Every June, we see brands release rainbow-splattered tees, sweaters, socks and bucket hats (you name it) to celebrate Pride Month. In recent years, LGBTQ+ communities have grown tired of brands changing their logos “to support” Pride without doing anything to support queer people.
Rainbow wash is a term that has been used for years to describe the performative nature of companies engaging in LGBTQ+ covenanting with no real effort beyond the rainbow splatter. . After being called up for several years in a row, not much seems to have changed. However, in a positive step forward, several brands are now donating their profits to LGBTQ+ organizations.
Also, many people don’t want to walk around with a rainbow on their chest – not that they’re opposed to its meaning and story, just that nine times out of ten it’s poorly designed. .
Sixty years ago, when homosexuality among men was illegal in England and Wales (lesbianism was never illegal but only because it was never recognized as a reality), communities began to coin their own dress codes to signify their homosexuality. The Hanky Code developed as a way for gay men to signify their sexual interests; the color and pattern of a handkerchief and where on the body it was worn were all coded with their own sexual language.
A few of these sartorial semiotics still exist today, many of which are now associated with LGBTQ+ stereotypes – specific haircuts and colors, carabiners (within the lesbian community), as well as the plain white vest, which in itself has a rich history with queerness.
Today, without much need for secrecy, many young fashion designers are exploring sexuality and gender in their work. What big business quickly forgets is that Pride isn’t just for June, but for the whole year, and they should seek to support marginalized groups wherever and however they can.
Below we list six incredibly talented young designers based in London – all of whom happen to be queer.
Sinead O’Dwyer, an RCA graduate in 2018, is the Dublin-born designer whose work has graced the cover of ES magazine (worn by Paloma Elsesser), as well as a multitude of publications. Her sculptural creations celebrate and explore the human body through “the tightness of smooth, shiny latex; the secure grip of the leather; and waves of soft silk.
“The next sportswear superstar” according to Hypebeast, Saul Nash is a British menswear designer (as well as choreographer and movement director) from North East London. He showed with Fashion East for three seasons before releasing his first solo collection early last year. The story behind his first collection is described as “a story of self-acceptance”, relating to Nash’s masculinity, gentleness and sexual identity.
Cecile Tulkens is the menswear designer who dresses East London in knitted suits. Her work combines mesh with weave, through delicately woven pieces that take hundreds of hours to create. For her CSM BA collection, Tulkens chose local Eastenders from the pub where she worked to model her designs – her contact was on a beer coaster. The precision of his work is artisanal in its most authentic form.
Fashion designer and artist, Jawara Alleyne graduated from Central Saint Martins Masters course in 2020 before walking the runway with Fashion East. His work draws from his own experiences as a queer black man growing up between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. “Being gay in any Caribbean country can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous experience,” he told a publication in 2020. Alleyne also alludes to ideas of camp through references to pirates and pirates. wizards, alongside nods to Rastafarians and musicians such as Lee “Scratch” Poiré.
After graduating in 2020, Christopher Kane asked Joseph Bates to photograph and style his hair for the brand’s resort collection. After studying fashion communication at CSM and assisting Dazed editor Ib Kamara, Bates has worked as a photographer and stylist, but is now branching out into womenswear. Through drawings (all made from his Green Lanes bedroom) reminiscent of 80s Christian Lacroix, Bates explores solipsism, nihilism and sentimentality.