Fashion’s pledge to embrace diversity continues with news that IMG, the major model agency that counts Karlie Kloss and Gigi Hadid on its books, has signed a transgender woman to its international roster.
Hari Nef, 22, is often described as a model/actress/writer but last year walked her first womenswear shows. In spring this year, she opened New York fashion week on the VFiles catwalk wearing a “girl power” hoodie and walked for Hood By Air. While Nef is actually IMG’s second transgender signee, the first being Valentijn De Hingh, Nef is the only one signed globally (De Hingh is only represented by the Paris branch). “I can’t verbalise how thrilled I am to be joining the @imgmodels family,” Nef announced on her Instagram.
A graduate of Columbia NYU, Nef’s agency signing marks yet another interesting shift in the industry’s agenda. In the last 12 months, transgender model Andreja Pejic, 23, underwent sex reassignment surgery, while Lea T became the face (or rather hair) of Redken, marking stepping stone in changing attitudes towards diversity and gender.
Last month, Tess Munster became the first size-24 model to be signed to a mainstream agency, while Stefania Ferrario, the activist model who spearheaded the #droptheplus campaign, was signed to Models 1. Late last year, gay couple Jarlos became the first couple to front a campaign (DKNY).
Nef has never modelled in menswear (she says she is “a lot prettier as a girl”) and according to her IMG agents, is still “in the process of transitioning”. Streetwear label Hood By Air tends to lean towards diversity, but as Nef recently explained the fashion industry remains relatively slow on the diversity uptake. But with her signing, fashion’s relationship diversity looks set to change from tokenistic move and more towards the norm.