victoria? I Don’t Know Her” and “Trans & Intersex Won’t Be Erased”.
These placards were brought to the show and were waved in the air as people stormed down the runway space towards the camera. All of this was captured on video, where at one point Lucia Blake fiercely dances towards the camera with looks that could kill.
Featured: Lucia Blake (@ourladylucifer)
The event itself as well as the social media takeover defied the ethereal, white, virginal and dreamy aesthetic of the typical Victoria’s Secret runway. Instead, Fallen Angels unleashed a contrary mode of representation: leather, mesh, chains and so much more. A radical resistance against the monotonous depiction of underwear models as a ‘cookie cutter’ stereotype and instead a dark, gothic and messy multifaceted fantasy that represents any-body. Additionally, Fallen Angels featured performers such as punk musicians that constructed an entirely new atmosphere and a re-definition of what a fantasy can be outside of a delicate cis-heteronormative standard.
Santina: The Fallen Angels show displayed such epic dark, goth,punk, gender bending, ‘anything goes’ vibes. What was the inspiration and intent behind it all?
Lucia: When we started TRANSMISSIONS, we really wanted our visual aesthetic to come away from the usual representation of trans people which is usually designed around “passing” and fitting in, trans aesthetic is designed to be palatable for a cisgender-society. Even our flag is designed to be palatable to cis-society, with pastel blue (for boys) and pastel pink (for girls) all nice and soft and easy on the eye. We feel like the visuals for our activism relates more with the radicalness of the punk movement and the outcast of the goth, this was accumulated in our Fallen Angels show.
VFD is and will always be our home base. It’s best described as an underground queer war bunker, were we can take refuge from bigotry and hate. There’s something about an underground space that naturally makes you feel safe, and also has radical connotations, like you are on the cusp of creating social change.
Fallen Angels was a night of celebration of trans bodies but also a big “f**k you” campaign following Ed Razek’s comments on having no interest in featuring trans models on the runway because it’s not what people want to see. Can you comment on trans visibility in the mainstream -do you see visibility shifting/increasing?
I think the National Geographic was right when they said we are in the midst of the gender revolution. Visibility is increasing rapidly, and it’s revolutionary, but I don’t believe we are even half-way there. I wanna see trans world leaders and music icons, there’s no reason why trans people can’t be historical figures.
Ed Razek was obviously commenting on only “giving the people what they want”. That consumers will more likely buy underwear when featured on white, skinny, cis and able bodied models (which is bullsh*t). How do you envision social justice and commercial businesses or mainstream fashion labels merging in the future? Is any of this happening now?
I believe that there is immense power in the over-saturation of trans/fat/poc/disabled bodies in fashion and media. They say that they can’t give us exposure because they need to be “giving the people what they need,” but the fact is, they create what people need!! Our beauty standards and standards of normality are created and designed by the people in fashion and media. They have the power to normalize us within society and we believe that they should be held accountable for this. It’s simply immoral and wrong for them to turn a blind eye to our suffering.
I mean, it’d be less impressive if they did it now after all this controversy but it’d still be positive. The only way they could really impress me, is if they did what I truly believe they should do and put non-passing trans women on the runway. Big-framed women with no tits and stubble. Women with huge bulges bursting through lacy knickers. Not only are they as sexy as f*ck, but non-passing trans women are the ones who are bullied and attacked on the streets. Who are abused and killed by their lovers, because men are so embarrassed to be attracted to social outcasts.
“The only way they could really impress me, is if they did what I truly believe they should do and put non-passing trans women on the runway. Big-framed women with no tits and stubble. Women with huge bulges bursting through lacy knickers. Not only are they as sexy as f*ck, but non-passing trans women are the ones who are bullied and attacked on the streets. Who are abused and killed by their lovers, because men are so embarrassed to be attracted to social outcasts” – Lucia Blake.
The Fallen Angels show was a lot more magical than we expected, it received incredible feedback and everyone who was there agreed on the extraordinary atmosphere. It has truly inspired a lot of people to get involved with trans activism. The campaign is about to get a lot bigger, we are planning a takeover of London Fashion Week, with video media, a public protest, a photo exhibition, a party and a conference. We are lucky to have the support of British fashion designers Art School and have the campaign closed with a Q&A with Munroe Bergdorf. The whole London queer scene is buzzing for this campaign, we believe it’s going to be a historical moment. The fashion industry has the power to normalize us within society, and we won’t stop protesting until they do so.
“The fashion industry has the power to normalize us within society, and we won’t stop protesting until they do so”- Lucia Blake.