Fashion: Lady boy

Brother and sister? No - this is one person. Gaku's androgynous looks have earned him modelling assignments around the world. Tamsin Blanchard talks to a man who has seamlessly crossed the gender divide. Photographs by Dietmar
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Gaku is a boy. At least he thinks he is. It's just that sometimes, he's a girl, too. It depends on whether he is being paid to wear men's suits or women's ball gowns. Occasionally, like the day he modelled for these pictures in New York, he switches from boy to girl in a matter of seconds. Away from the camera, he is just plain, old, androgynous Gaku. And he doesn't seem to be confused in the slightest.

He began modelling in Tokyo three years ago. Now, aged 20, he is quite a celebrity back home, with his own TV show. When a photographer suggested he model as a girl, his feminine alter-ego came quite naturally to him. He slipped on a dress and in the click of the photographer's lense, Gaku was as pretty, feminine and beguiling as they come. He recently won a poll of schoolgirls in Japan where he was voted the prettiest model - and that was as a boy. "I was happy about that because it is the real me," he says through his translator.

"I've never heard of a model like him before," says his booker in London at Take Two agency. "He's just so versatile. His work is spilt 50/50 as a girl and a boy." Gaku is a model agent's dream: two for the price of one. He even has two model books, one for him and one for her. What makes him so unique is that he looks perfectly natural whatever his sex. He never looks like a drag queen. In his short career, he has appeared on the catwalk for Issey Miyake, Gucci, and Wild & Lethal Trash (usually as a girl); in ads for Jigsaw Womenswear, photographed by Juergen Teller, fashion stories for i-D, The Face and Dazed & Confused, and on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Gaku enjoys the whole process of modelling. He is not just a pretty face; put him in front of a camera and he is an actor as well. He also takes his own pictures. "Personally, my favourite shots are the ones people have to puzzle over," he told i-D magazine's Outrage issue. And these pictures certainly make you look a second time as Gaku crosses the great gender divide quite seamlessly

Captions: Far left: shirt, pounds 100, by Etro, 14 Old Bond Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-495 5767; silk tie, pounds 58, as before. Left: trench coat, pounds 365, by Patrick Cox, 129 Sloane Street, London SW1, enquiries 0171-730 8886; trousers, pounds 192, by Bruce, from The Pineal Eye, 49 Broadwick Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-434 2567; loafers, pounds 217, by Etro, as before. Above: hat, model's own, leather vest, pounds 374, by Helmut Lang Jeans, from Jones, 13 Floral Street, London WC2, enquiries 0171-240 8312; linen trousers, pounds 220, by Paul Smith, as before. Right: dress, pounds 409, by Helmut Lang, from Joseph, 77 Fulham Road, London SW3, enquiries 0171-823 9500; sandals, pounds 180, by Etro, as before.

Left: flowered shirt, pounds 199, by Paul Smith, from Westbourne House, 122 Kensington Park Road, London W11, enquiries 0171-379 7133; trousers pounds 135, by Alpana Bawa, from Browns Focus, 38-39 South Molton Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-629 0666 Below: strapless dress, pounds 645, by Etro, as before; shoes, pounds 155, by Etro, as before

Stylist Lysa Cooper at Smashbox Beauty NYC

Hair Giannandrea at Garren

Make-Up Lynn Russel at L'Atelier

Model Gaku at NY Models

Photographer's Assistant Victor Otcheretko

Shot at Richard Lohr Studio, NYC

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