Anji of WE ARE MORTALS says #THEFUTUREHASNOGENDER, and I agree.
Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, I started following a lot of local fashion designers I found on Instagram. There is such an amazing and eclectic streetwear scene here – heavily influenced by Japanese fashion and successful brands like NYC-based Hood by Air (for an example, see Rihanna's pink Hood by Air jumpsuits at her 2016 VMAs performance). LA fashion is so unique, unpretentious, and full of unbridled creativity. After all, LA is a city that has fostered hungry creatives for decades – and not just actors.
I stumbled upon WE ARE MORTALS (wearemortals.com) through one of the influencers they work with, @princessgollum. I immediately loved that they design gender neutral fashion and produce edgy visuals. Then I started to see them everywhere: worn by the performer LE1F at his concerts, modeled by a girl I met at a party at The Well, @champagnecherub. I could tell that their fashion was not only about a futuristic and rebellious aesthetic, but also making an intelligent political statement about gender.
I met the creator/designer of WE ARE MORTALS, Anji, when I attended LA Fashion Week for the first time this spring. She was kind enough to outfit me for one night of the shows. I could tell there was a really interesting story to tell. So after meeting a few times, grabbing coffee, and meeting her partner Jeannette, I asked her to do an interview with me so we could share the story of her brand. Visit wearemortals.com and enter promo code "RIGEL" at checkout for 40% off site-wide! (interview below)
RIGELGEMINI: What is WE ARE MORTALS?
ANJI: WE ARE MORTALS is a clothing brand that represents the new generation and its progressive mindset. As MORTALS we are all equal and we are all united through the human experience; together in this brief life on Earth. Our clothing is intended for any identity across the gender spectrum, so we reject labels that categorize us based on sexuality, gender, race, etc, and instead see identity as a fluid thing. We view personal style as an artistic expression, not as something that should be used to classify people. With this clothing line I'm trying to give a voice to the future through our message and mission, and also to reflect that futuristic feel visually through the clothing I design.
RIGELGEMINI: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START DESIGNING CLOTHING?
ANJI: Growing up my mom always sewed clothes for me based on my ideas, so I guess it was always in my blood. It just took me a long time to actually start designing myself, though, as an adult. I finally sat down and taught myself to sew and gradually realized it could be the perfect outlet for all my idle creativity. It was just a hobby for several years, but when my mom passed away quite abruptly from cancer that's what really pushed me to make the move to LA and set out on this journey to create my own brand. I realized how short life is, which is how the name 'We Are Mortals' originally came about, so I wanted to go for it and see what I could accomplish. At the time it didn't seem like there were really any brands out there that catered to what I wanted in fashion, so I was mostly buying vintage clothes. I saw a huge gap in the market where people like me weren't able to find anything unique, artistic, and fashion-forward that wasn't too feminine (or masculine)... something other than mainstream corporate chain stores, but still with attainable price points. Over the past couple years since I began to slowly develop WE ARE MORTALS I feel like streetwear, and fashion in general, has had such an influx of creativity, so there's more out there now. I think it's a really good time to be doing this because people are craving something more.
RIGELGEMINI: WHAT DOES "THE FUTURE HAS NO GENDER" MEAN?
ANJI: It became sort of like our slogan once I started figuring out that I really didn't want to do menswear or womenswear... I wanted to challenge the traditional gender norms of the apparel industry because it seemed so ridiculous and unnecessary to me to be limited to those two extreme categories. Before I had even finished designing the first collection I was already starting the conversation based around this hashtag by filming a series of interviews where people talk about their ideas on gender. You can view those interviews here, and be expecting more videos to be added very soon so that the conversation can continue! It seems like stereotypical gender roles are slowly but surely starting to diminish in our society, so the fashion industry needs to start reflecting that change. Ultimately, I feel that the whole concept of gender is really a irrelevant human invention that isn't really based on anything real. Gender expectations have changed throughout history and will continue to change, and now that our current era is beginning to see more openness towards fluid and non-binary identities, I feel that the future will continue to evolve into something new... a new definition of 'gender' will emerge. Since clothing is one of the main ways we express ourselves in a very public way, I believe that fashion is what has the power to lead that change.
RIGELGEMINI: HOW DO YOU HOPE TO EXPLORE GENDER THROUGH YOUR DESIGNS?
ANJI: My designs are based on streetwear silhouettes, incorporating more avant-garde and high-fashion design elements and printed artwork. I actually think that the whole concept behind this brand kind of goes against using fashion to convey gender, so I think the gender-free fashion idea is less about the clothing and more about the people behind this movement and their intentions. I do make sure that I keep my designs somewhere in the middle, though (not too feminine and not too masculine), and I base my sizing on a broader range of body sizes in comparison to a typical size grading system. Overall, though, I don't think fashion should be so heavily attached to our gender identities, so I'm pushing that concept not only through the designs but also just by marketing to various genders. My new collection will feature artwork by two different artists: NY photographer/graphic designer Brian Vu, and an Austrian illustrator that goes by the name 'Flow'. The printed and embroidered graphics revolve around the theme of fluidity and also feature a drawing of vogue dancers. I'm so excited to debut this collection because I think the artwork really coveys the message and mood of the brand well. In the future I want to continue collaborating with young artists!
RIGELGEMINI: YOU HAVE A NYFW SHOW COMING UP AT THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM! WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT FOR THAT?
ANJI: It's very exciting to be part of NYFW! It's hard to believe I'm actually showing my collection there, and I especially love that the show will take place inside the museum. I've traveled to quite a few foreign countries but for some reason was waiting for the right reason to explore New York. Finally that reason has arrived, it's a really good reason, and it's going to be so fun just to spend time in the city after the show. I'm excited to be pushing myself to do something like this, because it's not an easy thing to pull off (especially when you're mainly relying on yourself and don't yet have a big team or anything), but it's such a good opportunity for me! This particular show is put on by Dapper Q, it's the third annual show they've done for NYFW, and it's a platform for queer and gender non-conforming designers and brands so there will be a wide range of styles incorporated in the lineup. It's free and open to the public, doors open at 6pm on September 8th and the show begins at 7:30. (Link to Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/825039944262493/)
RIGELGEMINI: ANY EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING UP FOR WE ARE MORTALS?
ANJI: Debuting some new designs for NYFW is by far the most exciting news. It's been so intensely crazy trying to get everything done on such a strict deadline, but at least the second time around has definitely been less challenging than the first time. I learned a lot after completing the first collection! Other than that, I'm excited that all the effort that I've been putting into getting press is starting to pay off. Our designs are starting to show up in editorials, which was one of my recent goals, like the recent shoot for Highsnobiety and upcoming stuff we lent out to Ladygunn that I will share as soon as it's released. The most exciting collab so far, though, has been a shoot I orchestrated with dancers MelaMurder and Kanerflex that will be up on Indie Mag this week! For now, check out the video.