A South African fashion brand is doing away with the traditional restrictions of the fashion industry by producing clothing that removes gender norms and advocates for a positive body image.
Clothing company Artclub and Friends is offering their customers the chance to purchase items that operate outside the norms previously dictated to them by the fashion industry. According to founder Robyn Keyser in an interview with Culture Trip, they are directly targeting a new type of emerging customer who are ‘self-aware and are essentially creating a change by teaching the industry that they know that self love is not built on materialism’.
Keyser believes that the industry will change as these customers become more empowered to choose clothing that best suits their own needs, rather than buying into those dictated by the fashion industry.
Artclub and Friends is aware that the traditional shopping experience can be stressful and negative for many.
In order to counter the negative associations with traditional size charts, they’ve launched a size chart simply called ‘It’s perfect’. Under this new policy that they’ve dubbed the Perfectly Gender-Neutral Size Chart, they are producing clothes in the sizes Perfectly Extra Small, Perfectly Small, Perfectly Medium, Perfectly Large and Perfectly Extra Large. They are also producing clothes that simply come in a single size, that they call ‘Free Size’.
According to Keyser, gender norms affect every aspect of their customers’ lives. ‘Gender non-conformity as a brand is our quiet but clear way of telling our customers that we want them to feel beautiful, powerful and loved by us in any form that they come’.
She also doesn’t want her customers to feel as if they need to conform to popular definitions of beauty. ‘How lazy and boring to expect your customer to conform to society’s standards of beauty? Rather support them and create a space where they feel at home in your clothes and at home in their bodies’.
Although in many ways this is a pioneering move, especially in the South African fashion industry, Keyser says the decision and implementation were not difficult. Instead, she found it easy and questions why other brands haven’t done this on a wider scale already.
Keyser describes herself as a frustrated mixed media artist who loses sleep over how excited artistic expression makes her. ‘I live to see artists work together and share ideas’, she said. She calls Artclub and Friends ‘a metaphor for a place I think many of us wish existed but we struggle to find’.
Instead of shouting from the sidelines about the situation in the local fashion industry, she took the plunge and started a brand. ‘I hope one day it becomes a space that teaches young people to run towards the parts of themselves that society asks them to run away from’, she said. ‘And to learn to love that which makes us so beautifully different. That is my dream’.
Although the company is still young and up against giants in the fashion industry, Keyser’s vision and progressive stance when it comes to style and sizing has already resonated widely across South Africans – and it’s clear that the designer is only just getting started.