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Six Queer-Owned Lingerie Companies To Watch

Queer visibility is a strange thing when discussing women’s lingerie. A lot of indie men’s underwear designers are open about being gay and specifically market toward gay men (Andrew Christian comes to mind).

Indie lingerie for women, on the other hand, seems to not get marketed as “by queer/for queer.” I wonder why? Is gay male underwear seen as more distinct from straight male underwear, putting pressure on designers to come out? Are lesbian designers worried about alienating straight female customers? Is it a love of privacy on the part of queer lady designers?



Especially given that homoeroticism is often used to sell lingerie (see this Sexy CPR ad for Fortnight Lingerie), it seems almost paradoxical that designers themselves often remain silent on the subject.

However, in a climate in which it’s more common to depict girls kissing in a lingerie ad than to actually admit to kissing girls, there are some designers, brands, and online retailers that are happy to declare themselves queer-owned. I want to show these queer-owned lingerie companies some love for having the chutzpah to come out…and I also want to show off the diverse styles of lingerie that all fall under the larger umbrella of “queer.”

Chromat

Via Chromat.

Via Chromat.

Chromat is an experimental lingerie brand famous for dressing Beyonce during the Mrs. Carter Tour. Chromat’s designer, Becca McCharen, is queer (she’s engaged to artist Christine Tran), and she’s also committed to representing people of color, trans people, and plus-sized people in her runway shows, which is refreshing from a high fashion label. You can read more about her (including several quotes) here.

PlayOut

outburst

Via PlayOut.

 

PlayOut has two queer lady designers, and is engaged in a radical conversation about gender and the breakdown of binaries. They sell two cuts of underwear, but they explain that they don’t think of them as distinguished by gender but by fit.

As you can see here, their runway shows play with gender in all kinds of intriguing ways.  In a recent photo shoot, they showcased masculine-of-center breast cancer survivors who have undergone radical mastectomies.

TomboyX

Via TomboyX.

Via TomboyX.

A favorite brand of mine, TomboyX designs boxer briefs for women with quality and detail in mind. The owners, girlfriends Fran and Naomi, began their mission with the question “How hard can it be to start a clothing line?”

TomboyX is on its way to becoming a classic queer brand. It’s exciting to see people making a product they’re proud of, one that fills a niche they’ve perceived for a long time. TomboyX is doing exactly that.

FYI by Dani Read

Via FYI by Dani Read.

Via FYI by Dani Read.

What can I say about FYI? That their product images are consistently sexy? That their vision of hard femme BDSM apparel is in fact the opposite of soft-masculine brands like TomboyX, but still incredibly appealing and obviously gay? Have I mentioned that they are bold and ambitious and generally cool?

Designer Dani Read identifies as queer and has been profiled in Out Magazine, and her photo shoots typically incorporate some level of homoeroticism. As I’ve said before: it’s refreshing to see a queer ad image done right.

Suadela

Via Suadela Intimates. Image by Kriss Abigail Photography.

Via Suadela Intimates. Image by Kriss Abigail Photography.

Suadela is a small company making pasties and refurbishing vintage lingerie. Owners Cruel Valentine and Sauda Namir both identify as queer and are burlesque performers, and their work reflects their interest in costuming. Their product images, like the one above, showcase their burlesque roots and a tongue-in-cheek approach to sexuality.

Bluestockings

Via Bluestockings.

Via Bluestockings.

This is more of an honorable mention, since Bluestockings hasn’t launched yet (look for them in April of this year). But founder Jeanna is queer, and is attempting an ambitious online project of curating and selling lingerie that accommodates queer and trans people of as many stripes as possible. You can read about her journey toward successful online retail here.

I’d love to see more queer-owned brands get their start, or see more extant designers come out as queer. What’s your favorite queer-owned lingerie brand?

Save


Rose

8 Comments on this post

  1. Halisi says:

    I know this is pretty late, but if you wouldn’t mind answering: you said that FYI by Dani Read was an example of proper advertising for people that aren’t straight. But what, to you, would better queer (I don’t know if this is the right term for a straight person to use) representation look like in more “mainstream” companies that weren’t catered to BDSM practitioners?

    • Rose says:

      I think that’s a great question. I have an article up on The Lingerie Addict about this, with some examples of other companies that I think are making good queer lingerie ads. I feel like any ad could be a good queer ad as long as it can represent gay people without making them into a novelty or a fetish.

  2. […] Six Queer-Owned Companies to Watch by Rose Wednesday, The Lingerie Addict […]

  3. Annmarie says:

    Hi Rose- Thank you for yet another intriguing, important, well-written piece.
    I’d like to chime in my own observations in relations to some of the points you brought up, based on my own experience and perspective (male-born bigender):
    – I suspect gay men designers will have at least an initial difficulty marketing their “for gay” underwear lines to straight men. I think they can be open about it since they probably gave up on that market, at least for now. And in relation to my next point I wonder if trans men, identified as gay or not, are buying some gay-identified underwear.

    – As a trans woman I’m getting my own lingerie from any designers/brands I like, regardless of ownership, and go with items that cater for women. It seems like designers like PlayOut are broadening their base by appealing to different identities, which I think is great and am pleasantly surprised. I may take a more serious look into their products line, as well as the other companies mentioned here.

    – You’re right to point that lesbianism as depicted in most lingerie adds is unreal, and may seem in some cases to come from a point of view of a straight man.
    I wonder why this is being done over and over. Does it really help sales or just attracting attention is enough? Am I missing something?

  4. Paige says:

    Great article. Im glad to see them making headway. But at the same rate, I feel that (or at least some time in the near future) we shouldn’t be looking at this as queer for queer. But rather all for all.
    Sexual orientation really shouldn’t be a factor in what one wants to wear. Nor should it be a reason to buy a brand over another.

    Alas that is wishful utopian thinking I guess.

    • Jeanna Kadlec says:

      Hi Paige. I’m Jeanna, the founder of Bluestockings Boutique (one of the companies listed). I absolutely think that people should wear what they want to wear. However, there’s something to be said for voting with your money. Shopping local, buying ethically, supporting independent designers, and supporting women- and LGBTQ-owned businesses are all forms of this kind of “voting.” It’s the idea that our dollars and desires don’t consist in a vacuum but rather, that our desires are — to an extent — constructed by what’s available. By supporting businesses who we as consumers personally connect with (businesses that, frankly, often don’t get the support of corporate machines), we are making more space for ourselves in not only the market, but in society more broadly.

    • Halisi says:

      This is pretty late, but to reply to your post: I’m straight, but as from what I’ve read (and from my experiences as a black woman), the general idea behind “queer for queer” is that the lingerie industry (and most industries in general) targets white, middle-to-upper class, heterosexual, cisgender American/European women. Sometimes the women are small and/or thin, sometimes they’re big and/or busty; however, there’s not much variance and everyone else has to get used to seeing people that don’t look like/represent them. For queer women (sorry if my use of this term isn’t appropriate), this means that lingerie advertisements – ads in general – are usually heterosexual, and if they’re not they’re “lesbian” fluff that’s designed to arouse straight men because genuine lesbian sexuality isn’t seen as legitimate. So, to put it clearly: for queer women, finding lingerie that’s made for them is like me finding lingerie that’s made for non-white people: it feels like an important part of yourself is finally being appreciated, like you’re a valued customer that deserves to be acknowledged. As relationships that aren’t heterosexual are far from being mainstream, this is probably something that LGBTQA+ designers will have to do for themselves until bigger companies finally catch on.

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