What Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Wants You To Know About Being Intersex

Photo: Courtesy of Maison Margiela
"There is no such thing as normal...defiance has no uniform."
Rebellion, insurrection, and subversion was the theme of John Galliano’s spring 2019 Maison Margiela show in Paris. The voices of models Hanne Gaby Odiele, Teddy Quinlivan, and Molly Bair, and singers Willow Smith and Princess Nokia, among others, echoed around the room, their definitions of mutiny soundtracking the models as they took the runway.
And what were these mutineers sending up, exactly? The gender binary, for one. Unquestioned conformity, too. Galliano’s band of outsiders were rallying against anything that has ever restricted a person from being their true self. At a time when it seems trite or disingenuous to put a cause at the center of your brand, Maison Margiela’s feels like a legitimate call to action.
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In the past, when designers and brands have tried their hand at genderless collections, the result has often looked like boys with long hair in hyper-feminine dresses and nail polish, or women with shaved heads and severe features. Of course, gender nonconforming people are people with a multitude of personal styles, but dressing one gender up in the signifiers of the other falls flat, and feels like an opportunity missed.
Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Galliano succeeded with this collection, though, because he brought his punk sensibility to pieces that felt removed from any notion of societal restriction. Dismantled and dissected tailoring, sheer shirts, embellished skirts, feathers, high-shine leather, and virtually no color — bar some electric blue platform heels and a blush pink trench coat — made for a show teeming with rebellion.
Mutiny is also the name of the Parisian house’s new fragrance — the first Galliano has put out during his four years at the helm. Continuing the brand’s legacy of authenticity, Galliano chose six rebels to be the faces of the campaign. "Each represents their own expression of these multifaceted values: nonconformity, diversity and creativity," a brand statement reads.
One of the six mutineers, Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele, also walked in the show, so who better to talk to about the collection, the fragrance, and the incoming revolution?
Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Hi Hanne. How has fashion month been for you so far?
"It’s been quite easy because I’ve been taking it slow. I’ve done one show in every city, and I’ve been loving it like that. It’s not the time for 50 shows a season anymore."
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And how was walking for Maison Margiela?
"The show was amazing. I cried a little bit! I didn’t know that they were going to put our voices [from the fragrance campaign videos] in the show, so when I heard the word 'intersex' that was a dream come true. As a young child, I never got to see anything like this. It was something that I experienced alone and to see it being talked about and accepted, especially in a community like fashion... It’s refreshing."
You spoke out about being intersex for the first time in 2017, and have continued to be a fantastic role model and voice for the community. What do you wish people knew about being intersex?
"I wish people knew about the surgery. Intersex genital surgery still happens today. Medical surgeries that are unnecessary and irreversible and have harmful consequences. I went through this myself. Little by little, with activism and making this stuff known via the media, it’s happening less, but there's still no protection for intersex children around the world. This is something that needs to end."
Why did you want to work with Maison Margiela on the Mutiny campaign?
"I think a house like Maison Margiela — it’s Belgian like me! — is all about celebrating individuality and self-expression. As someone who didn't necessarily fit into a box as a young child, I feel like I used that as my mutiny, as my self-expression. I found my confidence that way. The people in the campaign, like Willow, Molly, and Teddy, we all have our own character, our own individuality. The photos are actually of our backs, and I feel like it's not a sexualized image at all."
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How would you define mutiny?
"Mutiny is a rebel with a cause. Rebellion for a cause. Mutiny is about finding your own voice, what makes you special, how you can express yourself in the way you want to be viewed or your opinion on things. Mutiny, for me, is also not over-sexualizing. That radical idea of being yourself is inherently enough, and there's a space for everyone to see themselves in it. Just be yourself — it takes a little bit of time but finding that is so worth it, I think."
Who is your ultimate mutineer?
"
There are so many: Marsha P. Johnson, RuPaul. Pidgeon Pagonis, who is another intersex activist. Everybody who speaks out."
And what do you rebel against?
"Anybody who is against freedom. There are so many people in power who are able to take away our freedom — they should just all go away, take a break, go sit down."
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