“It’s unfair that gender restricts your clothing choices – everyone should be free to dress how they like.”
If you’re not drawn to the ‘traditional’ gender-divided garments found in high street stores, what are you supposed to wear? From everyday outfits to party getup, shopping for gender neutral clothing or simply clothes you feel represent you, can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Gender Free World Clothing, located on Portland Road, Hove, was co-founded by Lisa Honan and she can relate. “The idea for GFW Clothing began from my own personal frustration in shopping in the high street. I would often go out shopping for hours only to return home with one or two items chosen as a compromise so least I had something to wear, even if it’s not what I want.” So, Lisa decided to do something about the lack of choice.
Her sharp sense of style has developed over the years, which is clear as Lisa explains her sartorial choices stem from the punk movement, and has been evolving ever since. “On a day to day basis I like comfortable clothes: jeans, tees, and shirts obviously! For going out, creepers, turn up jeans, smarter shirts. I am a big fan of orange, and have a number of different orange coats and a brilliant striped orange and yellow blazer.” If you’re not drawn to the offerings of your average women’s section in a clothing store, you’ll be familiar with the struggles of finding the right cut to suit your body. It’s this frustration that made Lisa start tailoring her own clothes, and eventually launching the brand.
Alongside Lisa at the helm of GFW is business partner Nel. They design the clothes, which are then made in London. Going from a range of just five shirts – the legendary penguin print being one of the first – the growth the company has seen since 2015 is more than impressive. The pair make sure they keep their notorious fun and lighthearted approach to fashion:
“We’re working our way through the animal kingdom… lobsters, dolphins, bees, flamingos and, of course, penguins! We have a fruit-based collection coming out in the spring too, so look out for strawberry, cherry and watermelon prints.”
And as well as choosing prints that will represent your inner animal (or make you a bit peckish), you’ll know the garments you’re wearing come from sustainable sources. In a city like ours, this is an important factor and the owners have ensured their customers will not only look good but feel good: “most of our fabrics come from mills in Spain and the Netherlands, and we have checked out the provenance of the fabrics we use. Our t-shirts are made from a blend of organic cotton and recycled bottles!” So it’s not just gender-free designs that are alluring for customers. When you can help the environment and choose from 28 variations of a single shirt, you’ll find yourself loving the fact that one size doesn’t fit all.
It’s businesses like GFW that underpin smaller communities and portions of society. For some, clothing choices are an expression of self, and being able to choose what one wears in a safe space away from judgement is crucial. It’s amazing to have such a fashion trailblazer on our doorstep as GFW, and Lisa has exactly the ethos the LGBT+ community in Brighton, Hove and further afield need:
“Community is incredibly important to me, in this increasingly fragmented society where globalisation and capitalism dominate, community is vital for mental health, sense of belonging and a route to petition for change.”
GFW Clothing is at 102 Portland Road, Hove, BN3 5DN