05 Apr Out the Closet: On pre-loved clothes & queer representation
There are a variety of ways to exercise power in life. When you live in a consumerist society like ours, what and where you purchase becomes just as important as who you buy from.
We spoke to Lauren Brits, a graphic designer and photographer that focuses predominantly on fashion and queer culture and has a preloved or secondhand clothing brand, named Out the Closet, which recently shared a new lookbook featuring only queer bodies, with aims to promote queer and body positivity.
Tell us the idea and the need for a brand like yours in South Africa right now.
Second-hand clothing brands are nothing new, especially in SA. But very few specifically market towards gender fluid/non-binary queers and endorse body positivity. My aim is almost to use my brand as a platform for representation and not exploitation, something that retailers in South Africa are still not really doing, unfortunately. As I previously mentioned, I came across an article where a masculine-presenting female queer spoke of their issues with salespeople in gender-specific retailers and how they loved thrift stores as they are way less binary. I completely agree and can absolutely relate.
What kind of questions do you ask before beginning to design a capsule/collection/project?
I never want to come across like I exploit queer bodies, this is so important to me. Because I make use of friends in my shoots, it is really important that they feel comfortable and beautiful in how we have styled them and I feel this reflects in the images.
Can you share about yourself and your professional journey till date.
I am a graphic designer at a local publication, so my love for content creation runs deep. But I have always had a love for clothing and how it can form such a huge part if one’s identity. I have been collecting thrift goods since I was in high school. I started photographing about three years ago, initially covering SA Menswear Week but in my own capacity. And gradually moved onto documenting different bodies in the local Cape Town queer community. This kind of escalated to more styled and considered shoots. Now I have the opportunity to use my love of fashion, photography and queer culture all in one.
Describe your creative process.
I have Instagram collections and Pinterest boards for days. Every time I come across an inspiring image or a body I find interesting, I save it to refer to when I am able to put together these incredible shoots with the amazing people I meet on the queer scene.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
By surrounding myself with incredibly talented and creative people. As someone that has struggled with mental health issues for the longest time, I find this really inspires me and pushes me to get out of my head.
To continue collecting fashion treasures and to represent queer bodies in my images/campaigns in a healthy, beautiful and empowering way.