Breaking Barriers and Pushing Boundaries
Casey Legler, the French-born 35 year-old, is the first female to sign exclusively as a male model. The former swimming champion, who once competed for France in the Olympics, has been added to the Ford Models men’s roster. Although she may raise a few prejudicial eyebrows, the fashion world has always celebrated uniqueness and challenged the status quo. Indeed, part of Legler’s work is to prove that gender is nothing but a social construct. On working as a male model, Legler says, “My job is to be brave. And to show what that looks like”.
Fashion has always explored the fluidity of identity, even in the 18th century, with Shakespearean actors in their wigs and makeup. Andrej Peji’c, an androgynous, biologically male Bosnian model, has worn both menswear fashion and women’s clothing in shows, and was ranked 98th in the FHM’s sexiest women poll in 2011. Fashion brand J.W. Anderson featured knee-length gowns and halter necks in their menswear collection of 2013, and designers Rei Kawakubo and Maison Martin Margiela are known for manipulating gender codes in their creations.
“This Is A Unique Little Moment That Fashion Is Allowing to Have Happen”
Legler competed in the Olympics aged 19, but retired from the sport at 21 – although she was immensely successful, her heart wasn’t in it. After studying architecture and set design, she briefly attended medical school and eventually moved to New York to work on her music, writing and art. It was here that she agreed to do a photo shoot with her friend, Cass Bird, and was immediately signed when Ford Models saw the pictures.
Casey is incredibly forthright when it comes to discussing her pioneering work in the fashion world – she learned early on in life that people have “different armor. I realized things only mean what we want them to mean, and it’s not appropriate information for differentiation”. She is adamant, however, that this is not simply some kind of fashion trend, to be discarded in six months time. Legler hopes that simply by being herself, she can promote the fact that women don’t always look like our stereotypical idea of what a female should be. Furthermore, she aims to widen the scope of what society considers beautiful – beauty comes in many different forms, shades and sizes, and what Legler epitomizes is simply another facet of it.
“They want to shoot me because I have a narrative, and implicit in that is a conversation,” Legler notes. Her popularity can be attributed not only to the uniqueness of her situation, but her personal attributes as well. Colleagues have sung her praises – Emily Novak, the agent who signed Casey, said that “She has an incredible presence and personality, and, most importantly, she is confident in who she is,” whilst Bella Novak, a designer, admired Legler’s strength, stating that it was “exciting to see a model like Casey who looks so original but strong and poised”.
And as for Casey Legler herself? “It would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted, without it meaning something.”