Glossing Over Trans Issues in Barney’s Latest Ad

Barney’s spring ad campaign features trans models and their families.


If fashion sets trends, Barney’s latest spring marketing campaign puts transgender issues in the luxury retail limelight. The retailer debuted “Brothers, Sisters, Sons, & Daughters,” featuring 20 transgender models wearing designer labels head-to-toe, accompanied by supportive family members and loved ones.

Dennis Freedman, Barney’s ad campaign director, originated the idea after he became “exquisitely aware that in the last decade, the L.G.B. communities have made extraordinary advances, and the transgender community has not shared in that progress.”

Freedman isn’t alone—trans issues are finally receiving long overdue attention. The stories of Chelsea Manning, Laverne Cox, CeCe McDonald, and Dr. V entered the media spotlight—sometimes for better or for worse. Even with the uptick in coverage, growing violence and stubborn ignorance on trans issues persist—media speculation often focuses on transition details than markedly higher unemployment and suicide rates within the trans community. It’s a little annoying that these issues are getting their deserved awareness only once a fashion retailer deems them marketable.

Not to mention, following last year’s racial profiling lawsuit, Barney’s isn’t really at the forefront of social justice issues, even if there storefronts feature images of trans folk. But at least with this campaign, Barney’s did get some things right. For one, they will donate 10 percent of sales on February 11th to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBT Community Center and will train their employees on trans issues.

And in the campaign, more than exotified as trendy others, the trans models are represented with an air of dignity and normalcy. They are someone’s family before they are trans. Fashionable or not, that’s a pretty cool statement.

By Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Founding Editor

Featured Image via Barney’s

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