Madelyn and Margo Whitley – twin sisters and both transgender women – say gendered fashion is on its way out.
The 22-year-olds made an impact at London Fashion Week and getting ready to walk at Milan Fashion Week next.
“In my circle and on the runway everything is blending together whatever you want to do, you can,” Madelyn, known as Maddie, said. “Gendered fashion is going out.”
Margo said seeing trans models like them “brings awareness to trans people just existing – and not just talking about trans issues.
“It gives exposure to trans people just being themselves and doing their jobs. It normalises it and inspires people – [by] inspiring trans kids to be themselves or getting into fashion.”
They both walked at the David Koma show at London Fashion Week, Margo walked for Erdem and Madelyn for Yuhan Wang.
“It was really fun. We have never been able to run around London. London is huge and the tube is a nightmare,” Margo said.
She described designer David Koma as “so cool”.
Saying: “I want to work with him again. The clothes were so cute and it felt so young and fun and applicable to real fashion.”
The pair are popular on TikTok, with 432k followers between them, and say the social media platform helps increase trans visability.
“TikTok and Gen Z are getting more and more experimental breaking down the boundary,” Margo said.
“We are catching up with the runway now, but some [fashion] houses are outdated with it. Newer designers are coming out all the time and listening to, and working with, pop culture.”
But she believes there’s still work to be done.
“Beyond casting more diverse models, behind the scenes needs to be more diverse,” said Margo.
“All of the other trans people we know in fashion are white, able-bodied, thin, cis-passing women. There is still such a long way to go.”
Speaking from Milan, the twins reflect on how far they’ve come, having grown up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas.
Maddie said: “Texas is really conservative and closed-minded and we didn’t really fit in. It taught us a lot and gave us a thick skin which is helpful for an industry like this.”
The twins were signed by London model agency PRM (prm-gency.com) in February 2020.
Known as one of the most progessive agencies – they don’t have specific boards for plus-size models, for example – it’s run by John Bruce, star of Channel 4’s The Model Agency.
They think fashion in European cities is more diverse than their hometown.
“It’s giving athleisure,” Maddie said of Houston. “There isn’t really a fashion scene in Texas. The boots and cowboy hats are a staple, but it’s not even close to the big fashion cities like Paris.”
The sisters came out as trans, first to their families – Maddie at 13 and later Margo at 14 – then both more widely at 16.
“We got to experiment with fashion and make-up and hair and explore something so typically feminine. Our mom definitely supported that,” said Margo.
They started creating content on TikTok during the pandemic.
Margo said: “We got so bored being locked down in Paris and so started posting videos for each other and close friends to laugh at and then it blew up.”
Maddie added: “For a bit that was embarrassing but now it is letting us share our story for the first time.
“TikTok is providing so much exposure to so many different people. Everyone has a platform and can be seen and heard. It is about education, and what is different becomes popular.”