The Men’s Fall/Winter 2019 collections just wrapped in Europe after a tour in London, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Paris, and are now heading to New York City imminently. But shutting down the Paris shows was the menswear show for Celine, a major luxury French fashion label which recently saw the departure of beloved head designer Phoebe Philo, who was replaced by Saint Laurent veteran Hedi Slimane. Slimane is known throughout the industry for his decisive aesthetic, which translates to everything from campaign visuals to model castings to typography choices. His love of all things black-and-white and his penchant for a skinny rocker vibe was on full display at his show on Sunday, which was nearly universally praised by runway critics. As Vogue’s Sarah Mower put it best, “Hedi is Hedi, whatever the name of the brand he’s playing for: He’s trained his audience to expect nothing less.”
But beyond the lack of sneakers (a notable departure for menswear shows from last season) and his resurgence of tailoring and ties, there was another exciting moment to be shared during his show: The Celine debut of model Finn Buchanan, a trans man who has already racked up an impressive résumé within the industry in both men’s and women’s shows. (He’s currently in Paris for Couture, where he just walked Schiaparelli and Maison Margiela.) As confirmed by a representative for Celine, Buchanan is indeed the first openly trans man to walk for the house. We caught up with him over the phone after the show.
Talk to us about what it was like going out for the Celine gig.
It was like any other show, but it was a lot more exciting because it was for an A-list show. Basically, there was a casting in London, Hedi was there, and they didn’t seem interested at the time, but then I was told I was going to Paris for a fitting and they put all us models up in the hotel and we all knew that we’d got it.
What’d you think of your runway outfit?
I loved the look — I’d absolutely wear it, but I think the sunglasses were too big for my face! They almost fell off while I was walking, and I was photographed looking over them like I was Mrs. Doubtfire.
Why was this such a momentous gig for you to book?
Celine is such a big deal because they make a lot of their models exclusive, but I did a lot of other shows and am quite loyal to other brands, like Margiela. But they have such a unique look and to be told I fit into that was pretty cool, because there are places like London where I never book jobs, because I don’t have the right look for them. So it’s validating because it’s a huge, iconic brand, and it’s high fashion.
Is it hard for you to book gigs in general, despite your résumé?
With castings especially, when it’s a mixed gender show, they get people to line up, and the [casting directors] are never sure which lineup to put me in. When they put me with the girls, I’m like, “No!” But I actually say nothing because I want them to hire me.
In general, the usage of pronouns is a huge issue in the industry, especially on jobs. Even though it’s a big deal that many of these brands are casting a trans man to model, I’m rarely called “he.” Even for men’s shows, where there are no girls at all, I was still called “she.”
Nobody in the industry thinks I’m cis, or if they do, they think I’m a cis girl. I’m not sure they knew the sort of activism that I do in spreading awareness about Fashion Week that trans models can do just as good a job as cis models. I don’t think, by casting me, any of these brands were trying to make a statement with it at all. But it’s great they made a statement that other people can be included.
So in that sense, do you think it’s a big deal for you to be the first trans man model to walk in a Celine show, like you put in your Instagram caption?
Being the first trans model to walk Celine men’s is cool, but it is only their second collection with Hedi [first full men’s collection for the company,] so it was a little less iconic, you could say, because it’s not like it’s been going for so long. Even though, when we were getting changed, I was told to take off my binder, which made me feel polarized from everyone else. But then when we were all just chilling before the show, it felt like everyone was the same.
What are your big career goals?
My aspiration with my entire career is to go more into activism, but what I’d love to do is create a really good platform that everyone can relate to, not just models or trans models. At the same time, with all the activism, I’d love to keep doing high fashion shows and walking in Fashion Week, because I love it. But I also want to branch out so I can help people.
Do you think this visibility helps at all?
FB: I think on a very small level, it does. I know a lot of trans models who are trying hard to break into high fashion by doing shows and editorials, but they just feel like, or what’s kind of quoted from that is, “I’ve never seen a trans model on this cover or this runway, so I’m not going to this casting.” I think having trans models who are working our way up, and having trans and nonbinary models on the catwalk is good PR for the brand, as well as letting younger and new faces of trans models realize they can do it, too.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
Obviously, Maxim Magnus! Oslo Grace is doing really well, too. They’re doing a ton of shows and being great at their job. Teddy Quinlivan who’s been doing everything since she started modeling, but with her it’s a bit different, because she was stealth when she started and a lot of people discredit her for that, but why can’t she just exist and not be vocal about who she is? She should get a lot more credit for what she does and she did. And of course, Munroe Bergdorf is an absolute queen. The amount she does for Black Lives Matter and helping trans kids and people all over the world is just incredible.
What’s next for you in fashion world?
I did a couture show yesterday, Schiaparelli, which was really great to be amongst a bunch of girls, some trans and some not. Establishment Agency is really great for including everyone and making everyone feel they’re high fashion, because when you’re a model you want to feel on the top. It was a great show.