Threads: Boyish Style Takes the Catwalk
Butch fashion has been hitting the runway this past year from Russia to the U.K. to the U.S.
In the U.S., the Butch fashion wave has been lead by Fallon Davis, a 23-year-old fashion industry insider from New York City, and her co-creator and girlfriend, Adjoa Courtney, a 29-year-old lesbian. The shows that most recently hit Oakland, Calif. and Philadelphia, Penn. within the past month are a part of Davis’s platform, What is Butch? Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to educate and eradicate misperceptions and stereotypes imposed by society about the “dominant lesbian lifestyle,” according to the campaigns mission statement.
Fallon launched the campaign and fashion show in New York last spring and has been bringing it to cities around the U.S., including Atlanta, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; North Carolina, Philadelphia, Penn.; Oakland, Calif. in recent months.
The shows featuring local and national designers have been hits in each city and more cities are being added regularly.
The next catwalks are hitting Maryland and North Carolina with “Tainted Betrayal: Confessions of a Masculine Identified Female” on April 20, 4 – 9 p.m. at the Demarco Solar Store (3329 Donnell Dr., Forestville, Md.) and “Undressed” at Charlotte Black Gay Pride July 18 – 21 in Charlotte, NC. For more information, contact UndressedCBPride@gmail.com.
The ButchLYFE: All Stud Fashion Show created quite a stir among the San Francisco Bay Area’s masculine-of-center and femme women and trans men at the sold out first-ever event in Oakland on Feb. 22.
Guests poured into the exhibition hall and showroom after waiting more than an hour in a line that wrapped around the block in downtown Oakland excited to see the clothing lines created by eight designers and one boutique shop, Show and Tell, about to be unveiled for the first time.
The event started 45-minutes late due to the unexpected turn out to the event that left standing room only for those who didn’t buy tickets early.
“The response for this event has been tremendous,” says Chaney Turner, co-producer of the ButchLyfe Fashion Show, telling Girls That Roam before the show that there hasn’t been an event of this caliber for masculine identified women and trans men. “I feel really excited about it.”
Eight designers – mostly from the San Francisco Bay Area with a few from around the U.S. and one local boutique shop – took their designs from accessories, boxers, classic suits and street wear to the runway before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 500 onlookers.
The butch and trans men models showed off up to eight of the boutique’s and each designer’s current lines of clothes to the delight of the crowd. Many of the designers were local, but a few were from other parts of the U.S.
The new lines of clothing were designed by-and-for them by Cover Your Assets, Haute Butch, I Love All My Fans, Immigreat Bowties, JFE Creative, Lady Lovers, Saint Harridan, Show and Tell and Tomboy Fresh.
The crowd went wild for nearly all of the different styles of clothes, but when a model came out in only a robe and dropped it to reveal boxers and boldly walked down the catwalk with pasties covering her nipples the room roared and flashes went off like rapid fire.
Not too long ago, butch or masculine-of-center women and trans men weren’t very visible, but in recent years androgyny has made a comeback. Women who are considered tomboys and trans men have slowly begun to appear in the spotlight.
Fallon attributes the new acceptance of butch women, who call themselves everything from masculine-of-center, tomboys and stud to name a few terms they use to a “change in history” and “mindset,” she says.
“It’s just a time in history where it’s there and it’s needed [and] it’s been needed,” says Fallon. “Now is the time. I think that’s what’s really going on.”
Mary Going, founder and managing partner of Saint Harridan, agrees.
“We’ve always existed, but we were always having to work on our basic safety [and] basic needs,” says Mary, a 46-year-old lesbian.
She believes the shift in recent history is due to the fact that butch women and trans men have “gained enough civil rights, enough visibility in the community and there’s enough of us” for them to safely begin to be and express themselves. One of those ways they are expressing themselves is their desire to wear a suit or masculine styled clothing that fits their body.
Fallon was inspired to take butch fashion to the runway when she saw how bigger design houses were using androgynous models in their advertising and marketing campaigns. Once those images hit the streets she believes it tapped into a collective nerve among non-gender conforming women and trans men igniting a spark for a new movement in fashion that has exploded within the past year.
It definitely hit her nerve and she isn’t alone. Tomboy fashion is appearing in magazine spreads from Russia’s new lesbian magazine Agens to Curve Magazine, and stepping beyond the covers of lesbian magazines into the mainstream with the likes of Vogue.
Designers are launching androgynous, butch, tomboy lines of clothing in the dozens from Britain’s Margaret Howell to Wolfang (translated from German, means Tomboy) to beyond a dozen U.S. designers and more around the world. Tomboys are taking over.
With experience in the fashion industry, the self-identified “dominant lesbian” Fallon decided to combine her life experience and her work in the fashion industry and marketing as CEO of F-L-Y Society Ent., to create the What is Butch? Campaign. She and her team found the designers and created the marketing campaign and partnerships to take the show on the road after its success in New York City.
Mary tapped that same nerve last year with her Kickstarter campaign to produce the first 120 suits for Saint Harridan that raised $137,562 from 1,108 supporters, according the online store’s crowdfunding campaign page. She told the Bay Area Reporter that she also gained potential investors.
Her team at Saint Harridan is currently working on developing the ready-to-wear suits to deliver to its first customers, says Going, who received her MBA from Mills College. After the first orders are completed, she plans to open up pre-sales on the boutique’s online store.
Others felt it and responded too creating a pool of independent designers across the country developing brands and lines of clothing to meet tomboys’ fashion needs.
“It’s been a long time coming and we can just feel the buzz in the air [and] the excitement,” says Karen Roberts, co-founder, designer and director of Haute Butch, about the handful of designers that are “hitting” at the “right time and attempting to bring people what they want.”
Haute Butch designs dressy wear and suites along with casual clothing.
“The excitement and the joy that we have choices and that we are being placed on a platform where we can be visible is beautiful,” says Karen about the excitement and comradery between the designers.
The ButchLyfe fashion show was co-produced by the F-L-Y Society Ent. and fiveTEN Oakland Events.
To find out where Fallon plans to take the fashion show next, visit www.facebook.com/studfashionshow2012.
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