The Importance of LGBTQ+ Representation in Fashion - Good On You
04 Jun

The Importance of LGBTQ+ Representation in Fashion

Queer visibility comes in many different shapes and forms, from celebrating the queer icons and activists who paved the way for the rights and protections of the LGBTQ+ community to championing the voices that are currently taking part in the fight against homophobia and transphobia. When it comes to the fashion industry in particular, putting queer people front and centre—both on stage and behind the scenes—is the least that new generations expect from brands they choose to buy from.

According to The Akin’s The Generation Report, “Gen Z and Millennials actively seek out information on brands’ practices and product origins or manufacturing,” and “70% believe brands have more power than governments to make a change.” Today’s consumers would easily switch brands due to a lack of social work or a conflict in values. And you’re part of this demographic too, which means you have the same power over the choices you make as a consumer.

What better way to mark the beginning of Pride month than by supporting the brands that are actually taking part in the fight for queer visibility? In order to help you pick the right brands to support this month and after, we’ve listed some of our favourite brands below, which are either LGBTQ+ owned and operated, celebrating gender and sexuality diversity, or supporting the community in innovative and charitable ways. But before we do, let’s go more in-depth into the issues and challenges of LGBTQ+ representation in the fashion industry.

“There was a void within the visual of runways, the London Queer Fashion Show gives the platform for designers to dress bodies and not gender. It was created to share unique talent with the world from a space where LGBTQIA+ fashion designers, models, and crew could be 100% authentically themselves. I designed a stage where menswear or womenswear simply doesn’t exist and clothes can be cloth. A space where cutting edge looks are created by unique designers, for all bodies. Queer bodies grace the catwalk, faces that you know, bodies we never get to see and those who can get lost in the vacuum of commercial imagery.” London Queer Fashion Show’s Director Lucy London.

Queer bodies grace the catwalk, faces that you know, bodies we never get to see and those who can get lost in the vacuum of commercial imagery.

Lucy London – London Queer Fashion Show’s Director

What is LGBTQ+ representation?

Representation is the way certain aspects of society such as gender, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation are presented to audiences. LGBTQ+ representation, only when done well, can have a very powerful impact in terms of influencing ideas and attitudes towards the community, which is why it is crucial for it to be spearheaded in every industry, fashion included.

The worlds of fashion and queer culture have forever been intertwined. Clothes are a great way for individuals to shape and articulate their identity, especially for those whose identities have been marginalised or put under threat for centuries. Sadly, fashion has also played an important part in restricting this diversity of identities. That’s why it’s necessary for consumers to receive full transparency from the brands they’re considering to buy from.

Whether you’re a member of the queer community or an ally, you’re probably aware of the fact that during Pride, many high-street brands tend to use the celebration as somewhat of a marketing tool in something known as “rainbow-washing”. But in order for LGBTQ+ representation to seem genuine rather than manipulative, brands’ campaigns must reflect a sustained effort on behalf of the brand to empower the people that make up this community through philanthropic efforts and organisational partnerships. As notions of diversity and inclusion are starting to gain real momentum throughout fashion, now is the time to separate the wheat from the chaff and find out exactly which brands are worth the praise, and which are nothing other than queer-baiting professionals.

People should think twice before digging into Pride collections by big brands and support queer designers throughout the year, making sure their money goes into the pocket of a real member of the LGBTQ+ community and not into a multinational brand that just uses Pride as a marketing tool.

Fashion designer and founder of CHEMA DIAZ – an LGBTQ+ owned and inclusive brand

Ethical brands championing LGBTQ+ representation

Lucy & Yak

Rated: Good
Girl in light wash ethical dungaree by Lucy & Yak

Celebrated for its handmade dungarees made in vibrant patterns and its organic tees, Lucy & Yak is an independent brand committed to being as inclusive as possible. With the help of its Advisory Panel, which consists of 6 people with different intersectional expertise and lived experience, the company is open to advise on a range of topics, from the way it operates to its upcoming products and social campaigns. Lucy & Yak’s latest addition to its Advisory Panel is Imogen Fox, a queer disabled person and big fan of the brand as well as the messages it promotes.

See the rating.

Support Lucy & Yak.

Automic Gold

Rated: Good
Sustainable gold bracelet by Automic Gold

Queer founded and owned is just one of the many qualities Automic Gold ticks when it comes to representation and inclusivity. The fine jewellery company doesn’t photoshop any of its models, it makes sure to hire size-inclusive, non-cis, and non-white models all year round—not just for awareness months—and it only produces pieces that are made from reclaimed gold, put in a packaging that is recyclable. What’s not to love, right?

See the rating.

Support Automic Gold.

AndAll

Rated: Good
person wearing unisex white collared shirt with black dots by AndAll

AndAll is a gender-free shirt brand featuring modern prints made for all. Its prints are inspired by art, architecture, and everyday life. Its shirts are designed for body shapes, not assumptions, and come in all shapes and sizes—seven sizes for all body shapes to wear! AndAll is a fresh face in the gender inclusive fashion movement and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the label.

See the rating.

Support AndAll.

Unrecorded

Rated: Good

The Netherlands-based independent label is part of a bigger and new wave of unisex brands that are rebelling against the nature of gendered fashion—as they should. Unrecorded’s apparel is as simple as it gets, and, when done well, there’s nothing easy about simplicity. Its range is permanent and suitable for any season—that’s because there’s nothing disposable about what the company does. Think of it as a modern interpretation of American Apparel, sexual harassment accusations not included.

See the rating.

Support Unrecorded.

caur

Rated: Good
man wearing khaki leggings by caur

caur is a French sustainable athleisure brand that produces items made out of recycled, organic, and recyclable technical fabrics. Its clothes are gender-free, and aim to reduce the impact of gender stereotypes that accompany gender labels in today’s society. Like other companies mentioned on this list, caur also champions the representation of diverse skin tones, body types, ages, abilities, and identities. “We all have bodies after all,” states its mission along with the great catchphrase, “More sweat, less waste.”

See the rating.

Support caur.

Plant Faced Clothing

Rated: Good

The British streetwear brand is not only vegan, but it also promotes a new wave of consciousness that supports the non-harming or exploitation of any beings—be that humans, animals, or plants. Plant Faced Clothing is proudly queer (assigned female at birth, non-binary) owned and operated and is committed to equality of opportunity and to providing a service in all areas of employment including recruitment, selection, training, deployment, career development, and promotion by following practices which are free from unfair and unlawful discrimination.

“We value people as individuals with diverse opinions, cultures, lifestyles, and circumstances, and ensure that no applicant or member of staff receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, or is disadvantaged by conditions or requirements,” states the company. Streetwear minus the sweatshop, anyone?

See the rating.

Support Plant Faced Clothing.

Kirrin Finch

Rated: It's A Start

Made in New York City, Kirrin Finch is an eco-conscious menswear-inspired clothing brand infused with an androgynous and tomboy style for female and non-binary bodies. The brand aims to challenge fashion industry norms for what is considered ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’ and instead focus on creating great fitting clothing that makes anyone comfortable and confident in who they are. As of now, Kirrin Finch’s environment rating is ‘Not Good Enough’—it uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials, however, there is no evidence it has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals.

Founded by Brooklyn-based couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat, Kirrin Finch still has some work to do when it comes to its whole production’s transparency. That being said, it certainly has taken some steps in the right direction.

See the rating.

Support Kirrin Finch.

Chromat

Rated: It's A Start

Last but not least is Chromat, the future-forward bodywear brand designed for all shapes and sizes. You’ve probably heard of it before, as the brand’s Instagram community, the #ChromatBABES, have taken the platform by storm. The company was founded in 2010, drawing from founder Becca McCharen-Tran’s background in architecture.

Each Chromat collection explores the intersection of architecture, fashion, and technology, producing garments that augment and enhance the body’s performance through innovative design and cutting-edge technical fabrics. The brand’s products are designed in New York City and Miami by a diverse team of creative collaborators ranging from artists to scientists and choreographers.

Although Chromat’s overall rating is ‘It's A Start’, its labour rating is ‘Not Good Enough’. There is no evidence it has a Code of Conduct but it has a formal statement covering workers rights. There is also no evidence (yet) that it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain. Chromat, if you’re reading this, we love your empowering factor, we’re just asking for a bit more transparency!

See the rating.

Support Chromat.

And if you’re looking for more small LGBTQ+ founded businesses and want to know whether their Good On You rating is as good as you hoped, you might want to browse our Directory for more information on all your go-to companies! If they aren’t rated yet, be sure to suggest them.

Remaining challenges

Despite the clear changes the fashion industry is finally going through, brands are operating in an industry still dictated by out-of-date views and an archaic gender binary. Most manufacturers work from patterns based on ‘men’s sizes’ and ‘women’s sizes’. When brands decide to use custom patterns, they’re forced to add extra costs other non-inclusive brands don’t even have to worry about.

Third-party apps often won’t support alternative sizing terminologies and gender-neutral categories. Social media platforms such as Instagram still haven’t altered their algorithms enough to properly allow inclusive businesses to reach their full potential online. In other words, fashion—along with the rest of society—has some serious work left to do in order to become a more diverse, inclusive, and representative industry. But after years of fits and starts, it looks like the industry is finally starting to embrace the idea that, in order for it to progress, it needs to promote forward-thinking and anti-discrimination just as much as sustainability and ethics.

What better way to lead the way yourself than by supporting the brands that have perfected the art of sustainability while championing the voices of the LGBTQ+ community? Now, what are you waiting for? Share the love!

Author bio: Alma Fabiani is the Managing Editor at Screen Shot media, the home of high quality trending content, fresh news, and unique entertainment insights. New conversations for and from the new generation. Before joining Screen Shot media, Alma specialised in fashion journalism during her studies. Shortly after, she realised that while fashion can be fun, covering sex tech and quirky internet trends is just as entertaining!

Editor's note

This article lists brands rated ‘Great’, ‘Good’, or ‘It’s a Start’ by Good On You’s comprehensive sustainability ratings. Good On You helps you identify brands that avoid harm to people, the planet, and animals, while also meeting your other fashion needs. You can read more about our rating system here. We recognise that the systemic oppression faced by certain groups in society for many years means there are often less resources available for small, minority-owned brands to thrive in the sustainable fashion market. For more info, see our Diversity and Anti-Racism Policy.

Feature image via Lucy & Yak, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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