LOS ANGELES (Circa) -- When Uzo Ejikeme and Stoney Michelli opened online clothing store Stuzo Clothing in 2008, the married couple admittedly did it for selfish reasons.
“While we were growing up, it was hard to find something that fit the way we wanted it to fit," said Ejikeme. "We would go into the mens departments and either it was too big, most of the time, it was because it was too big really.”
Years later, their Los Angeles-based clothing store now has a brick-and-mortar and is attracting people from all over the country who think about clothes the way they do.
"Stuzo Clothing is a gender-less clothing line," said Michelli. "It's for everybody. It's for people that want to live out loud. They want to live their truth. It's cut down the middle, so it can fit anyone the same. You just use your own style to add your touch on it."
Across town, Radimo's founder, Dan Owens-Reid—who identifies as gender non-binary—is doing something similar.
"Over time, I slowly but surely figured out that each individual item of clothing doesn’t necessarily have a gender, and I could put things together to make my style kind of whatever I wanted," said Owens-Reid.
It's cut down the middle, so it can fit anyone the same. You just use your own style to add your touch on it.
Owens-Reid, Ejikeme and Michelli are all part of a crop of fashion entrepreneurs challenging the way designers have gendered fashion, instead offering hundreds of gender-less garments to anyone and everyone. And people are receptive.
"I had a lot of trouble in gender binary stores because it is such a painful experience as a gender non-conforming person to have to push yourself to go into the section of clothing and see people staring at you even though know that you’re going to feel safer in those clothes, you’re not safer in that store," said Mars Wright, a 23-year-old transgender non-binary person who first heard about Radimo online.
Some big box retailers are catching on, too. In 2017, retailers saw a spike in gender-less apparel, according to Edited, a retail analytics firm. And although, these products have decreased by 18 percent this year, that hasn't stopped some mainstream retailers from cashing in on the movement. Zara has a gender-less collection, and last year, H&M launched a unisex denim line.
"I think there's a lot going on socially with diversity being inclusive, creating environments that, you know, more accepting, more appreciating of differences," said Shelley Kohan, a technical fellow at RetailNext, a retail data firm. "I do think that this trend of being gender-neutral will continue to grow over the next couple of years."
I feel definitely more free in how I express myself.
Edited's data also suggests that retailers have been targeting males more with gender-less items this year, compared to women.
In Los Angeles, Radimo is creating somewhat of a mini fashion scene. Just last month, Owens-Reid hosted the brand's first runway show, featuring products from 13 gender-fluid brands modeled by gender non-binary people.
"I realized that all I have to do is put clothes on these people the way that they want to wear them, and so many people will have a chance to see themselves reflected in fashion finally," said Owens-Reid.
Radimo nor Stuzo would reveal numbers about their profit lines, but both said they're shipping all over the world and adding designs constantly.
“I feel definitely more free in how I express myself and the amount of money I spend on clothes definitely was saved,” said Jordi, a frequent Radimo customer.
"For people who are, like, 'I don't understand gender-neutral clothing or non-binary clothing,' my question is, what is men's clothing, what is women's clothing then because it's just fabric in my opinion," said Wright.
(Top photo is by Charlotte Patmore for Radimo.)