I think it's important to recognize that the fashion industry is often perceived as gay-friendly due to the presence of women and gay men. But this perception overlooks the issue at hand: the privileged position held by gay cis men, particularly in the fashion world. They often become the gatekeepers and tastemakers for bodies that do not align with their own. It is crucial to acknowledge this disparity, as it is all too easy for a list of LGBTQ+ designers and brands to be dominated by gay men who already hold significant platforms in the industry. While it warms my heart if you can easily name open lesbian, bisexual female, and gender-nonconforming designers, I recognize that many struggle to do so. As a queer woman working in fashion, even I find it challenging to think of more than a handful.
Writing this article honestly may inadvertently offend some individuals, but it is also disheartening that such an article is necessary. I wish there were more businesses run by marginalized identities because they often have the most profound emotional impact. These brands tend to be more inclusive in terms of size, body positivity, gender-fluidity, racial diversity, and eco-friendliness. They take real stands for change and help those with marginalized identities feel represented and celebrated.
I have a deep love for fashion. It allows me to express myself through clothing, accessories, and makeup. Finding what I want to wear is usually a breeze, although at times I do get frustrated with the difference in size between my upper and lower half. Being a femme bisexual woman, I occasionally venture into androgynous dressing, but I recognize the privilege of freely transitioning between styles. I am fortunate to know exactly where to shop and find options that fit me. I wish for everyone to have a similar experience. It is my desire for masc-nonbinary individuals to easily discover suits or jackets tailored for their body size. I want the trans community to have access to comfortable, high-quality clothing that not only fits but also reflects their identity. That's precisely why I have selected the brands featured here. They cater to a purpose and clientele often overlooked in the fashion industry. I must note that a couple of these brands are led by masc-of-center individuals, but their strong commitment to designing gender-fluid products made it fitting to include them. Keep reading to explore these 11 beloved brands and discover my favorite products available for purchase.
Victor Barragán's designs embody the exact style I love to flaunt. They strike the perfect balance between edgy, cool, and femme vibes, breaking away from traditional femininity. That's precisely how I choose to wear them. What's truly remarkable about Barragán's designs is their ability to empower individuals of all identities to express themselves in unique ways. In his spring ready-to-wear collection, Barragán combines '90s silhouettes with vibrant colors, prints, and textiles, creating a distinct moment that neither dwells in the past nor conforms to the present. This sense of escapism is precisely what I seek in my everyday life.
2. Nicole Zïzi Studio
Nicole Zïzi approaches her role as a designer with a commitment to reducing environmental pollution and safeguarding communities. In her streetwear line, she consciously sources recycled and natural materials while ensuring that her New York-based workers receive fair wages. A crucial aspect of her mission is avoiding the overproduction of styles without purpose. As a result, everything from Nicole Zïzi Studio showcases impeccable design and a distinct, one-of-a-kind appeal. However, this also means that her incredibly cool street-style clothing and accessories sell out quickly. Take a look at a few pieces that I believe would make a perfect addition to your timeless wardrobe.
I was introduced to Chromat through art and fashion writer Kimberly Drew, who has not only worn the brand to the Met Gala but also walked in its runway shows. It is a common sight to see founder Becca McCharen-Tran featuring individuals she admires as models for Chromat clothing, adding an extra thrill to the brand's shows and campaign imagery. Chromat's swimwear and athleticwear are known for their vibrant colors and structural designs, redefining how bodies are outlined in new and contemporary ways. This is a testament to McCharen-Tran's successful incorporation of her architectural background into her designs. In fact, even Reebok collaborated with Chromat for its F/W 20 line.
Photo:Coco and Breezy
Presented by the dynamic twin sisters, Coco and Breezy, their eyewear company caters to fashion-forward individuals across the gender spectrum. Growing up in predominantly white Minnesota, eyewear became a source of both protection and escape for Corianna and Brianna Dotson. Designing sunglasses allowed the artistic twins to express their personal style and create alter egos, not just for themselves but for people nationwide. The Dotson sisters have established a brand known for quality and chic eyewear without the exorbitant price tag typically associated with designer brands. Their mission is to make optical health accessible to all. In addition to sunglasses, Coco and Breezy also offer glasses with lenses that filter out blue light emitted by computer and phone screens—a feature we can all benefit from in our digital age.
5. Gauntlett Cheng
Esther Gauntlett and Jenny Cheng are the kind of women who know how to get things done—and get them done exceptionally well. Since 2015, these two powerhouses have been consistently delivering two highly acclaimed collections each year under their brand, Gauntlett Cheng, all while balancing their roles as a bookkeeper and a knitter for prominent fashion labels. It is this dedication that led them to recently transition Gauntlett Cheng to an annual collection release. Their Spring/Summer 2020 ready-to-wear collection showcased a mesmerizing array of vibrant colors, alluring silhouettes, and textured fabrics that brought their designs to life.
We can all probably agree that most underwear and swimwear are typically designed to fit only one specific body type, right? Well, that's not the case when you shop from TomboyX, the inclusive swimwear and underwear brand founded by Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez. TomboyX offers swimsuits for individuals who prefer a style that isn't strictly feminine but also don't want to resort to wearing swim trunks and a T-shirt at the beach. The same inclusive approach applies to the brand's underwear and athleisure, which I personally love because the cuts are flattering for my body. I particularly adore their ultra-comfy bralettes showcased above.
Taking their commitment to intersectionality even further, the brand recently announced a new pre-production protocol aimed at ensuring all models feel safe and comfortable during TomboyX photo shoots. This revolutionary step involves a simple form that asks models about their pronouns, accessibility needs, styling preferences, and more. By sharing this protocol, TomboyX is setting a powerful example of inclusivity and intersectionality for other brands and agencies to follow.
Automic Gold is everything I could ask for in a jewelry brand. Their designs perfectly balance simplicity with chic or industrial aesthetics, making them suitable for any outfit. What truly sets this brand apart is its commitment to conscious production. Every piece is crafted from reclaimed gold in yellow, white, and rose hues. Additionally, the brand prioritizes sustainability by using recycled packaging and featuring gender-nonconforming models of color in their photography. Al Sandimirova has created a jewelry company that is inclusive and accessible to everyone, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it. Personally, I'm obsessed with their threaders and huggies, which I love to stack on my ears. And here's the best part—you can purchase their earrings in pairs or as singles, giving you the freedom to mix and match to your heart's content.
James Flemons has made a significant impact in the fashion industry with his gender-fluid fashion brand, Phlemuns. Bold prints serve as a recurring theme in his collections, exemplified by the blue cloud and lemon motifs showcased in the selected products below. However, Flemons goes beyond aesthetics by emphasizing the customizable aspect of clothing design. This intentional approach results in small, sustainably made collections that cater to both Flemons himself and his diverse customer base. As a designer who wears his own creations, Flemons aims to create garments that are inclusive and suitable for individuals of all body types and genders. He explores unconventional shapes and cuts that break the mold of traditional ready-to-wear clothing. Additionally, Flemons responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by designing stylish and comfortable masks, encouraging social responsibility during these challenging times.
Everyone needs a dependable basics brand, particularly one that strives to be inclusive for all. Emma McIlroy, Julia Parsley, and Taralyn Thuot co-founded Wildfang with the firm belief that all individuals, especially those who identify as female, should have the freedom to wear whatever they desire, whenever they desire. This includes sophisticated and vibrant suits, workwear, button-downs, and boxy essentials, some of which proudly feature the phrase "Wild Feminist" as a gentle reminder. It's no wonder that the brand has garnered a devoted following among queer women and nonbinary individuals.
Flavnt is a streetwear brand that encourages embracing one's identity with pride and unapologetically expressing it. Offering a range of binders in various shades, as well as T-shirts and sweaters featuring empowering slogans like "Be as Gay as You Want" and "Genders Are Dead," and hats that proudly display personal pronouns, Flavnt is dedicated to empowering queer individuals to embrace their true selves while also fostering support and celebration from allies within the LGBTQ+ community. Co-founded by twins Courtney and Chris Rhodes in Austin, the company originated when Chris created the "Pretty Boy" shirt for himself, only to realize its resonance with a broader audience, ultimately becoming the brand's first best-selling item.
11. Stuzo Clothing
We've previously featuredStuzo Clothing, and that's because the brand offers some of the most captivating streetwear available. Founder Stoney Michelli aimed to create a clothing line that would provoke thought and evoke emotions, which is why many of their pieces feature bold statements. While some of these statements may be deemed NSFW, it is intentional. Within the queer community, openly discussing and celebrating sexuality is a way to reclaim what has been taken from us. I'm not suggesting that you should wear a Stuzo shirt proclaiming "Top" during your next Zoom meeting, but if you did, you would be embracing the essence of the Stuzo mission.