The film, entitled ‘The Gaze & Other Stories’, features ‘five transgender creatives’ who were asked to comment on gender and fashion.
The video includes models Valentijn de Hugh and Hari Nef taking part in a photo shoot for an & Other Stories capsule collection. All those involved with the shoot are also transgender: photographer Amos Mac (editor of trans magazine Original Plumbing), stylist Love Bailey and make-up artists Nina Poon.
‘I think it’s so weird that when we are born the first thing that we are, even before we have a name, or an identity, we are either male or female, before you even know anything about the person who was just born,’ says de Hugh in the film.
‘Being born male or being born female decides so much about who you are allowed to be in life. And I just don’t want to live under those constraints. I want to break free from those.’
‘Fashion has played a huge role in my process of constructing my identity,’ says Hari Nef.
‘Fashion can apply to a wider audience of people and maybe it will lose its reputation as the scary, esoteric club where if you’re not skinny, white, thin, cis-gender, able-bodied and rich, you can’t participate.’
In a press statement about the campaign, & Other Stories’ creative director Sara Hildén Bengtson said: ‘The fashion world is embracing transgender models and we think that’s great. But we couldn’t help to ask ourselves how the traditional fashion gaze can change if we keep the same normative crew behind the camera. So we invited five amazing creatives, all transgender, to make our latest story.’
The advert has been praised by the Human Rights Campaign, who applauded the fact that before utilising transgender participants in the campaign, H&M had already taken steps to become a transgender-inclusive workplace.
‘H&M earned a 70 [out of 100] on the 2015 Corporate Equality Index, HRC’s survey and report benchmarking corporate policies, practices and benefits related to LGBT inclusion. H&M’s transgender specific workplace initiatives include non-discrimination protection based on gender identity and the company offers transgender inclusive healthcare coverage.’
Speaking to Dazed, Hari Nef said that working with an all-trans team had been a refreshing experience after working with cisgender teams.
‘Almost every time I show up on set, I prepare myself for misgendering, clothes that don’t flatter my body, problematic moodboard references – the list goes on.
‘When I work with trans folks I don’t have to think about any of that because we’re all thinking about it. I can just work. I cherish every collaboration, but collaboration doesn’t necessarily entail sympathy, empathy, or mutual understanding. With a trans team however, it’s all there.’
The advert was also praised by Ian Johnson, CEO of LGBT marketing organization, Out Now.
‘I must confess – I love it,’ he told Gay Star Business. ‘Being cisgender brings my own bias to viewing this, but for an audience interested in diversity and fashion this is a real achievement. The authentic voice of each individual participant shines through in an honest way that I completely buy into. Great work. Well done H&M.’
Brands operated by H&M include Cos, & Other Stories, Monki, Cheap Monday and Weekday. H&M has seen consistent growth in recent years. In the first half of 2015, it made a post-tax profit across all its brands of almost €1.1bn ($1.2bn) – a 19% increase on the previous six-month period.