How Our Ethical Clothing Brand Chooses Our Diverse Fashion Models

And image of three of Origami Customs' incredible diverse trans and body positive models

Recently, our team has been encountering an increasing influx of negative comments and emails that appear to be directed toward our incredible trans and body-positive models. 

It is disheartening to see such negativity aimed at individuals who exemplify beauty and courage. Especially when these models serve as vital faces of minorities who have been historically underrepresented within mainstream media. Our gratitude for these models, and their willingness to stand as trailblazers in an environment that isn't always receptive, knows no bounds.

This week, we made a video in response to a particularly hateful email. It was an emotional response and went a bit viral on Instagram. However, while we do think that it’s important to talk about the discrimination and negativity we’ve been facing lately, we realize that we could do a better job in our response to receiving these hurtful messages.

We pulled the initial video and reached out to the people we know of who were affected by seeing the entire email. We’ve redone the video from a more balanced and proactive perspective that will hopefully further the conversation, rather than just propagating these hurtful words. 

Two of Origami Custom's diverse models

Some of the comments were from within the queer community and were of people stating that we don’t do a good enough job of choosing models that represent our beautiful and diverse community. So we decided to take a moment to shed light on the meticulous process through which a gender and body-affirming brand like ours handpicks the remarkable models we proudly collaborate with. 

Instead of amplifying the less-than-kind remarks, we will work to further a dialogue that all body types are beautiful, and talk about how we can increase diversity within the world of fashion. Our ethically driven fashion brand is firmly committed to using our platform to push boundaries and set new standards for inclusivity. The video below talks about the process we use to find and hire the models we use.

As an added note: One of the things that we often encounter is that we struggle to find models, particularly transgender models of intersectional identities. It takes a lot of bravery to be the face of a brand like ours, especially during these difficult times. 

So for anyone out there who might be reading this and is considering stepping into the world of trans/queer modeling (and is located in Montreal), we extend an open invitation to explore the possibilities with us. We're always looking for new models to work with and prioritize intersectional diversity. If you are a model (or aspiring model!) who shares our values and wants to be a part of our vibrant community, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

Video Transcript:

Hi everyone I wanted to make a video about some of the realities that we face behind the scenes at this company as well as some of the really terrible things that have happened this week in terms of emails and messages.

We faced a lot of anti-trans fat phobic backlash this week. Some of you might have seen the video that I posted yesterday about a particular email that came in that was just full of all sorts of hate, and talking about how trans bodies should look, and how models should look. 

It was really incredibly fatphobic and transphobic. I had originally posted a video showing that full email but afterward, it was brought to my attention that we shouldn't be spreading that sort of hate and that we shouldn't have it out there for other people to see including those models. So I've reached out to everyone personally and had some conversations.

I do think it's a really important thing to be talking about. I know that we post about our models being amazing and beautiful all the time. But I do want to talk about what happens in the areas that you guys might not see. So instead of propagating that hate speech and putting more fuel on the fire, I really wanted to take this time to focus on why we choose the amazing beautiful diverse models that we do. 

Although we do want to be a diverse brand, what does that actually mean? There's a very fine line between lip service and tokenism and diversity. Let's be real, everyone wants to see a certain percentage of each body size, type of trans identity, ethnicity, disability the list goes on and on. While we do want to represent the world and how beautiful and diverse it is in our community, we're not going to check boxes just for the sake of checking boxes either, because you know that gets into a very weird territory.

So it is a difficult decision-making process, and you might not always see models on our page that resonate with you specifically or the identities that you hold for yourself. We do try to get a range of people but we only hire less than 10 models per year so that's not always going to be apossibility.

So all that being said, when we hire models we try to work with people who are marginalized, who are not seen in mainstream media. Obviously, as you can tell from our page we are mostly working with queer and trans people and we try to find people who have intersectional identities within that.

We try to work with models who for many different reasons haven't had access to paying modelling work in the past, maybe because of transphobia, racism, or other things like fat phobia that have left them out of mainstream modelling contracts. We try to work with independent modelling agencies. 

Details is an incredible agency that we started working with this year that really champions marginalized models and is really pushing for greater visibility in getting models work. Both in small brands like mine and in the larger fashion industry and so I'm super soaked to be partnering with them more and more.

I also want to say that when we're looking at marginalized identities, sometimes it is hard to find people who want to put themselves out there because, as we're seeing now, that takes a lot of bravery and you get a lot of backlash. I understand why people who are already oppressed might not want to be in the Limelight in that particular way. And we do find this when we go to hire models and we want to make sure that we're protecting people and that we're making them feel safe and comfortable.

For example, if there is not a transfeminine fat model that wants to model our gaffs, that's for a good reason. Those women don't feel safe being out on the internet in such an exposed way. I absolutely understand and we're not going to put someone in that situation. So when people aren't seeing the identities that they want to see sometimes we have to look at why hasn't society created spaces for people to feel safe and to enter modeling careers and modeling jobs in that way.

We're actually going into a photo shoot this Friday which will be reshooting all of our gaffs on trans women because we realized that in the past our gaffs have only been shown on non-binary models who haven't been on HRT. We really wanted to change that representation and add better imagery of the way that our gaffs are worn by the majority of the people who wear them. 

We are a small brand we have small budgets but we are trying our best to find people who represent us in our community and who

feel safe and comfortable in these environments and want to put themselves out there. We know how hard and scary that is. We've been facing that all week, me and my staff of all queer and trans people who have been on the other side of these YouTube comments and these emails, and doing our best to read this hate mail every day and not take it on. 

Obviously, the people who are visible as models in their everyday lives are facing these things as well, and we want to be really conscious of that and just do the best we can. So we will keep moving forward and try to push this narrative and field all of the negative comments that come in in the best way that we know how. 

But we are open to suggestions and feedback and I am open to suggestions and feedback so please let us know: what do you want to see more of? What is working for you? Which imagery has resonated with you and yeah what the future holds for us.

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