Finding Community, Small Talk and Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts at Queer Fashion Week

Queer Fashion Week was this past weekend, and if you haven’t seen pictures from it, go look now and spend a few (or many) minutes plotting your next wardrobe purchases. I went for three of the four days, and found myself making a lot more conversation than I’d anticipated. The dates coincided with a ton of other springtime plans among my friends (including a bike-camping trip that I was helping to organize), so I went solo for most of it. There’s a limited number of hours that I can spend standing in a corner and staring at my phone over the course of a weekend. Sure, I ended up with a lot of small talk. But really, isn’t every great conversation sparked by a bit of small talk? Here’s some small talk I made while having a great time at QFW.

“There are a lot of great haircuts out here.”

It’s one thing to live in one of the gayest cities in America, it’s another to go to a massive event where everyone is queer and having really good hair days. Everyone looked so good! Everyone looked so queer, whether they had an ALH — I spotted at least three people with my exact haircut, down to the volume and texture — or a more conventional, often-considered-straight-by-default haircut. It was nice being in a space where queer was default, for a change.

“How far did you have to travel?”

I hauled myself an entire 20-minute bike ride to the venues the whole weekend, but I spoke to people who’d come from as far as San Diego and designers who were based on the east coast. It was a great sampling of queer fashion from multiple geographies, a diversity in both style and lifestyle. In the Bay Area, for example, in order to transition successfully from summery days to spring-like evenings, your layering game needs to be on point. Meanwhile Outplay, which focuses on beachwear and casual clothes “for the tomboy in all of us,” is based, fittingly, in Miami. Which was awesome, because I’m all for more ties and bowties meant to fit my neck and torso, and fancy button-downs to go with them, but, you know, I go to the beach, too. I’m multifaceted like that.

Asking where everyone came from also gave me a huge sense of the community behind the queer fashion industry. Asha Santee, the single designer behind Note 2 Self, is based in Washington, DC, but thought nothing of the trip because she’d worked with QFW co-producer Fallon Davis on the “What is Butch?” movement. Other designers had also either worked with the organizers before, or they’d found out from friends of friends. The whole event felt cozy and personal, amiable, friendly.

“YAAAS”

Y’all, that runway show was raucous. You know how there are some movies that are better seen in theaters with an audience, just so you can collectively react to it? That’s exactly how I feel about runway shows. From what I’ve seen of Project Runway, I knew clapping was a thing, but I didn’t expect to be packed into the space shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of excited, energetic people. I didn’t expect to get caught up in the infectious positivity, to be yelling “YAAAS” along with an entire warehouse full of people because a model was working the runway extra hard.

Here’s the thing: queer women are rarely the target demographic in the mainstream fashion world. Often, the narratives and character models in fashion are, if not explicitly heterosexual, assumed straight by default. We’re used to being overlooked. Some of us are used to shopping in the boys’ or men’s section and going to get our clothes tailored. We’re used to creating our style from fashion that wasn’t made with our bodies in mind. When I told a friend that Queer Fashion Week was happening, she was understandably wary. Would there be space for queer femmes? Would it heavily favor one body type and aesthetic? Basically, would a fashion week run by queer women be able to escape the larger fashion industry’s diversity problems?

If you couldn’t tell from the pictures, the organizers ended up doing a fantastic job of pulling together clothing lines for a diverse group of queer folks. There were explicitly queer labels, there were some labels that just happened to have queer people running them, and there were some labels that were launched specifically to meet the demands that their founders saw in their queer communities. These clothes were made with our bodies in mind. To see that reflected on a runway — models of all sizes and ages and races and styles, outfits for occasions ranging from going to the gym to a black-tie formal event, all with a queer point of view — and to be a part of such a vibrant reaction to that made my robot heart grow three times. Queer Fashion Week wasn’t just about an aesthetic. It was about our community beyond just our sexualities, about body positivity, about representation, about celebrating and supporting each other in all things queer.

If you missed it this year, no worries! The inaugural QFW was such a success that they’ve already set the date for next year’s.

Robin doesn't lean in, she spreads out. Her skills include talking up the movie Spice World to strangers. In any situation, she would prefer to get campy. She's a hedonist, lady dandy, and lazy academic. She has a twitter and a tumblr.

Robin has written 43 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. I’m very sad that I missed this event! Between this lovely essay and Molly’s photos, it seems like a positive and wonderfully stylish event! Maybe I will get to check it out next year 🙂

    PS. Your hair look real good, Robin!

  2. “In the Bay Area, for example, in order to transition successfully from summery days to spring-like evenings, your layering game needs to be on point.” SO TRUE, I’m from Florida where the goal is to wear as few clothes as possible so you don’t melt, unless you’re going somewhere that thinks 60 is a good air conditioning temperature at which point you need a jacket. My layering game is still not on point.

    I’m really excited this event was such a success, and I’m really excited/hoping for more butch clothes for curvy figures.

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