Historically, fashion is an industry that counts many of the LGBTQ community as part of it. And while in June, when queer people across the globe celebrate their lived experiences during Pride Month, big brands often line up to leverage the annual celebration, using it as a marketing tool. But what may perhaps be resonating more is what’s happening among the growing list of smaller, queer-led brands that are looking inward and creating collections for their community that aren’t just about just slapping on a rainbow flag on a T-shirt.
Many such creators are part of a new generation, who see gender as a social construct and dress as a more fluid endeavor, while others are creating things to fill a fashion void they see in the market for their LGBTQ community.
Prada Men’s Spring 2022
WWD: When did you launch the brand and why?
Kristina Keenan: Dykeland USA launched in November 2019. The Phluid Project [where Keenan designed omni-gender private label collections and oversaw brand creative vision from January 2017 to March 2020] was partnering with the re-launch of the L-Word Generation Q and when assorting the collection it became clear to me that there was a void. There wasn’t Dyke-centered gear that was tasteful enough to be worn on a daily basis and not just during Pride Month. Lesbian- and Dyke-centered apparel didn’t have space within Phluid’s collection, mainly because it is run by a cis-gendered gay man.
Sometimes in our attempts to be inclusive and democratic, we erase subcultures. At the time, I felt saddened that myself and my community didn’t have accessibility and options. It felt important to me to carve out space given my background in fashion. It started as creating a few graphics, which turned into making Big Dyke Energy masks during the pandemic. A few re-posts from queer friends helped to grow my small following. It’s morphed into something that has a little life of its own.
WWD: What inspires the pieces you create? For example, “Big Dyke Energy” feels like taking ownership and celebrating the identity, can you speak to that a bit?
K.K.: My work is inspired by a reframing of past and present queer culture. Reimagining a world in which dykes, queers and lesbians are normalized, celebrated and thriving, thinking about what our culture would look like if the oppression of the McCarthyism era following World War II hadn’t happened. There is a lot of past trauma our community holds, and for many decades (still sometimes today) the word dyke is used to bully and degrade us. I believe in making space for that anger and trying to reclaim this word is a way to celebrate and empower us.
WWD: What has been the feedback from customers?
K.K.: Feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive and sometimes painfully constructive. I’ve added new pieces and expanded size offerings. Visibility is important to me and it’s a fact that joblessness is elevated in the queer community, so I always try to make sure there’s items on sale and my prices remain reasonable. The goal isn’t to make money, the goal is to spread dyke visibility in a culture that is slowly and quietly erasing us.
WWD: Now that things are opening up in NYC, how are you celebrating Pride this year?
K.K.: Taking advantage of queer exhibits throughout NYC and marching in the NYC Dyke March, my favorite event during New York’s Pride month.
WWD: Any advice for a young queer designer about how to navigate launching a brand?
K.K.: Know your process. Do as much as you can yourself when you start. It builds a new appreciation for your craft. I’ve mentored several young designers and I often find the ones who are successful have the right balance of humility, curiosity, creativity and work-ethic. You have to be humble enough to say “I don’t know” and curious enough to always be learning and growing.
Designers David and Phillipe Blond Andreas Hofweber
WWD: New York nightlife and nostalgia for pop culture have been big influences on your creations. What do you look to now to keep you inspired for your latest work?
Phillipe Blond: We’re inspired by New York City and always will be! Art, film and of course music are also important sources of inspiration. Most recently we love Veneno on Netflix and are of course obsessed with Disney’s new “Cruella” film!
WWD: There has been an evolution in fashion lately around genderless clothing. As queer designers, how would you like to see ideas of gender and dress evolve?
P.B.: We have always believed that you need to be true to yourself! If wearing something sparkly and dressing up makes you happy then go for it! Our message has been the same from the beginning, gender is a construct so wear whatever you want. This younger generation of kids and designers are finally getting to a place where this is possible, however, mainstream fashion still has a long way to go.
WWD: You’ve made pieces for some of the biggest pop divas, like the corset in Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U” video. What’s the creative process when like when developing a design for a celebrity to wear in a video?
P.B.: It is also a collaborative process that depends on several factors. It can take weeks, sometimes months to design and create these looks. Even when it’s a challenge or time crunch we love working with our clients to realize a look that makes them feel glamorous and powerful when on or even off stage!
WWD: How has the pandemic changed or shifted your business?
P.B.: The pandemic really brought the world to a standstill and we took that time to reflect and reset goals and perspective. In the coming years we’ll introduce other facets to The Blonds brand, but for now we are just thrilled to be back at work!
WWD: What do you miss about showing at New York Fashion Week? And any plans to show in September?
P.B.: We miss the energy and creating the atmosphere at our show. It’s never just a show, there is always an inclusive vibe where our communities can come together, celebrate and escape! We’re looking forward to NYFW and may have something special planned, so stay tuned!
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