I came across Saint Harridan, a men’s suit company focused on making tailored, quality suits for women and transmen. The company is running a community-based modeling campaign — anyone can join their modeling campaign! See their call for models here.
Mary Going, Founder and Managing Partner, shared some thoughts with us.
Queerture: Why did you start Saint Harridan?
Saint Harridan: Your outer appearance affects how you are perceived by everyone – first and foremost by yourself. The clothes one wears can project an image that claims confidence, pride an respect. But, a person cannot claim those things if they are forced to wear clothing that doesn’t’ fit their self image. I want to create the instruments that allow a woman or a trans man to look good, and feel great.
SH: I am a serial entrepreneur. I have founded, run and sold two businesses before. I began thinking about this business in 2004 when Massachusetts passed same-sex marriage. I lived in Maine at the time, and wanted to run down there and get married, but I didn’t have anything to wear! At the time, I was in the process of selling the second business. Tina Tarr, my business partner and I seriously researched it, but decided there wasn’t enough of a market opportunity. Two years ago, I started an MBA program (which was a dream of mine), and while I was in school, the idea came up again. Tina has rejoined me, and our research revealed that now is the right time. I finished school, and we believe we’ve reached the tipping point for a market opportunity, so the time is absolutely right.
QT: Why are there so many companies focused on the butch/stud/boi and transmale client these days?
SH: When your most basic needs are not met – like physical safety – it’s difficult to think about things like what you’re going to wear. We cannot diminish the reality that many of us are still in physical danger. At the same time (thanks to those who have come before us) we have gained a great deal of acceptance, and a good number of basic rights. Dress is an integral part of knowing and projecting yourself, and many people are doing that personal work now. It’s not personal in the sense of naval-gazing, but personal in the sense of maturity and growth. It’s a natural and important need in a person’s life. And, so, naturally, many companies are emerging to fill this need. And, it’s very important to point out that as more of us exist openly in the world as confident, self-actualized human beings, we will gain (and demand) acceptance and rights, which in turn, creates basic safety for more of us.
QT: Tell me about your suits – how do you design them? What’s on the current horizon?
SH: On Sept 22, we will hold a world-wide focus group where folks from anywhere with internet access can tell their stories and be heard. These are stories of clothing, but also stories about gender and identity – how it relates to self confidence, how it relates to life choices, and to health and well being – and of course how all of that is connected to the ways we choose to dress and how we choose to represent ourselves in public.
We’re selecting six Bay Area models who will be the in-person representatives. A lot of skill and expertise are being engaged to pull this off. We have a professional facilitator and workshop design team who is designing the focus group with the goal of maximum engagement from the models, and from the online community. We have a filmmaker & photographer who is documenting and broadcasting the process, and many other experts and friends who will do everything from catering the event to protecting intellectual properties to
posting on Facebook.
Once we have the focus groups, our team of designers and other garment experts will make a prototype of a suit (in one of the model’s sizes), which will go back to the group of 6 – and to the online community. We’ll tweak it until we’re happy with it, and then we’ll make one in all of the sizes of the 6 models, which will also go back to the community for feedback, tweaking, etc. It’s only after we’ve done this process that we will start offering those suits for sale. We’re planning a US pop-up store tour where we’ll open a pop-up store for 4-5 days in different cities around the US. We plan to start the tour in the Spring.
QT: Which aspects of traditional men’s suits made for bio-man need reconfiguring to fit your target market: women and trans men?
SH: We will be relying heavily on the feedback from the September 22 focus group. When we create clothing, we want a person to try it on, look in the mirror, see THEMSELVES, and feel fantastic. The fit will be one that we don’t find in the men’s department, including smaller collar diameter, shorter sleeves, room in the chest, room for hips – all of this while maintaining the power look that makes a suit a suit.
QT: What is the special value of being a member of the client-base you are serving — meaning, how do we as a community address some of the needs of our community/ies and how have you noticed we’ve consistently failed, fashion wise…?
SH: The problem isn’t that non-client-based businesses don’t do it well. The problem is that they don’t do it at all. They don’t notice us at all. If Saint Harridan is successful in this endeavor, it will be because we are listening and paying attention and responding with something of value. Maybe it takes a member of the client-base to care enough to listen when the risk is high- as it is now in its unproven stage. In a future where the risk is reduced- because Saint Harridan has proven that WE are a market with money – then the competition will become stiff. In that future, Saint Harridan will not assume loyalty because I’m a member of the client base. We will still have to listen and care and be innovative and offer excellent value.
QT: Thank you Mary. Good luck!
(model: Mayumi Taylor)