Derek Du Jour Still Compassionate Towards Cis People
Text & photos Sean Santiago. This interview has been edited and condensed.
How do you approach conversations about non-binary identity? Or at this point are you just like ‘fuck it, fuck this labor, y'all need to go take a class and fuck off’?
My one tip is to be upfront about it in a compassionate and understanding way. Many are new to gender pronouns, since we all live in such a toxically gendered world. The sooner the better, so people will remember and associate you with your pronouns from that point on and learn to be more thoughtful when meeting other people in the future. For me, I don't really say anything unless the topic or something relevant comes up.
Otherwise, I just show up in my heels, cut-off kimono, and favorite physical asset—my legs. The least I can do to educate others about trans identity is [to be] visible. I just hate it when people use the fact that I work in fashion as an explanation for the way [that I dress], because that's not the reason.
Let's unpack the idea of people "explaining" the way you dress and how that relates to your gender—maybe it's "cisplaining”? I've definitely fielded questions about "why" I'm "doing" this or that, and "where is it coming from?" People seem to feel a need to connect something external to something very internal, as if it’s a chicken and egg situation. It's such a complex conversation and I think for people who are viewed as "masculine transgressors" of some sort—and we talked about this—it's like either you're a dude or you're in drag. There's no in between! It's so hard to get people to see or understand gender fluidity. Thoughts on how the hell we can create more space in this gray area?
It definitely is "cisplaining." People go off of stereotypes about “fashion people” and how we all dress a little "out there," which is so annoying because this is just me being me, wearing whatever the fuck I want and what makes me happy and feels true to myself. If I didn't work in fashion, I'm sure I would have developed a similar taste [in clothing]. On all the dating apps, especially Grindr, I get a lot of messages from guys that ask me if I'm a crossdresser or “full-time” or “part-time” transgender person. Like, excuse me? I always retort by stating that first, that is so fucking rude of you to ask, second, it's none of your business, and third, gender is a spectrum. Lastly, I'm not a crossdresser. This is how I always dress and clothes have no gender.
A lot of these guys don't understand the gender spectrum and that people can wear whatever they want. Gender norms and the binary are so deeply ingrained in their minds, which is something I hope to help dismantle. To create more space in this gray area, we just have to continue having conversations and educating others about the gender spectrum, as frustrating as it is. I'm sure society will get to point where gender is irrelevant and we will all just be recognized as equal human beings.
Talk to me about the beauty routine. What are your can't-live-withouts and what do you skip?
I am much more into skincare than makeup when it comes to beauty; on the daily I’ll put on some "boy brow" from Glossier and some lip color to give my face life. If I'm going out, have a shoot, or am meeting someone important then I will put a little concealer under my eyes and upper lip to cover any shadows. [Then it’s] toner, vitamin C serum, and a moisturizer (night and day), with additional SPF during the day. I also do a fan mask once a week. I drink tons of water too; being on "Pure for Men" has not only improved my bottoming life, but also my skin due to the amount of water intake required.
What labels do you look to for inspiration?
For me, I find inspiration in up-and-coming, indie brands and designers that pay no attention to gender and gender norms. Not just because I relate to their story on a personal level, but they're also doing the work to show that clothes are clothes and that they have no gender. Shayne Oliver at HBA, Gypsy Sport, Maison the Faux, Homic, Art School, Ludovic de Saint Sernin and so many more. It's so empowering. Of course, I love the [the work of] major designers like Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Alexander Wang, Phoebe Philo, Riccardo Tisci—but I just don't find them as inspiring as the up-and-comers, perhaps because they are all still trying to sell this idealized version of beauty, an irrelevant fantasy, and other designers copy them so it all looks the same.
What, aside from fashion, influences your work?
I find a lot of inspiration in my emotions; [I’m] an over-thinker so they often trigger ideas and stories. I also find a lot of aesthetic inspirations in various cultures: their architecture, textiles, history, and idiosyncratic fashions. Lastly, anime and video games! I'm such a nerd at heart and I still watch anime here and there, [although] I don't have a TV or video game console. But I'm always fascinated by the character designs, cities, and worlds in these stories. Final Fantasy, anyone?
What’s next for you?
I'm starting school again and taking evening classes to broaden my opportunities and to work towards becoming an art director. I just want to be a consumer of fashion now, rather than a slave to it. Although, I still want to stay connected to the industry through Derek Du Jour.