A few weeks ago a company doing research on fashion trends related to gender non-binary styles reached out to me for an interview.
The interview was all for internal use and not to be published, but I enjoyed talking to them and found their questions so engaging that I decided to get a transcript and share my favorite snippets with everyone. I'm interspersing photos I took last fall with my good friend Sarah Champagne at Harvard which I feel have a particular Boston flavor, and were inspired by this Ivy League shoot.
Would you say that you've ever had difficulty find clothes that fit your style, or do you feel like there are plenty of resources for it?
Clothes that fit my body, yes, I have had trouble. Of course, no matter who you are, it's going to be hard to find clothes off the rack that fit because they are designed for a very specific body type. And it's important for people to know that, that gender non-binary people are not the only ones who struggle. I had to try on so many things before I could find the right pair of pants, that didn't have an awkward bulge or something. Or, a button-up that would fit over my hips without being really awkward in the shoulders.
I found a few solutions. The first was that I found the brands that fit the best; so Topman and Everlane's button-ups just fit me really well, as opposed to something like American Eagle, where everything is just too big.
The other thing I discovered is that we have all these ideas imposed in our heads about what fit is flattering. And once I got past those views, I realized that unless you get something custom made, it's going to be really hard to find the perfect fit. And then if you have hips and a chest and you're shopping in the men's department, it's going to be even harder. So, you have to make some compromises. And everyone makes these compromises when they're shopping for clothes that are off the rack. But the ones that I make might be different than the ones for people who are looking to flatter a feminine figure. So I just became more comfortable with there being a little extra fabric in certain places. It just became normal to me. Things that used to look bad don't look bad to me any more.
What would you say is the main message you want your readers to take away from your blog?
You know more than you think. A lot of Qwear is inspiration-based, because I feel like so many blogs and magazines out there are advice-based. I feel that giving too much advice can actually get in the way of people and their sense of style because they'll start to think that they can't figure things out on their own and they have to follow these rules, or that their instincts aren't good enough. We give some advice, but I'm trying to base it around inspiration so that people can build up their own understanding of their style and explore it from there.
How would you describe the actual style that is on your website?
I would describe it as a curation of queer style around the world. Of course my personal style is a big part of that since I'm the editor, and since I'm inspired by my city in Boston, I think it has a Boston vibe, with the preppy and collegiate feel. But I really try to display as wide a variety of styles as I can. So any time I come across anyone in the queer community doing something really cool, I want to just put it on Qwear. A photoshoot from someone I know in New Orleans is going up soon, and it's just going to be completely different from anything we've seen yet. (This is now up, see it here!) I discovered a group in South Africa that I want to do more with, I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. They're called BUWA Mosadi and they submitted a photo to me once.
We say in the advertising world that you can't be all things to all people. Would you say there is anyone that Qwear is not for?
If you're really interested in following all of the latest trends, and you want beauty tips or you want to learn how to remain within our culture's standards of beauty, Qwear doesn't provide most of that information. I'll provide information on style trends if I really like them, but I'm not going to report on all the latest trends, and most of the styles we display are in some way not going to conform to our culture's standards of beauty. We are going to display styles of all types of beauty, all shapes and sizes, hair styles, etc. People who are into mainstream fashion world might enjoy Qwear sometimes, but I don't anticipate it being their primary source of fashion news.
Where would you say that women/designated females shop who like to dress in a gender non-binary way?
There are so many things that could make clothing gender non-binary and it depends what culture you're in. I know someone from Scotland where all the men wear kilts, and she comes over here wearing a kilt and people think it's feminine. It all depends on where you are. Menswear has been popularized in women's clothes and tailored to look really feminine. So is that gender non-binary, or is that just women's clothing? There are a lot of clothes in the women's department that are menswear inspired, but they'll often still have feminine elements and feminine tailoring that if you identify as more masculine, you might not enjoy wearing. I see people shopping in the men's departments or going to thrift stores, finding vintage jackets.
Can you talk to me more about the gender non-binary trend happening recently?
Well, I wouldn't call it a trend because people who are dressing in a gender non-binary way are doing it for a variety of reasons. Some people are doing it because it's their identity and they have no choice if they're going to follow what's right for themselves. Some people have more of a fluid gender identity and love messing around with gender. Some people see gender as kind of a performance. And some people are doing it just because they love the style, and it's fun. All these reasons are totally valid. I think that breaking that barrier has been more prevalent lately as gender non-binary folks have gotten more visibility and empowerment to dress the way they feel is right.
Photography: Sarah Naomi Champagne
As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.