L’Uomo Strano, is a Toronto based brand headed by Mic. Carter invested in creating responsive beauty for the femme-identified, gender nonconformist person’s wardrobe. Carter’s design ethos fuses social justice, futurity, abjection, and community with the sartorial, and is particularly invested in understanding how clothing can be used to embolden those on the slippages of cis-gender heteronormativity and femme-phobia. Now, Carter is releasing their latest capsule titled “Proof of Concept” taking place five years to the day after his collection was pulled from Toronto Men’s Fashion Week for being “too feminine.” We caught up with them on the heels of its debut to talk nonbinary identities, Canadian fashion, and what is next for the brand.
Your latest capsule collection, “Proof Of Concept” just debuted, talk to us about the inspiration behind it.
So many things! In terms of aesthetics, I was inspired by easy silhouettes reminiscent of sports uniforms, which were very forefront in my mind after the Raptors Championship. I was fascinated by the miraculousness of the Kawhi-led squad, and was left musing about what magic or transformation (or evolution?) could look like in nonbinary fashion. I feel like one aspect that could lead to this is greater access to diverse non-binary wardrobes – filled with staple pieces, as well as more playful ones – that are made available to a wider range of geographies, socio-economic demographics, and bodies. I hope that this increased access to nonbinary wardrobes can lead to first and foremost, a great sense of self-empowerment to the GNC folx that wear the clothes, but also potentially to richer conversations within wider society about the lived realities of gender minority people.
You’ve described your collections as being made for the “nonbinary” and “gender non-conformists” wardrobe. Why are post-gender aesthetics so important to you?
Nonbinary and gender non-conforming wardrobes are important to me because nonbinary and gender non-conforming PEOPLE are important to me. Especially with the worsening epidemic of violence against black and brown trans women, I deeply desire to center our community through fashion, and through presentation. At a micro level, our collections and shows empower the models because they’re able to celebrate their authenticity in collaboration with other gender minority. On a macro level, the shows and the clothing can in a way function as an educational pathway, to open up conversations about nonbinary people.
In addition, the struggle to find clothes that are flexible enough to reflect something as dynamic as feminine nonbinary gender is something that I remember very clearly before I started designing. I’m passionate about co-creating a future with my community, that centers our needs, strengths and lived narratives through fashion, one garment at a time.
Your work has has been described as being invested in helping to embolden those on the “slippages of heteronormativity” through ethnographic embodiment. How does this concept relate to “Proof Of Concept”?
Good question! Every L’Uomo Strano collection is very much a collaborative experience, where collections and their backstories and their energy, are all synthesized through interviews and interactions with our community, a community that insists on thriving, despite the violence that often confronts those living on the “slippages of heternormativity”. The fabulousness – a concept so effectively explored by fashion academic Madison Moore – that each model brings to collection is a testament to this power and this capital that nonbinary identities embodying their outfits authentically, bring to the streets, clubs, and runways.
As a Toronto based creative, how has the city shaped the kind of work you’re putting out?
Toronto has impacted L’Uomo Strano immensely. I think spaces like FASHION ART TORONTO, run by Vanja Vasic and Calder Ross, really foster diverse talent and make available fashion spaces, which is transformative because so many fashion spaces can be opaque, scaffolded by glass ceiling upon glass ceiling. I am so grateful for the work that FAT has done, and for their faith in their designers, vision, production, and tenacity. Without it, I know for certain that L’Uomo Strano wouldn’t have had the chance to share work, and would have died long ago.
What, in your opinion, does the Toronto arts and fashion scene need most in order to become more globally influential?
I feel like it is well on its way. I believe such a shift starts with fashion education, and the revolutionary work that Ben Barry, the Chair of Ryerson’s School of Fashion, as well as the work that his faculty and team are doing to challenge what fashion means, what fashion can do, and what voices need to be included within fashion, is inspirational and encouraging.
Next, spaces that invest in building the infrastructure of new fashion start-ups, such as the Social Venture Zone, run by Sarah Briegl, Alex Gill and Anne Pringle, really help in guiding new entrepreneurs to understand what is required to transition a socially-invested fashion idea into a reality.
Finally, celebrities that champion Canadian fashion, like multi-disciplinary artist/ writer/ professor Vivek Shraya, or even Meghan Markle, has helped to move Toronto and Canadian fashion into global conversations about fashion style.
What’s on the horizon for the rest of 2019?
Still to be determined. Ultimately, I’m going to be following up this launch with really anchoring down logistical business necessities, and hopefully moving into production!
Cody is a content creator at Glossi Mag.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.