There are Fashion Icons, Then There is Elton Ilirjani
The bold Albanian-born fashion influencer and LGBTQ+ activist Elton Ilirjani stole the show at New York Fashion Week on February 14, 2023, strutting down the runway for BESFXXK as part of the Concept Korea runway show at Spring Studios.
Closing the show in a pink and black hybrid puffer coat dress, Ilirjani closed the show as the last model on the runway, as music by BAAWALA blared on the speakers, as guests were surrounded by towering skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline outside the studio windows.
As a fierce leader of the genderless model movement, Ilirjani's performance was praised and celebrated. Audience and critics alike were in awe of their poise, elegance, and commanding presence on the runway.
“The piece I wore was wonderful,” recalls Ilirjani. “It was a dream come true. When I walk the runway, it isn’t just for myself, but an entire movement. Genderless models need to be seen on the runway—and heard, too.”
“As a trailblazing piece in South Korean fashion, it was a cosmic experience. I call this outfit the ‘Rotation of Dreams,’ as I spun around on the catwalk while wearing it,” they said Ilirjani is breaking new boundaries in the fashion scene, as a genderless model.
Since first becoming a fashion influencer when they arrived in the US in 2018, Ilirjani has taken New York by storm. Whether they are collaborating with South Korean brands, walking runway shows or hobnobbing with the city’s cultural elite at red carpet events, it’s all a part of Ilirjani’s everyday activism.
Fashion activism, that is. Ilirjani is a rising star in the fashion scene, known for their fashion sense, striking features, and eccentric personality. They led a fashion protest that gripped Art Basel Miami Beach, several runway shows at New York Fashion Week, and was called “a fashion icon” by Forbes, and is noted for their inclusivity in V Magazine and LA Weekly.
In fact, Elton has been known for breaking norms both on the runway, and off.
As the CEO of the HeadHunter Group, a recruiting firm in 15 countries, they are also the founder of Dignity Global, a non-profit that aims to help minorities fight workplace discrimination. By walking the catwalk during New York Fashion Week, it helps further Ilirjani’s philanthropic goal of battling workplace discrimination for women and the LGBTQIIA+ communities.
“I founded the Dignity Global Foundation for inclusion at the workplace and during the job interview; it was mainly focused on equal rights employment for the LGBTQIIA+ community and women,” they said. “Seven years ago, we also started two big protest movements, like the “Lipstick Movement” and “Nobody is Straight Movement,” both of which focus on equal rights for the Transgenders people of color in the US. This group of people is most discriminated against, and mainly violated and in some cases, murdered in some southern states in America.”
Breaking gender normal is part of Elton’s fabulous every day. They are equal parts feminine and masculine, challenging the conventional binary gender roles in the fashion industry.
With more and more fashion brands introducing genderless collections to their runway shows, why not include more non-binary models to the runway, too? It just makes sense.
“I believe that genderless models stand outside the standardized “beauty” box, and are helping make the fashion industry more inclusive for women and the LGBTQIIA+ communities,” said Ilirjani. “Genderless models are the very first step into freedom in the fashion industry.”
Their willingness to push boundaries and transcend gender stereotypes has been praised by many as a step towards inclusivity and diversity in fashion. When asked about being a genderless model on the runway, Ilirjani said:
“This is the future of modeling. The fashion industry is no longer old-fashioned, discriminatory, or objectifying women. Genderless modeling represents everyone, it’s synonymous with the arts and creation, and is more easily absorbed by the general public.”
Ilirjani's appearance at New York Fashion Week was a testament to their talent and skills as a model, as well as his outspoken passion for bringing awareness to the gender equality movement. His performance helped to elevate the visibility of Concept Korea and Korean fashion, cementing his status as a standout performer of the event. They are here to revolutionize the fashion industry and pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse future, too.
Next up, Elton Ilirjani is walking in four runway shows for Seoul Fashion Week 2023 in March; on March 15 for MMAM, on March 16 for Seokwoon Yon, on March 17 for Greedilous, and on March 19 for Maison Nica.
“I am excited to walk these runway shows because I will be walking wonderful outfits, and some of them are magical,” said Ilirjani. “The runway studios are huge and futuristic, I am going 14 hours ahead in time zone, and 100 years ahead in fashion; I will be stepping towards the future.”
Ilirjani believes South Korean fashion designers are overlooked by the mainstream fashion industry.
“They are creative, hard workers, talented, have dignity, and they love simplicity in fashion,” Ilirjani said. “They are also humble people, in contrast to the European spirit and pride who sometimes pre-judge. They make all models feel beautiful and handsome. In the end, this should be an industry of love and inclusion, and not of slavery and human cruelty.”