Wonderland Mag: Hari Nef
It’s 12:54PM on a drizzly Tuesday in New York. Hari Nef, 23, has a pair of “really sparkly and gaudy” Jimmy Choo shoes stashed under her chair. She’s going to wear them to her go-see with Marc Jacobs in an hour. “He just followed me on Instagram,” she says, in a mock stage whisper.The shoes — a gift from the SAG awards two days ago — stand next to a cold-carrier from Juice Press. It will be her first NewYork FashionWeek since becoming the first trans woman to sign internationally with IMGWorldwide.
“I used to do runway for my friends,” she explains. Amongst her “friends”, count HBA’s Shayne Oliver, Adam Selman and deviant design duo Eckhaus Latta. Hari met with Jacobs’ team two and a half years ago. “When I was a child. When they had me in from Instagram. Now the prodigal daughter returns!” As if on cue, a stocky, bearded man in a black-and-red checked flannel shirt hastily lunges across the East Village cafe. “I loved you in Transparent,” he blurts out, already retreating, as if suddenly wary of the full-frontal effect of Nef ’s lily-white, pillow-lipped visage. Or maybe just aware that he has left his laptop unattended. “Thank you so much. Really!” she says, craning around so that her fleeing fan can catch the sincere, surprised smile playing across her face. She turns to me, shrugs, deadpan: “That was a plant.”
Nef is wearing an outfit she posted on Instagram seven days ago: this season’s Gucci floral-print crêpe de chine cape shirt flung open, clavicles out, grade-school tattoo choker on display. And four large animal Gucci rings from her show in Milan last week: “I have two more at home but six is just too much,” she sighs. As for permanent accessories, she has two tattoos: “Hailey” in the crook of her arm (“This is what my name would have been had I been assigned fe- male at birth”) and the chemical number of the oestrogen she injects each week.
I might not have noticed that she’d worn this outfit before, except for the fact that Vogue wrote an entire blog post about the selfie, praising her casual embrace of the “deliciously fusty wallpaper” pattern. Nef hasn’t bothered with its grosgrain tie today or the matching pantsuit that she wore with this outfit in November, rather famously posting a picture from “the women’s potty @whitehouse” to the cool 66.1k fans that follow her every move on Instagram.
I’m reminded of a diary of Miami Basel she published in Adult magazine when she was 21, and still a student at Columbia: “I felt elegant and well. I looked like a severe and special occasion… I’m gorgeous! I organise my body.” The words seem truer every day. Nef has that effortless model glow: no split ends, no visible pores, no make-up. I enjoy Nef ’s off-duty style largely because it is frequently, even obstinately, an index of her mind and mood. “I always come back to Carrie Bradshaw,”says Nef, smiling slyly. “I feel like she dressed in a way that was not occasion-appropriate, but would always comment on the occasion. She was always interpolating her point of view.” I distinctly remember when Nef wore an XXL hoodie to a Purple dinner this year. “I don’t like dressing against my mood,” she explains, laughing. She isn’t going to wear a “black dress and a fur chubby” just because she’s at a fashion dinner.
“Oh sure, I make compromises,” she says.“Identifying as a woman when I really feel like a bizarre butterfly.” She exaggerates the syllables and rolls her eyes, then gets serious again. “But I didn’t have the energy or interest to be a gender warrior so I chose a line that best fit and got over it.” Warrior or not, she certainly is earning her stripes as an advocate, largely because she is so willing to correct herself: “There are a lot of trans girls on the internet who see the space I occupy very clearly, and have allowed me to see the space I occupy very clearly. Which is a space only my college-educated, sample-size, juice cleansed-body fills as a trans woman.” She takes a sip of her green juice for effect, and gives me the classic Nef shrug — an almost rhe- torical gesture, with Nef, this shrug that peppers her conversation with the constant reminder that Nef will only give herself so much space to complain.
Writing recently in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, Nef was candid about the opportunity she has as a white, trans woman to take “jobs that brought attention to [her] gender identity.” Her response to the president of IMG was simple: “Give me all those jobs.” “There are no trans women of color that I can think of signed to major modeling agencies,” she says, sighing when I bring it up. “It’s a pink-washing of transness.” In person, Nef addresses her own day-to-day problems as a trans woman in a charming, even mannerist fashion, often slipping into a dry parody of herself. “Did I have a dysphoric day? I got mis-gendered a bunch? Um.” She pauses, flashes me a half smile, and raises her eyebrows. “I smoke some weed. And like, buy a pint of [diet ice-cream] Arctic Zero and go off. It tastes like air.”
By the time I’ve drained my tea, Nef’s been recognised again. This time by a wildly grinning girl who looks to be our age. Nef’s promised to have a conversation with her “about gender” until her meeting with Marc Jacobs in 20 minutes, if I don’t mind… And of course I don’t. And I’m surprised and pleased that she is willing to repeat any answers to any questions that I might have asked, that might have been asked yesterday, that will undoubtedly be asked tomorrow. It’s fitting, I think, that she was too young to be a Gucci girl in the Tom Ford era—“gender warriors” need armour, one supposes. Instead, as Alessandro Michele said of his Gucci girl, “She wants to be the goddess of the streets, a goddess of tenderness.”
Rose lurex cape and multicolour lurex dress both by GUCCI
Black cotton vinatge trousers by ISSEY MIYAKE from the archive of ADUL ALMUDHAF
Cream and brown screen printed polyester dress by ISSEY MIYAKE from the archive of ADUL ALMUDHAF and turquoise printed studded silk satin high heel criss-cross slide by GUCCI
Lavender sequin and mongolian lamb jacket by RODARTE, and grey cotton t shirt vintage by DOLCE & GABBANA from the archive of ADUL ALMUDHAF
Brown and green mink fur with intarsia jacket by GUCCI and black printed cotton vintage t-shirt from the archive of ADUL ALMUDHAF
Pink printed chiffon shirt and pink printed chiffon dress both by NICOPANDA and black and brown leather and fur loafers by GUCCI
Sand cotton dress by MAISON MARGIELA from the archive of ADUL ALMUDHAF
Pale blue and white organza dress and white cotton veil shorts both by CHRISTIAN DIOR and turquoise printed studded silk satin high heel criss-cross slide by GUCCI
Photography: Terry Richardson
Fashion: Nicola Formichetti
Make up: Kanako Takase using MAC
Hair: Dennis Lanni
Photography assistant: Evan Schafer
Fashion assistant: Daniel Cingari & Savage
Retoucher: David Swanson
Words: Kaitlin Phillips
This article and editorial is originally seen on Wonderland Magazine, Fame Issue.