Origami Customs Winner for Diversity and Inclusion: My Unbelievable Night at MMODE Montreal Fashion Awards

Origami Customs receiving an award for diversity and inclusion at Mmode fashion gala

The MMODE Fashion Awards Gala took place in Montreal a month ago, and spoiler alert: we won. 🤯 I’m honestly still so blown away by this that I’m having trouble believing it. 

I know that I’m telling you about it a little late, but after it happened I decided that I needed some time. The significance of this was and is so large that I needed a minute to process my emotions before I could wholeheartedly share about it. That's why this blog is now coming a month after the fact! 

Nominated for Change

We’ve recently been getting more involved in Montreal fashion events to support local initiatives and push the representation of our community. Many of you attended our event during September as the only trans brand involved in Montreal Fashion Week. It was an incredible event and we were so happy we decided to do it, even in the face of the scary anti-trans protests that were happening.

Then in October, one of the organizers of fashion week reached out to me directly to make sure that I knew about the awards that were coming up. I, of course, had not heard about them, and  by the time I looked it up, I only had four days to get my application in. On top of that, I had been home sick with COVID for the past week! 

So one of my partners, Elio, sat with me (once I was was no longer contagious!) and using their architecture and design skills, helped me to put together a beautiful portfolio which showcased our brand  in way that I never could have. We got it in just before the deadline.

Origami Customs nominated for the Employer of the Year and Inclusivity and Diversity Award at MMode Montreal Fashion Awards

From that application Origami Customs was nominated by MMODE Fashion Awards for not one but two prestigious categories: "Diversity and Inclusion" and "Employer of the Year." The recognition blew me away. Being among the few brands nominated, not to mention for multiple categories, was an honor in itself. 

We were nominated because Origami Customs is a company that supports historically underserved communities in the fashion industry. From the time I started the company, the goal has always been to make a difference. My core mission is to support marginalized individuals by creating products and access they wouldn’t otherwise have. 

I’ve tried to accomplish this in several ways: Firstly, we produce gender and body-affirming products with options that aren’t readily available on the market. Secondly, we create access by partnering with over 40 community groups to get our products for free to people who need them.

 We also use our social platforms to educate and advance social activism for our communities. Lastly, we employ people with marginalized identities, giving them above-competitive wages and benefits and training them in a valuable career.

And while diversity, inclusion, community, and employee support have always been the goal, I was honestly surprised by the nomination. I suppose that as a trans person, you get a little used to being overlooked. Just the fact that I was nominated was a gift in and of itself.

Rae Hill accepting the Diversity and Inclusion Award at the Mmode Montreal fashion awards

The Unexpected Acceptance

In a room filled with nominees, the significance of a trans person being included among the hundreds of accomplished individuals was palpable. Especially because there were only a few other brands that were nominated for more than one category. 

This shared victory extended beyond personal achievement; it represented a collective win for the entire trans and gender-diverse community. It was also a testament to how far the fashion industry has come in the last few years in its desire to include body-diverse individuals.

I’m going to be completely honest- I did not expect to win. I didn’t even want to prepare an acceptance speech because I thought that if I committed to writing notes for it, I would be too disappointed when I lost. 

But while I was waiting for the “Diversity and Inclusion,” category to be called, I looked around the room, noticing how meaningful it was for a trans person to be included amongst hundreds of nominees. I wrote my acceptance speech in my head right then, not caring if I got to the podium or not. I knew in my heart that even getting nominated was a win for our community.

When I heard my name called, I was in total disbelief. I think I just said “f*ck!”. 😂I just sat there for a moment blindsided, until my partner sitting beside me had to encourage me to get up and walk to the stage. 

When I got to the podium I poured my heart out in an acceptance speech that centered on the very reason I've dedicated 13 years to this industry: To show trans and gender-diverse folks, and especially young people, that there are people in their corner, fighting for them. That they matter, and that they too can take up space in the world that they could not even imagine. 

Making a Difference

After the ceremony, there was food and drinks and an opportunity to meet other Gala attendees. Speaking to the other people there solidified to me how much of an impact Origami Customs winning this award had.

One of the judges came to let me know that the awards panel was inspired by our company. They even took many of my suggestions from my application to put into practice in their own industries and businesses!

That seemed to be the theme of the evening, with many other people kindly approaching me (while I was still in total disbelief 🤯). Many joyfully commented on how trans representation has changed in mainstream fashion over the last few years. Others stated that seeing a trans person accept this award was a monumental moment. 

But my most precious moment of the evening occurred when a young person, visibly moved, approached me during the post-ceremony celebration. Encouraged by their adult companion and obviously shy, they eventually came over. With tears in their eyes, they said to me how meaningful it was to see me, a trans person, up on stage accepting an award. I had given this young person hope. And to me, that was the most important award of all. 

 

So Much Gratitude

The MMODE Montreal Fashion Awards Gala turned out to be more than just a recognition of my work. It was a night filled with unexpected victories, heartfelt encounters, and a celebration of progress. 

Of course, as I said in my acceptance speech, this never could have been possible without the help and commitment from my entire team. They are the reason that we can do all this, and have supported me in countless ways over the years. Each person who works with me brings somethings so unique, and we are all driven towards a common goal of helping people in our community access those gendergood feels that we all know and strive for. 

To all the trans and gender-diverse individuals out there, I want you to know that you matter and that there are people in your corner fighting for you. Keep dreaming, keep pushing boundaries, and most importantly, keep taking up the space you deserve in this world. Here's to a more inclusive and diverse future in the fashion industry and beyond!

Rae Hill of Origami Customs with their "Diversity and Inclusion" Award at the MMode Fashion Awards Gala

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