What it means to source designs from the community.
Both& is a grassroots apparel company.
That means that the first step in our design process is to actually talk to the people we are designing for. I am continually reaching out to (and receiving requests) to talk with trans and nonbinary folks about their needs, wants, and frustrations finding clothing that fits.
I conduct as many of these open-ended conversations as possible, and then review my notes and the transcript to find patterns in shared struggles and desires. (To sign up for a chat or to take a quick survey, click here).
I work closely with our UX team to develop the best strategies for guiding these conversations and building out our understanding.
After we have accumulated a number of insights into what our community is struggling with, we come together and have open-ended brainstorming and discussion of how we can solve these pain points. We consider questions of fit, sizing, style, fabric, color, and feel. Our team’s diverse backgrounds in design, fashion, UX, philosophy, business, psychology, and photography inform this discussion.
Our hope is that once we get our designs out into the world, our community will continue to engage in a robust way, offering feedback so that we can continue to improve the designs.
In a nutshell, our process looks like this:
Research → creative brainstorming → sketches → fitting early prototypes → more creativity → production → iteration.
Okay, so what does this look like in practice?
Before top surgery, I struggled to find a t-shirt that did a good job hiding the lines of my binder. After top surgery, I was constantly on the hunt for a shirt that accentuated my shoulders and arms, but wasn’t too long or tight around the hips.
As soon as I started talking with other masculine-presenting folks in the community, it was clear I wasn’t alone in this challenge. Accordingly, we decided the first line of clothing at Both& would be a range of t-shirts that would try to solve all of the pain points I had gathered through my conversations. These included:
- T-shirts are too baggy throughout torso but too tight at hips
- The outline of binders show through the fabric of t-shirts
- Binders ride tight around neck and can peak out around the collar of t-shirts
- T-shirts are too wide at the shoulders
- T-shirts are too tight around chest or don’t have enough space around armpit (for those who are binding)
- T-shirts are too long and bunch at the hips
Not everyone I speak with has the exact same challenges, but there are high rates of commonalities throughout. Our goal is to take all of these challenges into account and develop a line of t-shirts that each solve these challenges in slightly tweaked ways, so that there is something for everyone.
To do this, we began to develop a base shape that accounted for the most common pain points. This meant adjusting the proportions of length to width, especially around the hips. I tried on dozens of shirts in my ‘size,’ and we noted the ways different fits and fabrics ‘worked’ on my body.
We then began to cut apart and pin together fabric in order to create a base shape that actually fit my body the way I wanted it to.
After we were satisfied with tweaking the fit and sizing of the shirt, we began to explore the little details that give Both& it’s signature style. We are thrilled with what we came up with, and can’t wait to share it with you. (If you would like to be first to hear about our product releases, sign up here).
From conducting interviews to putting together tech packs with our manufacturer, our process is highly collaborative. We have approached this project with only one set assumption: that shopping for clothing as a trans or nonbinary person today is challenging, and that it doesn’t need to be.
Beyond that assumption, we have been open to innovation at all levels. For instance, we quickly realized that we aren’t just building a different product. We are trying to a create a whole new experience of shopping, one in which sizing and fit is actually communicated effectively, where style isn’t sacrificed in the interest of functionality, and most importantly, where our community can play an active, ongoing role in deciding what is being designed.
It is our hope that the collaborative, community-based ethos of our design process will continue to grow over time. We don’t see any design as final; in fact, it is our goal to continue tweaking and evolving everything we make based on the input of our community.
In fact, it is also up to our community to determine what we will create next. We are currently collecting information about swimwear. Head over to our website to take our survey and vote, or set up a call with me here to share more about your experiences, needs, and wants.
We always want to hear from you.
Finnegan and the Both& team