We Are Mortals a new streetwear brand out of Los Angeles, CA, is making waves with their gender-neutral philosophy. The brand creates genderless clothing citing their deviation from the stereotypical gender binary as a main influence. We Are Mortals, the brainchild of designer Anji Becker, has given us a breath of fresh air in the fashion community.
The debut collection, The Future Has No Gender, features signature streetwear elements with their special collab jersey set with artist Jennifer Mehigan. While pushing through with new designs such as the Kimono and cover-pieces, the collection revels in its creative manifestation of a gender-neutral philosophy. We got the chance to link with Becker and We Are Mortals after the successful close to their kickstarter campaign.
Q: How has your gender identity led you to We Are Mortals?
The first question I was forced to answer when I decided to venture into clothing design was: menswear or women’s wear? My first reaction was “why do I have to choose?” So the realization of how silly it is to have to categorize not only our clothing but ourselves, is the main driving force behind this brand identity. I like to question these routines and conventions that don’t make sense to me. I’ve never understood why people feel they need to continue doing things in the same way just because ‘it’s traditionally been done that way’! My personal back story isn’t so much about my gender, but my sexuality definitely has played a part. Once I began this current same-sex relationship I’m in, I suddenly felt pressure to have to label myself a lesbian and join some sort of ‘clique’. I won’t ever do that, and so making that decision has made me extremely aware of all the stereotypes that are pushed on us, whether it’s our gender identity, sexuality, race, etc. We should be allowed fluidity and the ability to play with our identities rather than having to choose one box to fit into. Also, as a ‘cis-gender’ female, it has always been important for me to make sure I contradict the over-sexified way women are objectified and portrayed in our culture.
Q:You spoke about the gender binary, how does We Are Mortals work against this binary and its exclusivity?
I think the idea of masculine/feminine being opposites has been so ingrained in us for so long, but now finally there’s starting to be a lot more discussion about what gender means and this brand is part of that movement. We’re seeing the beginning stages of a slowly growing awareness that not everyone fits into the two categories of male and female. I’m also trying to speak to those people who do fit into the gender binary to make them question why they would even want to continue contributing to these stereotypical gender roles. Naming the brand “We Are Mortals” worked well to deliver that message that we are all just humans, we’re equal, and shouldn’t feel obligated to play any certain role in life.
Q: Regarding resistance against the idea, how deep do you feel the gender binary runs within Fashion, specifically streetwear/urban wear?
I think fashion has always been extremely divided by gender. Every store has two separate departments, the fashion shows are split, and there really hasn’t been any middle ground at all until now. I realize that male and female bodies are different, so that’s probably why it has taken so long for designers to start attempting to make clothes that fit both sexes. Now that the topic of gender is being discussed in our culture, though, I think more and more designers are going to begin thinking in ‘unisex’ terms. I think streetwear is the first genre that has begun to bridge that gap because it’s already loose-fitting so the fit and sizing isn’t so difficult to figure out. It also appeals to a younger generation that is ready for change. In the future, though, there is no reason a dress designer couldn’t design the same dress and offer it in both a male and female fit in the same way that jeans companies started to make both male and female versions of their designs once women started wearing pants back in the day!
How has the recent projection of gender identity into the mainstream media helped morph/influence/promote We Are Mortals?
The topic has really blown up all the sudden in all the magazines, TV shows, and with celebrities speaking out on the idea! The recent hype has begun now that I’ve already been going full-force with my campaign ‘The Future Has No Gender’ for the past year, so it’s just been a reminder that I’m really on to something! It’s reassured me that people are ready to think twice about gender and talk about the idea of fluidity, so I don’t need to hold back in any way and I’m going to continue finding ways to make the message even stronger and hopefully collaborate with many more people who are now part of this bigger movement.
We see the common thread of gender abiguity between the garments, from kimonos to cover-pieces; what were some other sources of inspirations during the design process?
Other than just wanting the garments to fit both genders, I really had ‘the future’ in mind as a general theme. I was thinking silver metal and geometric prints to keep it all vaguely futuristic feeling.
When did the collaboration with Jennifer Mehigan start for the liquid silver print?
Time has flown by… It’s already been close to one year ago that I was envisioning a print that looked like a faux silver texture, but was having a hard time creating something on my own. Then one day I just stumbed on some of Jennifer’s artwork on Tumblr or something, right when I was about to give up on the whole idea. Luckily she replied to my email, was down to collaborate, and sent me something completely perfect! She lived in Singapore so I’ve never met her and I really knew nothing about her. I still don’t know her, but gradually throughout the past year I’ve learned a little more about her artwork and her personality and I’m just amazed at what a perfect fit it ended up being to work with her. It’s so cool to follow her career, she’s doing really awesomely weird things in the art world, and doesn’t care what anybody thinks!
The project seems to have manifested as an experiment; how did this translate in the actual production of the garments?
I think I’m actually being very intentional about every step of the process and I took a lot of time to think everything through. It probably just feels like an experiment for me because I’m a new designer navigating through this new career in fashion without prior experience, so I’m learning as I go and that definitely entails a lot of trial and error! Most of the styles I designed were pretty straight-forward to communicate to a pattern-maker and simply adjust the fit as needed. Only the cover-piece skirt was something completely new that I hadn’t seen before, so I had no idea if it was going to turn out the way I imagined. Overall the most experimental part of production has been printing the artwork. I definitely had a couple of designs in the beginning that I ended up not liking at all once I had them printed!
I’m interested in your initial starting point for We Are Mortals, could you elaborate on what gave you the strongest motivation for the collection?
I had been hand-making clothes and accessories and selling them on Etsy when I lived in San Diego, which was more of a hobby. The main motivation I had for making the move to LA and starting a legit clothing brand was learning that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was just a turning point where I learned that life is short and I needed to go pursue my talents without hesitation. She passed away within the same month I moved here, so after taking some time regain some peace and stability I started thinking of brand names. I chose We Are Mortals as a reminder to myself that life is short and we are all in this same predicament of trying to figure out how to make the most of our time here on earth.
Finally, what future do you see for We Are Mortals?
I want the brand to continue to grow and become synonymous with the idea of genderless fashion. I’m realizing that I’ve created something that isn’t just clothing, but also a lifestyle brand, so the possibilities are endless. I plan to get this first collection into specialty boutiques all over the world and sell online through my website. I still have a long way to go, and assembling a team is really going to be the next big step to get on another level. For now, though, I’ve laid the foundation on my own and it feels like something that is going to attract the right people!
Sending so much love and support to We Are Mortals and their push for a more gender fluid society even outside of the fashion community. ‘The Future has No Gender’ will be dropping in the coming week, but is available for pre-sale right now on their website!
Interview by @jaredformayor