Meet Carson, a non-binary model navigating a traditionally binary industry

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley
Images by Sonja Maria Sujecki

“I think there’s a lot of dismantling that has to happen.” 

Fashion is an industry with a gender division built into its very core. Historically, you’ve always had womenswear modelled by women, and menswear modelled by men.

Non-binary model Carson might not fit either of these categories, but has been admirably dogged about establishing a career for themselves regardless.

While casting for this year’s Melbourne Fashion Week, they spoke frankly about their experience navigating a slowly shifting industry.

“I think people’s ideas of fashion and ideas of gender are still binary, for sure,” they explained. “You’ll see more and more diversity casting happening now, and you definitely see smaller runways that are gonna go for a more unisex or androgynous look.”

“But that separation is just built into the agencies and shows and everything right now. I think there’s a lot of dismantling that has to happen that goes beyond like… putting someone in a dress on a runway and calling it a day.”

By way of example, they’re still most likely to be cast in menswear runways, and sit with the male models in their agency’s books.

As the diverse crowd who attended the casting suggests, Melbourne is making moves to embrace a bit of difference in the fashion world. And while healthy cynics could accuse plenty of brands of stunt casting – say, cashing in on an audience’s more progressive views for profit or clout, without making any tangible efforts to dismantle industry attitudes – Carson shrugs and admits they genuinely don’t care.

After considering whether they’re being exploited in any way, the question they ask before taking any job is ‘what will my impact be?’

“You’re looking at something that might reach a lot of people,” Carson says. “And for me, seeing images of people who were gender ambiguous or exploring their gender in really exciting ways when I was younger and coming into myself was really exciting. So, if I can then be that for someone else on my Instagram or on the runway, then that’s great.”

Carson clearly takes this responsibility to heart, working to both uplift and educate people using the platforms at their disposal. If you scroll through their Instagram – equal parts beautiful, arty photography and candid Melbourne youth antics – you’ll find lengthy captions showering support on their fellow transgender followers, and offering advice on how to be a respectful, proactive ally to everybody else.

The story of how Carson started modelling in itself is very, very Melbourne. While on the train to high school – rocking shaved eyebrows and a bright red Bowie-inspired haircut – they were street cast by a photographer from Byron Bay. And while it took a while for them to take her up on the offer, they’ve since found a groove juggling their passions for both modelling and photography – which they’re currently studying full-time.

With access to so many professional photographers and an inside look at the business, they quickly found ways to network and work each job to their advantage.

“Being able to come on sets and sit behind the camera, and have them explain to me what they were doing was great,” they explain. “I started with a very fashion bend because that’s what I knew, and I’ve learnt how to take that knowledge and those ideas of expression and style and use them in a more artistic context.”

You can see some of Carson’s photography on their Instagram, and catch them modelling at Melbourne Fashion Week.


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