Toronto’s fashion iconoclast, Myles Sexton, reflects on the challenges, inspirations, and aspirations that have led to his personal renewal and growing androgynous empire.
Myles Sexton has been an unrivaled force of creativity, innovation, and transformation ever since he first set foot in Toronto. A multi-talented and multi-platform artist, Sexton has built a powerful presence in fashion through modeling, makeup artistry, jewellery design, and editorial collaboration – all the while challenging the contours of the industry through his own androgynous expression of gender, identity, and style.
When I first met Myles Sexton, a few years back, I was immediately enamoured with his light-hearted energy, warm smile, and charismatic personality – qualities that I would soon learn were reflected in the whimsy of his artistic and authentic nature. I had asked to borrow a handful of pieces from his popular jewellery line (his namesake M.Sexton) – which, at the time, consisted of hand-crafted, spiked leather rings, heavily-weighted sheaths of chained necklaces, and aggressively accessorized, stunning eye-patches. The pieces were for a specific editorial I was directing for a local magazine – and Sexton being a staunch supporter of Canadian artists and young talent – graciously agreed. I remember leaving that short meeting feeling that Sexton seemed to radiate a sort of vivid greatness, a presence only reinforced when I ran into him shortly thereafter at Toronto Fashion Week – garbed in a head-to-toe lace bodysuit, a black feather stole piled around his neck, and sky-high, glossy leather platforms. At the time, I remember thinking that this was this reason I wanted to work in fashion – to meet, collaborate with, and be inspired by people as daring as Myles Sexton. To me, he represented the vanguard of an evolving industry, and I wasn’t wrong.
However, Sexton’s brightness, though easily recognizable these days in Toronto, was not always radiantly lauded. Growing up in a small town in Nova Scotia, Sexton’s journey to Toronto has been laced with trials of emancipation, realization, and affirmation. “Growing up in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia was not easy…I was a feminine male who did not understand his sexuality. I remember most of the school years being bullied to many extremes and I think that really puts a lot of weight on a person’s soul,” he says. Despite the hardships of these earlier years, Sexton maintains that much of his personal success is in direct relation to the determination that grew out of these obstacles. “…I don’t regret it a second because it gave me the gift of motivation. I now have something that drives me every single day.”
Ironically, it wasn’t until a young Sexton began working in a grocery store that he began to feel the itch and pull toward the fashion industry and what it could mean for a boy like him. "A position opened up once a month [where] I got to put out all the new fashion magazines", he says. "It would take me the entire day…because I started looking through them. I was so inspired by all the images and creativity, except I didn’t see a man in the magazines I could relate to. Then my dream was born to become the man I wish I knew existed.”
In a story by FAJO Magazine in March 2013, Sexton expanded upon this, and revealed that his journey into fashion began through a local modelling agency that taught him the process of the trade, but, at the same time, where he knew he didn’t belong. Forced into the confined boundaries of a traditional, binary understanding of gender, Sexton was not wholly encouraged to express the type of gender-fluid identity he was beginning to adopt. “I was stripped of anything that would be feminine by my agent and after a year I left the agency because I did not feel this was the direction I wanted.” Sexton was challenged to affirm that to become the person he wanted to be through fashion, he’d have to carve it out of the industry himself. Sexton packed up, moved to Toronto, and began the steps toward an incredible new journey. “I wanted to embrace what made me different than all the other male models instead of being just like them.”
As reflected on by FAJO Magazine in March 2013, Sexton’s big move to Canada’s arts and cultural centre led to incredible exposure in a vibrant market inspired by his challenging aesthetic, both locally and abroad – catapulting Sexton to multiple design and editorial collaborations as well as runway shows at Toronto Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, and even publications onto the online pages of Vogue Italia. Sexton has built a public empire out of a personal dream, and has proved that you don’t necessarily need to fit any prescribed mold to be successful at something that you love, both personally and professionally. Sexton’s epic journey has been, and continues to be, a burning testament to the possibilities of what fashion can represent – socially, culturally, and artistically. “Beauty and fashion are so directly linked to pop culture…instead of focusing on societal norms, we can use [them] to break free and give freedom of self-identity [and] expression," he says. "I do feel that [I] and many others…have helped to cause a huge change of perspective. I think now people are more aware that there are not just two body types. I think that companies will start realizing the other markets that they are not tapping into [and] I hope that it will become…more creative and almost lose its gender identities.”
Fashion is an industry of imagination and novelty. Sexton has managed to merge both – using the flash of clothing to both express his taste in androgyny as well as his freedom of character, all the while forcing us to consider and question the very structures that we use to understand, or define, what gender is. In essence, Myles Sexton – the artist, the designer, the model, and the visionary – is a breath of the future, and Toronto is lucky to have him. “Life is too beautiful to not live for yourself," he says. "Instead of in the minds and thoughts of others.”