New York Fashion Week is off to an unprecedented start this season as it enters unfamiliar territory, but Private Policy is taking it in stride. The genderless streetwear label is one of the first brands to use Runway 360, the CFDA's new digital fashion week platform, to present their Spring 2021 collection called "Searching for Aphrodite."

Rather than reference the collection's subject in its most literal sense, designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu sought to reinterpret what the Greek Goddess of Love stands for in order to encompass wider notions of beauty and individuality. True to theme, the lookbook embodied the inclusive and diverse ethos Private Policy has stood for since its inception.

Calvin Klein star Yvesmark Chery, whose vitiligo is redefining male beauty, strutted in a broad-shouldered leather coat. Amputee model and musician Marsha Elle posed in a white trench and green jersey tank and skirt. Dominique Castelano, who dedicated her inclusion to "all the hot queer Asians," strutted in a sheer top and faux leather pants.

"The first muse, who sparked the whole idea of searching for Aphrodites, was Marsha Elle," Qu told PAPER. "Then, we met Dominique Castelano, transgender model and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, especially for trans women of color, and Yvesmark Chery, who learned to love his vitiligo and through modeling inspires others to accept their uniquness. Creative and free-spirited Julian Ribeiro and Kayaira embody the New York youth's individuality and confidence."

Rounded out by models Huizi Xue, Julian Riberio, Yifu Hu, Kayaira, Ruijie Ba and Keisuke Asano, the presentation encompassed a range of different genders, races, hair textures and body types to show that Private Policy is for absolutely everyone. It was abundantly clear that these models were embracing their unique features and personalities, reconnecting to the collection's themes of self-love and acceptance.

Unsurprisingly, the challenges posed by the pandemic and restrictions on travel made it difficult to cast the models, but Qu was set on making sure the casting reflected what this collection was all about. "The concept of SS2021 is about embracing diverse and inclusive beauty, so we really were persistent on finding the right group of people and did not want to compromise the message because of the pandemic," she said.

But thanks to some persistent outreach through channels like Instagram DM's, online submission forms, asking friends of friends and casting calls, the designers were able to conduct a proper search for their "Aphrodites." Having the photoshoot and videoshoot done in two cities — Shanghai and New York — was another challenge as they had to combine the photos and video footage from two locations with 12-hour time difference.

In the end though, the duo was able pull it off in the nick of time to coincide with NYFW. "We are so lucky to find the models, or more so, our muses," Qu added. "They each represent their own uniqueness and break the singular traditional beauty ideals in their own ways."

She continued: "Because of the uprising of xenophobia towards Asians during the pandemic, as Asian designers, we pledge to support our community. Keisuke Asono, Yifu Hu, Ruijie Ba, and Huizi Xue were cast both in Shanghai and New York. They represent the new generations of Asian youth, who embrace their heritage and claim space in the fashion industry globally, not as a stereotype but as a real individual."

Photos courtesy of Private Policy

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