Introducing Lui: Our New Summer Set, Designed for Everyone
For our latest capsule, we envisioned an easy everyday summer uniform meant to be worn by anyone. The Lui set was created with versatility in mind, blurring the lines between femininity and masculinity, and favoring understated, unfussy and elevated design.
To introduce our latest wardrobe staple we took our team to the breathtaking cliffs of Normandy, France. This strong rocky backdrop felt like the perfect setting for our campaign video. We worked with models Otto Zinsou and Kathia Mailys, who beautifully captured the ease and essence of Lui. Now we are pleased to share our interview with Otto, one of our campaign models. In it he brings to light the intricacies and realities of being a member of the LGBT community, and how important it is to advocate for equality, representation and visibility — particularly within the fashion and media industries. This interview highlights very crucial information, and we hope you will enjoy the conversation.
FRANKIE: Tell us a little bit about your background, who is Otto?
OTTO: That’s the hardest question! My name is Otto, I am 27, and I am a trans non-binary person. I am going to explain what it means; Trans is short for transgender, which means I don’t identify with the gender that was assigned to me at birth. Non-binary means that I don’t feel like I am a woman or a man but I navigate my life somewhere between these two genders, I don’t identify solely with one or the other.
I am also a photographer, a model and a musician. I paint, I sing and I have recently started acting. So I basically am very fond of anything artistic.
In school I studied sociology and I have a master's degree in gender politics and sexuality, and later went on to become a photographer and model.
FRANKIE: What was it like working in Normandy with The Frankie Shop? How was your experience working with a fashion brand on this capsule, and what made you initially interested in the project?
OTTO: It has been a great professional and human experience. There was an overall kindness on set, with the team and overall with the whole project. Everyone was very hardworking and focused so we were efficient. It was even cooler because of the unisex nature of the clothing — which I think is awesome as there are still too few options nowadays for clothing that can be worn and promoted by anyone, no matter their gender. As I said before, I am non-binary and in shops it can be difficult as clothes are almost always classified by gender, so you can either shop in the women’s or men’s section, but never an in-between.
The fact that there are fashion brands out there that are doing unisex collections I think is a start to break down the traditional gender barriers and codes which I think is an amazing initiative. That’s why it was exciting to be asked to participate in this project.
FRANKIE: While there is still a lot of work to be done in the industry, many brands have taken steps forward in terms of representation and inclusivity. How have you perceived these changes? What would you like to see more of from fashion companies to improve visibility for people of all identities?
OTTO: Yes there has been some improvements or efforts that have been made in the fashion industry regarding representation and inclusivity, and I personally have seen this progress, with more brands doing unisex collections.
Transgender and overall LGBT people are represented in those campaigns, even if the numbers are still low, they are becoming more and more visible on the runaway, and in e-commerce and magazines. The subject is also more talked about in interviews, giving more visibility and a voice to the LGBT community. So that’s great — but there is still an enormous amount that has to be done.
One thing that is really upsetting and bothersome is the fact that brands use the LGBT movement for marketing purposes, but don’t always practice what they preach. For example during Pride Month, brands are very vocal about LGBT rights and representation, but the actors/models that are cast to promote this collection and this message are heterosexual/ cisgender people — not those whom are actually affected by the cause. I think this is a real problem as LGBT individuals really deserve to be pushed forward and celebrated in these campaigns for who they are. If a brand glorifies the LGBT movement for commercial purposes, I think the least they could do is hire individuals that are directly concerned by the movement to make those campaigns.
FRANKIE: What advice would you give to your younger self? Is there someone that has made, or continues to make a big impact on you and your personal growth?
OTTO: So many things! It’s difficult to talk about as it is very much related to how I view myself and my identity. For a long time as a non-binary person, I had no idea it was even a thing, I had no idea that trans-identity even existed, and I felt extremely alone and lost, disoriented. I was harassed and made fun of for how I looked, in secondary school, in high school and even later — because of how androgynous I look.
People have often asked if I am a man or a woman, and I was also harassed because of my sexual orientation, so it definitely wasn’t easy. What I would say to my younger self is, I am not the problem, I am not to be blamed. I thought these things were my fault — I blamed myself for the way that I am, what I am, who I am attracted to, what I look like. I am not a problem — the problem is intolerance and how people don’t accept difference, and otherness. I am allowed to be and live just as much as anyone else.
So basically I would say to not devalue who I am, that’s the one piece of advice I would give to my younger self.
OTTO: Concerning role models, unfortunately not really — at least not until university. I had no role model of representation which of course, intensified this loneliness and marginalisation that I was talking about previously. In the media, TV, cinema, radio, and papers, there was no visibility for transgender people — no stories and no coverage on what it was like to be transgender, or even a famous trans person. Back then there were very few gay, lesbian or even bisexual people in movies, television, or books — no one was talking about them, or they were hidden in a dark corner of a library.
That was really missing when I and other individuals from the community were growing up, because representation allows us to feel less alone, less illegitimate. So no, I didn’t really have any role models. Nowadays, fortunately, things are changing, we see a lot more transgender and non-binary people on social media. There’s an informative account that I really like called @aggressively_trans run by Lexie, as well as other very well-know famous transgender people. This is so important as we need to see things changing, and see trans people thriving and being themselves, so that being trans isn’t reduced to living a miserable or difficult life.