According to fashion editor and stylist Gustavo Pallacios, there are three types of creative people in the fashion industry: those who make the rules, those who break them, and those who follow. These three types of people, they note, are also present in society.
“I consider myself two of those three.”
Recently, Gustavo posted a status coming out as non-binary/gender fluid. “As the New Year has begun I have been doing a lot of soul searching,” they wrote at the beginning of the post. “I have spent a while trying to understand gender as a social construct and see where I fit into society.”
“I grappled with what it meant to be man or woman,” they now reminisce about the decision to come out, “and came to realise that even though my genetic make up is that of a male, from childhood I truly never identified with either gender.”
Adopted as a baby from Colombia, Gustavo grew up with their family on the Gold Coast. “As a child,” they recall, “I was inspired by the fashion world and the underground sub-groups that spawned from mainstream fashion.”
Despite having supportive parents who encouraged a love of music and fashion, Gustavo still grew up in 90s heteronormative society and was surrounded by a majority of cishet people who “viewed [them] as a feminine child”, making it evident to Gustavo that they never really fit into the stereotypical mould of how a boy “should” be.
“I realised at the completion of school that I was stifled and uninspired by everything that my life currently was,” they write.
This led Gustavo to move to Sydney in order to study fashion and to figure out who they really were. “After studying and working as a stylist, I gained the confidence to unapologetically express my exterior self through dressing.”
“I think style gave me the confidence to live my truth,” they consider, “because, for as long as I remember, I have not cared about what people thought of my sense of style and that in turn helped me to not care about fitting into gender stereotypes regardless of my surroundings.”
If rules are made to be broken, Gustavo symbolises the importance of understanding both gender and fashion as constructs so that they can ultimately be deconstructed and torn apart. “In my professional life I strive to provoke thought and create a dialogue about gender through the fashion stories that I create. It is an avenue for experimentation, rebellion and expression.”
They talk about how fashion has historically been a site for fluid expression. “Having studied fashion history, I learned that for centuries men and women shared or completely swapped garb that would now be assigned to a particular gender in today’s mainstream society.”
Now living in Melbourne, and finding a community of people who encourage each other to live by their own rules, Gustavo hopes that their work can inspire others in the same way they were inspired by underground sub-groups as a child.
In particular, they want to highlight the power that fashion and styling have in not only highlighting a freedom of expression but also in blurring gendered boundaries. “I do not want to be dictated by cis-normative values,” they note. “I want to create my own rules and break down social constructs.”
For Gustavo, there is an inherent liberation that comes with embracing one’s self beyond society’s expectations. “My personal identity is extremely important to me. Conforming is not an option.”
“[The] gender binary does not describe me anymore,” add. “I may be both, another, all, none or beyond.”’
If one thing does remain certain to them, it’s that fashion holds the power in promoting eclectic forms of identity expression. “I feel that the fashion industry can be a leader in paving the way to a more diverse, culturally aware world.”
“Above everything, fashion is about self expression,” they continue. “It is individuality, it is provocation and inspiration.”
Gustavo’s presence, alone, is powerful. Their refusal to conform to society’s guidelines is palpably inspiring. In defiantly expressing their uniqueness, Gustavo’s happiness is a prime example of the freedom that can come with rallying against the norm.
“Fashion, like gender, is a construct and in 2018, now more than ever, we have the option and ability to disassemble this multifaceted puzzle."