Fashion month, and the industry in general, has serious moves to make before it can call itself truly inclusive. Paris Fashion Week this season felt like a step back in time (arguably the biggest show of the week, Celine, saw just nine models of colour out of a total 96) and there's a disappointing representation of plus-size models (AW18 saw only 30 models walking across all four cities), but slow progress is being made.
Last season, according to The Fashion Spot, a record 64 transgender women and non-binary models walked in 52 shows. One such model was Belgium-born, London-based Maxim Magnus, who fell into the industry via a friend's university project and has since starred in a Gucci campaign, and walked for the likes of Alessandra Rich, Paula Knorr and ASAI during fashion month.
Following a whirlwind SS19, we chatted with Maxim about being a role model for the transgender community, starting out in the industry, and dealing with trolls.
Hi Maxim! Tell me how you first got into modelling.
I fell into modelling because I was studying for my degree in fashion communications and a friend asked me to model for one of her projects. Some of my teachers then approached me and told me I should start modelling, which at the time I didn’t think was the best idea. One of my teachers then made an appointment at Linden Staub and came with me to the appointment – I haven’t left since.
You've had an amazing first year in the industry – which shows have been highlights for you?
I’ve walked in some shows with people who are insanely talented. My first ever show, which I also opened, was for Paula Knorr. The same season I also walked for ASAI. I’ve walked for my friend Charles Jeffrey, whose mind goes beyond anything I can explain. This season I walked my first show in Paris, which was for Alessandra Rich – that was a truly amazing experience. Her clothes are so beautiful, and both she and her clothing really empower you.
You starred in Gucci's SS18 campaign – what was that like?
Shooting that campaign was amazing, especially because Adam and Eveline, who cast and directed it, were so amazing. They were really excited to work with me from the beginning, and vice versa. It has always been a dream of mine, to work with Gucci. When the campaign was launched it almost felt surreal – like a dream. It was my first time shooting a fashion film, too.
How was your SS19 fashion month?
This fashion month has been insane. Eleven-year-old Maxim would be screaming in her bedroom if she knew this was going to happen. I have been dreaming about this moment for the longest time, and as exhausting as it was, I want to do it all over again. When I’m at shows, I get butterflies in my stomach and I get so excited about all the creations coming down the catwalk. London was amazing because of the creativity and young talent that resides there. It’s where a lot of my friends are so it’s all really fun. Milan and Paris were both new to me so they were quite overwhelming, but oh so amazing! I can’t believe I got to watch Miu Miu in my first season!
Who within the industry inspires you?
I admire lots of people, because there are so many hardworking and inspiring individuals. Anyone who goes against the grain, isn't a sheep and dares to question things really inspires me. People who don’t get sucked into the fake side of the industry. Charles Jeffrey, Matty Bovan, Adwoa Aboah... they inspire me to be in this industry.
You're a role model for young trans people – how have you chosen to use your platform?
The best way to educate people and to reach out to people is by being honest, by telling my story and telling the whole truth. It’s easy, especially when there are people giving you backlash, to start an angry conversation to prove your point, but at the end of the day that’s not going to benefit anyone. I think it’s so important to use your platform for something great. Even though I went through hell, I have been so privileged to have had the upbringing I have had, and to be able to do amazing things, that I feel I owe it to the world and to my community to speak up and tell my story. I believe that by doing it in such a way, it will educate so many people, and I always say, if I’ve impacted one person, that’s already enough, because that person will then inspire someone else, and it will be a chain.
Did you have any trans role models growing up?
I think the biggest inspiration for me was Gigi Gorgeous. Her honesty and strength made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and that’s so important in this world. In the fashion industry it would be Andreja Pejić, who made history for transgender individuals in the industry. I’ve now had the chance to spend some time with her [Maxim walked the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan with Andreja in September] and she has such a beautiful soul.
Do you think the industry is becoming more diverse and accepting?
I definitely think it is becoming more diverse and accepting, but the rate at which this is happening is far too slow. It shouldn’t be a trend to be diverse, it should be incorporated into the industry as a whole, and that’s something the industry hasn’t fully grasped yet. From the outside, it can seem like a very open and accepting industry, but it certainly doesn’t always feel like that from the inside. I have been on shoots where the team has misgendered me on multiple occasions, which is something that shouldn’t happen.
What do you wish more people knew about being trans?
That you don’t become trans, and that it’s not a choice. I don’t expect people to understand what we’re going through, but the least people can do is respect us for what we have to go through, as we didn’t choose this path.
You have a lot of followers, which can often mean trolls – how do you handle online abuse?
I don’t engage with them, which I think is the best way to do it. I think you can always tell the difference between someone who is being malicious and someone who is misinformed. When the person isn’t educated properly, I always try and have a calm conversation and try to explain stuff, but when they are just being mean, I delete the comment and move on. I care less when people are being malicious towards me, but when I see someone hating on others, that’s when I comment back.
What's up next for you?
I’m still so young, and so many crazy things are ahead of me. I’m currently trying to figure out what my next step will be, but I definitely think we have an exciting year coming up. If I look back at my first year in the industry, so many amazing things have already happened, and I can only be excited for what’s next.