Introduction

Overview

In the early part of the 21st century, several LGBTQIA+ focused clothing brands emerged on the market. The purpose of this project is to document the history of each brand using the oral history method. We conducted oral histories with 24 brands with questions ranging from their own personal histories to how and why they started the brand. We are interested in the lives of the individuals who founded the brands in addition to the entire story of each brand from idea development to today so that way these stories can be a documented as an important part of fashion and retail history. We purposefully make these oral history transcripts available to the community in order to move research beyond the walls of the academy and make knowledge accessible to everyone.

Oral History Method

In the oral history method, the researcher creates an extensive list of interview questions. In general, these were the questions we asked each brand owner. Depending upon the brand category and what the interviewees preferred to answer, the transcripts reflect these questions. Please note that these oral histories reflect a cross-section of time. Therefore, many of the brands have evolved and grown since the initial interview. Additionally, some of the brands have closed; these closings reflect the importance of documenting their history at this pivotal moment in queer history of post same-sex marriage when many of these brands emerged.

Personal Background

  • Tell me about your background where did you grow up, where have you lived?
  • Tell me about your educational background?
  • What about your professional background?
  • What term do you use to describe your gender identity?
  • Which gender pronouns do you prefer?
  • What term do you use to describe your sexual identity?

Personal experience with clothing, style, and shopping

  • How would you describe your personal clothing style?
  • What was your experience when shopping or wearing the products that you offer before starting [insert brand name]?

Start of company

  • How did the idea for [insert brand name] come about?
  • What is the significance of the name of the company?
  • When did [insert brand name] officially become a business?
  • When did you begin thinking about creating the company?

General overview of company

  • Tell me about the business model for [insert brand name].
  • What types of products do you offer and what is your price point?
  • Do you envision expanding your current offerings?
  • Can you tell me about your role in the company? What would a day look like for you?

Inspiration and design process

  • Can you talk about your design process? How do you go from concept to final product?
  • Where do you produce your garments and who is producing them?
  • Where do you source materials from?
  • Where do you find inspiration for your garments?
  • Can you show us a few garments and talk through your design inspiration for the pieces?
  • Why are these pieces different than what is available on the market?

Products

  • Can you talk about where you purchase products from?
  • Can you show a few examples of [insert product names]?

Trends/inspiration

  • How do you identify trends? Or, is this not something that is considered in the design process for your brand?
  • Do you have any celebrities, style icons, or artists you look to for design inspiration?

Customer related

  • How do customers find out about your brand and how do they purchase?
  • How would you describe your customer base?
  • How much interaction do you have with your customers and who is interacting?
  • How important is social media to your business?
  • What type of shopping experiences do you want your customers to have?

Challenges / proudest moments

  • What are you most proud of in your brand so far?
  • What has been most successful for your brand so far?
  • What were initial aspects of starting a LGBTQ+ focused brand that surprised you?
  • What were or are some of the struggles with your business thus far?

Feedback

  • What types of positive feedback do you get related to your brand and products?
  • Do you ever have negative feedback from folks inside or outside the LGBTQIA+ community? If yes/how do you respond/handle it?

Advertising / public imagery

  • Can you tell me about any imagery you use to promote your products and the types of people you feature?

Business and funding

  • How did you initially fund the business?
  • Did you seek investors? If so, how did you find and approach investors interested in your vision?
  • If yes, what types of responses did you get from potential investors?

Sustainability / ethics / community

  • How did OR do you incorporate or consider sustainability and an ethnical business model into your company?
  • What type of community outreach are you involved in? How is this important to your vision for your brand?

Final thoughts

  • Is there anything else that would be important for me to know about your brand, your background, or your story?

Oral History Ethics

Each transcript in this archive was approved by the interviewee(s). Therefore, after each interview was transcribed verbatim, we asked the interviewee(s) to check for accuracy and make any adjustments as needed. We encourage you to share these transcripts and use them as you see fit for educational purposes.

Authors

Kelly L. Reddy-Best, PhD, Assistant Professor in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design at Iowa State University, Department of Apparel, Events, Hospitality Management

Kelly L. Reddy-Best has taught 16 unique course topics in the apparel design curriculum in the following areas: collections, construction, design theory, product development, sourcing, illustration, history, culture, theory, and research methods. In her research she examines the interrelationships of gender, sexuality, dress, and identity. She is committed to social justice philosophies in both her teaching and research.

Dana Goodin, PhD candidate in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design at Iowa State University, Department of Apparel, Events, Hospitality Management

Dana Goodin is a founder, host and researcher for Unravel: A Fashion podcast and is currently pursuing her Phd. in Apparel, Merchandising and Design at Iowa State University. She earned her B.A. in Fashion Merchandising at Marymount University, in Northern Virginia and her M.A. in Fashion and Textiles Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City. She is committed to researching, communicating, and preserving the material culture of ignored and systemically disenfranchised communities. She is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation and is currently researching Comanche twentieth-century dress and identity.

Interested in Participating as a LGBTQIA+ Queer Fashion Brand?

If you are a LGBTQIA+ focused fashion brand and would like to be a part of this project, please email Kelly Reddy-Best at klrb (at sigh) iastate (dot) edu. We would be happy to do an oral history of you and your brand!

Interested in Joining the 21st Century Queer Fashion Brands: Oral History Project team?

Are you interested in joining our research team, please email Kelly Reddy-Best at klrb (at sigh) iastate (dot) edu? We are looking for assistance on the following tasks:

  • Editing interview videos for use on online archive
  • Researching emerging queer fashion brands for potential oral histories
  • Writing updates for previously interviewed queer fashion brands

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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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