Genderless Brands To Keep on Your Radar
Play Out Apparel
"We are an underwear and athleisure brand, with no need for the binary of gender."
Preferred pronouns: They/Them
Co- Owner & CDO, Liz started their career as a painter and scenic artist, transitioning into film production & creative direction in fashion. They held positions as Product styling Manager for Net-A-Porter & Mr. Porter and as Director of Creative Production at Intermix. As a non-binary member of the trans community and veteran in the industry, Liz utilizes their experiences to learn and grow with the industry as a private brand consultant and stylist.
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Founder and CEO of Play Out Apparel. She launched Play Out's first styles in 2014, as the first and only gender-equal underwear brand to show at Lingerie Fashion Week. As an outgoing, unapologetically queer startup founder, she strives to be a leading voice in and for the LGBTQ+ community. Abby’s entrepreneurial spirit and unique personal style give her an outsider’s advantage in the world of fashion.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BRAND
Play Out Apparel is a brand that works with men, women, trans- and gender-free individuals of all backgrounds, ethnicities, gender presentations, and sexual orientations. We believe that queer fashion, is simply fashion. We do not apply gender to our lingerie – we are gender equal – and we provide styles of underwear for everyone. We believe that self-expression, sexuality and play are very important. We want people to feel comfortable and stylish being their authentic selves. We are also working to move our brand, which is founded on inclusion and diversity, into mainstream fashion as an accepted, included part of the industry.
IN THE PAST YEARS, HAVE YOU NOTICED A SHIFT IN HOW LEGACY BRANDS HAVE INCLUDED THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY’S NEEDS/ WANTS INTO THEIR DESIGNS?
Mainstream brands have been subtly marketing to the LGBTQ+ community but not adapting their designs. There is an entire group of people who have not been seen in this industry. For example, there is a greater market for those who are not looking for super femme lingerie and giving other brands space to provide for this market of people is important. It is important to call out that in addition to not gendering our lingerie, Play Out does not retouch our models. We think customers should see it is normal and natural to have stretch marks, etc. Every body is beautiful, Play Out wants their customers to be seen, feel confident and comfortable when wearing lingerie.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS , FABRICS , OR MANUFACTURING PROCESS?
When it comes to our designs, some of Play Out’s thongs are made with a pouch and some of our jock straps are made with a flat stitch front. This allows our customers to pick which design they are most comfortable with depending on their needs. In terms of fabric, our polyester blends are breathable, moisture wicking, and have a little stretch, which helps our products maintain their shape after washing and wearing. Our micromodal and polyester blend is soft and great for digital printing. All of our prints are either hand painted by Liz or are limited edition designs from other local artists in the LGBTQ+ community.
Something that’s unique about Play Out is that we have a really close relationship with our manufacturer, and she's so supportive of us being a LGBTQ+ brand. We proudly manufacture at a female-owned and operated company in Mexico that employs queer people and people over the age of 55, which in Mexico is very rare. Our manufacturer has helped us shorten our supply chain to reduce our environmental impact, and has already taken steps on her side to cut her carbon footprint, and has reduced excess fabric and production minimums. All of this helps us reduce our brand’s impact on the environment.
HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED PLAY OUT?
COVID-19 has definitely had an impact on Play Out. As an online brand, we’ve noticed an increase in sales. We’ve also been having promotions and sales of our own to help reduce costs for our customers. One specific thing we have been doing is that on Tuesdays, Play Out has a micro-influencer or local artist take over our Instagram channel. During their takeover, we provide a 10% discount code, and then the artist gets 10% of the profits (which many influencers have chosen not to take), and 10% of the profits goes to a charity of their choosing. Ultimately, Play Out is a very value and mission driven brand, whose lingerie goes beyond gender and sexuality. We believe our customers want to feel comfortable with who they are and want to celebrate themselves during this time.
"Completely customizable items for people across the gender spectrum."
Preferred pronouns: They/Them
"The Origami Customs line started ten years ago in a small SCUBA diving island in Honduras and has traveled with me through five cities and three countries since. I realized that so many people in my community were missing out on having affirming swimwear and underthings, so I developed a new line, with a focus on figuring out how we could offer any product for any body." As a Non-Binary Queer person, I care deeply about the needs of my community, which is why I offer completely customizable items for people across the gender spectrum. It was always important to me that none of the clothes I made were gendered, and no type of body was excluded from wearing them.
HAVE YOU NOTICED A SHIFT IN HOW LEGACY BRANDS ARE INCLUDING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY’S NEEDS / WANTS INTO THEIR DESIGNS?
I have seen some larger brands attempt to do this, yes. After the notorious Victoria’s Secret scandal two years ago, there was an attempt by mainstream brands to appear “inclusive.” Usually, this focused on throwing one plus-size model or visibly disabled model into their marketing. LGBT issues and representation were often rolled into this image of inclusivity without any specifics as to how the brand is catering towards this market. I can’t honestly say that I’ve seen any large brands have come out with any trans-specific options yet.
HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED ORIGAMI CUSTOMS?
We have actually experienced a joyful expansion of our business. I also noticed a shift from the core range to more of the expressive or delicate lingerie pieces. I attribute this to people wanting things that make them feel incredible in their bodies without the pressure of having to look a certain way when they go out. Moving forward, I’ve been excited to create more design-focused capsule collections, working to showcase some higher-end materials with designs that still translate to any size and shape of body.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS , FABRICS , AND MANUFACTURING PROCESS?
Origami Customs developed the first fully customizable gaff (compression undies for Transfeminine anatomy) and is now able to offer almost 300 products, which appeal to a wide range of personal aesthetics, in addition to custom orders. My idea from the beginning was to keep my designs fairly simple in style, without many embellishments.
Our fabrics are chosen for their closed-loop manufacturing and sustainability. Our styles fabrics fall into four categories of fabric: locally milled Lycra blends for swimwear, compression mesh (used for binders and gaffs), sheer lace and mesh, and bamboo for our lingerie line. Our fabrics are either deadstock (headed for landfill), recycled, or regenerative (in the case of bamboo, for example). Recently we launched capsule collections featuring limited and vintage fabrics, like antique bridal lace, metallic lace, velvet, chiffon, and gold hardware.
"A line of gender non-conforming clothing for the full spectrum of gender, size and ability."
Preferred pronouns: They/Them
I am a non-binary queer and disabled Filipinx human from Chicago, IL. I’m 28 years old and I started my clothing line in the summer of 2014, debuting on Etsy that November, and it became my full time job in May 2015 after I graduated from college.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BRAND.
Rebirth Garments is a line of gender non-conforming clothing for the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability. I actually dreamt of making gender affirming garments when I was in high school and couldn’t access a chest binder (a garment used to flatten the chest, typically used by transmasculine people). Accessibility to gender affirming clothing is severely limited for those without a credit card to shop online or an ID that allows them into the adult spaces where such clothing is typically located. And even when I could access binders, I was disappointed by their medicalized appearance and feel, so I decided to serve both needs in order to make an intersectional clothing line unlike any other.
I challenge mainstream beauty standards that center cisgender, heterosexual, white, thin, and able-bodied/minded people, by using the ideology of my Radical Visibility Manifesto as a guide, and by centering queer and disabled people of all sizes, ethnicities, and ages. Rebirth Garments embodies Radical Visibility through the use of bright colors, patterns, and innovative designs that accentuate instead of hiding our bodies.
HAVE YOU NOTICED A SHIFT IN HOW LEGACY BRANDS ARE INCLUDING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY’S NEEDS/ WANTS INTO THEIR DESIGNS?
There are a good amount of gender neutral collections that big fashion companies have been creating lately, but Rebirth Garments’ clients are people whose functional and fashion needs are not adequately met by mainstream clothing. I’m more interested in moving the talk away from companies offering a whole new gender-neutral line that is separate, to just not gendering their clothing and categorizing everything by the type of garment (for example: here is the pants section, dresses section, shirts section, etc). A lot of this has to start with how fashion is taught in schools. Teaching fashion should not be teaching “womenswear and menswear,” it should be teaching how to pattern-make for any kind of body type.
HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED REBIRTH GARMENTS?
At first my sales went down, but then at the start of May my sales really jumped. I guess people want to support small businesses, which is awesome!
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS, FABRICS, OR MANUFACTURING PROCESS?
The majority of my customers are disabled people (including apparent/non-apparent disabilities), people with sensory sensitivities, transgender/non-binary people, and fat/plus sized people. Garments can be made with the seams on the outside for people with sensory sensitivities, or pockets to hold gender affirming prosthetics or insulin pumps. Everything is made from stretch fabric, making it easy to slip on, accommodate weight fluctuation, and facilitate full-range movement.
In addition to meeting a specific functional need, Rebirth Garments are made to fulfill the custom aesthetic needs of my clients. I love to make clothing in bright colors and power clashing, dazzle camo patterns in spandex. My signature style is a lot of color-blocking. I’m still trying to source nice organic stretch cotton in fun colors. So far, I haven’t been very successful, but I have a couple options for special requests. I definitely only want to work in stretch - rather than non-stretch or woven fabric - because that is what I feel most comfortable and confident in making, and that is the type of specialized machinery I have.
Feeling confident in one’s outward appearance can revolutionize one’s emotional and political reality, thus, I use Rebirth Garments as a way to nurture a community of people who have often been excluded from mainstream fashion and provide a platform for people to confidently express pride in their identity. In the face of what society tells them to hide, my clients are unapologetic individuals who want to celebrate and highlight their bodies. Instead of hiding the aspects of their identity that make them unique, Rebirth clients are Radically Visible.