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July 25 2014

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13 posts tagged "Andrej Pejic"

EXCLUSIVE: Andreja Pejic Is in Her Own Skin for the Very First Time

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Andreja Pejic

You won’t be seeing any more of Andrej Pejic, the androgynous male model who rose to fame in 2010 after Carine Roitfeld had him photographed in womenswear for Paris Vogue. An onslaught of editorials followed (including a shirtless Dossier Journal cover that was essentially banned by Barnes & Noble for fear their customers would think he was a naked woman), and he even walked as the beautiful bride in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring ’11 Couture show (below). But Andrej’s days on the runway are over. However, Andreja’s career is just getting started.

Earlier this year, Andreja underwent sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). She always knew she was a woman, but her body, or at least parts of it, didn’t match up. Yesterday, the model trekked from her current Williamsburg digs to LGBT advocacy group GLAAD’s Chelsea headquarters to speak, for the first time, about her transition. Donning a white crop top and embellished Ports 1961 skirt, Pejic, who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but was raised in Melbourne (hence her charming Aussie accent), looked as angelic as ever. “I feel good,” she told me before sitting down. It showed.

You can bet you’ll be seeing quite a bit of Andreja Pejic—she has a role in Sofia Coppola’s forthcoming rendition of The Little Mermaid, and plans for fashion week are already in the works. Here, the six-foot-one stunner (who, it should be noted, has cheekbones that could cut glass) opens up to Style.com about her SRS, the challenges of being a transgender model, and why, at long last, she’s “ready to face the world.”

Andreja Pejic How do you identify?

I identify as a female.

How did you identify before the sexual reassignment surgery?

I figured out who I was very early on—actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet—so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do. But it wasn’t possible at the time, and I put it off, and androgyny became a way of expressing my femininity without having to explain myself to people too much. Especially to my peers [who] couldn’t understand things like “trans” and gender identity. And then obviously the modeling thing came up, and I became this androgynous male model, and that was a big part of my growing up and my self-discovery. But I always kept in mind that, ultimately, my biggest dream was to be a girl. I wasn’t ready to talk about it before in a public way because I was scared that I would not be understood. I didn’t know if people would like me. But now I’m taking that step because I’m a little older—I’m 22—and I think my story can help people. My goal is to give a human face to this struggle, and I feel like I have a responsibility.

You seem to have had a firm understanding of your identity at an early age. Was growing up as a boy difficult?
Gender dysphoria is never an easy thing to live with, mainly because people don’t understand it. For most of my childhood, I knew that I preferred all things feminine, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know that there was an explanation. I didn’t know about the possibilities. And then I went on sort of a boyhood campaign from age 9 to about 13. I tried to be a “normal” boy because I felt like my options were either to be a gay boy or a straight boy. I didn’t feel that I was gay, so I didn’t know that there were any other options until the age of 13, when I went online and discovered that there’s a whole community of trans people out there. There are doctors, there’s medical care, there’s research, and that was an eye-opener for me. From that day on, I knew what I had to do.

Some people write off SRS as a purely cosmetic surgery. Can you speak a little bit about that, and why it’s not the case?
Yeah, a lot of people view it as a plastic procedure, like you go to a surgeon and say, “Oh, I want to be a woman.” It’s so much more complicated than that. You have to get a psychiatric evaluation, which I started at the age of 13. I started seeing psychiatrists, and then I stopped when I started modeling, and I started again about a year and a half ago. But medical attention is crucial for any trans person because it helps you figure out who you are. You go through some really strict testing before you’re even allowed to have the surgery.

Are there any other myths you’d like to debunk? Or is there anything else you want the general public to understand about SRS and transgender people?
I would like them to understand that we are people. We’re human beings, and this is a human life. This is reality for us, and all we ask for is acceptance and validation for what we say that we are. It’s a basic human right.

Andreja Pejic Vogue You’ve legally changed your name from Andrej to Andreja. Why was that important to you?

I added an “a” because it’s not a full transformation —it’s just an evolution. I thought about whether I should change it or not for a while. In the West, Andrej isn’t really a masculine name. But I think [the name change] is something that my mom really wanted because, traditionally, Andrej is a Christian Orthodox name, and in that religion, it’s definitely a male name. So I kept the “j” and added an “a,” which actually becomes a name that I don’t think exists. But I wanted to keep the “j” because that’s me. That’s my name.

How did your modeling agents react when you told them you were having SRS?

It’s been an interesting experience. I had the surgery early this year, and I told my men’s agent at DNA about two weeks before the operation. I just said, “This is what’s happening,” because I didn’t want anything to stop me. I had decided. And then recently, I had a meeting with the women’s [team], and they’ve been very positive about moving from the men’s board to the women’s board, which is amazing. It’s something I guess no one’s ever done.

Weren’t you on both the men’s and women’s boards before the surgery?
Actually, all over the world I was, but not in New York. I guess the American market isn’t as progressive.

How do you feel your transition from an androgynous male model to a female model will impact your career?
I hope everything goes well. [SRS] was a personal decision. I took this step, and I said to myself, My career is just going to have to fall into place around it. So I hope that I can continue my success. I think I’ve shown that I have skills as a model, and those skills don’t just go away. I’ve had experience. I’ve been around the block.

Androgyny and the transgender community seem to be at the center of the cultural and, more specifically, the fashion conversation at the moment. Hood by Air by Shayne Oliver, who enlisted voguers to model at the Fall ’14 show, is a prime example. Where do you think this focus on the transgender community is coming from? And how do you feel about it?
The trend of androgyny and the exploration of trans beauty started around 2010, and that’s when Lea T and I both started [modeling]. Everyone was kind of saying, “Oh, it’s just a trend, it’s going to go away,” and it hasn’t. I think that’s because it represents a social layer of people who feel that they don’t want to conform to traditional forms of gender—who feel traditional forms of gender are outdated. That social base feeds the trend, and it feeds the exploration in fashion.

Andreja Do you feel the fashion industry has been welcoming and supportive throughout your career?

I got my success very quickly, and the media attention has been pretty positive. People like Jean Paul Gaultier, Carine Roitfeld, and Juergen Teller have been extremely supportive. But my biggest challenge was to not always be pigeonholed, and also to make [androgyny] commercially successful, because when I started, it was such a new thing. Still, there are a lot of roadblocks, particularly when working with cosmetic brands or perfumes or those sort of commercial, corporate things. It’s been more difficult to break into that world than “fashion” because it hasn’t been done before. They don’t have any market research, and people in that world aren’t risk takers. You have to prove to them over and over that you are liked by people, you have a skill, and you can sell a product.

Is landing a beauty campaign something you aspire to do?
It’s a goal for any model! It would be cray cray. But we’ll see. I’m happy to keep doing what I love, and for me it’s like I’m already living the dream.

Have you had any experiences in castings, etc., that have been particularly frustrating?
Oh, yeah, especially in the beginning, when I first moved to London. It was like, I’d walk into the boys’ casting, and they were like, “No…you don’t belong here.” And then at the girls’ casting, they were like, “Why are they sending us boys?” So it took time for everyone to get on board. It wasn’t all sweet sailing.

What do you think the fashion industry can do to further embrace the transgender community?
It would be lovely to live in a world where trans-female models were treated as female models, and trans-male models were treated the same as male models, rather than being a niche commodity. I think that that is the biggest struggle in all this. It’s almost like African-American models back in the nineties. It was like, “Oh, you can do this, but you can’t do that. You can do runway, but no print.” So I think that’s what needs to change.

Andreja When I first met you last year, you already seemed like a pretty confident individual. Do you feel more comfortable—or more you— since having the SRS?

I think from my teenage years, when I decided I needed to express my femininity, I was happy with the way I looked. But SRS is kind of the last part—it’s sort of the icing on the cake. It makes me feel freer than ever. Now I can stand naked in front of a mirror and really enjoy my reflection. And those personal moments are important.

But you’ve always been gorgeous. Did you not enjoy your reflection before?

Not fully naked.

I know you’re close with your mom. Has she been supportive throughout this transition?
I came out to my mom at the age of 14. She didn’t understand it at first, but she’s been very supportive since.

Has going through this transition as a public figure been very difficult?
There’s a difference between coming out to your family and close friends, and coming out to the whole world and opening yourself up to judgment. When I was younger, I just wasn’t ready for that. Even now, it’s hard to navigate. I try to concentrate on myself and what I really need, but there are so many other factors that go into it. You have to figure out timing, you have to figure out agencies. Public perception influences that. It’s a lot of pressure, and modeling is a lot of pressure anyway. I think most models have to live up to something, and they struggle with that. So to have that on top of this, there have definitely been difficult moments.

If I may ask, how do you think the SRS will impact your personal and romantic life? Is that something you’re excited about exploring?
Yeah, I’m very happy with this new situation, and I’m happy to keep exploring.

Are you dating anyone?
No, I’m single. I’m open to love, so I’m taking some time off for myself now. I think that’s necessary. We’ll see. But you know, I feel more comfortable than ever, more confident than ever, and I’m ready to face the world.

Photos: Giampaolo Sgura for Ailvian Heach; Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway.com; Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Vogue Paris; Dusan Reljin; Tony Duran 

Ashley Smith and RVCA Do It Up Downtown

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Ashley Smith x RVCAWhile the rest of the city was braving subzero temperatures last night, the crew in the downstairs den at Acme in New York was hot for model Ashley Smith and her first collection for California-based lifestyle brand RVCA. “You know, I’ve gained a lot of respect for designers,” Smith told Style.com. “I had no idea how time-consuming and research-oriented designing a collection would be…luckily I had this amazing team behind me.”

Her debut collection (below), which is the first of six, is full of playful separates: flouncy skirts, letterman cardigans, and cropped sweaters. “I designed the clothes around what I would want to wear and what my friends would want to wear,” said Smith, who turned up to the event wearing her designs. “And it plays on the idea of opposites—being this tomboy in Texas and the girl I am today in New York.”

According to Smith, the project came together organically over drinks at the Mercer Hotel following an introduction by photographer Mike Piscatelli. “When it happens, it just happens,” offered RVCA founder PM Tenore. “We like to work with different people of varying subcultures—whether it’s artists, designers, surfers, or skaters—and branch out. RVCA is really a platform for talented people like Ashley Smith or Erin [Wasson, a former collaborator] to showcase their passion and hard work…there’s no formula otherwise.”

Ashley Smith x RCVA

The two brought together a coterie of cool kids, including model Kyleigh Kuhn, Andrej Pejic, and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, as well as artists like Ryan McGinness. “It’s very fun,” Kuhn said of the designs. “Ashley has such a personality here in the downtown New York scene, and she’s breathing this new life and energy into RVCA’s women’s brand, which is exciting.”

So what can fans expect to see next from Smith? “I just finished my designs for the second collection, which is just as good as the first, if not better,” she said. “I was inspired by seventies denim…I just love denim!”

Priced between $16 and $315, Ashley Smith x RVCA will be available on RVCA’s Web site starting in August.

Photos: BFAnyc.com; Sandy Kim

The Final Countdown: Style File’s Top Stories of 2013

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Jeremy ScottThe fashion biz has had quite a year. 2013 was jam-packed with major designer shake-ups, groundbreaking ad campaigns, celebrity collaborations, and pop-star performance wardrobes filled with custom-made designer duds. In the final days leading up to 2014, we’re counting down Style File’s most popular twenty stories of the past year. So sit back, relax, and relive 2013′s unforgettable moments. Read numbers ten through six, below.

10. Raf Simons Opens His Atelier—and Shares His Label—to Artist Sterling Ruby for the Most Complete Designer/Artist Collaboration Yet
When Raf Simons does something, he does it all the way. Case in point, his Fall ’14 menswear collaboration. For his upcoming collection, which will hit the Paris catwalk on January 15, Simons has handed his atelier over to artist Sterling Ruby. The result will no doubt be the most extreme art-meets-fashion experiment to date. Style.com’s Tim Blanks spoke to Simons about his latest artistic endeavor.

9. At Givenchy, Flower Power, Military Might, and Even a Cameo From Bambi
In May, Style.com got an exclusive first look at Riccardo Tisci’s floral and camo Pre-Spring ’14 menswear collection for Givenchy. Showcased on fuchsia-haired models, the collection marked the debut of Tisci’s controversial Favelas 74 shirt, which was later worn by Marina Abramovic to the CFDA Awards in June. Matthew Schneier gave us a rundown of the dynamic lineup.

8. Inside David Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
David Bowie had no shortage of headlines in 2013. In May, the rock star dropped The Next Day, his first album in ten years. His costumes were featured in an exhibition at the V&A, he starred alongside Arizona Muse in a Louis Vuitton campaign, and he was even named the best-dressed Briton in all of history. But his buzziest accomplishment was no doubt the music video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).” With a cast that included Tilda Swinton (a.k.a. David’s doppelgänger), Saskia de Brauw, and Andrej Pejic, the Jerry Stafford-styled film featured clothes from Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Rick Owens, Raf Simons (both for Dior and Jil Sander), and Saint Laurent. Style.com’s Tim Blanks took us inside the making of the music vid and walked us through its lust-worthy wardrobe.

7. “Applause,” Please: Brandon Maxwell Talks Styling Lady Gaga’s Latest Video
Remember that time in 2013 when Lady Gaga announced her new record, Artpop, and from the moment she revealed its Inez & Vinoodh-lensed album cover in July, until she hosted her raucous Art Rave release party in November, she was all anyone could talk about? Well, during the height of the Mother Monster frenzy, right after she debuted her flick for “Applause,” Style.com’s Katharine K. Zarrella spoke with her stylist, Brandon Maxwell, about the characteristically outré vintage and custom looks she donned in the music video.

6. Jeremy Scott: The New Man at Moschino
After celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in Milan, in September, Moschino appointed Jeremy Scott as its creative director. Scott, who succeeds Rossella Jardini, spoke to Style.com’s Nicole Phelps about the new gig, poking fun at fashion and sharing how he plans to bring the irreverent house into the future.

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Dita in 3-D

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“I can get out of a lot of things, but this dress is not one of them,” said burlesque star Dita Von Teese of the gown she donned to last night’s party at the Ace Hotel. The dress in question was the first fully articulated 3-D printed garment, which was conceptualized by designer Michael Schmidt. And the party, which drew the likes of Debbie Harry, Bob Gruen, and Andrej Pejic, served to toast its unveiling. “I was interested in finding the middle ground between the world of mathematics and the world of ephemeral beauty,” Schmidt told Style.com. The L.A.-based designer, who has crafted looks for stars like Madonna, Cher, and Lady Gaga (the latter wore his glass-bubble costume on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2009), conceived Von Teese’s frock with Fibonacci’s Golden Ratio in mind.

With the help of computational designer and architect Francis Bitonti, Schmidt used 3-D software to realize his space-age gown (think cinched waist and steroidal shoulders). The dress began as a digital rendering, which was then engineered in powdered nylon by high-tech collaborator Shapeways. “As an architect, it’s all about dealing with facades, and this was just about making a curvy one,” mused Bitonti. The body-skimming dress featured an undulating mesh silhouette of three thousand articulated joints fashioned out of layered nylon powder. As if that weren’t complicated enough, it also boasted twelve thousand Swarovski black crystals, which were painstakingly placed by hand after printing. “It’s obviously very futuristic, but I tried to retain a level of old-world glamour that was befitting of Dita,” added Schmidt. Indeed, the Blade Runner-meets-Bettie Page ensemble was worthy of the millennial pinup. “It’s superlight,” Von Teese mused later that evening after slipping into a demure Roland Mouret shift. But was it comfortable? “The only uncomfortable part is that I needed to be very cautious about how I walked. I had to make sure my heels wouldn’t get stuck in the hem.” Even in the future, glamour’s got its obstacles.

Photo: Jeff Meltz

Inside David Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”

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Out of the mystic comes “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” a new Bowie video. This one is a lot less oblique than the video that artist Tony Oursler made for “Where Are We Now?,” the first single from Bowie’s startling comeback album, and that’s mostly because director Floria Sigismondi’s natural genius with a twisted narrative (case in point: Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” promo) gels so well with what one imagines is Bowie’s own predilection for the cinematically perverse. “The Stars” sumptuously elevates the man and the myth to new heights.

This particular offering toys with the androgyny, the bravado, the decadence, the desire that turns an ordinary human being into a raving fan. It also has a strong contemporary-fashion quotient, appropriate given that Bowie was, in a way that the upcoming exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum will surely clarify, always inclined to the fashion experiment—from the early days of his Kansai jumpsuits to McQueen frock coats and Hedi Slimane suits.

Stylist Jerry Stafford was responsible for dressing the cast of five for the two-day shoot in L.A.: models Saskia de Brauw, Andrej Pejic, and Iselin Steiro, plus Bowie himself and his co-star Tilda Swinton, with whom Stafford has worked for fifteen years. Stafford is, like me, a child of Bowie, but he says there was no time on the set for fandom. “Everyone understood they were part of something special.” There was one moment when Stafford presented Bowie with a long coat, explaining to him it was by a designer named Rick Owens. “More Rick Wakeman than Rick Owens,” was the response, Wakeman being the wizard-coat-wearing keyboard king of Brit prog rock. “He played piano on ‘Life on Mars?,’ ” chimed in Stafford, the sole moment when he let himself indulge his know-every-last-detail trainspotter obsession. “And, indeed, on the whole of Hunky Dory,” Bowie said with a knowing smile. Continue Reading “Inside David Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”” »