Queer Supply: Oral History

Kit and Sade for Queer Supply interviewed on Mar 21st, 2018 at 11:30 am via zoom by Kelly Reddy-Best. The interview was 61 minutes. The oral history transcript reflects the history of the brand at the time of the interview.

 

KIT: I’m Kit and I’m the founder.

SADE: I’m Sade and I’m, I guess, the co-founder? I’m the founder that came in after kind of thing, yeah.

REDDY-BEST: Okay, so Kit and Sah-day is that how I say your name?

SADE: Yeah,it’s Sade-it’s like, a, an SH sound but there’s not H in it, like a SH-

REDDY-BEST: Awesome! Sade —great, perfect! Then can you each, tell me a little bit about your background, where did you grow up and where you have lived?

KIT: Do you want to start?

SADE: Yeah, I was born in California, and then we moved to Atlanta and then we moved again to South Africa and then that’s where I mainly grew up, those three places, mostly Atlanta and South Africa, California not as much and then I moved to Canada in 18, more like late teens kind of.

KIT: Yeah, and then I grew up in Kitchener, Ontario and then moved to Toronto when I was 18?

SADE: Yeah

KIT: Yeah

SADE: Yeah

KIT: Yeah 18, so, just that, that’s it.

REDDY-BEST: Mm-hm [affirmative], Mm-hm [affirmative], and then can you tell me about your educational background, both in formal and informal education spaces?

KIT: Do you want to?

SADE: Yeah! Mainly we met at the University of Toronto, so I guess that’s the first formal education that we both kind of did, and then both left in the middle of our degree to figure out a better idea of what we actually wanted to do. Then, I think in that break is where you started teaching yourself in terms of an informal education, like how to craft and make shirts and things like that. So, I guess formal education part was U of T and that’s really it, in terms of education that I can put a name to it.

KIT: Yeah, I also actually went to the University of Waterloo for a while. After high school went to the University of Waterloo and I did some co-op programs there, and then I went to U of T [University of Toronto] and then, yeah, that’s where we met, and then we left. For informal education, like everything that I know in terms of the art and other skills that I’ve used for Queer Supply has all been self-taught.

REDDY-BEST: How old are you all?

KIT: I’m 24

SADE: And I’m 23, yeah.

REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me about your work history, just briefly, in whatever way you want to describe it?

KIT: I’ve worked in customer service for 10 years. I still work in customer service, I’m currently a barista at a coffee shop and then like Queer Supply is kind of like a side business. Yeah, that’s about it for me.

SADE: I’m similar to you yeah. I’ve mainly been in customer service since late high school and I’m still in that, on the side, asI’ve gotten older. Queer Supply is kind of a mini-second job, as well. I also do small social media jobs for people that I meet through Queer Supply or through work, as another mini-side business, but the main, the bread and butter is retail. That’s the main income.[all giggle]

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

KIT: I identify as non-binary, personally, and I use the pronouns they/them.

SADE: The same, the same.

REDDY-BEST: Awesome, and then which terms do you use to describe your sexual identity?

KIT: I kind of just classify myself as queer. Just for any identity, for like gender or sexuality, I just want the most fluid and non-descript words.

SADE: Yeah, I would also say queer just because it’s a word that people recognize, and I’ll just use that one.

REDDY-BEST: How would you describe your personal clothing styles?

SADE: I guess my personal clothing style would be, probably a lot of like, dark-darker pieces in terms of either shirts or pants, but I’ll try to mix in any kind of print that I can associate with an African print, even though it’s really kind of a broad term and is more of just like a visual situation. It’s just a mix of whatever I can find, and I try to incorporate that into my look, and wear a lot of golds, I guess. I would think that maybe my style, maybe does not read as queer sometimes, so I’m not really sure what I mean by that, but I do feel that when people see the style it can read as queer, but I try to incorporate elements of I guess, not so much racial, but ethnic identity into my style, too.

KIT: Yeah, I honestly wear a lot of all-black. It’s the most neutral, sometimes.I’ll wear one pop of color, but that’s pretty rare. Yeah, I dress as neutral as possible, and sometimes it will like tilt onto the masculine side, but sometimes it will be a little more femme, but it depends on the day.

REDDY-BEST: Would you say that any of your past shopping experiences, related to your personal style, influenced you all to start Queer Supply?

KIT: Actually, for me, no. The influence came from, years ago, having conversations with my other friend and he was talking about gender, and Queer Supply kind of started actually from one printed shirt that we made. I taught myself how to silkscreen and started printing this one shirt and then sold to friends and then, years later, Sade and I started Queer Supply and turned it into something else. So, it was less about style, and more about making a statement in regards to gender identity and sexuality and such.

SADE: Yeah, I think partly because I kind of came in there’s a sense of like being able to influence me to like start, or join this, when it was really that the menu was already happening. I mean, it’s the more that I kind of see this business and other businesses online, and saw how there weren’t a ton of graphic tees or things that you can wear to kind of show your queerness. You can just buy in a day-to-day way. So I’ve been actually thinking about that, in terms of a lot of the things. We do that and like, a lot things on Instagram to do that, that I see on Instagram, but – not that they belong on Instagram… I’m curious to know how that’s kind of like a really unique experience, and something that is really helpful, because it’s hard to get, like, a “high-anxiety queer” shirt at H&M if you want to that. Yeah, it’s like I was thinking about that the other day, so I guess as like a thing that I wanted to add, but yeah, I didn’t it didn’t motivate me to join this or anything like that.

REDDY-BEST: When did you begin thinking about it, and when did you first make the first t-shirt? What were those years for that? As historians we’re interested in a timeline too, in regard to other contexts as well.

KIT: Yeah, it’s 2018 now…

SADE: 2014?

KIT: 2015? 2016? I don’t know I’m going to say 2015 to be safe, because I’m not actually sure.

REDDY-BEST: Mm-hm [affirmative]

KIT: Around then, 2015.

REDDY-BEST: 2015. When did you officially incorporate to become Queer Supply? What year was that?

KIT: That was…2016 is when the official decision to start making stuff was, and that’s when I started working on building a website and everything, but it wasn’t until 2017 that we had like an official launch party. There was a lot of behind the scenes stuff that was happening, and people kind of knew about it, but we had our official launch in 2017.

REDDY-BEST: For those who weren’t at the launch party, can you give a visual description of what that was like, and what was happening?

SADE: Yeah, we went to a queer bar, near the West End of Toronto, that actually closed down recently, so it was kind of nostalgic in that way. It was pretty small. It wasn’t like a huge party and it was kind of in this one room small bar. It was small party and we had performances of different queer artists that we use, who, in general, are are like a really cool affair, like music or DJ-ing or comedy. We had a burlesque act and it was like all these performances were happening in somebodies small room, because the bar wasn’t really set up for like performances and an audience. Everyone was really close together and there was some dancing at the end, but I think our time limit ran out at 11pm, so we kind of got kicked out. They were kind of like, “you have to go pretty quickly,” but it was very intimate. It was like all the pieces of a party, but because it was small room with that set up and because everybody kind of already knew each other, it kind of just felt like a casual-performance-party situation.

KIT: Yeah, it was nice. I was definitely shocked too, because when 11pm hit, people wanted to stay and dance. I was like, “wow, they actually enjoyed themselves. They wanted to stay longer!” but, you know, the staff wanted to go home, which is fair.

REDDY-BEST: What kinds of products did you have at the launch. Did you have things on display?Were people wearing things? How did you incorporate that element in regard to the performances

KIT: We had a big table, full of all of our shirts that we had at the time. Did we have “high anxiety queer?”

SADE: Yes, yeah, we did.

KIT: So, we had our three main prints, like printed shirts, and then, a whole bunch of handmade buttons. Sade makes these like, handmade magnets and stuff, did we bring those?

SADE: No, we didn’t bring them.

KIT: People could buy them. The room was so small that it was like literally like this [gestures] thing when you walked in, and it was right there, and you could buy them. A lot of people were wearing them already, like those that had already purchased them prior, because they knew us. The performers were also wearing a shirt.

SADE: I think they all got a free shirt as well. Most people preferred the burlesque performances-that’s in opposition of what burlesque is, to wear a shirt, everyone is wearing like a burlesque-based shirt.
KIT: Yeah.
REDDY-BEST: So, Kit you were the initial founder and then were there any other people involved before Sade or are there other people involved now?

KIT: Yeah so, my partner actually was pretty involved. There was actually like, a kind of large group of people, because this was all self-funded. I did this all on my own and paid for it. There weren’t any investors or anything, it was more just a fun project to do, so my partner helped me build the website, and we had a big photoshoot and my friend let us borrow their studio. Then just like, our friends came in, and were the models, so there was actually a lot of people that were involved to start and start it up and they’re not as involved anymore. They were the models, and then they left, but now it’s just kind of Sade and I, who continue to run it, but it kind of felt, at times, like a little community project with some good friends helping out. There was a lot of work put in by a lot of people.

REDDY-BEST: Can you talk about the name and the significance of it, as well as how you came up with it?

KIT: Yeah, honestly there isn’t any wild significance, other than what do we name this thing? We just thought of it one day. Now, looking back, I’m like I wish I would’ve thought of a better name? But I guess it’s always that you look back at your decisions and regret it slightly, at least I do, [laughs] so there isn’t like a huge significance to the name. It’s so that queer people will be like, “yeah, that’s a queer thing.” That’s about it, so.

SADE: I don’t think I was really like in then. I think I came in after the name was already there, so I was like, “I just I like this name,” because it wasn’t my decision. I’m like, “I think that’s still a solid name.”

REDDY-BEST: It’s very direct [laughs]. I knew right away, “this is a queer brand!” [laughs]

KIT: Yeah, it’s to-the-point.

REDDY-BEST: Yeah, it’s kind of nice, [laughs]. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do, and what a typical day or part of day is—since it’s not full time—and what it might look like? I’m assuming it’s not 40 hours a week, so what would a typical time period look like when you’re working on stuff for Queer Supply?

KIT: So, sometimes we do stuff a little bit separately, because we live in the same building, but we live in different apartments. So, I print all of the shirts and I do a lot, and I send out a lot of the orders, but Sade does a lot of emailing and does all the social media. I don’t know, do you want to speak to what your day looks like?

SADE: Yeah, in the beginning, I think, especially on the social media stuff, even emailing and stuff and, like, for the launch party, asking people for different times, and what works for them. A lot of coordination-based stuff. Again, when it first started out, it was pretty time-intensive. I don’t know if I’d call it full-time. Maybe like, I don’t what number I’d put on it… it gets to be kind of like a part time job. It was a lot of, in terms for my side. So yeah, like, responding to things, having to keep a constant table of who has responded or even with stuff like coordinating different markets reaching out to you. When emails come back up, it can be the long term, kind of email chain, and for social media I’d say, in the beginning, that it was very time-intensive, because I felt more of a need to do a giant push of things to see who would see it more consistently for putting out content, and things like that. So, it would be a lot of like, pre-writing out captions for things, having a table of hashtags, I can just do really quickly. I was really lucky to have my full-time job, I’d been there for a long time, and I could just be like, “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to go upstairs and just post this things.” I could kind of coordinate it with my day-to-day life, but in the beginning, it was a part-time job of just planning out what to post and the captions for that, and timing of that, and then periods of time where a thing would be happening, like the launch party, or if you were going to a market, it would kind of increase the amount as well, but now that I feel a little bit less pressure, and I feel like, “okay, we’re at a place where people kind of know, and they see us there.” I don’t feel like I have to post every single bit, and it’s a lot less time intensive. It’s maybe more like a couple hours a week kind of thing.

 

REDDY-BEST: Kit, you had mentioned that you do all the printing, can you talk a little about where you do that? Is it in home, is it like in a studio space? Can you tell me a little bit about that and how that works?

KIT: Yeah I started everything in my bedroom, to be honest. I was just printing all the shirts in my room recently, and now the room that we’re currently in, we have turned into an office workshop area, so my bed isn’t in the same room as the printing anymore, which is cool, and is a first for me, but this is where I do all of the printing. Yeah, I just kind of just do it by myself. I build all my own silkscreens and I process them all here and everything, so it’s all very homemade, every aspect of it, like my light stand that I built. Yeah, I buy silk from Value Village and screen it, and make/build the screens, but it’s all done at home and all the orders that come here are processed here. Yeah, it’s all home based.

REDDY-BEST: Then, can you tell me about the business model, how do people buy? Is it strictly through e-commerce, like through your website, or do you do pop-up shops? Do you ever do wholesale orders?

KIT: It’s kind of like a mixed bag, depending on how much time we have or what’s going on, always the e-commerce, there’s always the online shop, but then, we also -we’ve done a couple wholesale orders to different shops in Toronto, such as, Come As You Are. We do some wholesale orders there. What was I going to say is that we also do a lot of markets. There’s one queer tabling market in Toronto. There’s also one called the pink market, and there was the erotic arts and crafts fair, recently. So if we have enough time we’ll do those, especially in the summer. Sometimes we’ll just do a random table. For example, we had a balcony sale this summer, where we just like sat on a balcony and we were just like “come by and like buy a shirt if you want.” We’re not very strict with a lot of stuff.

SADE: Yeah and I think because a lot of things are kind of based in the home, or in our place or kind of situation, it is easier to be able to kind of do casual like selling like that. Even sometimes when someone just like messages us on Facebook, or someone in our day to day life is like, “I would like that, and we’ll just bring it to them in a very casual way.” That’s definitely been a big part of the experience, just like, friends of friends or friends being like, “I would also like a shirt,” and then just bringing it to work kind of thing.

REDDY-BEST: Then, can you describe what kinds stuff you make? Like, what types of products do you have and how much do they cost, and maybe just a visual description of what you offer.

KIT: Yeah, our main stuff that we’re kind of known for are our printed shirts. We have t-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts. The t-shirts and the tank tops are both $25 and then sweatshirts are $40. They’re all hand-printed, and two of them were designed by Sade, and then one of them was kind of like a collaboration. It was the first shirt I had printed with my friend many years ago -it’s just text really, and it says “fuck your gender-binary,” on it. Then the two that Sade designed, one of them says “High Anxiety Queer” with like a thumbs up, with like a little heart on the wrist, and then the other one says Magic Black Femme and is in the sun which is really nice. We also sell like little pins with a couple of different designs on them, handmade magnets that Sade made, and then, I bind books, as well. Some of them are up on the website, but sometimes I’ll just casually bind a run of books just for a market, like little notebooks, they’re often hand painted, and yeah, [to Sade] do you have anything else?

SADE: I think that’s pretty much it, we don’t sell much outside of the shirts and yeah, the pins and the magnets… yeah, she nailed it.

REDDY-BEST: So the “Fuck Your Gender Binary” was the original shirt that then moved into other items as well? So it’s really a hand-crafted, in-the-home kind of model and culture that you promote, and it even seems like it moves into other spaces of how you operate. Is that accurate?

SADE: Yeah.

REDDY-BEST: Great. Were there any items that you stopped making, any designs that you made but then you don’t make anymore?

KIT: There’s kind of like a complicated answer to that.

SADE: Yeah, I think for a while I was making these hand-made magnets that were made out of mason jar lids, and I would kind of repurpose them into magnets. I stopped making them for a while, primarily because of time. I think I found, when I was in the business, that it was kind of starting to stress me out to make something to sell, but I was comfortable doing things like the emails, the social media and the boring things, for some reason. I think, in that way, I needed to take a step back from doing what I would’ve imagined that would be the more fun part which is what I originally liked to do, making crafts. I think I did stop partly because of that, and partly was because of time, too, because I was doing other stuff. I’m not as patient as [to Kit] you are with like sitting down and making something so I would kind of be like, “ah, there’s no time. I can’t make something,” but I think when I gave myself a little bit of space and was like “oh, you don’t have to make these magnets otherwise, you let somebody or some business down.” When I did look and kind of step away from that, it was easy to start making them again, just because I didn’t have to anymore. I started to just make them again, in my free time, but that’s the only thing that I can think of that I stopped for a while and then went back to. There’s one design that I put on just magnets and pins: it says babe at the bottom, and it has a picture of like a vibrator, some roses and some chocolates. I think I made that just in my free time and I sometimes was wondering like if it connects in the same way, or makes sense, a part of me sometimes thinks about when I’m not making those as magnets anymore, but, it’s this things where it’s just kind of in the middle, I’m not sure about it yet.

REDDY-BEST: Then, do you want to expand and include more designs? Or do you feel like settled and okay with the current items that you offer?

KIT: I think, when we originally started, we had grand ideas of expansion. We were like, “Yeah, we’ll get other people involved, it’ll be so great, we’ll print more!” Then, as time went on, I think, at least for me, I realized that running a business is a lot a work. It was never really my dream, it kind of just happened. It was like, printing these shirts and it was like, “Oh, this makes sense, we’ll start an online business!” A lot of people were super encouraging and they’re like, “Oh we’ll all get involved. It’ll be great,” and then after a year in, it was like, “I don’t know if I want this to be my career forever.” We kind of talked about it, and we’re both going to go back to school in September, so we decided we would kind of keep the designs that we have now and continue what we’re doing, but kind of take a more casual role with it, where we will keep everything up, and we’ll still do it, but I don’t think we’ll expand at this moment in time because we want to like, go back to school, and get some more education in different things and kind of figure out our lives.

SADE: I guess I was feeling something similar about going back. Originally, the business plan was just making shirts as they happen and then selling them and I guess then, making a formal, potential move being a pop-up shop or to having a market element to it, but not as much like, “this is a business, this is a brand,” sense. Originally it was kind of just casually selling things, or in a more scaled down way, that is easier to do if you have a job and you’re going to school at the same time.

REDDY-BEST: What are you all going back to school to study?

KIT: I’m going back to school for—I forget the name of the program exactly. It’s environmental…landscape something…but like, essentially horticulture. I want to work with plants, because I’m tired of talking to people in a customer service role, so my goal is just to talk to plants, [laughs]. What about you Sade?

SADE: I will just go back to the University of Toronto and finish the thing I was originally doing which is urban planning and environmental studies. I don’t think it will be so much, because I would like to go into things, even though I think those things are really important and interesting and helpful. Actually, doing the applied thing and other businesses that I did, in a small side role, in my time off from the University of Toronto, it kind of made me realize that I do actually like running businesses, but definitely not in a way where I…I don’t like a leader-y person. I don’t tend to be great with directing, but the boring administration stuff, I actually love. I love the social media tediousness that people kind of feel it is. I have to sit down and think about a post, and I have to create this brand, and I really just love that kind of stuff, but I was starting to realize, as I was researching what would it look like, to get going into my own version of this kind of vague career plan that you’re [Kit] thinking now, and I found that a lot of places for coordinating social media or working in marketing departments requires some kind of bachelor’s degree, or a marketing college degree, and I was kind of like, “Well, I was halfway through the bachelor’s degree, so I guess I’ll finish that and hopefully that will round things out.” It feels a little bit less aimless than it was before, because before it was just getting a bachelor’s degree because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you graduate from high school. You get a bachelor’s degree. I feel like getting back, not for the program that I’m super interested in, but in a motivated and focused way.

REDDY-BEST: This isn’t on the original list of question, but I feel like this might be important. Why is wearing those types of designs or slogans important or why did you choose them?

KIT: I can only really speak to the design of the first run, “Fuck your gender binary,” because Sade designed the other two. So, the concept came out of a conversation with my friend Key Thomason, who’s actually a musician in Canada, in Toronto. We both definitely have lots of thoughts on gender, and couple years ago, we were like, on the cusp of lots of transitions, like literally, and figuratively and we’re talking about it. I think we were just like really upset that we had to spend all this time kind of pushing back on these things that is just all due to the gender binary, essentially. We were just like, “we should just make a shirt that says like, ‘fuck this!’ and then everybody can read, and they’ll understand how we feel. Then we kind of talked about like, between like fuck the gender binary and fuck your gender binary, but we settled on like, fuck your gender binary” to like distance ourselves even further from the binary, and like, the -“I don’t even want it,” like, and, yeah, I think, it like, I think it can be powerful, I remember the first time that I printed it, I didn’t even like, I literally count out a stencil by hand, now I use photo-emulsion, and then for much more – but like I just cut out a stencil, and then a printed it on a tank top I had lying around and I still have that tank top and like the first couple times that I wore it out -likeI remember people, like their reactions, were very, either really positive or like quite, negative or confused, just like not understanding, the positive reactions, like made me feel really good, and I think that was kind of the motivation to like share it, because I think like printed graphic tees, can be really helpful because it like, when you see another person who like agrees with it, you can kind of have that moment where you’re like, make eye contact and you’re like, yeah, you get it, like that’s cool, like I’ll be like nice shirt and he’ll be like “thanks” and then you’re like on the same page and creates that sense of like, comradery with strangers really, so at least, yeah, that’s kind of like the story behind that print in itself, but like the other prints, Sade….

SADE: Yeah, I guess the other prints were pretty similar. I don’t think I had as much as an attachment to my prints as much as you did because mine came from… I’m making these to be put on a shirt, so it didn’t have that same thing of, “I was thinking about this and I wanted it to be a piece.” I think in general, I like the idea of it, but not for myself personally. I actually find that I really don’t like wearing the shirts or graphic shirts about my identity in general, because I tend to want to just be left alone. Or, I find that I get anxious if they look and read a shirt because then they’re kind of like focused on me. Then, in opposition to that, I notice through online accounts and life accounts, that a lot of people always wear shirts about, like, their racial identity. I was talking to people that would wear shirts about their racial identity and why they should be wanting to wear this and why they like wearing these shirts that they bought outside of Queer Supply. For a lot of people, they were saying that like, “it kind of has me ground myself, helps me kind of feel confident in my identity, it kind of makes me feel like I have to be very out there, because people are looking at my shirts, and I feel like more unapologetic about it.” When I heard those things, I’m like “yeah that’s true.” That’s like a different way of like approaching your identity and your relationship with it. When I was trying to make some designs for these shirts, I was like oh yeah, that’s kind of hanging into what people have been talking about recently, with that, and that’s kind of why, but I also tried to make the designs not subtle because they’re not super-subtle. Even with the High Anxiety queer shirt, you’re kind of like talking about having anxiety and having a mental health issue and also dealing with this kind of oppressed identity at the same time. I made an image of like a thumbs up underneath it’s kind of like a little rap, “yeah but it’s okay,” or like, “it’s okay,” or, “this is what it is.” I did kind of make it, to be like, “this is my identity and my life,” and kind of have that, come through in the shirt. With the “magic black femme,” I kind of also wanted to be like, “this is my identity,” piece around it that. It is not just about the identities incorporated into the visuals of the shirt, they tie into what is being said on the shirt, and that makes it more like, “this is just my identity.” It’s not necessarily a statement, but it’s kind of muted by the visuals, if that makes sense? So that was kind of my thought process.

REDDY-BEST: And then, can you talk about some of the models or imagery that you use in promotions and how or why you chose those?

SADE: Yeah, but I guess in terms of like the models that we chose I feel like it wasn’t like a specific choice. We happen to have a lot of lovely friends, who were just really good at modeling all of a sudden, and they agreed to do that for us, but the fact that predominately everyone who was modeling, actually everyone who was modeling, identified as queer, was nice. So, we weren’t actively to trying to make that the case, but I think that was a nice thing, that it was maybe just for queer people, and that he models in the shirts kind of like had a connection in some way to some of the shirts they were wearing. In terms of like lighting and the visuals of it, I love…

KIT: Yeah, like the lighting choices… For a lot of the shots, like, at our initial photoshoot, honestly, I just wanted there to be color, because, like a lot of queer art and fashion, I just love colors. Even though I wear all black, I love color, and you know, the impression of it. I don’t know, I just wanted to look nice! There wasn’t like an in depth thought process behind it, it was very casual. When we had our first initial fake photoshoot, all the food that we had, it’s just like, like I made it at home and we brought it over to my friends studio, and we all kind of hung out and it was like really nice. It was really comforting in a sense, like, everybody was super encouraging of each other. When someone would be modeling and other people were waiting, they would just be encouraging of that person, telling them they look great. We set up a monitor so you could see the shot a couple seconds after, so you can kind of go and see how you look. Then after everybody’s hung out, at one point, they were all chatting and our friend Nina started reading people’s tarot cards and having these very in-depth discussions, and it became quite emotional and really sweet. It was nice, like, there was a good vibe at the photo shoot that day. It was really nice.

REDDY-BEST: Who buys your stuff? Who are your main customers?

SADE: Well, based on the Instagram stats, it looks like the most people who buy our shirts are in Toronto. We do have some people outside of Toronto for sure, and some people in the states [U.S.] and the other cities in Canada, but I would say, I would say predominantly Toronto and smaller cities around Toronto, as well as Ontario, because we like Toronto and maybe those outside cities as well. They are also in our age group, I would say those between 18-30 years old, tend buy the shirts. There have definitely been some people have been older or younger, as well. They are also overwhelmingly queer. In this Instagram it doesn’t say that, but just in terms of like, looking at people who are going to the pop-up shops and the markets, which is when you get to see who’s actually getting the shirt and they’re talking more about their experience and lives. I think, in terms of people who don’t identify as queer, it’s been a lot of like family members, people being like, “Oh my child, came out as non-binary, so I’m going to get this shirt for them,”or like, “my friend is a Magic Black Femme, so I’m just going to buy this shirt for her,” things like that where maybe you don’t identify with the shirt, but you have people in your lives at the very least, that do. I think mainly the people who buy are them are queer, and in Toronto.

REDDY-BEST: And then, what types of feedback do you all get like related to Queer Supply? Do you get positive feedback or negative feedback from folks?

SADE: I mean, I think, overwhelmingly, it’s been positive. I think a lot people do like look at the shirts, and they’re like, “oh that’s it!” They feel like they relate to them. I think there’s a lot of people who’re like, “that’s really relatable, I feel like want to buy this shirt because it’s kind of like ‘me.’” Which I get, in the sense of like, we put a lot identifiers and things that are around identity on shirts, so people see themselves in that. I think they also like the way that they look, and the fact that they’re handmade, and people always comment on how soft they are, because you [Kit] sourced them really well, and you got some really nice materials for them. People are always really shocked that they’re handmade and are like, “oh my God, I can’t believe you do this!” So it’s been really positive in regards of the way that they are made – even people who don’t buy them, they like the aesthetics. We haven’t had overwhelmingly positive feedback, I think the negative feedback, hasn’t maybe been from being bigoted, I think it’s just mainly been like, people not so much. I don’t know if someone has said anything to you specifically, in life or on the internet, but I just hear stories from people who buy the shirts about people harassing them on public transit. I think about the “fuck your gender binary” shirts. What I notice that the feedback that might not be because the person who’s giving that feedback might not think of it as negative, and to them it’s more like they’re just asking a question, but sometimes some of the questions are productive. Sometimes people will be like, “someone in my life is coming out as non-binary or queer or both, I kind of want to understand more about that as like their parents or their aunt,” that and so for a situation like that it can be productive. But sometimes the questions can come across as like, “what are you?” Or like, “why are you doing this?” Or like, “what does that even mean?” Or there are attempts of being dismissive or just offensive in the way that they’re asking the question. I guess, in the assumption that someone’s going to take time out their day to explain things to you about this stuff, but not so much that you’re asking for that to be explained but the way that you’re asking for is quite entitled. Like, “what are you, what is that,” is being rude or negative with the response, but being like, “I don’t understand what that means,” and being very belligerent about their questioning to a point where it’s just like, “I think you just want to argue with me about this,” I don’t think that’s productive for anyone now, in this moment. So yeah, I think the negative feedback overall, you may have noticed, has come, just like from ignorance, I think.

KIT: And the weird comments on Instagram, which we just delete them though, because like, ‘I don’t care, I don’t care!” [laughs]

SADE: Yeah, there’s a lot of like, “this doesn’t make any sense, take this down,” or “you guys are dumb.” That’s fine, just leaving it, okay.

REDDY-BEST: Kit, you had mentioned that it’s all self-funded, so there is nothing else beyond that in terms of funding?

KIT: Yeah, no. I mean, I funded most of it, and Sade’s funded some of it. I feel like with all the physical labor that my partner’s done a lot of stuff, but yeah, we don’t have any investors, or anything like that.

REDDY-BEST: Do you think about sustainability in regards to buying your t-shirts? How do you consider that in regard to purchasing those, or anything along even the process of making. I don’t know if you want to comment about that, I’m a little familiar with silk-screening but, not too familiar. Is there anything that you consider in regards to that?

KIT: Yeah, actually that was one of my biggest concerns when first starting out and trying to source t-shirts wholesale. I did a lot research and I didn’t want to just get Gildan shirts because like, I know that Gildan specifically is very unethical, especially their labor practices. So the manufacturer that I settled on, is actually called Jericho and they are a local manufacturer. It’s actually in Toronto, in Scarborough, and everything is like manufactured here, which is, pretty nice. Our tank tops are bamboo, which is a little bit better for the environment than cotton, and so they are little bit more expensive, but I think the trade off for me is really important and we don’t make like, heaps of money off of everything, but I think that it’s hard striking the balance between using an ethically sourced t-shirt but then also pricing, because a lot of queer people are not super wealthy. Like, a lot of people live in lower-income families and such, and pricing at like a reasonable amount was important to me as well and finding that balance there is important. Then, literally, everything that I do at home, in terms of like the actual silk screening is very homemade. It’s the cheapest it could possibly be, like, I buy silk at Value Village, and I’ll just like use old curtains, and I buy the wooden frames from the dollar store and then I stretch and staple it on myself. I reuse my frames, I cut off the silk, and I’ll reuse it. For photo emulsion you essentially, you mix chemicals, and then you coat the screen and, you have to do it all in the darkroom, so I just turned my office into a dark room and I bought one bulb, so I could see what I’m doing in the dark. Then, you have to process with a really high-powered light, and I’d just bought a light that was meant for like, warming livestock, and I built the light stand myself. I don’t have a car, so I just carried two-by-fours from the hardware store and then built it. Yeah, we tried to get keep things as sustainable and practical as possible, we’re not perfect, obviously. There’s a lot of things that I’m sure we could do better, but it’s specifically the t-shirts that were a big deal to me. It was a big deal to make sure that it was ethical. Local was key, but this is super local, this is in the same city as us, which is nice.

REDDY-BEST: What do you feel has been most successful, so far?

KIT: Eh, let me think. High Anxiety Queer is probably the thing that people respond the most to, at least from what I’ve seen. Anytime anyone walks by, that’s always the first thing that they point to and they go, “wow, that’s me,” like every time.

SADE: That design, I would agree with that, yeah. I guess it’s the design, I still care about all of them, but I think that’s one that I just kind of just did, like, “whatever, I’ll just throw this one out there, too.” It was one that I thought about the least, but I think it gets the best response. I think, just in general, the shirts are the main thing people will tend to get. We sell other things too, on the side, but I think you –but like the shirts and like, the shirt material.

KIT: Yeah, they like how soft the tank tops are.

SADE: They love that.

KIT: I don’t know if that’s a success on our part.It’s more a success on the clothing manufacturer’s part, but they’re very soft.

REDDY-BEST: What are you most proud of?

KIT: I think thatI’m super proud, because there was no structure here. I mean there’s still not, like a super strong structure, but like, turning something that was literally just doing stuff just, for fun, and a craft-based thing, and then sharing it with other people. And organizing a photoshoot for the first time! There’s a lot of firsts, I would say. I built a website, and I never had done that before, so that was a big deal for me. We organized a photoshoot, never done that before either. We like organized a launch party and had never done that before.I’m learning a lot of new skills, and it seems like you [SADE] are as well. Even though I don’t think we’ll ever be like, a huge household name, or even that probably we won’t even get much bigger than this, I’m just proud that we tried it and we like did okay. People showed up, and they seemed like relatively supportive.

SADE: Yeah, I feel like proud is like the right emotion, but also surprised, just shocked, I guess, that anyone…because when I started this, I’m not even sure of what I wanted to do, and I did find a sense of motivation and purpose in, not just the Instagram, but the idea of being able to create a brand, and then that people will recognize it, and that manifests itself in real life. I guess I knew that was a thing, and that’s just a huge thing for social media and Instagram, but I guess it was just like, “I don’t know how to do that,” and I don’t know if that’s even how that would work in this situation, but the sense of putting work into being like, “this is who we are,” and like, “look at this thing,” and kind of creating a story and a narrative or purpose and then that narrative and story manifesting itself in real life. For people I’ll meet sometimes, and they’ll be like, “oh, like yeah, I’ve seen those online. I’ve seen that and I really like that thing,” even if you’ve never met them before, I think is a thing I’m really proud of and surprised by.

KIT: Mm-hm [affirmative] yeah, I’m proud of Sade,too.

SADE: I’m proud of you.

KIT: Thank you!

REDDY-BEST: Was there anything that was really shocking or surprising? You kind of had mentioned that, but is there anything else that comes up in regard to that?

KIT: Yeah, I don’t know.I guess it wasn’t super shocking, it was kind of shocking. I guess we realized we were in the opposite job roles. Like, when we started I was doing a lot of the website, and tedious, online stuff, and Sade was doing a lot of the making stuff, and we had a conversation where we like, “We should switch jobs, cause like, I don’t like this weird tedious nonsense, like business.”

SADE: Yeah, I don’t really like making stuff on a deadline, because I have to, so yeah I think that was shocking, the switching of roles. I guess also, not how much work it would be or the ways in which the work would be and the drawbacks of it were, shocking. They were like, “oh it’s surprising that the general taking of something that was, at one point, just kind of like a casual thing, and then that thing kind of becoming sometimes stressful, even in terms of something that you’re so excited about. You’re like, “oh, it would be so cool to do this all the time,” and then to have it become a source of stress or becoming a source of like, “I actually don’t want to do this today.” That change of that was a little bit surprising, but that’s just what people say happens when you run a business that is something that you like: it will become a little bit stressful.

REDDY-BEST: What are some of the smaller or larger struggles in relation to Queer Supply?

KIT: For me, personally, it’s like managing it while also managing my mental health, because this path, and really my whole life, I struggle with a lot of mental health issues. These past couple years has become a little bit difficult, and when it first started, I was working my day job in customer service, and then also doing this and like, every single day I was working.I had a little bit of a break down and we took little bit of a pause, over the summer, so for me, the biggest thing is managing this while managing my mental health.

SADE: I think, the same. I think some of the smaller strugglers are just things having to do a lot of organizational stuff, and putting aside more time than you thought that you were going to need. I think, overwhelmingly, because we both have full time jobs in an addition to this and it’s not really an option to take a break from the retail job or the job that’s like less interesting or the one that you don’t like as much, it kind of becomes, as Kit said, an extra thing in addition to to the day, instead of a way of destressing after dealing with that workday and the things that come with that. That became just us having a really difficult time, and needing to take a break and focus on mental health stuff.

REDDY-BEST: Is there anything else that I didn’t ask that would be important to know about the history of the brand, and how you started, and where you are now and anything in between?

SADE: Yeah, I mean, I guess the one thing that I wanted to touch on, even though we didn’t have any financial investments outside of like, your [KIT] bigger one and my addition to that, one thing that I’ve noticed, especially at the pop up markets and things like that, is that queer creators within like a space, is a pretty small community. I think Queer Supply and everyone also kind of led me to realize that there’s this supportive community of people who really just want to help each other out. I can’t speak to other markets, or other kinds of industries where you’re selling maybe shirts or handmade things outside of a smaller queer supportive circle, but I guess when we would go to markets or things like that, I would imagine that people would be nice, but there’s a sense of competition there, because everyone’s selling things to the same people, but there’s also just this overwhelming amount of like, people wanting to support each other, and people being like, “oh, you what do you need?” If you want a home, if you want a homemade jam, being like, “the homemade jam people down the way, they make amazing homemade jam, you should go there!” Like, building each other and I guess, in comparison to what I would assume, business would have been competitive, because I know it was a thing that stressed me out the most, looking forward, because I don’t like competing, or being in competition, that idea of like, “oh we’re going to have out-do people and have to like work really hard to like compete with people,”and it didn’t end up being that way. The investment thing was that even before we started going to market and meeting the community of queer sellers, a lot of people invested their time, which kind of they didn’t have to, so we didn’t have to pay for photographers or people to sell our shirts. People just volunteered their time because they really wanted us to succeed, and so I think that was maybe just a sappy thing I wanted to put at the end, just a thing that I think, overall, I couldn’t disconnect that experience of support that I did not expect, from the experience of doing Queer Supply. I just wanted to mention that.

KIT: That’s a very good point, I have to agree with her, yeah.

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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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