Sydney-based designer Charmaine Salvacion has shown with her very first menswear collection –named mens/is– the ability of fashion to be part of a change in our society. Through garments, we are choosing to embody our inner self, and to send a message to those who are willing to understand it – or to question themselves. The Australian designer understands the art of creating as a personal journey, where the question of gender is, and the beauty of being remains. We are discovering the layers of human identity by decoding what the idea of menswear has been, with a progressive approach. The use of innovative textiles and shapes accentuates this feeling of contemporary self expression. This is the vision of a man embracing his femininity.
There is a feeling of gender ambiguity within your first menswear collection. How did you approach this idea? 
It was important for me to have a nuanced approach to gender and engage with visual subtleties. I wanted to challenge myself by thinking about the differences in how conventional masculinity and femininity are portrayed, and integrating those opposing elements. For example, I have two translucent pieces that play on "masculine modesty" and "feminine seduction" in the sense that the garments simultaneously conceal and reveal the body.
And what was the most challenging aspect about this exploration?
The biggest challenge was achieving a level of ambiguity, both in gender play and in the garments themselves (there are a couple of pieces that aren't what they appear to be at first glance) while maintaining the subtlety I wanted to go for.
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I can see, within your garments, a sort of constant exploration of the complex human identity. How did you translate this concept into your creations?
Human identity is so layered, dimensional and contradictory, and I explored it primarily through form and textiles. I translated that through sculptural elements in the garments, playing with layering and light through translucent materials, creating garments that aren't what they seem initially, even utilizing unconventional finishes, and discarding some traditional construction methods.
We can notice beautiful contrasts in terms of textiles all the way through mens/is.
One of the core concepts I engaged with in the collection was the idea of authenticity and how that is achieved. To be human is to be in a constant state of  flux – there is no checklist or a correct way of being, authenticity has nothing to do with congruity, and I wanted to reflect that through the contrast in textiles.
In your opinion, why is fashion so accurate when it comes to embody these messages? 
The body is the primary site where we inscribe who we are and the first point of reference where others interpret those inscriptions. Even when we are naked, we are fashioned – through our choices in perfume, jewelery and/or body art.
“I simply feel that male femininity needs to exist outside a queer space and be accepted into the mainstream as much as female masculinity has.”
I'm interested to know about your desire of doing menswear, is this something you always thought of exploring?
I simply feel that male femininity needs to exist outside a queer/alternative space and be accepted into the mainstream as much as female masculinity has. A lot of this has to do with a desire for gender equality. My early research had me reading about male homosexuality in the 60s/70s and how there was a stigma attached to effeminate men within the community. That got me thinking whether femininity in itself is what is seen as weak, or if women are assumed to be weaker than men because of another assumption that femininity is intrinsically linked to being biologically female.
Exploring femininity through menswear was a way for me to say that there is equal power in feminine and masculine presentation regardless of sex, and it should be perceived as such.
Do you think there is still a strong presence of stigmas, and misconceptions within our society?
Absolutely. And in so many forms. That said, every single person has such a different way of thinking-.. To counter misconceptions and stigmas, I feel it's more important to be taught how to think instead of what to think, and maybe then their presence will be reduced.
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Who is inspiring you, and influencing your direction in fashion? 
Drag queens. The diverse types of queens are incredible, the gender play of course is fascinating and the rebelliousness of drag is a boundless source of inspiration for me. Although I don't take the loud visual cues from frag performers, I hope to continue exploring diversity, gender play and that same sense of rebellion in my creative practice.
And so, what is the next theme you would like to investigate in a deeper level through your next collection?
I think I will be investigating the same theme for a while – I still have a lot of questions to do with identity.
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