Sustainability, inclusivity, and community support are at the center of these brand's business models.
LGBTQIA+ designers are often ahead of the curve when it comes to considering both the social and environmental impacts of a brand or company. In fact, the mere existence of a thriving queer brand can be a way of uplifting other LGBTQIA+ folks who might be seeking a role model, an outfit that affirms their gender, or a source of queer pride and joy. That's because visibility matters—a statement that can't be said enough.
Beyond just visibility, though, many LGBTQIA+-owned brands also prioritize sustainability and ethics, and have a community-facing component to their business model. This can look like: using recycled fabric, donating proceeds to local organizations, raising money for gender-affirming surgeries, and promoting size inclusivity as a given, not an afterthought. Below, learn about some of the queer and trans fashion designers and brands we love who are giving back to the community in a number of ways.
Every one of Wright’s creations is literally a statement, often in all caps, embodying the essence of trans and queer affirmation. “GROWING HURTS BUT IT WILL BE OK” says one crew-neck tee, accompanied by a line drawing of a snake plant. “YOU ARE NOT BROKEN” proclaims a sweater. Wright’s drawings are simplistic and often abstract—it’s that simplicity that is so powerful. After all, the statement “QUEER LOVE EXISTS” should be simple. Wright has a way of creating engaging and uplifting imagery, incorporating it into both clothing items and art prints. “A curator once told me that my art is not precious, and I love that.” the designer says. “It can be rugged, it can seem like it could be done by a child. People have always [resonated with] that childlike joyousness.”
Wright sees community involvement and activism as core to his work. That’s why he donates a portion of his proceeds to the Unique Women’s Coalition, a Los Angeles organization that centers the narratives and needs of Black Trans culture. “When I first started, I was donating to the Trans Lifeline, but now I feel more inclined to give to a local organization,” Wright says. “UWC is 15 minutes down the street from my home. So, not only am I able to financially help them, but I'm also able to help them with social media marketing, promoting events, and by attending stuff, I get the benefits [of their work], too.” Wright also makes a point to feature a diverse range of models and uses his social platform to inform about and connect folks with trans experiences.
Upcycling may be trending now, but MI Leggett, the visionary behind Official Rebrand, was upcycling before it was cool. The fundamental dream behind Leggett’s work is to “breathe new life” into a garment that would have otherwise withered away in someone’s closet or, worse, found its way to the landfill. “With upcycling, you're creating something of greater value out of something that was originally unwanted,” Leggett says. “Maybe a garment has a stain, or was misproduced in the factory. [Upcycling is] about transforming that defect into an asset, like covering up a stain with a beautiful painting, for example.”
Leggett’s work features edgy and fun statements ("ANGELS HAVE NO GENDER BUT LOTS OF SEX") and striking designs in bold, thick strokes of paint and fabric (as seen on this hand-painted bomber jacket). And their creative reimagining of existing items seems to know no bounds (exemplified by this woven cloud bag and this reversible sweatshirt).
Leggett is equally dedicated to sustainability and community activism—issues they believe are inextricably linked. Previously, they’ve run special sales on Official Rebrand to support the ACLU and have partnered with HECHA / 做 to inform consumers about eco-friendly living. “Despite the backlash that's happening right now, I think that queer rights are progressing,” says Leggett, “And yet, none of this progress actually matters if we're not going to have a planet that's habitable for humans. So there's really no point in fighting for queer liberation, if we're not going to have clean air and clean water. They have to go hand in hand.”
With the motto, “stay pretty and give back,” FLAVNT is an Austin-based streetwear brand dedicated to ethical consumption and community support. The brand primarily offers tops—sweatshirts, tanks, and tees that all feature eye-catching graphics and statements like, “GENDER ROLES ARE DEAD,” stylized on a tombstone, or “Cheers, QUEERS,” in a distressed, vintage-inspired print. FLAVNT also sells chest binders in an range of skin tones (from Birch to Umber) and sizes (from XXS to 4XL), which is a win for inclusivity in the queer community.
Perhaps the most striking thing about FLAVNT’s site, though, is the Partnerships page, featuring profiles of folks who have been able to access gender-affirming medical care due to donations from the brand. FLAVNT has raised $32,000 for transgender individuals seeking access to gender-affirming surgeries and care. They also partner with and donate to other organizations, such as Jane's Due Process, Trans Santa, and The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and have partnered with a local organization run by a woman of color to create the line of binders. FLAVNT’s stated goal is to “change the world and look damn fine doing it,” which is definitely something we can get behind.
What makes Both& stand out from the crowd is the research that went into it. CEO and founder, Finnegan Shephard, envisioned a brand that would dismantle all the ways in which clothes for cisgendered folks fail trans and queer bodies—so that’s what he made. “Thousands of interviews and hundreds of prototypes later, Both& has launched a whole new category of design that is serving transmasculine, nonbinary, and [gender-nonconforming] folks around the world,” proclaims the brand’s site. These innovations include necklines designed to cover binders, waistlines and hems to mask unwanted curves, and creative use of sleeve length to change one’s profile. Both& includes simple and elegant designs for tees, pants, swimwear, and more, all designed specifically for transmasculine and gender-nonconforming bodies.
Both&’s research on transmasculine and gender-nonconforming fashion is ongoing, creating a useful resource for queer designers going forward. In addition, the brand is dedicated to using sustainable materials and ethical business practices, which does raise the price tag on these wares. “Our hope is that you purchase a thoughtful baseline wardrobe of Both& products that bring you gender joy and last for years to come,” the brand's site states. In order to improve accessibility, Both& runs a “Pay It Forward'' program, through which shoppers can donate to support other queer folks for whom cost may be prohibitive.
Once you’ve gotten your tees and button-downs secured, you’ll need jewelry, and that’s when you should head right to Automic Gold. This proudly queer brand makes gorgeous pieces that are completely sustainable and ethically sourced. All the 14K gold is recycled or reclaimed, all the packaging is recyclable, and all the stones are natural and ethically mined. Designs range from unfussy, stylish rings and studs to delicate birthstone necklaces and glittering wedding rings—and all of these come in a variety of sizes. If you have a specific project in mind, the brand also does custom orders.
Automic Gold is dedicated to communal liberation. That’s why the brand is adamant about sustainability practices, assertive visibility, and inclusion. With so few trans- and queer-owned jewelry brands out there, having a company that strives to "make fine jewelry that is beyond gender,” is both radical and fabulous.
If you’re wondering what to wear under all these fabulous designer items, Urbody has you covered, literally. This queer-owned, collective-minded undergarment brand has compression tops, compression bottoms, bralettes, tucking leggings, and anything else to help queer and trans folks feel at home in their bodies. They all come in both basic hues (blacks, whites, and a variety of skin tones) and some also come in a bold red or a muted blue.
Urbody is dedicated to creating affirming, functional undergarments for trans or gender non-conforming folks, which is great enough as is. But beyond that mission, they also fund the Fully Human Giveback Program, “award[ing] funds to LGBTQ+ artists who are pursuing and are committed to self-expression, self-love, and gender freedom.” Urbody encourages customers to donate directly to their featured artists at checkout. Currently, the FHGP is supporting Rommy Torrico, a formerly undocumented, queer, trans nonbinary visual artist.
For gender neutral swimwear that leans masculine, look no further than HumanKind Clothing. This swim brand has taken the time to test their products on several different body types so all their products are true to the size on offer. HumanKind was founded by Haily Marzullo, a queer woman, whose express purpose was to create gender-affirming swimsuits and water gear for queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks.
The brand is new-ish, but HumanKind's collection with Target sold out almost immediately, and it’s clear why. The brand's commitment to sustainability (all suits are made of recycled materials) and to making comfy, gender-free swimwear is appealing in a world where the choice is always between a bikini and a pair of awkward trunks. Plus, the brand offers a proprietary quiz that helps customers find the best fit for their body.
At times, it feels as though all the news about the queer community is about attacks on autonomy and legal restrictions. Through it all, though, LGBTQIA+ folks continue to imagine and create a beautiful world of expression and community support.
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