This week on Queers You Should Know, we have androgynous fashion stylist and mogul Sara Medd- CEO of Greyscale Goods. Sara and I got the chance to meet at Dinah Shore through mutual friends and I knew right away that she was going to be a breakaway success and powerhouse in the androgynous fashion scene.
Tell us a bit about Greyscale Goods.
We are a gender-neutral approach to shopping. We believe that the existing dichotomy of gendered departments in stores are limiting to the expression of many people’s personal style, so we are promoting a movement toward the neutralization of departments through a personal shopping approach that straddles both sides. We go beyond labels and deliver you clothing items to your door that are gender-neutral.
That’s so incredible. I love that you’re creating space for androgynous fashion and nonbinary people in the industry. Where did the idea for this service come from?
The success of recent styling-based companies such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club were maintaining this severely binary and gendered approach to shopping. I knew that there were customers out there being alienated by this who would love to have the opportunity of this kind of service, without the forced genderization of the styles. Why not just offer awesome clothes to whoever wants to wear them? I wanted to create a safe space to find a personalized shopping service that doesn’t force you to identify or label yourself. I just want to dress humans in cool clothes.
I love that, cool humans in cool clothes. I wish more people had that perspective. Who are your clients? Lesbians? Trans folks?
Honestly, I don’t think I could answer that accurately - I don’t ask! Some customers feel very safe in mentioning their significant others in the feedback, so I have assumed that I have a good number of lesbian clients. I believe that I also have a number of clients who are not LGBT, but who have been unhappy with Stitch Fix or are looking for a more tomboy look within this kind of service. I also have had a number of clients who note in their size profiles that they use binders, or are planning a future transition. Again, the labels are completely against what I aim to accomplish, but it makes me very happy to see that these customers feel safe expressing these sorts of size and style elements in an effort to help me understand their unique shape/size/style.
Right, you’re trying to avoid the identity aspects of clothing. I get that. How has your identity influenced your stylistic preferences?
It frees me from the confines of those pesky gender binaries that plague the retail industry! I feel completely comfortable walking into the ‘men’s’ department to buy a shirt. I also feel confident in the fluidity of my style in wearing pants or a pantsuit in lieu of a dress to special occasions. Personally, I find it freeing, and an open door to twice the options for what to wear since I do enjoy wearing heels and a dress for some occasions as well.
I guess on a greater scale, my identity and my position in the LGBT community has opened my eyes to the experience of others that do not feel as free in all clothing departments. I may feel comfortable, but that is not the experience of most members of this community. I like to shop. I’m good at it. I’m comfortable navigating a store. When I realized how many people in our community found this to be a major fear, it dawned on me that my skills did not have to be frivolous - I could do something to give back and make a difference in people’s lives.
I’ve been with several gender nonconforming people while they’ve had emotional responses or anxiety when shopping. Having clothing that you feel good in and fits you well really is so important for people’s self-confidence. What do you feel good in? Can you tell us a bit about your personal style?
My personal style has a very broad range. I tend toward comfort but in a polished way. I can most often be found wearing harem or drop-crotch pants with a tank top or army jacket. But if I dress up, I’m going to wear heels….probably with said harem pants. My closet color palette is pretty strictly black, white, gray with a pop of navy or olive green.
Harem pants seem to be taking over the LA fashion scene these days, I’ve been seeing them all over Tumblr. I haven’t tried them with heels. I’ll have to take a page out of your book. Do you design your client’s offering based on your personal style, how does that work?
Not at all. I have come across a couple of clients that I think fall into my realm of style, so I have taken some risks with them…unsuccessfully. I am honestly much more successful if I completely separate my own likes from the equation and put myself in their shoes. This is truly a personalized service and absolutely nothing is automated about the clothing selection for each customer. I look at each and every customer as an individual and determine the items to send based on what I think they would look good in. 9.75 times out of 10 it is different than my personal style….which makes me SO happy, because I view personal style like a fingerprint: no two people have the exact same one!
That’s so true, everyone has very individual tastes. You ran a wildly successful KickStarter campaign. How have you invested the crowd sourced funds?
Once the rewards were paid for, the remainder of the funds went into the build of the website. I actually ended up completing a website re-design before I even launched this version that is live, so the cost of that was more than I allotted for. Looking back, I should have priced the rewards higher (I ended up paying a lot of shipping costs out of pocket) but it was worth it. My Kickstarter backers have already been about 40% of my first customers and they have been the most supportive, loving, patient and involved customers. I am so thankful to have such loyal humans by my side!
Seriously, I know those feels. DotR would be nothing without my loyal readers. What has been the biggest challenge in launching Greyscale Goods?
Creating a profitable business model. What I want to do is run a charity/non-profit styling service that does exactly what I’m doing. I just can’t afford to run a non-profit. I am learning very quickly how to create a balance between affordable and approachable vs. profitable and sustainable. There will actually be a couple of changes on the near horizon to the current business model to make it more sustainable. I want to help everyone who wants it, but at this point in time, I need to also consider that I am still a small business which means that prices are just going to have to be a little higher.
Has business been good?
Boxes of Goods are currently on backorder! I have had such high demand in the first 2 weeks that I am about 3 weeks out from filling new orders. It is a completely personalized experience so it takes a little longer than ordering from a mass retailer.
Whoa! That’s incredible! Congrats! Is there anything you’d like to ask the readers?
If you have had an experience (positive or negative) with another styling service like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club, I would love to hear what you loved/hated about it. Especially if it has to do with their binary gender assumptions.