About 30 people attended a local event Tuesday titled “What is Queer Fashion? Millennials, Gen Z, and Gender Equal Clothing” at the Ann Arbor District Library. The event focused on a push for an increase in inclusivity within the fashion industry.

Abby Sugar, CEO of Play Out Apparel, LLC, a company centered around creating gender equal underwear and athleisure, began by speaking about what the words “fashion” and “queer” mean both technically and in terms of the fashion industry.

According to Sugar, “queer” means “something that breaks heteronormative assumptions of gender and sexuality and challenges and redefine gender binaries and traditional expressions of masculinity and femininity.” She defines “fashion” as “the intersection of commerce, social and cultural expectations with the expression of individual identity.”

However, in the context of the industry, these terms have a much more realizable meaning, Sugar said.

“When we’re talking about queer fashion, we’re talking about how the multiplicities of gender and the multiplicities of gender identity are performed through fashion and clothing, and also how LGBTQ designers are bringing their point of view to fashion,” Sugar said.

Sugar continued to discuss how fashion is a way of expressing oneself. She said even if society does not identify as “fashionable,” the clothes worn and the styles embodied are very indicative of personalities and perceptions of oneself. She explained how clothes not only communicate mood and perspective to others, but also express social and gender expressions.

After defining important and frequently misunderstood terms including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, Sugar discussed the growing global awareness of inclusive fashion. 

“We’re seeing a lot of mainstream, high-fashion designers on the runway, designing for gender-equal clothing and non-gendered styles,” Sugar said. “This is important because … if we’re seeing the opening up of gender expression, and if we’re seeing non-gendered clothing styles on the runway, eventually those are going to be passed down because of influencers.”

Sugar showed a video portraying the 2018 runway show from the Brooklyn Museum, hosted by dapperQ, a queer fashion magazine that inspires all people to think uniquely about queer fashion as beauty and art. In this video, models defined what queer fashion meant to them and set trends that would spread awareness about queer fashion on a broader scale. 

Sugar also talked about prominent existing designer lines such as Virgil Abloh’s Off-White luxury line. The designers were focused on not only creating LGBTQ inclusiveness, but also inclusiveness for race, gender, ability and size.

Finally, Sugar discussed her own company, Play Out Apparel, a company that provides multiple styles of underwear, anatomically adjusted for both males and females. They create prints that will be equally available for any gender and style of underwear or athleisure.

“I started this company because I wasn’t able to find clothing that affirmed my gender identity or gender expression,” Sugar said. “Underwear, when I started this company years ago, was extremely gendered. Every color should be in every single cut or style available.” 

Stacy Miller-Bond, a marketing manager at Spark Foundry, spoke to The Daily about her high hopes for growing inclusivity in the fashion industry after the event.

“I think overall, my hope is that (the fashion industry) is always inclusive, and not just inclusive of a specific look or of a specific group of people,” Miller said. “(In terms of) intersectionality, it was not always inclusive of people of color … but I definitely feel like it’s moving there. In the presentation itself, just in the choices of imagery, there weren’t just stick-thin models, white models or Black models. It was a little bit of everyone which made it feel more at home, and that’s how I feel fashion and queer fashion should be.”

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