Let’s Be Brief: Oral History

Lindsay Krakauer for Let’s Be Brief was interviewed on November 27th, 2017 by Kelly Reddy-Best via Zoom, This interview was 45 minutes. The oral history transcript reflects the history of the brand at the time of the interview.

Oral History Transcript

KRAKAUER: Sure, I’ll try to do it really clear. My name is Lindsay Krakauer and I’m the founder of Let’s Be Brief.

REDDY-BEST: Great, okay. So can you tell me a little bit about your background, like where did you grow up and where have you lived?

KRAKAUER: Sure. well I grew up about an hour north of New York City in a little town called Ossining, New York. I went then to University at University Albany, which is a state school about two hours north of the city. I majored in psychology and I graduated in three years and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, as soon as I exited. So, I actually started taking pre-medical coursework after I graduated to try to figure out if I wanted to get into healthcare. I ran on an annual fund after college so I still was there taking class and trying to work. After that I wanted to try out working in hospitals. I moved to New York City, I worked at Memorial Sloan in pediatrics for a year. I moved to Boston. I worked at Brigham and Women’s [Hospital]. So I got the hospital experience and decided I didn’t want to be a doctor, that I liked healthcare, but I liked the business side of it. I ended up getting an MBA in New York City at Pace University in an executive MBA program that was willing to take someone in their 20s. [Laughs] So that was the challenge. But, that’s a little bit about me. Once I got my MBA, I started working for Siemens, which is a really large German company, in the healthcare sector. and I started out in finance. Really enjoyed it. And then recently I switched over four years ago to IT. So, I have a really crazy background but healthcare has been the string that’s bound the career path for me. And yeah, I changed careers a bit but IT is pretty awesome now.

REDDY-BEST: Which terms do you use to describe your gender identity?

KRAKAUER: So, for my gender identity, I usually refer to myself as a woman, and I use the pronouns her and she.

REDDY-BEST: And then what about your sexual identity?

KRAKAUER: [I use] “Lesbian,” “dyke,” “queer.” Those were all words that I grew up with that I really loved. [Laughs] So.

REDDY-BEST: And then how would you describe your personal clothing style in general?

KRAKAUER: In general, I actually don’t have a lot of casual clothing because, I work and I’m in a business environment most of the time. But I really like to think that I’m an 80’s suit? I always think of Duckie from Pretty in Pink and pointed shoes and tight pants and that’s usually my style.

REDDY-BEST: And then, what was your experience when you were shopping or wearing products that you offer at Let’s Be Brief before you started the company?

KRAKAUER: So, actually, the whole thing came around because I dated a lot of people that were in the trans community. And a lot of people that were born more female-bodied but wanted to have something that was a little masculine, or a boxer-brief. And really there was like nothing on the market. Hanes made them for a short period of time. but they were still really tough to find and they stopped making them. And there was just nothing else. When we did the original market research, we basically went and got tons of men’s boxer-briefs and all my friends were wearing them. We market tested different stuff, and it was really the lack of the market was a big gap for us.

REDDY-BEST: And so, can you talk about the name and why you chose that name or why it’s significant?

KRAKAUER: Sure, I though “Let’s Be Brief” was a little bit edgy, and when I thought of the queer community and the people that I really wanted to sell to and to cater to, it kind of made a reflection of, “oh, it could be a minute, [or] it could be longer” you know? Underwear should be sexy, and it should be fun. It’s just one of the things that came out really early on and market tested really well with the audience.

REDDY-BEST: Yeah, I like the ring of it, it rolls off the tongue.

KRAKAUER: [Laughs] Thanks.

REDDY-BEST: When did you begin thinking about it? What were the years when you were like?

KRAKAUER: Yeah, in 2010, I came up with the idea. I wanted to pursue this and I felt that there was a strong enough market need. It was actually my final MBA project. It was an entrepreneurial project and when I first presented it to the professors, they thought I was joking. [Laughs] And I was like “I’m not, I’m really gonna do this.” Other people were researching like everything from the Icelandic baking industry to the crash to all these other things and I’m like “No, I want to do queer underwear.” So, I pursued it and by 2011 we had our first launch party and were able to take a lot of preorders and it was really fantastic.

REDDY-BEST: Can you describe the launch party? What did it look like? What happened?

KRAKAUER: Oh, so stressful! So, I found a great venue that was the Lower East Side, and nobody in the queer community had really gone there yet. I researched it and I really liked that it had this small stage. The inventory for shipment was supposed to be due and it was running one month late and it was being shipped from Shenzhen, where we were having it manufactured. So, I actually had to fly in a few boxes, which was super expensive, just to get it there that week, because we were already taking preorders. And I only had a few finished products on me when we had the launch party because it was delayed, so I put a big poster up in the front and I pinned all the different styles on, as many as I could, and we had my friends doing the preorders. And my friends, All the King’s Men, who are drag troop from Boston that I’d known, came down and they did a big show there and it was phenomenal. It felt like a wedding. For me, it felt like a wedding. All my friends and family and tons of people from the queer scene in New York City showed up and placed preorders. It was really supportive, really supportive.

REDDY-BEST: What time did it start and when did it end?

KRAKAUER: So, I think we started opening doors at about 8:00 pm, and I was there until like 2:00 in the morning. We had a great DJ, Leslie Van Stelten, who’s a New York City DJ that played all through the night, and the dance music was so good. So, yeah, it felt like a wedding and it was fantastic. At the end, I just was glowing. It just felt like a huge milestone in my life.

REDDY-BEST: So where did you say that you initially did the manufacturing? I didn’t catch that.

KRAKAUER: Shenzhen, China. I actually had found a partner there. It was a little bit difficult because back then because there weren’t amazing websites that connected you with manufacturers. I really had to do tons of work and I did everything end to end on my own. But, I found a really fabulous fashion designer that was willing to pattern-make with me. He had a partner, Tony Lee, in New York City who had a partner with the factory in Shenzhen. It was really important to me that the factory was like legit, that there were no children workers, or, you know, underpaid workers. Tony had done some manufacturing for a lot the big names before, and he was a trusted name. So, we decided to go with him, but [unintelligible] was my pattern maker and Tony Lee was my manufacturer, and together they were really fantastic, and really professional, but it took a while. It took a while to get the right fits, the right patterns, and I learned a lot about that process.

REDDY-BEST: Do you have pictures from the launch party?

KRAKAUER: I think I do, yeah.

REDDY-BEST: Ok. Maybe I’ll ask you about those afterwards.

KRAKAUER: Okay. [Laughs] I know I have one or two on my Facebook so I’ll have to go back and pull some.

REDDY-BEST: [Laughs] As like, a historian sociologist we’re always interested in, you know, like the early days and then the evolution.

KRAKAUER: Oh yeah, I got like a Step and Repeat and everything. It was really, really fun.

REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me, just tell me about the business model. Like how does it work? For example, where do we buy the products, or you know, the general brushstroke of how the brand works?

KRAKAUER: So, again, this is before there were a lot of these mechanisms that help with that, like Google analytics and that kind of stuff. So, as I was creating the brand I, I really banked a lot on being first-to-market because there was no other company in the industry that had put anything out. Now there are several, but, at the time, it was first-to-market, and I really had planned to do a lot of word of mouth because I really felt like, especially in the lesbian community, a lot of product loyalty comes from referrals. I really planned out going to a lot of different Pride events, going to Dinah Shore was a big one for me. That was probably one of the biggest events I did a few years in a row and I was really just trying to build the brand where I knew the queer people were the people that would want the product. It was really interesting and really hands on, really hands on, -especially the first two years. After that, it really just transitioned to a lot of online sales and then Facebook analytics, Google analytics, came and that really helped to drive the online sales that I have now.

REDDY-BEST: And so, do you sell in any stores or are you ecommerce only?

KRAKAUER: No, it’s only online. Or in person if I decide to go to an event.

REDDY-BEST: Can you just describe the different products that you have? For example, the different types and categories and then the associated price point?

KRAKAUER: So, we have everything from thong, hipster, brief, which looks like a little boy brief, and then a boxer-brief. So those are our four main styles: “cuts,” I’ll call them, and then we have different kinds of printed patterns on them. We have about five different printed patterns that we do in this run, things like the boxer-brief comes in like toaster. So it’s blue and it’s got a patterned print of a toaster on it. Or we have one that has a roller derby girl and a champagne glass and just things that were kind of kitschy, but things that really, again, tested well with our customers and that were kind of interesting and different. So, it’s not just the plain black or the plain pink or whatever you wanted. We wanted prints. The price point runs from anything from $10 up to $25 and then, of course, we have really flexible shipping so usually the shipping is pretty inexpensive with handling. but they last. And, for me, it was more about quality than just trying to make a ton of money on vole.

REDDY-BEST: So then, how many folks like work in the company? Is it you? Do you have folks you work with? Or is it a one-woman show?

KRAKAUER: Yeah, there’s about anywhere from one to three. I’m always there. But, I definitely have a lot of people that help out. They mainly do shipments a few times a week as they come in. Usually we do a big one on the weekend on Saturday. It just depends what the sales look like that week. It’s really, what I like to call “turnkey?” It was a lot more work to set everything up, but once we had the inventory well organized, fulfillment is super easy, super easy. Every time we get orders it’s like, print out the packing slips, fulfill, and bring it to the post office. So, yeah. It’s pretty, pretty nice. [Laughs]

REDDY-BEST: Do you have interests in expanding what you make beyond underwear? Or do you do you feel like you’re going to stick true to just doing bottoms or is there anything else that you would dream about doing?

KRAKAUER: There was a lot of desire from a lot of different customers, “Lindsay, when’s the next inventory coming in? What are your next patterns going to be? What about swimsuits? What about this? What about that?” For me, this is really my baby and I never gave up my day job which was a big deal. A lot of other companies that came they put like 200% in. I didn’t put 200% in after I started the company up and that was my choice. What I think I’ll do is I’ll keep the company for a little bit longer, I would love to sell the company to one of maybe the competitor queer brands. I wouldn’t want to sell it to a big company. But I think that there’s a lot of other things I want to do where I have purpose and I need to do that would have a bigger impact on the community. So those are some of the things I think I’ll focus my time on in the future.

REDDY-BEST: And then, can you tell me what a typical day might look like? When you’re working on Let’s Be Brief.

KRAKAUER: Yeah, I mean, so typically a day won’t run the course of my whole day, but let’s say for an hour or two at night, I usually touch base and see how the sales are going that week. I try to plan when I’m going to have to make the fulfillments because I like to turn things around to customers pretty fast and maybe schedule one or two partnerships that I want to work on for the next month. So, a company like Fancy, there’s new apps coming out all the time and I really love testing them to see how it impacts sales and, you know, analytics. I’m really into that kind of stuff. I have a fabulous website developer and she’s amazing and I’ll usually talk to her and see what we’re planning for the next month, if we’re going do a promotion or a sale or how we’re going to roll it out and how things are going with the online merchant or any opportunities. So, something like that.

REDDY-BEST: In regards to producing the garments, can you talk about the design process? How you go from like the initial idea to the final concept and talk a little bit about the inspiration? Where do you look for the patterns, or how often do those change or have they been consistent? Do you look at Instagram or the people around you? If you just speak to those kinds of ideas.

KRAKAUER: I think the first thing is the process, which is, as I said, way easier now. But when I started, the first thing you have to do is really have a clear business plan and have some estimates and investors. That’s something that’s really important that you’re as realistic and that you market research as much as you can upfront. In the beginning, I remember calling a company that really catered to the gay boy population to exist. I talked to one of their high up marketing guys and asked if he would mentor me and if I could ask some questions, and he was fantastic because he really helped with price points and budgets and things like what would be possible. And then, I did have to get some investors and there was no Kickstarter, there was no Indiegogo, or anything like that. I mean, you had to make a pitch and you had to find the money. I started the company with about $60,000 and it wasn’t easy. You know, you have to really plan well and make sure that you’re utilizing things and sticking to your plan. But then, from the beginning I think it was just lining up the right people to work with me. So, between [unintelligible] who knew pattern making and worked with New York City Fashion Institute of Technology and Tony that had manufactured for all these big names. I had a really good friend, Lena, in Colombia that was actually a print maker for textiles. So, once I came up with some of the ideas of what I wanted, she really worked with me to do different models of what it could look like and once we chose the image, she then pattern-made the whole thing and made it look perfect so we could print it on long pieces of fabric and textile. She knew how to cut it. It was really a global effort. A lot of fabulous people. But, I’d say the hardest thing was the actual pattern making of the cut of the underwear. So after we had sourced some material locally in New York City, and we did fits and pattern making in New York City, and I used my girlfriend at the time and my cousins who were sizes that were different from me to make sure that it fit all the different sizes. Then you test everything out and you try to find your partners. We secured actually one factory that just made the banding because the banding is a completely different manufacturing than the rest of the underwear. Once we identified them and we had them producing the banding, we went and we found somebody that could supply the fabric. Then we had to do the pattern making again. So, they shipped some fabric back to New York City, we refitted everything, and it was completely different. Then we send it back and we tell them what the prints are, and then we get a few tests to see what the quality looks like. And so it was really a back and forth process. Really hard and I was, it was really hard for me also to select the final manufacturer because I had a lot of contacts in Colombia and I was looking at China or Colombia for a long time. There was a major risk at the time in Colombia because things were getting stuck at the border if there was any suspicion and we didn’t know if it was going to make it to the US. So, at the end of the day, that risk drove me towards China where I finally found a good manufacturing partner.

REDDY-BEST: Do you have any garments near you that you could talk through or show us?

KRAKAUER: I don’t actually they’re upstairs. I can send you some, too, so you can have them for the museum.

REDDY-BEST: Oh, really! Okay. I was gonna ask at the end.

KRAKAUER: Yeah, I definitely can.

REDDY-BEST: You’ll get your own sacred spot. [Laughs]

KRAKAUER: Yeah, but, like I said I think the number one seller for a long time has been this, this boxer-brief cut. This was really the bread and butter of why I started this business. It was the most masculine inspired underwear and it had a fit for people that were more female-bodied, even people that were transitioning, that still had that bio-body and it really was something that just fit them better. And, the interesting part about all of it was like when I first started to sell, there were a lot of people that were not female-bodied and these were specifically made to fit female-bodied people. And they were coming up and saying “Oh, I’m gonna wear this at the beach, or I’m gonna as a bathing suit” or “I’m just gonna get this for my son” or “I’m gonna do this” and I was just like wow this is more inclusive than I ever dreamed of! With the warning of, I don’t know if this thong is gonna completely cover everything you want, but go for it! but it was really the community, uh, supporting me so much as a lesbian-owned business owner. It was amazing. so that was a surprise.

REDDY-BEST: And then, do you think about trends in your design process? within like you know kind of like the LGBTQ focus underwear. Is that something that you think about or is that not really part of it at this point?

KRAKAUER: I mean it definitely was something I thought about. I didn’t think my customer would be, let’s say the 16-18-year-old, or anything like that. I guess I had pictured my customers in the 20s-50 bracket, or even, or even above. So it was more of an older customer, more mature customer. And I just tried to think of things that were funny to me as I got older. So like the toaster, a lot of young people I don’t know if they even get it. I mean Ellen had said, and my generation would know, that you would get a toaster if you had converted someone or got with someone. but I don’t know if that would’ve really stuck with the younger generations. So when I think of trends now, I think of a lot of stuff that’s hot for younger people and I’m like, I don’t know if I necessarily want to go there, or I just stick with what I’ve been doing that’s working. especially because I’m probably not gonna do it the rest of my life. But, it will live the course of the life of the company. another example was like trophy wife. Trophy wife was something that as my friends started to get gay married and queer married, it was like really important to be able to use these kinds of terms too in a joking way. So, that’s another one, another one of the patterns we produced.

REDDY-BEST: And then, are there any, celebrities or like style icons that you look to for inspiration for anything? Or from maybe for what they’re wearing or types of underwear that maybe they talk about wearing? Or that’s not necessarily something that you guys think about?

KRAKAUER: I, you know, I guess that’s a really hard question to answer. I just, I always think of people like, I don’t know, Chloe Sevigny or Pink or people that are just really comfortable being gender fluid and, you know, they could wear a boxer-brief and be totally comfortable. I just always thought about people comfortable in their skin, but looking for something that fits them. And not them trying to fit something that’s on the market. Maybe that’s, that’s the essence of what I’m trying to say.

REDDY-BEST: And then, oh, can you talk about some of the models that you use in the imagery that you promote, with your brand? Like, who are they, and like why did you choose them, and why was it important for you to use those models as opposed to other models or, I don’t know, just talk a little bit about your.

KRAKAUER: Yeah, definitely. So, I actually have a friend that was an actress in University and we had met and she’s actually doing really well for herself in Hollywood, Sarah ???? and she was in some of the shots. And Sam, who’s one of her good friends in New York City, who is an amazing poet by the way, Sam ???? she was also with her. So Sarah and Sam were the ones where they showed face, they showed everything, they were really confident. and I was really thankful to have them when we were starting up. I also used, at the time, my brother’s girlfriend, who was a super into fitness, like had a different kind of body completely, really muscular, and it was really just to show the different body types. And I had another very good friend that was very slender so we really tried to mix and match different kinds of models, different kinds of bodies to show the versatility of the fit. And, that was important for me.

REDDY-BEST: Yeah. The, when I was looking at your website today and I was like, the ones with the thongs, I was like oh they’re like real bodies! I was like, I was like that could be my body! I was like. [Laughs]

KRAKAUER: And you know what, I have a huge banner and I went to a few expos with this banner and everyone was like nice butt! It looks real! I’m like, it is real. [Laughs] That person was very real.

REDDY-BEST: [Laughs] Yeah, I just saw and I was like, oh look, it’s like, not like a photoshopped, you know, really, you know, fit.

KRAKAUER: Yep. That was important for me, too.

REDDY-BEST: And then I noticed you also had like, like, models who were not like a typical feminine aesthetic, as well. So, like incorporating, you know, people who might be like, maybe, you know, gender non-conforming, or, you know, maybe have like shorter hair to like signify their lesbian identity or other things, and so it seems like that was, kind of relevant in some of the imagery as well.

KRAKAUER: Mhmm. Mhmm. Definitely important. You know, it’s funny like I’m not always visibly a lesbian to people and I really surround myself with people that kind of fit some of these okay you would at them and think they’re probably queer. and so these were some of my good friends that I felt showcased a wide range of who could be in the community. And who might want to buy this. And it was important to reflect that.

REDDY-BEST: Yeah, I, know, I was thinking about that, you know, like how there was like sort of this, because and a lot of times we like, folks will think about, you know, like lesbian and they’ll think, like, short hair, or like only that. And I’m like well there’s a lot of different types of people, you know, who are lesbians. And so. And a lot of different aesthetics, like. And so then, can you talk about like who is your customer? Who’s, who’s normally buying your stuff?

KRAKAUER: It’s actually interesting because like I said I’m really surprised sometimes who my customer was. My target market was in the 20s and up. In the beginning, I was thinking, “okay, well I definitely need something that will fit a female body because that’s what’s missing in the market. and it ended up being, you know, people that identified as, you know, more butch or more tomboy like. people that were buying for their super high femme girlfriends. My trans men friends were, were purchasing the underwear. Then there were moms purchasing it for their gay sons. And gay boys coming up to me at a lot of festivals and Prides buying it for themselves, for bathing suits. So, I mean it was a lot more than I had anticipated. You know, a few of my guy friends bought it for their wives. So it’s just, something that seemed to appeal to many more people than I thought. [Laughs] Which is good? And, and makes me feel really good about the product I’ve produced. and even, even things if I didn’t know if they would really sell, or be differentiated in the normal market, like thongs? It was really that they just enjoyed the pattern on them. So, it was really good, it was really good.

REDDY-BEST: And then, oh I was just going to ask something else. Oh I forget, Oh! The fabric! So, it’s, is it, so people can swim in it?

KRAKAUER: It’s not made for swimming. So that was, that was the funniest part. It’s basically, like many others and it stretches. It’s not, by any means, waterproof. but it does really stand the test of time. I remember when we got them I took them through many washes as part of the quality testing to see how they maintained their stretch, and they were really good, and I was really pleased with it. But, yeah, they turned it into a bathing suit. [Laughs] Just a byproduct bonus, I don’t know.

REDDY-BEST: I was like oh, that’s cool! Like I wonder like what material this is. [Laughs] And then, so when people interact, when customers interact, are they interacting with you like when they email or when they, on social media, is that that you or is that somebody else?

KRAKAUER: It could be me or somebody else fielding the inquiry under my account. but usually it’ll get to me and a lot of times, you know, I’ve wrote personal messages to customers, when I’ve shipped out their products. at a festival I’ll usually be present with other people. though I’ve had a few where I couldn’t be there and had great representation. But, I really love it. Like I said it’s my baby and I worked so hard to build the company that it’s really, a pleasure for me to kind of sit back and have this social interaction now and answer the questions. And I really enjoy that part of sharing my knowledge. That’s something that’s really important to me is that people don’t have to go the way I went, there’s a lot of shortcuts now to get to maybe the same place. and it’s really about making sure you have the strong plan and making sure you pivot right or pivot left based on responses. And I’m much more into the coaching other people on how to do it. Especially supporting entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ community that are looking to do a startup or something like that.

REDDY-BEST: And then, my next question is what are you most proud of? Or what makes you feel most proud?

KRAKAUER: To have started a company from nothing. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling. to have this knowledge that maybe a lot of other people haven’t acquired yet? And to be able to share that. And when I see someone else having a success because I supported them and coached them, that makes me feel amazing. That’s what I’m proud of.

REDDY-BEST: And then what do you feel has been most successful so far? Anything at all.

KRAKAUER: Most successful? I, I think it’s really, I mean success is measured differently by a lot of different people, but for me the success is if I can help someone else to make their dream come true with what I have. that feels very successful and I’ve helped a lot of other people in this community get started, make their plan, navigate manufacturing, and act as a coach. And I think that’s, that’s my success. That makes me feel like I’m seasoned now as a MBA and I can help other people to reach what they wanna achieve.

REDDY-BEST: It’s funny, talking to all these, you know, folks from different brands. A lot of folks say how everyone is so supportive, right? And it’s a hard, you know, market.

KRAKAUER: It is. It is.

REDDY-BEST: Clothing is no easy, it’s expensive, it changes, you know, it’s very difficult to start a fashion brand. You know, it’s not easy at all, and people always are asking me “why is this so expensive?” I’m like, you just have no idea.

KRAKAUER: [Laughing]

REDDY-BEST: Like that T-shirt cost a lot of money, somebody made that, you know? And and, it’s cool like that every single person has said that. Not one person has not said that, which is really cool. So.

KRAKAUER: Mhmm. Very cool.

REDDY-BEST: And then, you had mentioned a little bit about, I’ll just ask, and then you can skip or not.

KRAKAUER: Okay.

REDDY-BEST: Was there anything that was most surprising to you along the way? Or that, like, really was sort of shocking as you started your brand? Or things that stood out to you about that?

KRAKAUER: I think that there were things where, for example, I didn’t realize, when I was first getting started, all of the time delays that can come in. It’s funny because now that I invest in Kickstarters, I see a lot of these companies go through the same kind of pitfalls and valleys and then have to get back on track, especially the technology startups that really don’t know how much goes into finding the right manufacturing partners. That seems to be the biggest bottleneck and that was surprising for me. Especially the process of pattern making something and then changing fabrics and have to pattern make all over again and change all the specifications. I mean, it’s not something that I really expected and it was nice to have people to kind of coach me through when things didn’t go so well. how to do it. I also got an amazing mentor through the LGBT chamber of commerce. She had started an IT company in the Northeast across all these states and she was coaching me through what could be possible, where to take risks, where not to take risks, especially on a limited budget and that was really helpful.

REDDY-BEST: And then, what, I think you kind of touched up on this, I’ll just ask it again, too. What are some things that are like, what were/are some of like the struggles that sort of come about?

KRAKAUER: Getting money is the number one. And making sure you have the right amount of finance available to you and that it’s realistic. You know? You need $60,000 to make a run outside the country. It’s just, you know, probably starting for tee shirts or underwear or whatever it is. you know, making sure you find the right people to help you. I could see a lot of people in the industry taking advantage of people that just aren’t knowledgeable enough to question things, especially when it comes to the quality you get back. You have to test the quality before a run would really happen. And if you get a run back where the quality’s not as agreed in your contract, you have to know what to do next. I think that those things are really difficult for some people and, and some of the things that I was lucky enough to have people coaching me through, but they’re quite difficult to navigate if you don’t have enough economy of skill behind you and you’re just a small business owner. So you have to be really careful.

REDDY-BEST: What types of positive feedback do you get from folks who purchase the underwear?

KRAKAUER: A lot of great positive feedback. It’s actually really surprising sometimes the messages like, “I was looking for something like this!” or “When’s the next run going to be?!” or “How about this pattern!” And they’ll send me a picture of something they really like. They also, you know, ask if I ship to Canada or Australia. I get a lot of international people reaching out and wanting a special order. That’s actually worked out really well, you know, I’ll directly contact them and we’ll figure it out, but, just things like that. Or they’ll tell me something like, “Oh, would you donate any to this cause?” and then I donate and they’re just really moved that I did it! It’s just a lot of great feedback. And it’s been fabulous, especially again, helping the community. Like, Night of a Thousand Gowns is a big fundraiser in New York City, and a lot of other small fundraisers who I donate some product and people are just really grateful and really appreciative and that always makes me feel really good to get those messages.

REDDY-BEST: Do you ever have negative feedback?

KRAKAUER: Yeah, I haven’t had anything really negative. But I have had critical feedback and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I have people talk about fit, or, you know, their body types are really different and it’s really tough for them to get underwear, or they want more size selection and we only went up to a certain size, or only tailor to a certain size for manufacturing reasons. So there’s definitely critical feedback, but I think that’s learning. What do they say? “When you’re not winning you’re learning, and that’s also winning?” So, I’m really appreciative of it and we have made some changes because of things like that and it’s been good, so.

REDDY-BEST: I feel like you talked about your ethical business model and thinking about that and that was really important and the factory and stuff and you talked a little bit about community outreach. Is there anything else to add in regards to like sustainability or ethics or community outreach related topics that we didn’t cover yet?

KRAKAUER: Just that I always donate a big portion of the sales back into the community, whether it’s through donated product or whether it’s through time that we put in with start-ups or coaching or mentoring. I think that’s really important to serve the community and when you look at all of these things and all of these obstacles that prevent, queer people and the LGBT community from moving up, especially in the business environment, people that are able to be successful need to step down and lift them up. I think that’s one of the only ways we can facilitate faster mobility in all areas of the economy and I think it’s really important and I also wish that when I was young there were more mentors out there that were visible to me that I knew how to connect with. I think that’s something that’s really great in the community is we’re trying to make these communities and we’re trying to create these transparent ways to find people for help, but that’s really important and I think that’s what we all need to do.

REDDY-BEST: You’ve talked about that there wasn’t funding, there wasn’t like Kickstarter and investors and that even the response from your professors about the idea, but is there anything else that would be important to share, like, I don’t know, like, stories about how they were receptive or not receptive or anything like that?

KRAKAUER: I think it was really funny that the initial reaction from the professors was that they thought it was a joke. And when I did my final project at the end there were professors saying I’m willing to invest in that. So, for me that was such a huge flattery and such a huge accomplishment. And yeah, it was really interesting to see them 180, turn it around, and believe in what I was producing. [Laughs]

REDDY-BEST: So, we’ve gone through all the questions. I always ask this at the end: is there anything else that would be important to know? We’re always interested in the history of the person who started the brand and the brand itself. Is there anything else that I didn’t ask that, would be important to know, in regards to, you know, imagery use, products, the start of the brand, people’s reactions, what you make, how you make it, et cetera? Anything else that I didn’t think of?

KRAKAUER: Yeah, there was something that was really interesting for me. So, when I first started out, I was dead set on manufacturing in the US. And I did everything I could to see if I could find underwear manufacturing in the US. And there was nothing. There was nothing, there were no resources. every time I would find a company I thought could produce it, somewhere in the middle of America, to be honest, because that’s where they were located, I’d call them, I’d try to talk to them, there was no way they could produce what I wanted. So, for me, it was a huge signal, and again, this was several years ago, that there was dying manufacturing in certain areas, dying manufacturing work in certain areas, and that this was going to become more and more of a need if we wanted to sustain these types of things. You know, we’re [United States] the ultimate customer in the world, but, what are we going to decide that we also want to produce? And, that’s just something that I really wish people would, would think a little bit more about those career options, and those opportunities. Since then, there’s more factory and industry that have come back and that have gotten started again, but I have to laugh because this past year I’ve been taking carpentry and even in New York they’re telling me what a shortage of carpenters they are going to have after this next generation retires and it’s just that those skills are not something we focus on, but I think it’s something that we need to figure out how we’re gonna support in this country. I think there’s definitely opportunity out there, you know. There’s a lot of inventors and I think there’s even a TV show where, if you’re an inventor you go to this guy and this company, they figure out how to design it and how to manufacture it for you. I think in the textile and garment industry there’s definitely a need for that here in the U.S., still. There are a few websites, but there’s really a need for it. I think it could definitely expand as a business. I’m trying to think if there was anything else that was pretty significant. I would just say you have to be able to take calculated risks. And the people that leap either leap for the stars and make it, or they don’t, and they learn something from it, and the next time they leap, maybe they’ll make it. And I’ll just say you just really have go for it. It’s scary, especially when you’re talking about more money than you’ve ever had in your life invested in this business. You just have to take calculated risks and it’s so much better to take a decision than not. You just have to go for it.

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21st Century Queer Fashion Brands by Kelly L. Reddy-Best & Dana Goodin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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