Qwear, a queer fashion and style blog, celebrates its six-year anniversary this June. Founding editor Sonny Oram looks back on their non-cubicle journey.
As told to Hannah Cohen
I always knew I was trans deep down, but I wasn’t ready to come out immediately. One day I went into the Macy’s boys section and began trying things on. It felt amazing. That kick-started my journey, and I wanted to share my outfits and experiences with others.
I began thinking about a potential queer fashion blog. The project originally had a very funny name: ‘Lesbo Fashion’ on tumblr. My friends thought it was kind of a joke. Then it became ‘Dyke Duds’. A few years later, I realized those names were not a good representation of my identity or the range of identities that people take on in the queer world.
When Qwear launched, there was a lot of excitement in the tumblr community and that’s ultimately where I began creating lots of connections. I sought out people with cool style and asked if I could feature them. We began to pick up followers…The excitement demonstrated the need for this website.
Ultimately, people were hungry for this kind of representation. I think that’s what makes Qwear successful—the people it’s for.
What I’ve learned is that I want the space to be for everyone; I don’t want to target a specific segment of the queer community. If you look at the queer community at large, there’s a lot of unemployment. A lot of people can’t afford clothes. So I want this project to be accessible to everyone. Therefore, I never want to say “buy this or buy that.” We work with a few brands that bring in a little income through advertising. I haven’t done a lot to try and make more beyond that…I just want homeless queer youth and people in the middle of nowhere to find this site, and have this place be a comfortable space and community for them.
At the beginning, there was a lot of mixed feedback: Most people really loved Qwear, but there were plenty who thought there wasn’t enough representation of one thing or another. Feedback is very helpful because, at the end of the day, if people don’t feel they’re being represented, then I need to do a better job at representing. I took all the criticism into account and made the changes needed. These days I get very little negative feedback because I’m doing what people want.
I am so enthusiastic about the queer community and ways we express ourselves. I think it comes from growing up in a culture where you are an outsider. Once you start embracing yourself, you start wearing these amazing things…I think every queer person can relate to that in some way.
For my day job, I’m a barista which is really steady income. I also do some freelance work in social media and web design.
If you have a passion project, just start doing it. You don’t need a plan or have to quit your current day job. When I started doing Qwear, I didn’t think it would turn into much, but just started doing it for fun. Just keep doing it even if there isn’t lots of feedback. It can feel really easy to give up, but you have to keep going no matter what. Success will come to you down the line. Never forget that everyone who’s really good at something has had failure along the way—you just have to keep pushing through to figure it out.
Don’t take financial struggles to mean failure because we just live in a very difficult world. Often young people are struggling financially and there are many times when things get tough and you won’t be able to afford what you want. It’s just a reflection of how the world is. Just keep doing what you love and try to do as well as you can. Don’t beat yourself up, you’ll figure it out. In the meantime, just keep being awesome at what you’re doing.
Get more details about Sonny and Qwear on qwearfashion.com.
Hannah Cohen is a storyteller, adventurer, and image maker based in New York City. You can see more of her work at hannahcohenphotography.com