LGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Fashion Branding

The community with opportunities and complications.


15 September, 2023

Table of contents

The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender +) community has always put a major focus on how they dress and style themselves as it is important to choose outfits that support them to showcase their sexuality proudly. It is not just about them speaking aesthetically but also discovering themselves in the due process. In addition to the political, social, and cultural causes for including the community in fashion branding, they would open new opportunities in fashion. Creating unique statements for each group in the community with fashion will be challenging and also profitable to fashion brands.

Celebrating Them in the Right Way

The LGBTQ+ community has combated a long battle to get more visibility in the fashion sector which led to an inclusive and diverse landscape in the industry. Many brands are hiring models on a diverse scale. Many LGBTQ+ designers are making their way to mainstream fashion. Collusion by ASOS offers gender-neutral clothing and TomboyX is a gender-neutral intimatewear brand founded by a lesbian couple.

However, around 72% of the community feels that the way they are represented in the media is not accurate and feels more tokenistic. This world holds a population with over 9% of adults identifying themselves as LGBTQ+ with Gen Z playing the biggest part in it. Despite the community being expanded and accepted widely, their representation in advertising is still at a lower level.

Versace making an official announcement on social media that Donatella Versace has been appointed as one of the new Stonewall ambassadors in 2019 and Dolce & Gabbana uploading a post of two men passionately kissing each other for its collaborative 2023 Valentine’s Day chocolates with Baci Perugina are only some of the examples for this misrepresentation.

Brands have to start by leveraging Pride to commence an active allyship with the community. But they must keep an eye on certain things such as rainbow-washing (i.e., brands using signs or symbols for their marketing to support the community without a fundamental policy to support their claims) or virtue signalling (i.e., brands embellishing their logos with rainbow hues to show their allyship during the Pride month). Launching an appropriate ad that perfectly showcases the lives of LGBTQ+ groups is important.

COS commemorated the global queer club culture in pride month of 2023 by partnering with 4 famous queer clubs and dropping an exclusive collection and distributing its profits to the charities of the community.

Turning up Their Voices

A 2023 survey by Ipsos Global Advisor estimated that 18% of Gen Z identify themselves as LGBTQ+, which is the highest number to date while compared to 4% of Baby Boomers. The young generation is declining the one-dimensional perspective of their sexuality and prioritising experimentation with their gender and sexual orientation. This drives the brands to louden their voices in order to strengthen their relationship with the younger generation.

A Singaporean fashion brand Rye teamed up with The T Project, a non-profit organisation that offers social services for the transgender group, for the Come Together Spot that starred domestic drag queens Opera, Salome Blaque, and DJ Metamoksha. Rye utilised the spot to amplify the voices of the community. TikTok released the first list of LGBTQIA+ Visionary Voices for Pride Month 2023. Brands can use this list to look up potential collaborations and initiatives exclusively for the community.

Co-creating with the Community

The number of brands’ LGBTQ+ collaborations is relatively less in 2023 than the previous years. It would be a major loss not to grab this opportunity. When it comes to involving the community, especially during Pride Month, the brand has to get in touch with relatable individuals to come up with ideas that would be best for the brand and community.

In 2022, Primark joined forces with ILGA World for the fourth time to donate £420.000 to the LGBTQ+ community. It also launched The Wizard of Oz-inspired collection that featured many LGBTQ+ models as well as pronoun-printed t-shirts, rainbow accessories, and tote bags.

Puma partnered with Cara Delevingne, an LGBTQ+ rights campaigner, to release the collection ‘From Puma with Love' in 2020. An LGBTQ+ designer Olli Hull is collaborating with H&M for H&M Beyond & Revibe to design a collection of up-cycled clothing by using the excess stock of men's shirts from the brand.

For a second time, Diesel collaborated with the Tom of Finland Foundation, an organisation that teaches the audience about erotic art’s cultural impacts, to launch The AllTogether Clubhouse with an exhibition and a set of other events in New York, as well as a capsule collection that heartens its customers to accept expression, freedom, and sexuality.

For Pride Month 2023, the brand Jim Thompson collaborated with Chalisa Eat Maruouay and BUNROD for a campaign that helped them reach many with their community voices. At the same time, Jean Paul Gaultier released a limited-edition Pride perfume collection.

Fashion Events for LGBTQ+ Community

The annual Queer Fashion Week showcases the works done by designers belonging to LCBTQ+ Community and honours the diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry. Brands such as Elli$e, Plus Equals, Jonni Boi, Anaam, The Lucky Club, Insatiable Lust, Duygu, Sophie, Calzon, and G’Zell are the brands that displayed their designs in the London Queen Fashion Show.

India witnessed the first-of-its-kind Queer Fashion Show named ‘Kaleidoscope’ in Chandigarh, hosted by Queering In Chandigarh in June 2023. Over 30 models walked the ramp. A Colorado-based arts centre is assisting its community’s queer teenagers to express themselves by creating their own fashion art.

IGLA World, which collaborates with various fashion brands, has supported the Queer Youth Dialogues which is a year-long campaign unveiled together with the Global Queer Youth Network, United Nations Youth Envoy, and the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The campaign helped several LGBTQ+ individuals to share their challenges and experiences.

The Hetrick-Martin Institute offers support and resources for youths of LGBTQ+ who are interested in exploring careers in the fashion sector.

However, in some cases, the events and campaigns can backfire. LGBTQ+ communities don't always truly believe the brands as the content that they produce is not relatable to the group. For the campaign with Lil Miquela and Bella Hadid, Calvin Klein received negative comments from the viewers as it showed that both of them were making out. Emma Hope Allwood stated that the brand is using sexuality just for clickbait, and posing queerness as ‘surreal’ with some added virtual human shticks to create engaging content.

Cover Image: Jean Paul Gaultier Pride perfume collection, courtesy Jean Paul Gaultier official website.