All is Fair in Love and Wear: Oral History
Peregrine Honig and Christian Dominique for All is Fair in Love and Wear were interviewed on October 29th 2017 at 2:30 pm by Kelly Reddy-Best in Kansas City, MO. The interview lasted 2 hours. The oral history reflects the history of the brand at the time of the interview.
Oral History Video
Oral History Transcript
REDDY-BEST: Okay, so first can you describe which term are you both used to use to describe your gender identity?
DOMINIQUE: I identify as an “ante” trans person that’s a term that I made up and I know that sort of adds to the complexity of this conversation. I mean that’s to be said about how long the LGBTQIA acronym is, but I identify as Ante-trans. In 17th century architecture – an Ante chamber – A-N-T-E – an Ante chamber is a room that leads into a larger room like the larger hall of the cathedral. At amusement parks it’s the place where guests are told about the ride, right before they step on the roller-coaster. I’m approaching that larger part find my life, but where I am financially and how much time I can devote to that [transitioning] and the decisions that I still made to make regarding that are still being tailored and nuanced. That’s how I consider myself. Definitely still with and in the larger spectrum of just trans, a trans-feminine person.
REDDY-BEST: Which term would you use to describe your sexual identity?
DOMINIQUE: I am gyna-sexual which is a term to specifically state sexual and romantic interest in the feminine and I almost want to not answer this question, because I felt like it was a little much but my recent experiences being a trans person when someone learns of your gender identity then they tried to place you and place your sexual identity as well, and that can lead some really uncomfortable situations so I thought that it was important to have that as well.
HONIG: I have sex with people I am attracted to.
REDDY-BEST: How would you both describe your personal clothing styles?
DOMINIQUE: I would consider my style a culmination of my most successful mistakes growing up. My parents used to hide my clothing from me when I was sort of experimenting and coming into my gender identity. And that created a lot of distance between us, but through my resistance of that, and exploring that part of my self. led to a lot of experimentation, but also a lot of embarrassment. I finally worked through that and my style now is just what I’m most comfortable with. It’s what works for me the best, versus what hasn’t through that period of just wearing anything that I could get my hands on really.
HONIG: I grew up in San Francisco on the Castro during the 1980’s. Creating a public narrative with your body is part of my cultural identity. My closest friend is my tiny New York Jewish grandmother. She taught me perfume is a garment. I reach for wearable objects that are embroidered and embellished with pattern and color. Beauty to me is stereotypically feminine. I collect pieces that rest between classic and costume.
REDDY-BEST: And do you wearing in the products that you all produce or make?
DOMINIQUE: No. All of our products are made for people who are experiencing gender dysphoria around their chest areas. That’s typically individuals who are within the trans-masculine community, and they’re looking for garment that compresses their breast tissue. We plan on moving into providing products for the trans-feminine individuals, but right now our that’s not our focus.
REDDY-BEST: Do you wear any products that you all make or produce?
HONIG: I have tried on our compression garments to see how they fit, but I have no need to wear them.
REDDY-BEST: And so, when did you do all begin thinking about creating the company?
HONIG: I started thinking about All is Fair in 2015 when my friend was transitioning. What was available to him at the time was not high quality or in the context of what he was looking for. It was not for a trans body. He was wearing compression garment focused on sports. When I went online to see if I could find something that I could give to him from a wholesale stand point, there was not anything at that time that was efficient or well-made.
REDDY-BEST: So, it started in 2015. When did that officially become a business, or tell me little bit about that process.
HONIG: All is Fair started in 2016 after a successful Kickstarter.
REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me about significance of the name of the company?
HONIG: All is Fair in Love and Wear is based on a John Lilly quote: “All Is Fair in Love and War,” from the 1500s. It references the idea that when you are fighting for what you believe in, pioneering territory, protecting your love or someone you love that rules are not applicable. And even if they are, you are going to break them to get what you need and get what you want.
REDDY-BEST: How did your business partnership come about or how do you know each other?
DOMINIQUE: We’ve known each other for maybe four years now. I happened to pass by the shop and from the moment, that we saw each other, I think that maybe it was our personal style that was maybe reflecting as well, there was like just something that clicked. We have a great friendship and great sort of mentoring relationship as well. Our business relationship came about out of sort of a social need and recognition for change within the brand. The LGBTQIA+ community is very protective of itself, especially the transgender community and rightfully so because they’re one of the most marginalized, oppressed groups in the United States if not the world. So, the response to a cis- woman, owning and directing a clothing brand – was mixed the say the least, and so I recognized that and Peregrine recognized that. I started directing the company this January and we’re refining our language and marketing to accommodate more of the community through my own experiences and the reception to that has been less mixed.
REDDY-BEST: Tell me about the business model for All is Fair in Love and Wear
HONIG: Coming from a 15 years standpoint of co-owning a lingerie store, Birdies, I started this company under the belief that our customer base would be transmen who were looking for a higher quality binder: better fabric; easier to get in and out of and so on. I originally started ordering binders the way that I order sizes at Birdies, which is 2 smalls, 4 mediums, 2 larges and an extra large based on the ratio of sales in my lingerie business. I’m inclined to market towards my existing customers and when we got our early orders- when we had an early prototype, it was interesting to see that our orders were coming in small and extra small. Even the extra-extra small was not small enough. So, we started to see that the people who were ordering were the mothers of young trans men, trans boys. It was a market that we had never considered because, in general, what you see and what you read about, are not supportive parents, and it was kind of amazing and floored us that we were going to need to completely rethink who our market was.
DOMINIQUE: That’s where, quite literally, I stepped in. When I started working with the brand in January, it was clear that we needed smaller sizing and so we worked on a smaller size and we needed to go even smaller than that. I was not expecting a demographic that was younger, and, coming from the community, I was expecting a demographic that had unsupportive parents. The fact that, coming into this, we’re already reaching parents who were supportive of their trans kids, that was amazing because it’s just community you don’t hear about very often, even from within the community. So, that was fantastic. Our business model is simply: there is an individual who is experiencing gender dysphoria, who needs to compress their chest and they either don’t have an option that is considerate of their health or their comfort or any aesthetic decision that they want to make – we step in, and we say, “here is a garment that considers all of these things, here is how you buy safely, and how to consider your health while doing this and how to pace yourself and here is the reality of the decisions that you are going to make regardless of whether or not, you buy it as safely as you can, (or if you ignore of our if you don’t heed our warnings essentially.) At the same time, every binder brand fits differently, so we don’t see those brands as competition, it’s just more options and so we’re providing an option – a different option. It’s important for me to express that during all our during my time with our customers, as well, like, “here are some other options if you – oh you have sensitive skin, maybe you wouldn’t go to these rougher brands, but maybe try us or try someone else.” So it’s less of the business model and more of just a discussion. That plays into our marketing as well, because we – the, the community is used to being left out of larger corporate conversation, and so I am ensuring that when they interact with us that it’s personal, because they’re speaking with me and I went them to know that there is someone who has experienced this and has gone through the same thing.
REDDY-BEST: Peregrine, tell me about Birdies. The store has been around for fifteen years. Can you tell me about what types of other products, or tell me about what products you have in there? What kinds of items do you sell?
HONIG: Birdies is a lingerie store. We sells bras and underwear, swimwear and slips. Our bras run from 28 triple A up into a 44H so our customers runs the gamut. We have always had trans women shop in our store. We always had customers who are cross-dressers. It’s an inclusive business and everyone we hire is sensitive and intuitive. We have a crew of intelligent creative humans hand. My business partner is very politically intelligent, has worked on a lot of campaigns and I’ve always respected her, her motivation in terms of what we are doing and why we are doing it, and what the store represents within the community. All is Fair as a branch from something more conventional has been a journey.
REDDY-BEST: You’ve always sort of been attuned to those that might have diverse or unique interests and you are conscious of training your employees. Can you talk about what the hiring process might look like for you?
HONIG: Birdies started up as an art installation in 2003. I am an artist and I did not know that I would be running a 15 year old lingerie business. My training has come from hands-on experience. Skills are situational- knowing when an inquiry is going to turn into a dirty phone call. If somebody calls and asks if we have “satin,” the chances that it is going to shift into a fetishized conversation is high. We employ language like “welcome to Birdie’s, are you shopping for yourself?” It gives people breathing room to say, “Yes” or “No, I’m looking for a gift,”. If the intended recipient still remain ambiguous we say “Oh, is it a gift for yourself”,. Allowing our customers to take care of themselves, and present themselves the way that they want to present themselves is key. And a level of it is just intuition and allowing my employees to trust their instincts. If they think it’s going to go great, roll with it. If things are getting weird, you are in power to say whatever you need to say in order to stop that conversation or end that service because there is an endgame and that is for everybody to feel good when they are at work. We are in the sex industry – it is lingerie. Desire and identity are complicated. If someone walks into Birdies and says, I’m looking for something sexy, we have to say “What is sexy to you?” Sexy is different to everybody. With All Is Fair, it is not all about sexuality, it is about gender. We navigate an evolving dictionary and set of needs.
REDDY-BEST: Do you produce and manufacture any items or do you strictly buy wholesale, or do you do a combination both?
HONIG: All Is Fair is completely produced and manufactured by its brand.
REDDY-BEST: And the items at Birdies, those are bought wholesale?
HONIG: Birdies works with local and regional seamstresses for small edition projects and we buy from emerging and established designers for the majority of our inventory.
REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me about the price point of All is Fair in Love and Wear?
DOMINIQUE: Yes. Our binders are 50 dollars. They were higher at one point, but we are working with the most folks, economically catering our prices. As we move forward addressing pricing is really important to us.
REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me about how many styles that you are producing or the manufacturing process?
DOMINIQUE: We wanted to be produced domestically. I wanted these to be made in the U.S, but even better than that – we’ve agreed that just being made locally would be the best option. So, we’ve made an effort to find our binder or binder designs once I was brought on. We are making sure that our smaller sizes were being tailored perfectly as we moved into the smaller sizes. We started working with the premiere athletic and swimwear seamstress in the Mid-west, and she’s been amazing and making a transition from the swimwear field – it’s compression-wear, because it’s essentially the same materials, but just little smaller, made sense. That’s been most of the manufacturing- switching process: it’s just speaking with her and refining our design and understanding and going out into the community. I work with a couple of trans support groups whose youth have expressed interest in working with me and providing their feedback on what those designs are like for them. Having that community involvement has always been something that All Is Fair has valued but now we’re seeing in this manufacturing process as well.
HONIG: The biggest costs when we started was doing research about how to make this garment. Industrial machines are expensive. Compression fabric is very complicated and only ships in large quantities. Health is top priority as there is a high percentage of trans men who have and will bind at the compromise of comfort and circulation. An emerging brand that is specific and is not going to be created in bulk is a challenge.
DOMINIQUE: And I mean especially in terms of a small business starting right off with an industrial serger is a pretty high threshold to reach, especially when working in compression wear and that’s typically, what most brands who are making athletic wear, or compression wear are using. It provides so much space to work with your garment, and so that was a huge hurdle that we had to overcome just recently, because our seamstresses are some of the best in business. But we have to work within our limitations, and we had to keep exploring options until we found something that we could approach in a strong financial way.
HONIG: Our earlier prototypes were made by people who had, experience in post-plastic surgery garments. That was their field and what they had access to was the body healing after a major surgery. Finding a garment that compressed the upper chest and allowed for breathing room flipped the pattern upside down. The challenge to find: A) something that does what it’s supposed to do; B) is healthy and breathable; C) has a level of communication to the wearer and can be made in smaller quantities.
REDDY-BEST: Given the trans-communities historical and current oppression, did you experience any resistance or discrimination from seamstresses or manufacturers you were approaching?
HONIG: The seamstress that built the first prototype decided she didn’t want to be affiliated with making garments for transgender people. It was eye opening. I have a level of innocence when comes to discrimination. I do not relate to people who are uncomfortable with somebody seeking assistance in order to control their body in order to present themselves the way they want to present themselves. The resistance from a community that would like to only buy from their own people is equally understandable. The journey from figuring out costs and figuring out ethical costs is complicated. Learning curve is an understatement. We are ideally learning every day. There is new language for addressing people in all fields every day.
DOMINIQUE: There was a moment where I had meeting with seamstress in her home. Of course you’re walking in, and there are quilts with crosses, and everywhere you look there’s a quote from the bible and there’s like a lot running through your mind as far as what the next 5 minutes are going to look like and how that conversation is going to play out. Despite the current political climate, you still can’t judge a book by its cover and I mean that’s kind of a part of the entire, greater conversation we’re having here. I have yet to have conversation like that that has ended poorly or without their support. It has to do with our values. If you’re not sacrificing anything for your values then it’s a not a value, and sacrificing that small amount of comfort to take that risk, and express truthfully what we are doing to people that you think are going to marginalize you, is worth it in the end, I guess.
REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me about your role in the brand and what a typical day it might like? Or what typical time when you’re working on this might look like?
DOMINIQUE: So, I wake up and I start responding to emails and usually they’ll be from concerned parent or someone who is interested in purchasing a binder but they have no idea would look and they don’t know how to go about measuring themselves. And they don’t know how to bind safely because they’re afraid of the consequences of doing that for long periods of time, or they’re afraid their child doing that. I usually navigate them to our binder safety information and I’ll talk a bit about what we do as brand and what we can provide and I give them a list of options to consider. The other binding brands or different ways to bind entirely like, using sports bras and not going commercial binder route, as well as other safe options. That being said, that’s usually my day responding to emails, if I haven’t gotten a question from textiles students who are interested in doing research. Then I work on other emails, they are usually ones that are scheduling a fitting. Almost once a week I’m meeting someone who’s interested in buying one of our binders or I’m meeting someone who is helping us fit them, fit our prototypes, so that we can fine tune our sizing. Every other week I’m a youth advisor and I meet with TGNC – transgender and gender nonconforming youth- and I advise them in their day-to-day lives as well as meeting with medical professionals, who are also advocates for LGBTQ youth. I speak with them about how we can better solidify our connections and share our resources and share my knowledge on binding safety with them and typically they send their patients my way, if they have questions or if they’re interested, they can combine purchases.
REDDY-BEST: How did you become connected with the researchers in the Binding Health Project?
DOMINIQUE: I reached out to them.
HONIG: I really connected Sarah Bond from Kansas City, at the free health clinic. We planted some seeds with Passages and Anderson Rich as we started to realize our product was younger products. We started to reach out to the younger community to see what was needed? It’s a couple of like, little seeds that they have definitely harvested in terms of making come things come to our current level of fruition with the brand and with safety and accessibility.
DOMINIQUE: And now they use the graphics that I was originally creating for our binder safety guide during their presentations. They’ve agreed to work with us, as we move forward, sharing their research and they’re fantastic. I think part of the success their research was the foundation of their study was sort of providing people, providing the community where they were to submit their, their information about binding. We just don’t have enough research in this field at all to know exactly how safe binding is and to pinpoint exactly how much you’re putting at risk through doing that for a long period of your life because there are many individuals who are trans who will go through their entire life’s binding and never have top surgery because either they don’t have financial access to top surgery or that’s just not something they’re interested in. The Binding Health Project is important because it asks for that community involvement and it’s sort of relied on that. I think that if more research takes that route, then we can see much more results generate that can benefit the community as a whole. There isn’t a lot of information.
REDDY-BEST: How many prototypes have you developed so far or what are the different styles?
DOMINIQUE: We have one style currently, that’s been through about two prototyping stages. We’re in the second one currently. The first was a garment that was available in four colors: cream color, dark brown, a royal, oceanic blue, like a dark blue and cranberry. It was a standard sort of like tank style binder and those are very popular, but our second prototypes, as we been going through the fitting process, they’re very similar style to both of our iterations. They have like a lot of room, because one common complaint in the community is that you can’t wear V-necks while wearing a binder and so our new prototype provides, you’ve been more room for that. All of our binders have the zipper of course, but the feedback that I’m getting now is that while tank style is great and any one can use it, there are a lot of individuals who want to wear crop-tops, or who just like the- it’s commonly referred to as like, the “try top.” They like the “try top” style, that sort of stops mid-chest. That’s very popular within the community, and we might look towards those options as well.
REDDY-BEST: Do you want to add anything about how you go from initial concept to final product?
DOMINIQUE: I did think about something just as I was finishing that topic. So, as I said, there are a lot of different binding brands. A lot of binders that fit everyone differently, but one thing that isn’t entirely understood by these brands and definitely the community that relies on them, is that the way that something is constructed greatly impacts – not only the level of compression that you are receiving, but also the safety of that compression. While there are definitely a lot of options that explore different styles and different ways of putting together these garments, there are really only a few. There are a lot more restrictions then people realize to make a garment that’s not only effective, but is also safe. I think the most high-profile example is swim-wear binders. Binding and exercising together is not a good idea, because you are compressing so much of your lungs and you’re putting a lot of stress on your body. It’s not safe to exercise and bind. So, marketing something as a binder that you can swim in where you need even more lung capacity and you want to be able to use all of you – you want your body to have complete access to itself – that’s something that we’ve been struggling with addressing. I don’t think that it’s something that everyone is conscious of, so, while we want to move toward other styles there are a lot of technical restrictions that impact safety. I give talks on binder safety to a few youth groups. We have ten steps and I won’t go through every step and give the whole spiel, because you can access at AllisFairinLoveinWear.com/safely. The Binding Health Project highlighted this as well. That while the community recognizes that not binding for any more than 8 to 12 hours a day, it’s actually much more important to focus on not binding 7 days a week and having off days where you just giving your body sometime to rest in detox from the compression. Also cleaning your binder and making sure that you’re doing that on a regular base because – there are so many emails that I get about people who experience skin rashes, and while a huge part of that, it can be chalked up to the material used by the brand they chose – a huge portion of that is just whether or not you’re washing in a regular bases and if you’re giving yourself enough time with it off, to wash it and another big thing is just not sleeping with it on and not exercising with it on and not swimming in binding. You can get in water with it, you can get it wet and even though the huge thing about swim binders is that they hold chlorine and so most binders marketed as swimming binders hold that chemical and which leads to more skin issues. But just not exercising and not doing very physically intensive things while binding, is key. In the long run the decisions that you make about this are going to impact your physiology regardless of how you bind, but, it’s really just choosing what how much of what you want and how that’s impacting you.
REDDY-BEST: Do you want to show us an example of the binder and just started talk through it?
DOMINIQUE: This is our extra small. we have the compression material localized specifically in the chest area and so our first iterations didn’t have this, but it also wraps around the back as well, and it’s very soft but still stretchy. Here is where the comfort is. It is definitely felt the most with this fabric. For the internal lining we were looking at different fabric samples. We were exploring what compressed the most and then what was the most comfortable and in every single testing. It didn’t matter how much less the compression was, the comfort won every time because we are just such a breath fresh air – literally, a breathe of fresh air- our fitters would trade comfort over compression, any day. But we have ensured that it compresses as much as possible and we are using construction techniques that supply an adequate amount of strength when it is put to the test. I think one of the hallmark features of our binders are the zippers that go up the sides. That makes it a lot easier to put on and take off along with the material that we are using. When I’ve been going to these fittings, someone always tells me something new. Some extremely nuanced experience that they’ve had, that you just wouldn’t know if you are not a member of specifically the trans-masculine community. So, this is typically sitting at the very edges of their shoulders and so this provides enough space to wear V-necks, but also, if they want to wear a wider-necked shirt and then they can do as well, but also the material allows for them to put it on after the shower. Because there are so many brand that are using very specific set of materials and of course we all like getting dressed after we shower in the morning, but the moisture in the skin just doesn’t cope well with other materials. This material does and so just the little things like that. It’s probably the most important aspects of the binding despite all of the thought that’s been put into everything else. It’s really what sets it apart.
HONIG: Consider our zipper. Moving conceptually away from an eye and hook- as you have on a commercial bra- was incredibly important as an emotional and functional shift. Removing standardized ritual behavior was evolutionary.
DOMINIQUE: And I should probably going to detail about this because I think that technically speaking, it’s something that should probably be shared. When you’re leaving the amount of compression up to the wearer, but just taking responsibility as a provider you might be putting something in the hands someone who really doesn’t have any interest in their self- preservation, and that’s something that we value. So, when we’re moving away from things like eye hooks or having sort of like an adjustable compression amount through multiple rows of eyelets or varying degrees of length with some sort of Velcro system or, even different like zippering systems, it’s important to have like just standard. It’s important to have a standardized sizing that is standard and consistent within the size, because a lot of broken ribs and a lot of negative health impacts come simply from someone having the ability to compress a lot of more than that their bodies actually able to handle and that ends up costing them a lot more than was intended.
HONIG: Gender burdened sizing was imperative to address. We changed 32”-40” as a band standard to neutral sizing.
DOMINIQUE: Moving into neutral sizing
HONIG: Sizing, you know, was difficult too, because you’re still dealing with this different aspects, but you want to be respectful of the person’s identity. That was also really like, “Oh, you know, we can’t do numbers.”
DOMINIQUE: Even in fitting sessions, it’s a lot easier, it’s so much easier to just ask what bra size are you and then find a binder base on that, because there so much information there. But that triggers a lot of individuals who have gender dysphoria, so there is the- despite the fact that it is probably the easiest way collect that information- starting from the very beginning and saying “what is your top chest measurement, what is your under bust measurement, what are of these measurements?” It neutralizes that conversation a lot, and makes it a lot easier.
REDDY-BEST: What is been most successful for the brand so far?
HONIG: How would you qualify success? All is Fair is not fiscally successful. The ability to find the person to represent the brand is and was necessary. All is Fair is reaching the community that it needs to reach in a healthy and positive way.
DOMINIQUE: I think that the most successful thing about the brand from my perspective is turning this in the something that I would have needed it when I was going through this very confusing part of my life, and the connections that we’re still making with people within medical field and medical researchers, like, the Binding Health Project and the growing number of clinicians and therapists and medical professionals locally who are reaching out to us and starting to work with us. Just starting to see the integration and the importance for this within that field that is going the way to a lot, hopefully, a lot more successes, whether they are with All is Fair or not.
REDDY-BEST: What are you most proud of, so far?
DOMINIQUE: Definitely that integration. That’s probably, that’s the best thing that could happen.
DOMINIQUE: Oh my gosh, coming from like working within the retail world – typically within the retail world if one thing is off, you can end up having extremely negative experience with someone. I think about it might be another reason why more people don’t look to the trans community as far as serving them goes, but they are, they’ve been the most understanding individuals to work for and work with, and, I think that what we are seeing as “over sensitive” is inaccurate, they have the thickest skin and they’re extremely resilient and they’re extremely supportive. So, if we are proud of anything, it is definitely the people that have continued to stay loyal to us and support us.
REDDY-BEST: What were initial aspects starting a the brand that surprised you?
HONIG: I was surprised by who was supportive and how quickly people understood there was a garment missing from our culture. City Gym came forward, a business that has a really good program for trans men who want to become more stereotypically masculine in their silhouette. I became aware of what was going on because I was now connected to this brand that was to serve a community. I identify as an artist, not an activist. I made a bathroom sign. It said, “We don’t care” and I made it for Birdies. It was ADA compliant- a half masculine logo and a half feminine logo with braille underneath. I called my friend who made signage for me and I said, “I really kind need this quickly, right?” And he sent it to me – I put it on Facebook and everybody wanted one. And 21C [Museum Hotel in Durham, NC], North Carolina, said, “We want 10 by Friday – we’re putting our bathrooms up, we want to protest this bill [HB-2]. I made the signs, shipped them to North Carolina and the image installed became the icon of a conversation that asked if public space should allow people to go to the bathroom based on what they believe their gender to be. I made a hundred of them and that strange moment in time afforded some of the prototypes and fabric that we needed it in order to move forward with the brand. Initially we had a brick and mortar space for about a year. It felt like a swimming pool. It had a locker room feel to it. It was really lovely and we were able to bring in different people to try things on and we allowed different designers to experiment with fabric.
REDDY-BEST: Who made the sign?
HONIG: Acumen Dyke is a trans man designer and he originally copyrighted the split gender image. He contacted me. I said, “I have the bathroom sign itself trademarked.” He said, “Okay, well, if it anything ever comes up, if it gets used with you give me credit?” and I said, “Of course.” It was great because out of the blue Twitter called me and said, “we love these bathroom signs but we’ve been looking for months for the person that owns that icon.” And I was happy “Oh, you got it! I know the person.” And so Acumen Dyke actually was able to syndicate all over the subways of New York City. His idea was being tweeted about in America, right then and there. This felt really great. And we have a nice kind of dialogue back and forth, based on our accidental collaboration. What are the chances that Twitter would contact me to find out where half of my signage came from? The sign has gone everywhere. It is in government buildings all over the world. It has also been copied and I do not care. The more people that are being inclusive the better– it is glib- your right to do what you want to. It sometimes takes humor in order for things to syndicate and get noticed. This was 2015 and was when the bill, the HB2 started to get tossed around and just seems for us, so ridiculous, it’s like, this is ridiculous, who cares where you go to the bathroom, literally, who care, – Birdies doesn’t care, we don’t care, go to the bathroom. And it did start a trend in people making bathroom signs that were in covert protest of this idea- policing people’s genitals- based on their birth certificate or how they dressed is extremely problematic. It is a form of brutality. The language “we don’t care,” – is very much a sign about caring. In not caring, I cared. We gave a percentage to the Free Health Clinic and the rest of it we were able to use to get those next prototypes. It is 70 an hour when you’re working with a professional. People do not know that it takes a village. It takes village to make a garment. When you think about something that costs 2 for 20 dollars, someone’s gone blind. Teaching people to purchase garments ethically – we have got a long road ahead of us. We are filling landfills with disposable clothes, disposable everything.
REDDY-BEST: What are some of the main struggles?
HONIG: The initial struggle with All is Fair is that I am not transgender. I’ve never presented as anything other than what I am. How to make something that is both high quality and affordable. Threats from both sides. It’s heavy and not stepping down has been really important. And also, in not stepping down, learning and knowing what I could have done better. Knowing what I could do better in the future. How can you love somebody better, how can you make a better meal, how can you lace your shoes better, everything in life is about doing something better than the time that you did it before. Better is not quantifiable so, everybody has a different opinion of how you can do something. Those are those are the difficulties.
DOMINIQUE: And I say that my struggle, funnily enough, it’s being transgender and there is always a point whenever I get in front of youth groups and I start speaking where I’m just trying to hold back tears, because I’m like, “Oh, this is – this oh this is, this is for – I promise I’m not crazy or anything, don’t worry about it I’m fine.” It’s annoying that, you know, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve been harassed so much, that I was walking on a busy street, on a Friday night, just three days before that, I was telling someone yeah, I don’t think that I’m discriminated against as much, I don’t think that I really see and then, three nights later someone had yelled an obscenity at me as they were passing by and it took me five minutes to realize it. It was just like, “holy shit-this happens.” I’m just so used it. I’ve been conditioned to just let it pass straight through me, and the biggest struggle is, confronting and having that conversation with our models and having that conversation our youth and saying, if you want to represent this brand, this is going to be on the internet and you’re going to be putting yourself out in a place where not everyone has the views that we have here and not everyone that’s going to this site is going to approach in the correct light. So, the biggest struggle is, not only confronting my own discrimination, but confronting the fact that, I’m making it easier, but I’m not making it any easier.
HONIG: Being in a business with somebody where you’re constantly learning and trying to figure out the, the most fair way to navigate and it’s – where do I step in and where do I step out, is a constant dance and it’s it takes a level of sensitivity when you know that you know – when you have information based on hands on experience, but it’s just not your place to, provide that information because it’s – even though it is applicable – it’s stepping back and stepping back and stepping back and of course, Pride comes into play because everything that you’ve learned in your life, informs everything else that you do in your life. When it comes to, something that you founded and something that you believe in and you have to step away from it because in order for it to grow, you have to really step back, it takes a lot of, energy, because when you want something to succeed, you naturally step forward, but then, you have to step back in order for it to work.
REDDY-BEST: What some of the positive feedback you get related to the brand?
HONIG: From the beginning we’ve been told: “it’s so much better.” Even at our worst, even at the beginning, our garments were so much better than what was on the market.
DOMINIQUE: Things are getting, like what 10 out of 10 – 9 out of 10 and I mean like we’re getting such positive feedback. I’m so happy and I’m so proud that we have something, that is being so – doing its job ending so, well received not just as by the person who’s in charge of it, but also fits their bodies, fits their needs.
REDDY-BEST: What type of negative feedback that you get from folks inside and outside LGBTQIA+ community?
DOMINIQUE: Maybe there is something to be said about you know, that negative feedback that we’ve received from most people outside of the community. Or outside of the community and so when we receive that. It’s usually in the form of a direct attack these- they don’t support what we are doing because they are outside of the community. Stepping in and saying the same thing is still sort of, still sort of doesn’t make sense and isn’t congruent with what we’re doing. I can’t- I can’t go anywhere with that, it’s like oh I don’t like what you are doing – okay well, you’re not who we’re doing this for. For the most part, anyone who’s outside of the community, it just, it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. To be fair, but as far as the feedback that we’ve gotten from inside the community, if it’s not related to how the garment is fitting and something that we can fix immediately by going back our patterns, going back to our seamstresses and saying that this needs to change or just looking at our sizing, and side-note, we have a form on site where people can enter their own measurements and we can work on sizing that’s uh, you know tailored for them, or start moving that direction. It usually is something that’s related to the fact that this was founded by a cis-gender person, doesn’t help that that person is white, but primarily the focus is and usually should be centered around that it was founded by a cisgender person and so explaining the recent transition of ownership and direction is something that is usually brought in those conversations. Also understanding like, “Hey, yeah we understand why that was seen as an issue.” I never, never hesitated to bring up how helpful it has been that it was founded by this specific cis-person, because we would not be – I would not be taking over anything, that it just wouldn’t be as successful, if anyone else had founded it. But that’s still an important critique and that’s something that, is, easily run away from, so you have to embrace what you can and then also understand -because I do understand. When I started approaching the brand I was, on the fence as far as, being on the other side, but I also knew how important it was to not let this opportunity go to waste. If it’s not something technical, it’s just something political and intents in this day and age, are important to scrutinize and as well as execution. As proud as I am, as being a part of this community, those two things can still almost get in the way of actually making progress. It’s tricky, it’s a slippery slope. I think every marginalized group has to struggle with to some extent – that there are always going to be individuals who – yeah, who are out to use their identity to hurt other people or to put people outside of that community. There’s that discussion about that was brought up earlier this year about buying like black hair products. Black products, should be made by black people and black people don’t want to support, you know, hair product companies that aren’t owned and directed and vetted by black people who are focused on black people. At the same time, some of the companies that get the most support out of this market are either run by cis-gender people or they’re cis-gender people re-marketing garments that are made for cis- people to the trans community.
HONIG: The cost of the garment. We want them to be at cost but cost is around $70.
DOMINIQUE: That’s a completely different conversation that I really want to have, but there are so many internal issues just within this- that you wouldn’t think of.
DOMINIQUE: Because you wouldn’t think to examine this market necessarily or that there isn’t this market necessarily or that there is this market necessarily. Or you wouldn’t think to examine where those garments are originally coming from, because they’re so specific and I probably shouldn’t say them, because they’ll be easily identifiable, but, it’s like you’ve got to pick your poison. Luckily we’ve been graced with someone who, is more interested in, just eliminating that conversation and providing like an actual remedy than just being part of what’s seen by the community as poison, unfortunately. But understandably.
HONIG: And sometimes doing the right thing is more important than doing what’s right for me as a cis-white female from a middle-class family. To try and build a brand based on something that I know very little about – maybe it’s not right, but I do believe, that I am doing the right thing and I know why I started All is Fair was from place of empathy and compassion. And, and need. There was a need.
DOMINIQUE: I mean the same can be said about the fact that you have passed this on to a trans-person of color who still, as close as we’re getting, I still identify as trans-masculine and I am not wearing the products that we have. So, I feel, as though, I as much as large of a voice as I should have in the community, when it comes to what I’m actually producing, there is still disconnect there.
HONIG: The other thing that I think about too, is that if I had laid it out on the table, like, “Oh, this is my plan of attack: I’m going to start this brand and I’m going to gift it to the person that makes a better figurehead had for this brand.” I mean like I can’t think of a more manipulative, or horrible thing. I can’t understand how people would see me that way, because it’s so far from who I am, and it just seems like actual decision, not like a plan. It wasn’t like I went out into the universe or into my city looking for, someone who’s trans and wants this business.
DOMINIQUE: Now we’re hearing that discussion is been difficult, and from my perspective in, within the community – because I am all for criticism- I think that critique is the only way to move forward, but there are times where I, if you get into a polarizing conversation about, “I’m either going to support you or not, and if you were a cis-white woman, I can’t support you,” and it’s just like, “Wow, I can’t do anything about that, for one, and we’re at the point where we are right now because of that and two, there is no negating the importance that it had in getting us where we are now.” I’ve made a lot of changes to All is Fair in Love and Wear, and we’ve been focusing on refining our message, but it, by no means, if I had been doing that refinement on my own. Refinement is a two-step process. You have to start somewhere, and work your way to something better.
REDDY-BEST: Did you ever seek other investors at any point?
HONIG: No! The Kickstarter was tried and true. I have one quick loan in the end for I think $2000, just so we could meet our mark before the deadline and then, after the deadline, it was matched as a couple more people came forward and supported the project. Kickstarter helped us reach our goal. I don’t think people realize when they start a Kickstarter how stressful it is or how the post production of sending out things and sending out shirts and sending out thank-you’s – it’s a lot of work. I mean you have to hire a lot of people to fulfill those orders and to fulfill those things. We used our money to, build a brand, and we know exactly where it went. It was expensive and difficult and transparent.
DOMINIQUE: Because of course, we’re not fashion. We are fashion conscious, we have to be fashion conscious but, as far as like the technical details about our fabric blend and construction methods, this is an important market that needs its development and it needs to develop its own understandings about, how to make it more effective. I’m constantly getting questions from uh, textile students around the world. There’s someone who I was just corresponding with from ah, Bolaris? Who was going to school in Ireland and –
REDDY-BEST: Oh, and they want to develop?
DOMINIQUE: And they want to develop their own underwear brand, there have been at least 5 different people who want to develop trans- underwear brands, but they have no idea where to start, and so it’s that, maintaining this balance of, how what is a trade secret and what is telling them exactly how we make our product. Even into trickier situations like, when you have a young person who has this great idea – should you say, “Oh, yes, please tell me this great idea that you have for a binder,” or do you say, “You need to respect that as your intellectual property because, in the end, like this could actually like benefit you in the future instead of me.”
REDDY-BEST: What are the different hats you both wear?
DOMINIQUE: So, in regards to wearing different hats, and owning the lingerie shop for 15 years, how that influences your [Peregrine’s] perception of this and you got us to the point, right before I started working with you in October, right before I started really absorbing and taking the helm – this year, in January. I have to wear a ton of different hats for All is Fair, because I am the director for All is Fair, but I also manage all of our digital assets and I do our marketing, and I do a bit of our product research. So, wearing difference hats is, of course, important but, when you’re dealing with a small business- and it’s something that I’m learning – how many – just how many facets there are to running a small business. There’s a lot to consider in a lingerie shop as far as what you’re considering and being aware of. Being aware of the discussion that you have in those spaces, and the fact that, currently every facet of our business is going through and being looked over by a member of the community, is getting that touch. It’s been so important to – ensuring that we’re reaching who we want to reach – that all the language is up to date, and the language that’s constantly being changed, but first we were calling our bathroom signs gender neutral, we’re still calling our bathroom neutral, but all-gender is the new, is the new the term and so we’ve got, so that’s been important, wearing all of those hats, lends itself to, being able to provide, being able to provide those nuances where they need to be and knowing when to spot them and say something about them, that was all that I was going to say
REDDY-BEST: Can you describe your customer base?
DOMINIQUE: Well of course, as we’ve stated earlier, when we were surprised to do business with these supportive parents of trans-boys. I attribute that, a lot of that to Peregrine having a feminine hand. On top of that, when Peregrine had this space, and when she was directing and even just, within our marketing, was focused on acceptance, in a such a broad scope that, it was almost unaccepting. One thing about working in the trans-community, especially when you’re dealing with binding, is that for every one person who doesn’t want to have to wear clothing on top of their binder and who wants four different binders in four different colors and wants to be able to wear that out in public and not be hindered by any external perception there are two other people who are just struggling with the fact that they have to bind in the first place, need that concealment and need their privacy to be considered and need this to be something that’s understated. Then there’s one person that is just struggling with the fact that they are identifying this way at all and their binding isn’t anything that they consider, it’s just something primitive, and that’s where we start seeing individuals who go through extreme measures to remedy this both mental and physical issue that they are experiencing and that no one is helping them through. So, our customer base is comprised of the mothers, the supportive mothers of trans-boys.
HONIG: And grandmothers.
DOMINIQUE: And grandmothers of trans-boys, and those members of the community who want something that they can wear out, and want to consider how their binding plays into their external appearance, but specifically their style and their fashion and displaying that and being proud of that. Those people are not any more valuable to us than the individuals that do not have the luxury of doing that, and who live in much more hostile environments, as well as the people who just choose to not want to display that part of themselves, who would much rather be seen as someone who is masculine, and not trans-masculine. We have to be aware of all of those different groups that we’re communicating to. It’s a balancing act.
REDDY-BEST: How do your customers find out about your brand and then how do they purchase?
DOMINIQUE: Instagram is a huge market. Facebook has been really helpful too.
HONIG: Word of mouth, young trans-men to other young trans-men.
DOMINIQUE: There are a lot of great, local medical professionals and practitioners who are interested in our brand and our product and the care that we put into that too. So, more recently a great influx of our business is coming from their recommendations, specifically, and that’s extremely important and I think that that’s a conversation that, regardless of whether or not it’s our brand, even though I’d really like it to be our brand, that definitely more medical professionals should be taking into consideration.
REDDY-BEST: How are folks are interacting with you? Via email? Or in person?
DOMINIQUE: There are individuals who have varying degrees of how comfortable they are with presenting to the world that they bind, understandably so. There are also individuals who have varying degrees of how comfortable they are, with interfacing with a person about this purchase. So, for a lot of individuals, it’s very important that they speak to absolutely no one and they do not have to go and physically meet with anyone while they’re having this interaction, but it’s also very important for those people that – when they have question about how our sizing guide works, -even though I’ve made it maybe too thorough, it’s very long- that they get a response quickly and they understand the person that they are talking to can relate to them and that they know what they are talking about and that they don’t feel like they’re being sold to. So, all of our digital, all of our digital interfacing is extremely personal to the point where, if you sign up for one of our emails there’s a wrap that goes a long with that. Just so that no one is taking anything too seriously, because that moment where you’re exploring this for the first time and you are combing as quickly as you can through the internet to try and find a remedy that exists and you come across that – that’s a very intense moment. I’d argue that it’s even more intense than when it’s someone who is sitting and meeting with me for a fitting, because you’re looking over your shoulder and you’re making sure, “no one’s going to search my browsing history, no one’s going to do that. I really hope that my internet provider, doesn’t give access to my parents, of my internet history, despite the fact that I’m on private browsing or anything like that. So, making sure that every step a long that, digital journey is as comfortable as possible
HONIG: And private.
DOMINIQUE: And private. but at the same time, the personal, is – is really important, and so we have that threshold – I’m going too far out – so we have that level, uh, and then there’s okay, you want to schedule a meeting with me, you’re only in town for a couple of days, when are you free? And I’ll be there to walk you through uh, measuring yourself, or I’ll measure yourself it you’re comfortable with that, but surprisingly like, we have yet to have someone who is, we maybe had one person come in alone. The most beautiful moments, and it’s at the completely other end of the threshold, it’s when they come in with their entire family
HONIG: [overlapping] their families
DOMINIQUE: And then it’s like – do you want me to close the fitting room door, do you feel comfortable? Maybe you’re too comfortable around your family but…
HONIG: It’s amazing.
DOMINIQUE: It’s amazing, it’s been fantastic, and we have customers who I have – who we continue to have relationships with, past that point, and we speak about how they’re doing or when we’re coming to have another fitting, because we finally have a size ready for them, or that just call out the blue, and you can –
HONIG: It is pretty amazing when you have somebody that calls you and says, “my son is getting better grades and he’s actually like going to school, because he feels better.” I had no idea going in that it would be mostly young people. Having young people come in and just be proud. They come in and you can tell they are wearing their binder and you can tell they’re feeling good and they’re having a better day. That is what we’re going for.
DOMINIQUE: And honestly, that is the trade secret, and that sounds like a – high level like marketing lingo – like that’s the trade secret, that’s it. But seriously, the best part about this, after the fact, realizing how important this is. But the scariest, the most terrifying thing about the brand and doing our work and having these interactions, is knowing that, we’re not, we’re probably not the only ones who, understand how important this is. It’s really only a matter of time, before someone, with ill intentions, takes advantage of how important this is. My goal, is to, make as much progress as fast as possible as we develop this market so that we can create a standard of quality for our products, and a standard of care for our customers. It’s only a matter of time, before, there are more options.
REDDY-BEST: Is there anything else that would be important to know about the history of the brand experiences or customer relations?
DOMINIQUE: I want to say, explicitly, as the black trans person in front of the camera, that we really are racing towards money. Money isn’t a goal. Money isn’t a dream. If your dream is to make a lot money, then you don’t have a dream, because money isn’t a rule. It is a rule if you’re not making money then there’s no way for this to sustain itself, but that isn’t our goal. But if we aren’t conscious of that, then there’s other options that crop up.
HONIG: Then they win. Money is power, because money is time, and work. We are so vulnerable to time with this idea and this product. As soon as we start to be able to sell more product to more people, prices can be lowered and we can hire more people, and to say that we don’t want to be successful is to say that we want to ruin the brand.
DOMINIQUE: If a very successful athletic brand, any one of them, if any one of them started making a binder and just having that brand associated with it alone, we wouldn’t-
HONIG: breathe, yeah, we would lose the air, of our lungs and maybe it’s not true. We talk about this idea. People buy their products from different people and from different places. We don’t buy all of our socks and our shirts and our hats and our jackets from one brand.
DOMINIQUE: The way that people buy this though, is completely different.
HONIG: It’s so different.
DOMINIQUE: The majority of them, do not care. Either they care about how it’s made, and how it’s made is going to impact them in the moment of purchase, because it is such a moment of relief just finding this thing, and not even really from finding it – really the relief comes when you’re finally able to pick it up and take it into your room and you have it, there in front of you. In order to get there to begin with, in order to get to that point, it needs to be affordable. Despite the fact that our products are on the higher end of the spectrum as far as price points are concerned, not the very highest, but definitely somewhere within the higher registers, that cuts off a lot of our business as it is and that’s a sacrifice that we have to make in order to continue to sustain ourselves. But if anyone with a little more capital behind, decides to even make something better, that, at a lesser price, then that’s – that’s still a compromise, but what we’re seeing is that no one has done that yet,
HONIG: They have tried. We have seen it and they do not have the information.
DOMINIQUE: What they have is that it’s generating revenue, it’s huge. They don’t even need the information, or if they have the information, they – there are individuals binding with ace bandages.
HONIG: Yeah and duct tape.
DOMINIQUE: As soon as another generation of economically underprivileged youth, realize that they can bind with Ace bandages and duct tape, Schwinn duct tape sales are going to go up and Ace Bandage sales are going to go up, because who else is buying duct tape for every single day of their life and binds until the bandages snap and until their ribs break and until they can afford to purchase a binder?
DOMINIQUE: Money isn’t a rule, but it, it’s foolish to think that it has absolutely nothing to do with,
HONIG: If the brand gets on its feet and has some strength these awesome possibilities. We would love to sell one and give one away. That would be amazing! Please!
DOMINIQUE: I think about that every day. It’s worked out in our financial climate, I have the moment planned where we become self-sufficient and we start feeding the money that we are making directly into our production, so that we are funding ourselves and we don’t have to rely on our customers to ensure that we continue existing. But even the things that we can plan, are still just based on what happens within the next- year? Six months?