FIXATE Fashion Show: Meet designer Lex Brown who tackles gender norms

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Lex Brown, third-year fashion design student (Courtesy Tarpix Studios)

Ryersonian reporter Krista Robinson sat down with Lex Brown, a third-year fashion design student at Ryerson. She was one of the designers chosen to show her line, Neoteny Apparel, at FIXATE, Ryerson’s menswear runway show. Check out their one-on-one.

How would you describe your line?

I focus on gender fluid clothing. It’s predominantly boxy, and I tend to go with natural-toned colours. Not so many prints, although I’m going to get into that hopefully soon. It’s pretty minimalistic, but at the same time it can be very eclectic — like over the top in minimalistic ways, if that even makes sense. For the runway show, there were eight looks. None of them was just “a dress.” They were either two or three-piece looks. I like to consider my line gender fluid, however, one of my garments was originally designed for a female, but they showed it on a guy, which was really awesome. I loved it. I guess it just depends how far you’re willing to go in terms of going outside your gender comfort zone. Again, it’s all transferable, there are just size differences.

How did you get involved with FIXATE?

My friend Jillian approached me. It was funny because my brand is called Neoteny Apparel, but nobody knows that. You can’t associate it with me. She said she was emailing this brand and no one was getting back to her, so she shows me the website and I’m like “that’s me.”

Was there a reason for an all-menswear fashion show?

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A Neoteny Apparel design (Courtesu Juan Solorzano)

I think it’s a really good idea. When you start at Ryerson — in first year, second year and the beginning of third year — it’s all womenswear. You’re not taught menswear until third year, which I think is totally wrong. It doesn’t make sense, right? They probably do that because most of the students (in fashion) are female. Not trying to discriminate, but there are more females, and it’s easy to identify how to draft a body when you have that body. You understand it. Working with menswear, it’s a little bit harder, because you don’t take into consideration different things that are just normal in womenswear. It’s not as detail-oriented. I want them to change (the curriculum), it’s just very restricted until you get to third year.

Does your brand reflect your personal style?

When I’m in presentation, seen by people who are going to automatically associate me with it, then yes. Otherwise, I just dress how I want. As a designer, I feel like you should. I don’t take reference from anybody else. I just do what I do and that sort of transfers into my design.

Is it hard to stay original and ‘not copy’?

You would think so. Almost everything has already been done. It’s hard not to copy but if you’re not taking reference from anybody else, then you’re not copying. In the fashion industry, you can plagiarize and nothing happens, it’s horrible. But if everyone patented every design detail in clothes, you wouldn’t be able to make anything.

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A Neoteny Apparel design (Courtesy Juan Solorzano)

 What goes into the process of developing a line for a fashion show?

I just kind of went with the flow. Design-wise, I would say I do a lot of it in drafting mode.

Oh, sorry. I forgot you’re not in fashion (laughs). So you start with your two-dimensional forms of the human body, which we call your ‘block.’ It’s almost like how an architect would work, they have to draft out what they do before they build. From your draft, you create your pattern, then you cut out your garment from your fabric.

While I’m drafting my clothes and making the patterns, I tend to do more design details to try to understand it more as opposed to drawing it out first. I have an understanding of what the basic silhouette is, and what kind of fabric I want, but other than that I tend to look for details when I’m drafting.

Now that you are in third year, do you have any idea of what you want to focus on for the remainder of your degree?

For my thesis project I want to focus on a gender fluid model, but take it to the next level. We have a body scanner at our school that can scan your body in three dimensions and give you the exact measurement of your body, which is super cool. For my research project I’m going to try to see if it’s possible to create a genderless mannequin form and then go from there to create my blocks; being able to create clothes on a genderless form that caters to both genders as opposed to biased genders. That way I can actually say that my clothes are genderfluid because they’re not drafted with menswear blocks or womenswear blocks or for a menswear model or a womenswear model; there’s no gender at all.

For thesis year, I’m going to try to juxtapose art as fashion. Art itself doesn’t have gender and art as fashion still does have gender. You see fashion art as womenswear or menswear, which is kind of weird because when you think about art you don’t think about that. I’m not a huge fan of the fashion industry, especially the fast fashion industry like H&M, Zara, Forever 21 — I’m not about that. My goal is to have a chain of stores that are completely genderless. You walk in the store — there’s no women’s section, no men’s section. If you like something, you pick it up try it on. That’s how I think it should be and that’s what I want to pursue. I think people like that idea.

*Interview was edited for length

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