Sonny Oram on HuffPost Live with Issac Mizrahi
If you were given the chance to ask a leader in the fashion industry one thing on live broadcast, what would it be?
This is the question that was presented to me while I was on my way to New York for Topman's #Unlock5th preview. Well, I wasn't in New York yet. I was going to my partner Ru's place in Western Mass so we could pack for her. It was 6:30 PM and I was hoping could get to the New York by midnight so I could get a good night's sleep before the Topman preview at noon.
While glossing over my inbox on my phone I saw, "TIME SENSITIVE MEDIA REQUEST: HuffPost Live Isaac Mizrahi Segment 11/3" for a segment that aired about an hour before Topman's press event. On first glance, it seemed crazy. I had only 24 hours to prepare for two back-to-back events and we weren't even completely packed for New York yet.
But I couldn't turn this down. It's not very often that the fashion industry gets to hear input from a queer voice, a voice who has been hearing from all of you for years about what's really frustrating us. A voice who is still far away enough from the industry that they haven't been brainwashed. So I said yes.
When I got to Ru's house, I scooped up our cat/son, researched everything Issac Mizrahi's done and watched a few episodes of Project Runway. I must admit, I haven't seen it in years. I mean, it's no dapperQ, but the outfits were pretty frickn awesome. All gender normative, but awesome nonetheless. The models were all dangerously thin, but that's no surprise.
Then it was time to decide what to ask him. We skyped with our friend Lexi to really pin point how the industry downplays queer trends and what we can do to fix that. With Ru's legal knowledge and Lexi's work in med school, we got to have a pretty great dialogue about queer inclusion in the fashion industry.
I passed out for a few hours, wrote some more based off our notes, and then Ru and I got on the road for New York at 5:30 am where we talked over our ideas in the car. Around 9 we hit a ton of traffic. I had to move the test call back and I still hadn't sent them the final questions. We pulled into a parking lot and used the hot spot on Ru's phone to email HuffPost the questions we came up with:
1. On Project Runway I see many critiques of contestant's pieces talking about the flow and the aesthetic of an outfit, but I know that many queer people have different needs in terms of the look they are going for. For example, many trans women in our community look for clothing that emphasizes certain parts of their body (e.g. hips and chest) traditionally not emphasized to the same extent. As the judge for Project Runway and a role model for the fashion community, how do you see the role of the contestant/fashion designer in pushing fashion boundaries around issues of gender expression and identity?
2. Even though androgyny is popular on the runway, many of my androgynous readers have various characteristics that make it difficult to fit into the narrow gender category, created by recent androgynous trends in fashion. How would you like to challenge the creative process of creating a wider range of androgynous looks on Project Runway (or in guiding aspiring designers in general)?
3. Do you have any upcoming challenges that are going to play with the gender binary using mixed pieces, masculine cuts, or androgynous styles? Will women who identify as butch start to see pieces that they could see themselves wearing? How do you plan to challenge the gender binary on the runway?
4. My whole goal and mission of Qwear is to a platform for the queer community to express themselves through fashion, and what happens is the documentation and development of trends within the community. Do you anticipate the fashion industry picking up these trends and challenging their application in our community on Project Runway?
I threw a button-up over my T-shirt and did a test call in the car with Ru's hot spot as she drove. Between stop-and-go traffic heading into New York, staring at a screen, and worrying I wouldn't make the interview on time, I felt a little sick.
We got very close to the hotel, about 10 blocks away, but were moving slower than walking speed. Now it was 10:30, 20 minutes before the segment went on the air. When we got to be 5 blocks away from the hotel, Ru instructed that I jump out of the car with my computer, run to the front desk, tell them that I had an interview with Huffington Post Live starting 5 minutes ago, and I needed a conference room. I was so flustered that I probably got all the words out of order. It was now 10:48, and HuffPost was calling me asking where I was. So I found a table in the hotel lobby, sat down, and got on the call just in time.
And here's what I have to say: the fashion industry presents androgyny as only being for skinny white women wearing over-sized tee shirts and suits. Androgyny is so much more than that and can done with all body types. So many people we've featured on Qwear are androgynous in ways that don't fit the mold, and I look forward to continuing this and many other discussions as we continue to celebrate our own style.
Don't forget to comment below!
And I can't wait to show you all the footage we got from Topman's event. But that's another post for another time.