Elton Ilirjani on the House of Mua Mua Fashion Protest that was Center Stage at Art Basel Miami
Elton Ilirjani (they/them) is an unlikely fashion icon who stole the show at Art Basel Miami Beach.
As an LGBTQIA+ activist and bombastic fashion icon with a cult following of over 10 million followers on Instagram, Ilirjani was the star of the House of Mua Mua fashion protest on November 29, 2022 in South Beach.
It marked the second annual fashion protest walk and bus ride during Art Basel Miami Beach, but the 2022 edition was the one that had Ilirjani as the star of the show.
Elton opened the fashion protest with a megaphone, chanting coy phrases like “I want a sugar daddy with a big banana,” and “No money, no honey,” while wearing a custom House of Mua Mua piece that reads “Sugar Daddy” on the front, and “Marry Elton” on the back.
This sparkly, sequin attire with a bridal-like tulle trail is part of the brand’s collaboration between Ilirjani and the House of Mua Mua’s creative director, Ludovica Virga.
Ilirjani’s show-stopping outfit was meant to be ironic. “Women don’t need men for money, the message was the opposite; we should love men and we need men to love us – not money,” they said.
Elton Ilirjani, Ludovica Virga, Nadja Sayej, Olga Ferrara, Coucla Papadopoulos, Samir Zarrouk, Tatiana Teo, Shery Lunardi, Ariel Penzer Milgroom, Renata Sanfilippo, Marilu Bello, Jamie Horrobin, Ossy Slettman, Quetza Gonzalez, Coucla Papadopoulos
Originally from Albania, Ilirjani is dedicated to speaking up for equality, human rights and fairness for other individuals throughout America and the world.
Based in Brooklyn, Ilirjani is the founder of the Dignity Global Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the protection of human and civil rights for women and the LGBTIQIA+ community at the workplace.
They have also built a successful career as the founder and director of The HeadHunter Group, which has offices in 15 countries globally, and spearheading two transgender acceptance campaigns, the “Lipstick Movement” and the “Nobody is Straight” campaign for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.
Elton Ilirjani, Ludovica Virga, Nadja Sayej, Olga Ferrara, Coucla Papadopoulos, Samir Zarrouk, Tatiana Teo, Shery Lunardi, Ariel Penzer Milgroom, Renata Sanfilippo, Marilu Bello, Jamie Horrobin
Ilirjani fights for LGBTQIA+ rights in Eastern Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia. “I am for the community to be seen worldwide,” said Ilirjani.
The House of Mua Mua protest started at the SLS South Beach Hotel, and the protesters marched towards a roofless bus, which then proceeded down Collins Avenue and to the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the Art Basel art fair is held every year. The group hopped off the bus and marched into the art fair’s lobby.
But the protesters were surrounded by the convention center security and eventually intimidated outside. They stood outside holding up their protest signs, posing for photos with fans and bystanders, while conducting interviews with foreign press outlets, from Brazil to Italy.
“Art is for everyone,” said Ilirjani. “We all must free our minds, we can’t be conservative when it comes to art, fashion and creativity. Art is freedom.”
Ilirjani counts one of their biggest influences as the French novelist Honoré de Balzac. “He was always making fun of society in his writing, he had a sarcastic approach to roasting the highest levels of society,” said Ilirjani. “At the protest, we were saying funny things like ‘We don’t give a chic’ and ‘No money, no honey,’ what I consider to be cheeky feminist sayings.”
In its essence, this protest was a feminist. “Even in 2023, women have not reached where they should be, with equal position and equal pay,” said Ilirjani. “They should have the same rights men have—and should lead many industries, not only art and fashion, but politics, and media. But we still are too far.”
Fashion is the best vessel for this message to reach the mainstream, says Ilirjani.
“Now, more than ever, fashion has a powerful influence on social media and influencer culture. Fashion is part of our everyday lives for millions of people all around the world.”
Next up, Ilirjani, who is a key figure in the genderless model movement, is walking two runway shows upcoming at New York Fashion Week in February 2023.
They are walking the Seoul brand BESFXXK’s runway show (as part of the Concept Korea runway show) on February 14, and for Milan-based brand, the House of Mua Mua, on February 12. For both shows, Ilirjani will be the “first face” opening the runway.
“This is the future of modeling,” said Ilirjani. “I want to normalize genderless modeling on the runway.”
“Now is the time to give fashion a new face, the face of the future, the face where women are not seen and considered objects and body numbers,” said Ilirjani.
“Women, men and non-binary people are all individuals who make fashion look better, and brighter for the generations to come. Free Fashion!”
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By ML Staff. Images by Thomas Razzano/BFA.com