It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to understand why fashion and identity are so intrinsically linked. When we can’t control how others perceive us—a basic fact of life—what we wear, how we do our hair and makeup, and how we present ourselves to the world are the elements we can control, and we think there’s a lot of solace in that. It’s no coincidence that style is the lens through which many, including the LGBTQ+ community, are first able to explore and express their identity.
In honor of that exploration, we sat down with five queer creatives whose résumés span everything from fashion design to artistic creation to just generally being fabulous on platforms like TikTok. Ahead, hear from them about their personal style journeys, get inspired by their aesthetics, and see the stellar fashion buys they’re shopping for right now. Although we’re celebrating Pride Month now, let’s be clear that queer style and stories aren’t limited to one month—this is a year-round type of thing.
Alok Vaid-Menon, artist (they/them)
Style and beauty can be powerful tools for self-expression. What role do you think fashion has played in your life? Has your identity had an influence on your style at all?
Before I had the words to describe who I was or even what I felt, I had clothing. Fashion was one of the first ways I began to communicate myself on my own terms. It’s kept that role for me today, challenging people’s stereotypes of who I am and where I should belong and insisting on my individuality, my personality, my humanity. Fashion has helped me design my own sensibility in the world, root my feet more firmly on this earth, and take up space.
Fashion, in recent years, has had a big push toward inclusivity and diversity. In terms of LGBTQ+ representation, how can the industry better serve these communities and move past performative allyship?
One way is to move from just symbolic gestures toward making structural shifts. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive. This is why I started the #DeGenderFashion campaign a few years ago. It’s one thing to make an LGBTQ capsule collection; it’s another to understand that clothes have no inherent gender. People should be able to determine what clothes mean to them, not fashion and advertising industries. I’d love the industry to move away from “women’s clothes” and “men’s clothes” and just offer…clothes.
How can someone be a more supportive ally?
It’s about centering the leadership of LGBTQ people. I think so often we mistake looking at or experiencing LGBTQ culture as the political ask. We have to push further: it’s about investing in the leadership of LGBTQ people—and especially trans and gender non-conforming people—so we can be decision-makers and actually shift the industry.
Shop ALOK's Picks:
Abacaxi Nasrin Skirt ($325)
"Abacaxi is a queer South Asian designer-led brand based in NYC with such stylish and vibrant pieces. I love this skirt."
Christopher John Rogers Rainbow & Check Bodycon Midi Dress ($775)
"Christopher John Roger’s use of color is unparalleled. Always a mood-booster that brings joy everywhere you go."
Tótem Tienda Cruda Ana in Blue ($185)
"Totem Tienda is a showroom featuring Mexican designers in Los Angeles with so many eccentric pieces, I can’t recommend them enough!"
Diane Von Furstenberg Clemment Knit Top ($216)
"I love this pattern, so chic, and such a statement piece."
Lota Hawa Shirt ($88)
"LOTA is a New Delhi-based sustainable fashion brand that recycles fabric scraps to make these gorgeous shirts."
Yanece Lashay Cotto, model, doula, and early childhood educator (they/he/she)
What does it mean to you to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
To me, being a part of this beautiful community is being a part of a family that just gets you. And as you grow you find out that not everyone in the community will love you or be kind but you can and will find folks who will.
What are you most excited about this Pride month?
I’m always excited to see the looks to see everyone go out in confidence in their fave looks! I love seeing people happy in their skin and living to the fullest.
As a model, it's near-impossible to extricate your identity and personhood from your career. How has being a member of this community impacted your it, if at all?
Without my queer family and friends, I wouldn’t even feel confident enough to create the way I do. They fueled me to keep creating and told me I was good and worthy even when I didn’t believe it.
Fashion in recent years has had a big push towards inclusivity and diversity. In terms of LGBTQ+ representation, how can the industry better serve these communities and move past performative allyship and "rainbow washing"?
Pay Black trans women! Hire Black queer creative and *pay* them! When you support folks with money and not exposure that’s money that feeds us houses us and allows us to further thrive and work. The rainbows are nice and all but money in the pockets of queer folks is better(and hiring queer folks year-round not only in June).
Shop Yanece's Picks:
Gypsy Sport Nylon Track Shorts ($75)
"Track shorts are a go for me. The very affirming but also these added tassels are perfect for dancing!"
No Sesso LA Sweater Dress ($750)
"I love No Sesso and dream of wearing this cozy, sexy dress. The brand makes pieces that can stand alone and they give you a put-on-and-go vibe. No overthinking just ✨vibe✨."
You Swim Verve High Waist Two-Piece ($139)
"I love pieces that can grow with your body. You Swim’s one size fits all swimsuits hold it down every summer! I'd wear their tops and the one-piece even when I’m not going to the beach, too."
Adidas Love Unites Jumpsuit ($120)
"I'm a sucker for a jumpsuit—something that is a two for one deal and can be transformed for any time of day."
Sai By Sai Roseate Corset ($60)
" I love this designer. This corset top can bring simple elevation and support."
Ugg X Telfar Underwear in Heather Grey ($27)
"And what I'm *actually* wearing all day."
Marcelo Gaia, owner and designer of Mirror Palais (he/him)
What does it mean to you to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
I feel really hopeful for LGBTQ+ youth. Every generation paves the way for future generations to live their lives more authentically. I’m excited to see more spaces created where all LGBTQ+ members are welcome.
Style and beauty can be powerful tools for self-expression. What role do you think fashion has played in your life?
Fashion is the perfect ice breaker. I love meeting new people and even though it’s scary or anxiety-inducing at times I love to use fashion as a signal to let others know I am open to them and vice versa. The first thing I say to a stranger that I find interesting is a compliment about what they're wearing, it’s a great conversation starter.
How has being a member of this community impacted your career, if at all?
Being a gay designer and only having female friends helps me to design clothing for all femmes. I try to listen while also creating a fun fantasy for us to participate in.
Shop Marcelo's Picks:
John Galliano Yellow Silk Chiffon Bias-Cut Slip-Dress, SS 1993 ($22981)
"Nothing says hot girl summer like a sheer bias-cut Galliano gown."
Mirror Palais Paradise Logo Tee ($50)
"After a day in the sun, I love putting on my baby soft tee after a shower."
Reebok Danielle Guizio Club C 85 Shoes ($85)
"I wear white every day so these Danielle Guizio x Reebok’s are the only thing I will be wearing."
MaisonPamela Luxurious Pure Silk Boxer Shorts ($125)
"I realize I’m wearing underwear out when I wear silk boxers and I’m ok with that."
Bode Multicolor Market Tote ($78)
"My friends' boyfriend brought one of these to the beach and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since."
Lydia Okello, model, writer, and digital creator (they/them)
As a model and digital creator, your career is inevitably intertwined with your identity. How has being a member of this community impacted your career, if at all?
It has majorly impacted my career. I don’t think my work would look like it does if I wasn’t a non-binary queer person. It’s brought me to so many creative folks who have shared experiences, and experiences I’m unfamiliar with. I think that for a long time it felt like my identity was perhaps a hindrance in my advancement in the industry. These days that feels less so, but it can still be a hurdle.
One of the things I enjoy about perusing your feed is discovering a new-to-me brand. For instance, you introduced me to Wray! Are there any fashion brands you see as being truly inclusive and celebratory of this community?
Chromat is a perennial favorite. They have consistently supported their community - LGBTQ+ folks - in the entirety of their existence, as well as being size inclusive long before it was “on trend”.
Shop Lydia's Picks:
Wray Rosemary Dress in Tea Cup Floral ($264)
"I’m always a fan of Wray’s pieces—this dress is on repeat as the temps rise. Super lightweight and great over a swimsuit."
Girlfriend Collective Haze High-Rise Bike Shorts ($48)
"I am *often* in a bike short once the temp goes up. I have these in several shades. They are comfy, stay in place, and are a go-to when I want to live my off-duty style fantasy."
Arq Wide Strap Bra ($34)
"This is the underwear I basically live in. It's made from the softest cotton. My favorite way to wear these is a Full Coverage bra as a bralette/crop top—throw a blazer, shacket, or silk vintage shirt on top and call it a day."
Wray Gregory Top in Taxicab Floral ($188)
"Another trend I’ve been leaning into extra hard: matching sets. I love how you can build a little faux jumpsuit moment, but both of these look great with a white tank or easy linen pants."
Manuel Santos, actor, model, and internet personality (they/them)
I'm obsessed with your hilarious TikTok videos and spot-on rants. What advice would you give to younger folks who want to become more confident in themselves?
I see confidence as a way of being, like something you can feel, and like most feelings, it changes and fluctuates as you go about life. It’s completely natural for us to feel more confident in certain situations more than others. But ultimately, I think embodying confidence is truly about being completely and 100% comfortable with the being that you are. Because, once you get to that level, there’s nothing other people can say or do that will affect you. So, I say go out there, and stop focusing on what others do or don’t think about you, and ask yourself, what do YOU think about yourself?
What are some pieces of clothing that make you feel like the best version of yourself?
When I want to feel myself a little more than usual, I like to use clothing as a way to build a fantasy for myself. So, something like a Heel or a Bag can really transport me to another dimension. While wearing them, I am able to channel all of the powerful women that I’ve admired for the whole of my life. Now it’s my turn to strut down the street and make people’s head turn as I make a halt to whip out my gloss from my bag and touch up my lips! (Yes, I live my life in an incredibly cinematic way).
Fashion in recent years has had a big push towards inclusivity and diversity in general. I'm curious to know if there are any fashion brands you see as being truly inclusive and celebratory of this community, in particular?
Do I know any truly 100% Queer inclusive fashion brand out there? No. Something that every single brand I know does is gender all of their clothing. And until a brand has let go of these constructs, none of them will be truly inclusive of ALL queer and trans entities out there. This said, I have seen brands like Savage X Fenty and Mugler represent us on the runway, but very rarely does it go beyond that.
Shop Manuel's Picks:
Zara Satin Effect Print Dress ($46)
"The shorter the better."
Rejina Pyo Sofia Top ($458)
"I mean, the garment speaks for itself."
Gucci Rectangular-Frame Sunglasses ($450)
"As your official HBIC, oversized sunglasses are a must!"
Gilda & Pearl Mia Robe ($635)
"If you think I won’t get a pair of matching heeled slippers, you’d be wrong!"
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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