Marketing androgynous clothing: language choice

When I started developing the line I hope to launch to launch next fall, it had a target audience of exactly one–me–so, by default, it was a womenswear line. (Edited to add on 7/16/13: It’s happening! It’s called Scout’s Honor Clothing Company, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.)

Over the last few months I’ve been following various companies who are doing more or less what I want to do: making clothing in shapes, colors, and styles that we traditionally associate with menswear, and cutting them to fit people with hips and/or boobs and/or small frames. These companies include Androgyny, Androgynous, Kreuzbach10, Marimacho, Original Tomboy, and recently, Saint Harridan. (Saint Harridan launched their pre-order Kickstarter campaign about two weeks ago and have already well exceeded their $87,000 goal. Wow!)

A few days before their Kickstarter began, I was reading the “Words” page of the Saint Harridan site and had a pretty strong reaction to one of the comments there–or, rather, to the /tone/ of the comment. I actually agree with the commenter’s main point. But, without getting further into it, because each time I try I wind up writing a half-dozen paragraphs that will probably make you go ZZzzzzZZZZzzz, I’ll say this: I think it’s a bummer that (it seems to me) the harder someone tries to be open and inclusive, the more they set themselves up to be attacked.

Reading these “Words,” and the comments they provoked, got me thinking even more about the language I will use to describe the garments in my line. And it got me curious about how the other companies I’ve identified talk about their customers, so here, in rough order of company launch, are some more words:

Marimacho: on their About page, they describe their products as “fashion for the unconventionally masculine,” then go on to describe how they’ve modified the cut of traditional menswear to the fit the “diverse bodies” of their customers.

Original Tomboy: on their About page, they write that this is a “collection designed for women who re-define what it means to dress ‘like a girl’, creating a forward yet timeless option for fit and style.” They don’t say anything about whether/how they’ve modified the fit of typical garments.

Androgyny: their Kickstarter describes the frustration “queer women” and “women outside the queer community” feel when unable to find clothing that fits their identity and makes them feel comfortable, and they state that their products “offer a men’s aesthetic re-engineered for the female form.”

Androgynous: on their Kickstarter, they suggest that their target audience is “women who don’t fit into the societal “feminine” category [and] have never been able to find clothing made just for them.” Their products are “Simply elegant, classy, clean-cut menswear made to fit women.”

Kruezbach 10: according to their indiegogo page, “Kreuzbach 10 makes men’s shirts, cut to fit women’s bodies.” They go on to comment that they “don’t like to say we make women’s shirts….Our shirts are designed to be straight up what you’d expect to find in the men’s department….However unlike shirts in the men’s department Kreuzbach10 shirts are cut to fit female bodies.”

Finally, Saint Harridan, who sent me down this rabbithole, from the opening of their Words page: “We who are attracted to the clothes at Saint Harridan use many different words to describe ourselves. We use words like stud, butch or boi among many others. Some of us embrace the word woman, others like man, some prefer neither or both.” On the Kickstarter, the only mention of their potential customers’ gender is in the video, when they say they want to make suits for “her…or her…or him…or her…or you.” In talking about fit, they mention that they “size for Saints with breasts and no breasts.”

Even though I’ve spent a gazillion hours on all their sites, and have read their copy a gazillion times, I was surprised to discover that 4 of the 6 companies market themselves specifically and exclusively to women. I like what Marimacho is doing, just sort of sidestepping the issue and letting the customers decide whether these clothes are for them. I’d like to try to emulate this in my own copy; however, I’m very attached to my branding slogan, which uses the word ‘tomboy,’ which, as this reader of tomboy/femme points out, is not an inclusive term. Blurg. Thoughts, world?

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Menswear-style shirts out of Australia!

Warning: numbers ahead.

A couple weeks ago, DapperQ posted about another new designer doing menswear-style shirts cut for women. They’re called Kreuzbach 10, and they’re in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign that ends Nov 14th. Interestingly, the DapperQ promotion didn’t seem to have much of an effect–their funding had been hovering around stalled around $900 ever since I read the DapperQ post. But in the last couple days, they’ve raised another $2500 (ETA the next morning: more like $3500!). From doing a little googling, it looks like it had a lot to do with massive tumblr reposts over that same period (beginning early Nov 5?). I am endlessly fascinated by the potential snowball effect of sites like tumblr, especially considering that the designer behind Kruezbach 10 probably put a lot of effort into targeting press releases to places like DapperQ, only to get vastly higher returns on a tumblr post she may not have even directly solicited. I don’t know. I mean, I’d be grateful, of course, but I think I’d also be frustrated by how little control I had over the situation. Is it possible to affect the chaotic but potentially viral nature of social media, to put the pieces in place so that a piece of information is likely to gain wide exposure, without being evil? I’m not saying I think Kruezbach 10 did anything evil–quite the opposite. But is their success over the last couple days, after three weeks of very little activity, luck or strategy? And if it was luck, is there something to be learned from that luck?

As of this writing on Tuesday evening, what I’m pretty sure is the original tumblr post has about 3700 “notes”–a combination of “likes” and reblogs. So, 3700 people have engaged, however briefly, with this post over the last day and a half, two days. Over that same time span, Kruezbach 10’s campaign has had just over 50 new funders. Obviously, some may have been referred from places other than tumblr, but I know tumblr had a lot to do with it. Let’s pretend all 50 came from tumblr. That’s about 1.4% of the people who “liked” or reblogged the post. I have no idea what to make of this number, whether it’s a good number or an extraordinary number or a ‘meh’ number, or how to match it or even exceed it (though I do believe step 1 is “create awesome clothes”) but it’s exciting and something to chew on these next few months while I hatch my plans.

In the meantime, go fund Kruezbach 10!

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Lots of little things

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working on lots of little things.

The big news is, I wrote a guest blog post for Qwear, a fashion I blog I discovered while doing research for my business class. The post is about skirts in (mostly high-fashion) menswear and what women who want to wear skirts without looking too feminine can take away from those menswear looks.

I finished my apron and am almost done with my skirt for sewing class. They both turned out well (if I do say so myself). I might even wear the skirt. Taking tips from my guest post, of course!

Tiny (“toddler-sized”) apron!

Me-sized skirt!

You can’t quite tell from the photo, but the skirt fabric is striped and cut on the bias so it forms a V at center front and center back. One of the challenges of this assignment is to learn to match stripes, and I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I picked teeny-tiny ones.

Cute, right?

I began my first Burda Style pattern. It’s a boy’s button-down shirt–I figured the biggest boy’s size is more likely to fit me well than the smallest men’s size. My aim is to make something along the lines of a scout/ranger shirt. It’s funny, I realized as I was starting the project, thinking about how I wanted to modify the sleeves and pockets, that I pretty much had my old National Park Service uniform shirt in mind (I worked as a fee collector at Shenandoah NP for a summer right after college). I dug out the bagful of uniforms I’ve been schlepping around for almost a decade (Because hey, maybe I’ll go back one day!) and discovered that, yep, it’s been an unconscious inspiration for a lot of what I’ve been designing lately.

And finally, I tried to make an old-t-shirt skirt for S but it didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. It looks promising on it own, but when she put it on it didn’t have any flare (or flair. probably because of the lack of flare.) I have some ideas about why this is and what I can do to fix it, but for now, it goes back in the “in progress” pile.

skirt in progress

Oh also, I’m really excited about neckerchiefs all of a sudden, and I cannot find nearly enough pictures of girls wearing them. So, I will be spearheading the trend. Fall 2013, neckerchiefs will be must-have. You heard it here first.

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Keep at it

This weekend, my girlfriend and I visited her hometown of Fresno, mainly so we could go to the Big Fresno Fair. I wasn’t really sure what to expect–the main selling points for me had been racing pigs and rollercoasters. I did not expect the enormous building of exhibits of things–gems, jalapeno peppers, afghans, rabbits–courtesy of the people of Fresno.

I have this vague recollection of doing 4-H in second grade. Our whole class did it; I have no idea why. Why that year and no other year? Why were public schoolchildren in Chicago participating in 4-H to begin with? We had to grow plants, and for those plants we were given ribbons and a corresponding amount of money. I think I walked away with about ten or fifteen bucks, which was a lot of money for a second grader, especially in the late eighties, especially in public school. Where did this money come from? The good people of 4-H? I know our school couldn’t afford it.

So, that is one of the great mysteries of my youth, and I’ve sometimes wondered if I just made the damn thing up. But the Juniors Exhibit at the Big Fresno Fair would seem to suggest that I’ve got at least some of my facts straight. We saw everything from plants to photographs to pies to fully assembled barbeques, all of them (in the juniors section, anyway) awarded either first, second, or third prize. For each of the kids sections–fine arts, agriculture, etc–there was an entire BUILDING of adult entries, though the judges were less liberal with the ribbons there. I hadn’t really thought about the money thing, and anyway I would have assumed it was only for the kids, but nope, when we were in the agriculture building one of the ribbons was flipped over and I saw that the entrant had been awarded $7.50 for their peppers. Of course, then I had to sneakily turn over other ribbons. Some of the first prize vegetables commanded as much as $15, some as little as $3. I don’t know how many plants we had to grow in second grade, but I remember them being pretty wimpy, so I don’t know how on earth they managed to earn me what they did. Different standards in Chicago, 1988 vs. Fresno, 2012? Higher expectations there?

Of course I was most excited about the home arts section, because that’s where the sewing was. There were also pies, quilts, lampshades (there’s a lampshade society!), scrapbooks, and other frozen-in-time endeavors. When we finally got to the garment section I was momentarily overcome by this pure glee that was not really proportional what was in front of me. I mean, it was nice, there was this beautifully embroidered vest, but I think it was more the excitement of finally getting to the section I’d been looking for. But my squealing did not escape the notice of either S or a very nice lady in some sort of official capacity. She came over to me and asked if I’d won a ribbon.
“Oh, no, it’s just that I’m learning to sew and so I was excited to see this work.”
She was probably still a little confused, as well she should have been, but she was very sweet. She asked me how old I was, and I told her (S and I both suspect that she was surprised to learn I’m in my early thirties. In cutoffs and a t-shirt with rabbits kissing on it, I probably could have told her I was 18 and she would have believed me), and she said “Well, most of the people who win first prize are in their sixties, and they’ve probably been sewing for fifty years, so you just keep at it, dear, and one day you’ll get first prize, too.” The cynic in me probably wanted something terrible like “Well, I’m planing to aim a little higher than the county fair circuit,” but I am good person so I said “Thank you.” And anyway, f*** that cynic. F*** the idea that winning a blue ribbon at the county fair is a lower greatness than whatever it is I’m aiming for. Though S and I were amused to learn that you have to come to the fair to find out if you’ve won a ribbon. Which we assume means you have to pay the $10 to get in. Which does seem like a bit of a racket, no?

In school-related news, in sewing class, we’ve moved on to making objects that aren’t squares. This week, an apron! (pictures forthcoming) Next week, a skirt! Though I’m most excited about the camp shirt that runs most of November.

In other other news, I’ve been thinking a lot about how weird it is that the more I learn about starting a business, the more do-able it seems and the more excited I get about it. I would have guessed it would be the opposite, that the more I learned about all the complicated details, the more scared I would get and eventually I would just say ‘This isn’t for me.’ Instead it has gone from this fuzzy, nebulous ‘Hey, it might be interesting to start a business,’ to ‘This is a thing that I’m doing. For real.’ I’ve never considered myself business-minded. I mean, I’m good with numbers, but I also know that’s not what business really is. I have always been under the impression that a skilled business person has to be ruthless. They need to be exceptional in the arts of persuasion and negotiation, and these are not my strengths. But I’ve started to realize a few things. First, ignoring the ruthlessness question, running a business may be the perfect occupation for me because it will keep me from getting bored and/or resentful of my work. I know that makes me sound a little full of myself, but oh well. Maybe I am. I think that’s the reason I keep winding up back in school–because (and I know not everyone sees it this way) that is where I have the most freedom to explore. Sure, we have assignments to complete, but, at least in the classes I take, it’s not as though each student is turning in an identical assignment. (Actually, come to think of it, this may be why both Sewing I and Digital Illustration have been frustrating to me at times this semester–because often the whole point is to duplicate something that already exists.) Anyhow, I have always loved to make things. I have always loved to do lots of different things instead of one thing over and over. Running a business would allow me to do both of those. I had a second reason. It had to do with the ruthlessness question. Maybe next time.

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Camp shirt and pegleg pants with button details.

A skirt! Tomboys can wear skirts. And a yellow tee.

In the works: carpenter jeans. More tees. Plaid button-downs. And maybe a dress!

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One month in

That title was supposed to refer to being one month in to this semester, but I’m also about a month in to this blog, and already I’m not keeping up. For the last week I’ve been fiddling with a post about being bummed that my dress got a one-star review. It was a single one-star review amidst four- and even more five-stars, and my post was ultimately about being mindful and allowing myself to feel irrationally sad, angry and annoyed about the review so that I can then let it go. But even though the point of that post was not ultimately to complain, I decided it was still too negative.

So, hello, blank page. Here is what I have been doing in school so far this year.

In Apparel Construction I, we’ve been sewing lines on squares and joining squares together with various seams. It is tedious but good for me.


In Creating a Garment Business, we gave elevator pitches last week, and my teacher said I “knocked it out of the ballpark.” Woohoo. He also said I should talk from my diaphragm and not from my throat. Continue reading

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Found! Tomboy / androgynous / genderqueer clothing upstarts

Update, 7/17/13: Now I can add my own to the list! I’m starting a line of clothing for tomboys called Scout’s Honor Clothing Co. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Lesson of the week: Google is not always the end-all, be-all of finding stuff on the internet. Sometimes you just gotta link surf. After my last post, a very helpful friend-of-a-friend pointed me in some good directions, and just by coincidence, later that day, someone on tomboy/femme style posted a link to Androgynous Fashion’s Kickstarter (see below). From there, everything opened up. Original Tomboy is still closest to my aesthetic, with Marimacho a close second, but here are some other companies that are part of this little zeitgeist:

Rebel Jacket from Haute Butch

The Rebel Jacket from Haute Butch’s Fall 2012 collection

There’s Haute Butch and Tomboy Fresh, both of which are fully launched. Continue reading

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