#ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike: Gothic Lamb Founder on Carving Space for POC in Alternative Fashion
By guest writer, Yasmin Benoit
This article is part of my “#ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike” series. As an asexual woman who works as a fashion model, I created the series with the goal of providing visibility for asexual people, and dispel the notion that there is an asexual way to look or dress. To discover more asexual fashionistas, check out the first article in the series.
I entered the alternative fashion industry with the goal of providing some much-needed representation for alternative Black women. In order to do that, I knew that I would have to spend my career biding for the attention of white designers, white photographers, white-owned publications, and white-owned brands if I wanted to gain any kind of momentum. While the mainstream fashion industry is slowly starting to embrace diversity, the alternative fashion industry is ironically focused on maintaining the status quo.
There's the “classically goth” curvy-but-not-too-curvy look reminiscent of Amy Lee in the 2000's; the grungy heroin chic look that should have been left in the 90's; and Kat von D look that you see on the front of the tattoo magazines. There's still a startling lack of models of colour – particularly dark-skinned models – plus-size models, non-binary or transgender models, or disabled models. This is most likely a reflection of the lack of diversity behind the scenes.
So you can imagine how happy I was when I stumbled across Gothic Lamb, a Black-owned alternative fashion brand that provides opportunities for models of color. When I learned that the founder, Lucy, identified as a panromantic asexual woman, it became clear that we would be a great match. When I first modeled for Gothic Lamb, our shoot was published by Afropunk and it had a very positive reception. I want to shine some light on the asexual superstar behind the operations.
When did you become interested in fashion design?
Ever since the day my mom started letting me pick out my own clothes, I was obsessed with fashion. I grew up in the MySpace days so I would see all the emo and scene kids and I wanted to be just like them. I always knew I was interested in art and design and would always DIY my clothes because I couldn’t afford the latest trends at the time. It actually took me a really long time to pinpoint what I really wanted to do with my life – I graduated college in 2016 with a Graphic Design degree. It wasn’t until I started Gothic Lamb on a whim that I realized my true dream.
When you started Gothic Lamb, what were you aiming to achieve?
When I first started Gothic Lamb I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to start a fashion business. It started out as a generic alternative store and eventually I realized that what I really was looking for was people like me in alternative fashion. I wanted to create a brand as big as Killstar or Disturbia but I wanted to see models of color and girls who looked like me in all different sizes and shapes.
As a small Black-owned business, how have you found breaking into the alternative fashion industry?
Breaking into the alternative fashion industry has been (and still is) very hard. Everyone has their opinions on what is and isn’t “alternative” and there are so many brands coming out every day that you definitely have to stand out or you will go unnoticed. I’m always looking for overlooked models and influencers to make my brand stand out and help further reach my target audience.
Some of your designs are specifically aimed at Black goths, which is quite a niche market. Did you ever worry that there wouldn't be a clientele for your designs?
Of course I worry, but since it’s such a specific niche, there wasn’t even a market for it to begin with. I basically started a black goth market because one didn’t exist before. I think as long as I continue to create unique designs, people will be interested.
A common trope in the fashion industry — and the media in general — is that associating your products with Blackness will alienate white audiences. How do feel about that?
I disagree. I feel non-Blacks often love supporting Black-owned and women-owned brands because they see themselves as our allies. And as long as the brand carries non-targeted designs alongside the Black-targeted designs I think people will continue to support it. I actually started out working with non-Black models and promoters because it was easier to break into the alternative scene that way.
Why do you think it's important to work with diverse models?
It’s so important that our young girls be able to see themselves and not have to face what we did growing up. I remember stick thin models being “in” and being encouraged to have the body that I had at the time. It’s something that still haunts me now that I’m older and have gained some weight. I want my sister to be able to see my models and feel like she doesn’t have to change herself at all to look beautiful.
Being Black, alternative, and asexual, we're a minority, within a minority, within a minority. What has your experience been like ticking all of those boxes?
It’s definitely been hard. And don’t forget we are also women, there’s another box there! I sometimes don’t feel like I have a voice in the world. Everyone is complaining about how they struggle or how they are the minority when I just deal with my problems on my own. I’m so glad to see people like you stepping into the spotlight and giving people like me a voice in the community.
Tell us about your sense of fashion. Presumably, your designs reflect your personal style?
Everything I design I would definitely wear! I like to call my style “graphic goth.” I love the quirky sayings and heavy patterns. I like to mix different textures and I love layering and accessories. I’m planning to post myself more in 2019, I’m no model but it’s always nice to see the face behind the brand and give customers ideas of how to style the products.
Your designs are very empowering for Black alternative people. Do you think you'll produce designs related to asexuality in the future?
I would love to! It would be so awesome to create something during asexual awareness month. I attended my local pride last year and it’s always such a bummer to see the lack of asexual merchandise that they have.
What's next for Gothic Lamb?
I plan to keep growing the brand and keep making new designs! I want to introduce accessories this year and clothing without graphics in the next year. Eventually I would love for people to be able to wear Gothic Lamb head to toe.