Jag & Company Clothier // New York City — Queer style for all

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Image: Jag & Co.

Hats go off to Rainbow Fashion Week Executive Producer E. Jaguar Beckford (Jag), who takes not more than a second of down time in the city that never sleeps. A fashion designer, entertainment lawyer, music industry veteran and CEO of Jaguar & Company Clothier (Jag & Co.), Beckford manifests like a storm. Her company mission statement: “Reach One, Teach One.” In 2013 she birthed a landmark event in fashion history: “Rainbow Fashion Week” (RFW) an LGBTQIAA fashion week featuring 8 days of casual and formal wear designed by LGBTQIAA fashion designers and stylists, held in New York City. Two years and 25,000 attendees later, RFW 2015 joined the ranks of official “Pre-Pride” events named by NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, an accolade acknowledging the importance of a queer-centered fashion week highlighting the talents of seasoned, hard-working queer creatives – from the designers, stylists and models (both human and animal), to make-up artists, DJ’s, photographers, and other artist-entrepreneurs who take social justice seriously.

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Models at Rainbow Fashion Week, 2015.

As a fashion designer, Jag designs vintage-chic, upscale, urban clothing that stands out from the rest. Her signature “Paper Boi Suit” enhances the masculine beauty, strength, and elegance of the studs, trans, gender-queer LGBT, and cis-gendered clients whom she adorns. Dapper and gender-non-conforming are definitely terms which describe the models she sends down her runways. With a full range of creative talent, Jag also designs styles which emphasize the strengths and values of her feminine-presenting clients, drawing on a global sartorial vocabulary, querying conventional notions of racial identity, sexuality, class, gender and agency.

Filmmaker J. Lufair Brown’s beautiful cinematography and editing of Jag & Co’s runway modeling at the VERGE 2015 is briliant. Props to you, Mr. Brown. Thanks for permission to share this with our readers!

Last year we learned about Jaguar and Company Clothier when attending Dapper Q’s landmark “(Un)Heeled: A Fashion Show for the Unconventionally Masculine” held at the Brooklyn Museum. We took a minute to interview this multi-talented, hard-working fashion activist, as a show of support and appreciation.   Check her out — and get your bespoke on with Jag & Co. at the opening of her storefront in Brooklyn this November 14. (see her FB for details!) imgres

Q & A INTERVIEW with JA

G & COMPANY CLOTHIER 

Queerture (QT): Hi Jag. Tell our readers Rainbow Fashion Week.

JAG: Rainbow Fashion Week (RFW) was conceptualized in June 2013 and we hit the City running June 20-27, 2014. We brought to New York City and introduced to the United States the first Inaugural 8 Days of “QUeer Fashion Shows.”  It was “not your average fashion event” so we presented inter-seasonal collections; “Resort/Cruise (for Spring/ Summer) as well as Pre-Fall (for Autumn/Winter)

QT: You must meet so many interesting people!

JAG: Yes. Awesome LBGT Designers from Australia, South Africa stylists from Florida, Atlanta and California, Child Runway Models, Doggie Couture designers, models, runway coaches from all over the U.S., performers, City Officials, wonderful shoppers at the West Elm surprised by our in-house Rainbow Pets Fashion show.

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Prettyboicouture model by Jag & Co. at the 2015 VERGE New York Fashion Week show, presented by dapperQ, bklyn boihood, Posture magazine, and DYDH Productions

QT: What have been some highlights of Rainbow Fashion Week for you?

JAG: Probably the Pet Fashion Show firstly. Then the fashion designers and producers Bling my good friend Ginni and her wonderful Assoc Sofie, coming halfway from around the world to participate in our 2nd annual RFW 2015.

QT: What kinds of jobs do people in the queer and LGBT communities do at RFW?

JAG: Wow that’s such a big question, but the short answer is everything. Marketing. PR. Social Media. Runway Coaching. Styling. Make-up and Hair. Production Assistants. Model Coordinators, finding talent locally to rep their States, shop. enjoy great and different fashion expose.

QT: What’s it like to do fashion events in New York?

JAG: Fashion in NY is tricky. We’ve done it all and we’ve seen it all. So if you come with fashion…it better be good. no great, interesting. fresh and innovative.

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Jag & Co. model at the 2015 VERGE New York Fashion Week show, presented by dapperQ, bklyn boihood, Posture magazine, and DYDH Productions

QT: Have you done fashion outside of New York?

JAG: Yes. Ghana. South Africa, Benin, Nigeria, Algiers, Aruba and Spain to name a few places.

QT: When we met, you said you worked your way through law school by designing clothing.  Did law balance fashion design out or vice versa?

JAG: Fashion fed my creative urges. I draw, so out came my sketch pad. It definitely balanced out law, when I needed a break, I pulled out my cans of stones, rolls of brass and copper wires, pressed wood and made jewelry. Or I rummaged through my craft materials and spot on made something to go out in.  I created a stencil, bleached jeans and drew afro-centric art…

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Jag Jr models Elyjah and Gabrielle wearing their PaperBoi Outfits. photo: @strikeaposestudios

QT: What was it like to be a creative person in law school? (share a sneak peek of Jag & Co. designing as a law student).  🙂

JAG: I was pretty nerdy. Still am. I was and still am very introverted (believe it or not), I’m an ambivert, so it was easy to come in my creative self, it allowed the extrovert in me to shine.  I would make long, swinging cloaks, but the have corduroy shorts, socks and Birkenstock on..Or I would paint up a jacket and jeans and hide behind my bejeweled sunglasses in class.

QT: Who does the current queer fashion r(e)volution include as you see it? Would you describe it in a vision?

JAG: IT MUST INCLUDE ALL. It is the only way we can unify as a community. Everyone is part of the fashion revolution. There should be spaced made for all those we shun. That’s why I did a show called PhotoViews: Shifting Identities (an in depth view of the trans world). And, Queer Kids Next Door..taking the word QUeer and empowering our kids with it. When we exclude..we become participants of mainstream society.unnamed-1

QT: How did you get into the business of masculine fashion attire consultation?

JAG: I am the CEO of Jaguar and Company Clothier/JagandCo for short. I launched my line 2013 and came out the door running. Because of the many celebrities I have worked for and with, my connections were pretty broad that opened doors many new designers would never see.  2014, I said every “creative” should have an opportunity to shine in the fashion world, not just the designer and the model.  If not for that fierce hair stylist, that dope azz stylist that makes the designers outfits breathe life, the hair stylist that creates a “do” to die for……that runway show would be VERY TIRED!  That’s what my very first show taught me. but for those talents behind the scenes, I would not have hit the ground running. So Rainbow Fashion Week was designed with these “behind the scenes talents in mind” offering them their very first time to shine and or take their careers to the next level.11951180_1033172850048870_7020254063829207776_n

QT: What’s a typical “Jag & Co.” style consultation like?

JAG: I destroy all rules and allow the client to see a different perspective.  I ask them questions, by putting things before them. Socks, shoes, jackets, hats, caps etc., and say pick a sock.  Now pick a shoe. now pick a pair of pants, now a shirt.  It throws them off. Then I show them that I made the sock the “statement piece” and said build around that.  Most people start with their pants, and build around that.  It’s just a different way of looking with what piece of clothing to be inspired by.

QT: What kind of results you have seen in your clients.

JAG: Grrreat.. I love to see clients post pics…It means they are building confidence in their decisions.  

QT: So, When is RFW 2016 —

JAG: June 17-24, 2016

QT: and will you be having a dog fashion show again?!

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Anthony Rubio, pet couturist, designed styles for companion animals at the “Rainbow Pets” fashion show, Rainbow Fashion Week 2015

 JAG: Definitely, Rainbow Pets is an annual event.

Thank you, Jag. Can’t wait to see those pets and your gorgeous models on the runway next year!

How to reach Jaguar & Company Clothier:

Company website: http://www.jaguarandcompany.com/

Instagram: instagram.com/jagandco/

Jag & Co. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jag-Co-415630005196078/?fref=ts

Rainbow Fashion Week: http://www.rainbowfashionweek.com/

Pretty Boi Couture: https://www.facebook.com/Prettyboicouture-by-Jagandco-1392378931019535/

WordPress: jaguarandcompany.wordpress.com

Portmanteau – What are you Carrying Around?

A Portmanteau Piece of Luggage

Got bag troubles? Don’t know how to carry around your gender bc you’re a person always on the go?  Here’s an idea!   The portmanteau  The portmanteau is a richly-gendered bag.  It is both masculine and feminine, if you think about it.  The construction is heavy in the conventional ‘manteau — leather edges & handle create structure just as conventional masculinity can. In balance to this are the aesthetics of the bag, a dialogue of texture, complexity, sense — these balance the portmanteau as it travels global circuits.  Understanding gendered embodiments through this metaphor is interesting to me. Clothing and garments work for us — I find myself humbled to this complicated show of generosity.   Not all portmanteau’s are leather — as in the picture above. There is great diversity in the combination of structure v. texture , hard v. soft out there in the world of bags. So with bags, too with people, right?

The portmanteau has a French-sounding name. While we understand that “the portmanteau” has lived in France for some time, we don’t think that means it is superior.  Professor of anthropology and Asian American Studies educator Dorinne Kondo has warned against the over-determination of “all things French” within the global fashion order.  Kondo makes it clear that the fetish of France as the language of fashion masks the neo-colonial relations which privilege France as the cultural and geographic authority on global taste, especially haute couture fashion.

Still, Queerture lived in France when they were a young adolescent. We have a kind of “resonance” with “portmanteau” that is also familial —  in a way, it is part of our pheonetic ancestry.   We remember learning to roll our “r’s” as a young tomboy. Still, privilege layers disenfranchisement.  Language is a song of myth and war, too.

P – O – R- T – M – A – N – T – E – A – U

The portmanteau comes in a diverse array of sizes, shapes, and abilities. Some have the most excellent snaps (woop!), other show strength to the touch and still others offer the right blend of colors — feeding our eyes and mind at the same time. The portmanteau as a design principle (bringing two elements together into one) has materialized through a range of fabrics — felt, plastic, leather, & tweed .

About Sound – this is fascinating!  The portmanteau combines two separate elements: it merges meaning (in part, not whole) with sound (in part not whole).  You heard it here!  So “carry” (French: porter) merges with “coat” (manteau) to raise the roof, just as “mom” merges with “pop” to make “moppa.”  ps The fact alone that children can give birth to their parent through language is itself amazing (hello Donna Haraway) —> kudos Transparent cast and crew!

We are adopting the portmanteau as our Queerture company metaphor.  It is versatile and sonic. To us, it is a symbol of queer and trans* modalities for liberation/s — how we have made ourselves out of the binary gender system into something far more fabulous! Does this metaphor work for you?

Peace out – thanks for reading — QT

Making Room for All of Us — Laura Luna P. / Creative Xicana

I think that the most important aspect of event curation for LGBTQ and gender variant communities is to make space for ALL of us. — Laura Luna P. 

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Los Angeles-based Laura Luna P , aka Creative Xicana has a smile, you should know, that turns night into day. A fashion stylist, wardrobe consultant, activist, queer vintage connoisseur, burlesque dancer and fierce femme, Laura Luna P is best known for rocking it no matter what she does.   We met this fierce femme many years ago when she was co-producing a butch/femme fashion show in Los Angeles with Natasha Dyer.  This is a woman who works with community with intention, heart, and oh … SERIOUS amounts of glitter and glam. The woman delivers!  So we asked her how she got into the biz, and how she keeps her ethics and creativity in check and together.

64142_10200192938120582_1644545856_nLaura Luna, you have been in the fashion business for a long time. How long has it been?

I have been in the business of admiring fashion and style for a really long time.  I’ve always been an eccentric dresser as growing up poor and having to shop at thrift stores will give you an imagination and eye for style real quick. As far as producing fashion and thinking more critically about it, I would say that started with the first fashion show I co-produced as part of Sappho’s Return (Sapphic Threads) in 2006.

What interests you about the fashion industry?

Everything interests me. Although I do have issue with some of it (unfair labor practices, accessibility of items due to price, size etc…), for the most part, I love it.  I love the creativity. I’m more interested in the social justice/gender presentation aspect of it.  I love how queer people “do”  fashion.  Why do we, as queer people, wear what we wear? How do we get our ideas for what to wear? How do the clothes we wear create community? These are all the questions that are always on my mind when I think of fashion.

Why are you in the game?

Why not? I want to take up space in the fashion conversation and make space for others, like myself, who don’t quite fit the norm. I’m a queer fat xicana femme, not necessarily the poster child for “fashion” in this thin/white obsessed society.

How does fashion and style build community?

I think as humans, we tend to gravitate towards people that are like us and with a similar aesthetic.  The same is is true with fashion and style. When a dapper boi sees another similarly dressed person out in the street, there’s that connection then usually ‘the nod’. It’s that acknowledgment that says ‘I see you and I hope you see me too’.  For me it happens when I see someone with hoop earrings and meticulously applied red lipstick walking with a certain swagger. For some reason, that’s a femme flag for me. When we’re in those situations it makes us want to know more about the person that we see because in a way, they’re a reflection of us. Sometimes we even have a chance to interact with them and that’s where the community building aspect of it comes into play.

You and I  met at an event you co-produced back in 2006 in Los Angeles, called Sapphic Threads. I loved that show! 

That show was most definitely a labor of love for fashion and all things butch/femme.  Natasha Dyer, the other 1/2 of Sappho’s Return, worked in fashion and I have always been low key obsessed with clothes/style.  One day, we were brainstorming our next production and with the help of Jillian Nye (who provided most of the clothes and the storyline) Sapphic Threads: A Vintage Butch/Femme Fashion show came to life. With that show, we really wanted to smash the stereotype that lesbians (how we both ID’d at the time) don’t have style.  With the help of the participating artists, models, and designers, a wonderful buzz was created for the show.  The folks that attended the show were “dressed to the nines.” It was such a beautiful thing for us, as the producers of the show, to see all these queer folks in the audience dressed up and enjoying the clothing that was coming down the runway.

What other fashion shows or curatorial projects on fashion and style have you done since that time?  

Currently I’m working with Micha Cardenas and Nickey Robo as co-organizer for the Fierce Fashion Futures track at the 2013 Allied Media Conference. We can’t wait to work with everyone this Summer in Detroit.  Besides personal styling gigs, I have also worked as  Creative Consultant: INVINCIBLE: Coming Back from the RuinsButch Voices LA Regional Conference 2010.  Stylist: Femme Fashion for Queerture: Queer + Couture, UCLA FASHION Conference 2011.   Wardrobe: So Pomo (music video for Metahuman).  Wardrobe: The Good Kind (dir by Ofelia Yanez).  Wardrobe: Chavez (dir by Diego Luna)

How have you grown as a fashion/style curator and producer?  

In the beginning of my journey with fashion, I was only looking at what was aesthetically pleasing to me. I wasn’t really going deeper into why I liked certain styles or looks and/or what impact what I wore had on community building/visibility.  I think that with the advent of the internet and being able to peruse sites like tumblr and/or having access to academic journals and fashion lectures on youtube (which have been sort of a continuing fashion education for me), I’ve been able to see fashion/style from a different lense and expand my knowledge past just the fashion magazine/runway shows.

What is the most important aspect of events curation for LGBTQ and gender-variant communities and peoples?

I think that the most important aspect of event curation for LGBTQ and gender variant communities is to make space for ALL of us.  I think that the challenge for those of us who curate/produce fashion events is to make sure we’re being inclusive of all identities and styles.  Lately, I’ve seen so many events geared towards MoC folks and often wonder where’s the space our Trans* sisters? Femmes? Gender variant/fluid folks? We/they have style and should be celebrated and allowed to shine as well.

You are an activist and arts advocate for the position of femmes in discussions of style and visibility.  

Femmes (of all genders) have a voice in the current and historical conversations regarding queer fashion.  One of my femmespirations Jewelle Gomez was quoted in an interview in the SF weekly as describing Femme as “..someone who is interested in living a life of adornment and affectation. It’s not a role but an identity, as in something embedded inside that manifests externally in many different ways.” I tend to stick to that definition when describing Femme. I mean, with a definition like that there is no way that someone can think that Femmes have ever not been part of the queer fashion conversation.  I think that it is unfortunate when people think of queer fashion they tend to think of Masculine of Center fashion only because that’s what people think of as subversive, however no one can tell me that when femmes use lipstick as warpaint (specifically red lipstick for me) that isn’t subversive.  As Femmes, we use our make-up and adornment not for the male gaze, but for ourselves. What’s more powerful than that?

Where do you hope to be and what issues do you hope the community/ies continue to foreground as our movement takes on larger more widespread audiences, both in the media and live on the runway?

Inclusion. that’s my hope for the next few years of queer/ing fashion. I want to see fat folks, folks with varying degrees of ability, trans* folks and gender variant/fluid folks represented in not only queer fashion spaces but also “mainstream” fashion spaces. I hope to be continuing to make spaces for queer folks and the folks mentioned above in the events that I am approached to produce/work on.

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As for modeling and being a performer, you are in a burlesque troupe. Fantastic. Where does your troupe perform?

I’m ⅓ of a The Roundettes. We are a troupe of 3 self ID’d Queer Fat Femmes.  Together with Krystal L’amor & Lisa JuggsBunny, The Roundettes promote visibility for Fat Femmes and body positivity in Los Angeles and beyond.  We’ve actually been super blessed to be able to have performed at many venues since our inception in July of 2012. We started out performing at BENT (a quarterly queer cabaret show in LA) and  most recently were super honored to have performed as part of the LA stop of the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow. We have a couple of really amazing shows coming up. Folks can connect with us on our Facebook page to keep up with our latest gigs and for any booking inquiries.

Our mission statement: The Roundettes are a body positive burlesque troupe based out of So Cal. In a world where the word fat is considered an insult, these Fierce Fat Femmes seek to reclaim the word and show the world that sexy and fierce can come at ANY size. We view our performance as activism, especially in an area like LA where the pressure to conform to the standards that the “Industry” (Hollywood) sets more often than not leads to the oppression of fat people like us. By showing our audiences that fat people can be and feel sexy, we hope to empower folks to be comfortable and feel hot in the skin and body that they’re in.

Thank you!  

Follow Laura Luna via www.lalunafemme.tumblr.com  and   twitter @laura_luna

Rocking the runway

This gallery contains 9 photos.

  Image courtesy of Kaya Sattva There is talent tearing down the masculine fashion runway these days.  From the event organizers to the designers to the models to all other creative and event team members, the fashion runway in this era of alternative masculine/trans/lesbian/queer visibility is holding us up and showing us off. The runway is … Continue reading

From designer Coco Chanel to model Casey Legler (with all of you inbetween)

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” –  Coco Chanel

Marlene Dietrich in a Coco Chanel suit (1913)

From the mad pulse on the digital streets today of LGBTQ fashion design and modeling, these words offered by French fashion designer Coco Chanel hold true today. Alternative masculine fashion is hitting a high as more fashion designers, seamstresses, pattern makers, etsy & FB entrepeneurs, and models are coming out or coming into the limelight for their brave and adventureous contributions to a world where butch / masculine cis-gendered women and transmen have increasingly more opportunities to purchase a shirt, suit, shoe, bowtie, or pair of britches made Just For Their (Our) Bodacious Bods.

How excellent that Ford Models signed on art maker Casey Legler  as one of their “male models.”  Seriously, how hot is it to shatter the glass ceiling?!  Check out the Time.com’s video interview with Casey here.   Casey identifies as female and Ford employs her as a male model, and while that particular syntaxical dance may not speak outrightly to the concerns of trans male emobiment, it does offer cis-gendered butches, studs, ags, bulldaggers and other female masculines some very flattering visibility.  And, what’s exciting is that Legler’s presence as a male model means that, really, the industry can no longer legitimately function on the assumption that all ‘men’ nor ‘masculinity’ belongs to or is possessed by bio-male models!  The cat’s out of the bag officially.  Finally we’re able to see the shifts encouraged by early male impersonators, drag kings, trans men, and queer/trans theory taken up by the fashion industry and, more importantly, the media.

 

Casey Legler, Ford Male Model

It’s an exciting time. The work of many of you queer innovators and LGBT’s have been doing for years and years — in art, in social justice work, in film, performance, photography, portraiture, leather production, costuming, thrifting, fashion writing, critical thinking et al — is coming to a new place of recognition in the international, visible marketplace.  For better or worse, the market is feeling our heat!

So, today, we’re giving kudos to Casey Legler and to early fashion pioneer Coco Chanel. Legler + her friend photographer Cass Bird + Ford deserve big luv for putting female masculine / alternative masculine modeling onto the runway. That’s no small feat.  Woot!

And, we’re shouting out to the spirit of the young Coco Chanel for her work on gender-bending fashion. While Chanel has become a brand and symbol of conservative, white, upper class America, there’s some juice to her early days worth remembering.  We don’t applaud her or her company’s participation in the worst aspects of the Paris-centric fashion industry (definitely check out scholar Dorrine Kondo’s analysis of the fashion industry’s Euro-centrism in her book About Face).  But we do like the flavor of her early, youthful persistance and  vision to make something courageous happen.  In her day, Chanel provided something for women and free thinkers that did not, sartorially or semiotically, yet exist:  Not just “men’s wear” appropriated to the world of “women’s fashion,” but also an expansive sense of what fashion is.

And now we ask you, readers, who do you want us to honor and celebrate? Who has positively influenced your gendered and sexual identities over the years, when it comes to style and clothing? Which fashion designers or stylists made  a different in your world?  Which entertainers, musicians, public figures have made not only your genders and sexualities make sense, but given you confidence and inspiration to dress and make it rock? What do you think about all that is going on these days for alternative masculine fashion design and modeling? Make a comment below, here, or email us at queerture@gmail.com

 French fashion designer Gabriel “Coco” Chanel, portrait by Man Ray (1935) 

10,000 Dresses

Marcus Ewert and illustrator Rex Ray burst this sweet children’s book into the sunlight a few years ago (Seven Stories Press, 2008) and I’ve been beaming ever since.

What is wonderful about 10,000 Dresses is that it’s about friendship found on the journey of becoming one’s best self.  In truth, it’s about manifesting all our dreams of what the adorned world should be like: one that not only has room for fabulousness in terms of civil rights policy, anti-hate crime legislation, access to medical support, fair employment practices, safe school, work, home, and prison environments for LGBTQ’s, but also a world interested in supporting and investing in our sartorial visions — a world where FASHION IS OURS on our own terms.

A young trans girl dreams of dresses every night, and when she rises she tells first her mother, then her father, then her brother. Each rejects her dreams, saying “Little boys don’t wear dresses!”   They have it all wrong.  Finally she makes friends with a neighborhood girl, and they begin to sew sparkling mirror gowns that reflect a their world around them … 

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake  once commented about this book. He said (not a direct quote): “If I had read this book as a child, I would have had a much happier childhood…”

The point was: all kids dream of what they want to wear, and so do adults.  We spend the rest of our life either fighting for, or materializing, our dreams. Because dreams are what life is made of.   As far as I can tell, the only thing worth living for.

Plus, queers are hot.

We know appearance matters — eh?  Fashion is neither frivolous, nor something “just for girls.” Hate crimes against LGBTQ’s involve the perpetrator “reading” of a person based on the cues and signals of their clothing and appearance —  an interpretive act which, motivated by homophobia, competition, and violent tendencies, can result in fatality.  LGBTQ’s know this reality of dressing in a homophobic and transphobic world.

In the 90’s and early 2000’s we saw an upsurge in the # of children’s books featuring gay, lesbian, transgender parents — diversifying the imagery of kinship and family structures in the kid’s book world.   I’m certain that push has helped zillions of children and adults find comfort, pleasure, and support in seeing themselves reflected in something as formative as a good children’s story.   And the work continues.

But now, we have a book for the queer/LGB/trans fashion designer , dreamer, and maker in you …

The colors and illustrations of the book open up the writing — so refreshing! There is rhythm and hope.  Isn’t this how we maintain connection to our dreams of a creative and inspired reality — a world ruled not by commodity and strict, scripted roles, but rather by ruled by visions of the absolutely possible?

You have permission.

Saint Harridan – Men’s suits for women and transmen

 

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.

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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.

QT:  Why did you decide to launch your business this year?
 

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)

LGBTQ Fashion Designers exhibit at FIT

Great news — Director of the Fashion Institute of Technology has decided to put her energy into exhibiting a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender fashion designers in a 2014 exhibit, “Queer Style: From the Closet to the Catwalk”.   It’s going to be an important event in New York. I intend to be there.   Those of you dedicated to this topic know that our communities have put on our own grassroots exhibits or displays like this for years — as did our LGBTQ ancestors …as long as we’ve been wearing clothing, creating styles, living the life, and sharing our ideas. (Isn’t a closet an exhibition?!).  I curated back in 2005, “Wear Me OUT: Honoring What We’ve Fought to Wear” at the ONE National Institute in Los Angeles – the exhibit was well-attended and featured the work of about 27 — 2D, 3D fashion, art, and installation artists.  But a well-funded, large-scale exhibit in New York City is a new direction: very exciting.

Director Valerie Steele’s experience with subversive content is seasoned — she has not only written a darn good book gender and the corset (amongst many others), but she has, over the years, proven herself to be an articulate spokesperson for the erotic and gendered power of clothing while sitting on tame academic panels and/or museum settings.

We are a year and half away from this exhibit — and as news spreads I’m sure the pressure will be on:  will the exhibit properly represents what we values and L G B T Q’s?  Will it tell “our” history and histories?  What do you want from an exhibit such as this one?  SAY IT!

Beards, hairy-ness, gender/sexuality – it’s time to write

Too much, too little, not enough hair — on your head, face, underarms, forearms, legs — seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Yet,  it’s clear that judgement about appearance is not only total b.s., but also something which carries tremendous cultural weight about who gains privilege for performing their gender, sexuality, race, or class status “appropriately.” Hair performance makes or breaks citizenship — meaning what we choose to do with our leg, facial, head, arm, body, genital etc. hair has a direct link to who gets to be “in” or “out” of the club (the club of culture; the club of gender; the club of race; the club of belonging …).  Citizenship is  based on the measured, visual presence of just the ‘right’ amount of head, face, and/or body hair.  Some hair can be hidden. Other hair is right out there. All of it makes its way into discussions of “proper” hair performance. What gives?

Some memories.  I was in San Francisco in 1994 when the Bearded Lady Cafe and Truckstop co-owner Harriet (now Harry) Dodge appeared on the cover of the sf weekly with a large headline reading “Bearded Lady.” I remember looking at the hair under Dodge’s chin in the photograph and feeling surges of admiration and confidence pulse through my veins. The beard was bigger than one or two hairs … it was a full-on beard and she was wearing it out.

Harriet Dodge co-owned and ran the Red Dora’s Bearded Lady with then-Tribe 8 punk rock band member Silas Flipper (the two later went on to direct the most rad queer feature film “By Hook or By Crook.“). The cafe was a hot spot for hot DIY dykes, queers, and fags – located on 14th Street before it was as gentrified as it was now. It was a punk rock cafe and seemed to adhere to the best of feminist, queer punk politic: you didn’t have to have money to get in; rather, you had to possess a sense of equity about social space.  Red Dora’s was across the street from a laundromat and a stone’s throw from a block of project housing. This wasn’t just a happy happy gay gay establishment.  There was more to it.  Money didn’t function as the neutral mediator as it did in many of the Castro Street spots; an active sensitivity to the politics of space and pooling resources together, to make things happen, was more what brought people together. Or maybe it was the babes – who knows.

After the sf weekly cover story came out, I observed many more dykes and/or women-identified-queer-women letting their chin hair grow out.  The circulation of fresh images in a culture which (over)values image and appearance is powerful. At the same time, the power of a good story can move a mountain.

During this time, I saw a kick-butt film about the subject of gender and beards.

Filmmaker Tami Gold’s documentary “Juggling Gender” (1992) was a portrait of New York circus actor / bearded lady Jennifer Miller.  The film struck me for its storytelling — it was not only cinematically hot, but it critically explored the concept of a “bearded lady” as an identity that Jennifer Miller had reclaimed with amazing flair.  Miller’s beard was thick and had style — as did her lived responses to the public’s responses to her beard. “Juggling Gender” offered resistance to the harsh societal judgements of gender and beauty, at the same time disrupting the erroneous idea of “the bearded lady” as a circus freak without a brain, agency, or voice.  Miller was exactly that circus freak: one with expressive agency, voice, intentionality and pride.

Another expression of activist and/or resistant performance in the 1990’s arrived with the revival of male impersonation in club and queer cabaret settings.  Drag kinging experienced a surge during the early 1990’s for a million reasons – on both coasts and inbetween; spirit gum sales likely were on the rise as newbie and more experienced kings/performers adorned themselves in lamb chops,  goutees, 5 o’clock shadows, chest hair, and etc. as a way to encourage broader conceptions of queer genders and sexualities — and provide a forum for erotic dance (as well as activist narrative) for queer wo/men.   Kings and their hairy dispositions also donned the public space — already dressed on their way to club; or in 24-hr diners after a gig.  In these ways, the world of normative, bio-female lesbianism was disrupted by queer coiffures and whiskers.  Gender-bending wo/men, trannies, feminists and freaks all kept the critical discussion of gender/beauty alive in the 1990’s — just by adorning themselves in their own chosen hairy splendor, be it growth under the chin, furr in the armpits, et al.  But within these discussions, there seemed to be fewer conversations about US/non-West relations and white beauty standards.

In European-based female culture in the U.S., hairy legs and forearms are a sign of masculinity and lack of feminine beauty –which again should be chiming off your b.s. meter like a fire alarm. As I come from Arab/Arab-American queer community, I can comment that traditional Arab/Arab-American feminine women continue to be fetishized as exotically beautiful (dark hair, dark eyes, thick hair) by Euro-white standards, and yet are demonized for thick arm hair, copious dark leg hair, thick eyebrows —  within both LGBTQ and heterosexual cultures. The tenaciousness of white beauty standards in the U.S. and Europe are both hypocritical and obviously racist — a site for rebuttal and contestation.  There’s a lot to unfold and spell out. bell hooks wrote an important piece many years ago in Z Magazine about hair, white beauty ideals and African American hair which still circulates.

Trans phobia from within our communities as well as from the ‘outside’ straight, mainstream world wields its power and judgements about hair in other ways.  When have you found yourself or heard others judging the viability of a trans-man’s gender identity based on his lack of / or presence of facial hair?  Likewise, when have you heard judgements of transwomen because of their facial or other hair? I’m barely scratching the surface of all this.

There are many stories to be shared about hair. I would love to hear your stories and opinions  — about hair and politics … any kind of hair …

Peace.

Photography exhibit, Leigh Bowery

Got a great interview coming up — I’m looking forward to posting soon! In the meantime, some news of a great exhibit you should check out if you’re in Italy — for those excited by the innovations happening in art forms outside of formal fashion design ….

Leigh Bowery was a live artist who pushed the boundaries of race, class, sexuality and gender by using costume and a performative persona to expand revamp, resize, redesign what a body — and a human being — is, or could be; imho, his brave and flamboyant experimentations in life and art stretch notions of what the body does, could do, might do, desire and imagine.  I sure would like to get to Italy to see this 2012 exhibit of images by internationally acclaimed photographers Fergus Greer and Johnny Rozsa, called “About Leigh Bowery.”