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Stylist Deni Todorovič staged a Pride March at Melbourne Fashion Week. Then they were publicly shamed.

As a leading stylist, influencer and activist, Deni Todorovič only takes on projects they are passionate about.

The creator behind the popular Instagram account 'Style By Deni', whose pronouns are they/them, likes to say yes to opportunities that not only fill their cup, but have intention.

So when Melbourne Fashion Week approached them to style the opening night show and combine their two passions - fashion and activism for the LGBTQIA+ community - Deni jumped at the opportunity.

"This [was] literally my dream brief," the co-host of Mamamia's fashion podcast, What Are You Wearing?, said on this week's episode.

Listen to the episode here, where hosts Deni and Tamara share the behind-the-scenes secrets of Fashion Week. Post continues after audio.

The date of the show also lined up with Trans Awareness Week, and as a trans non-binary person, Deni saw this as the perfect moment to shine a light on trans visibility - they had already cast the trans model and content creator AJ Clementine to open and close the show.

"We [had] to do something. It would be weird not to," Deni said.

"I had this idea, it [was] going to be a Pride March moment," they explained. "Let's bring Mardi Gras to Melbourne and let's celebrate trans people in Australia."

And that's the vision Deni brought to life. 

The show featured seven Australian designers, with styles by Camilla opening the show and a colourful finale that was staged as a glittering celebration of pride.

Deni wore their pronouns on a t-shirt while holding AJ Clementine's hand and waving the pride flag in the other, leading a diverse line-up of models and people cast for the show down the catwalk.

It was a groundbreaking moment - for those walking the runway, for those watching from the sidelines, and most importantly, for the trans community.

The finale of the opening show at Melbourne Fashion Week. Image: Getty.

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"I'd been to many fashion shows in my life and it just felt different," Deni said, reflecting on the show.

"It was a beautiful celebration of love. And it was received that way on social media very much."

Until it wasn't.

The weekend following the show, a fashion columnist for the Herald Sun published an article titled, "Stylist Deni Todorovič shamed for political stunt at Melbourne Fashion Week."

The piece slammed the fashion show, suggesting it was trying to push a trans narrative rather than focusing on fashion, and asserting that "Melbourne fashion week is meant to be about the designers".

The author reached out to 'fashion insiders', with one calling the stunt "the ultimate fashion faux pas", and shared claims that the finale left one designer "in tears".

Soon after, Deni issued a public statement on Instagram, apologising to the designers and explaining the concept behind the show.

"I am deeply sorry for anyone whose feelings I hurt, truly. However I will never apologise for using my platform to shine a light on those kept in the dark and provide a voice for the voiceless," they wrote in the post.

"I will never apologise for that finale feeling like the Pride march it was intended to feel like."

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Speaking about the article on What Are You Wearing, Deni reflected on how it initially made them feel.

"It just really hurt me because it felt like... you know, fashion is this thing that has been my saviour," Deni said.

"I was that kid growing up in Geelong who had no friends, they were bullied so much because all they did was be a very gay little kid... and fashion was my escape, fashion was my shining beacon. 

"So, then to be publicly shamed, by an industry or media [that ]I adore and this world that I love, it really hurt," they said.

Deni also reflected on what that negative commentary meant in retrospect.

"This is proof in the pudding that change is uncomfortable. Change can be icky," they said.


"Any kind of revolution or big movement throughout history has not come with a round of applause. They generally come with some kind of resistance. So, I will forever be proud of that moment.

"I feel so proud that we got that moment of visibility."

Feature image: Getty.

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