Equipment to Launch Gender Fluid Line
A collaboration for all pronouns.
A collaboration for all pronouns.
A passionate partnership between Equipment and The Phluid Project is a result of a purposeful gender-fluid collection. This inclusive collection would not have been possible without the CEO of The Collected Group and founder of Phluid Project. View the full interview with James R. Miller and Rob Smith about the collaboration, below.
V MAGAZINE: How did you guys connect with The Phluid Project for this partnership? Were they always on your radar as a potential collaborator?
JAMES R. MILLER "CEO and CCO of The Collected Group": I’ve known Rob since Phluid was in incubation mode. We’d catch up from time to time and his enthusiasm for changing his own personal direction to help the non-binary community was infectious. Phluid today is an organization that can’t be ignored and that is a testament to the power of the team and brands they collaborate with. For Equipment, this line would not have existed without Phluid. The necessity to approach the community and the conversation with respect and authenticity was crucial. Without this connection, I doubt we could do this project justice.
V: Was this something that the Equipment consumers have requested in the past? What kind of response to this gender-fluid release are you expecting to get?
JRM: Equipment has incredibly sincere androgynous roots. This brand connected with a consumer that back in the 70’s and 80’s may not have inherently spoken outwardly about their gender, but perhaps felt comfortable in our clothing. When I look through our archives, I can’t differentiate gender — which actually inspired the current designs in 2020. In the past decade, since the relaunch of Equipment, we absolutely had multiple genders shop what today is our women’s line. The fluid collection is an organic evolution to the brands DNA.
Beyond the clothing, I am hopeful that if we help any one individual connect or feel that there is continued hope in their lives, in this community, on this planet, that we’ve succeeded in our mission. I hope that our industry and many others understand the importance of continuing to bring this community into the larger whole.
V: How was working on this first gender-fluid collection for you personally and Equipment as a company, in comparison to creating and releasing traditional gender binary garments?
JRM: This is probably my personal legacy. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be a part of this brand but it was absolutely uncharted territory for me. I expected it to be an emotional experience but I probably wasn’t prepared for the impact the campaign left on me. We have incredible, inspiring ambassadors for Equipment. The brand is just the canvas on which they are telling their powerful and honest stories. How often can you be completely fulfilled by your work? At that particular moment, I was. My team feels the same way, if anything brings you together it is purpose. We are all probably a little more humanized from this experience. Revenues and profits go out the window when there is something much larger at stake. These stories, as painful as some are, do deliver positivity, optimism and hope above anything else.
The company is also very aware of what needs to be done that probably goes against the normal behavior of designing, producing and delivering garments. The designs are purposeful, and production all the way to the size scaling was a big undertaking. Fast forward to approaching retail partners, we went out to a selection that we know, believe in, and may want to understand more about the gender-neutral community.
V: You mention that the collection will continue to evolve for Fall 2020 — do you see it as something that can stick to Equipment as a company in the future? Are you planning to release gender-fluid collections like this one on a regular basis?
JRM: The answer is “yes” to both. Again, the brand has a DNA that allowed us to position the gender fluid collection as an ongoing regular part of the company. As with everything we do, we don’t want to run before we can walk. We could have gone out with a far wider collection of everything beyond shirts and trousers, but that wouldn’t have felt organic to Equipment. The pillars of our label are French, simplistic and nonchalant in aesthetic — that had to come across initially. As we get a little more confident, we are pushing ourselves beyond ‘categories,’ and evolving the architecture of designs. I am excited for us to showcase Fall and Resort which show a strong understanding of the path ahead.
V: What have you learned or gained from this partnership? How does it figure into the future that you envision for Equipment as a company?
JRM: The partnership is obviously at the center of all that we do. Equipment is part of a parent company, The Collected Group, alongside two other brands Joie and Current / Elliott. Rob and his team are also working with the entire group to become ‘Phluid’ accredited. The notion of creating a safe space for the non-binary workforce with true freedom of expression is almost a rite of passage. We can’t just tick a box, hold a conference call, open a gender-neutral bathroom and believe the job is done. Education and continued awareness goes beyond the superficial. My teammates are the answer and I hope that as we look around, that one day, our organization includes a large proportion of non-binary, talented individuals.
V MAGAZINE: How did the idea for this partnership come about? Was Equipment always on your radar as a potential gender-neutral brand?
Rob Smith "CEO of the Phluid Project": I’ve been aware of Equipment for decades, and I have always had high regard for the brand and an appreciation of the aesthetic. But, I never considered the brand to be a part of the Phluid portfolio. When James reached out and shared the history, the consumer interest and the vision for Equipment Fluid, I was immediately on board.
V: Have you ever done a similar kind of strategic partnership before?
RS: We have partnered and collaborated with multiple brands over the past few years including Fila, Champion, Happy Socks and other iconic American brands. But, this is our first collaboration with an international brand in the contemporary market.
V: What does this partnership entail for you, how did you guys go about making this project happen?
RS: James and I have been friends for several years. When he mentioned the concept, I was intrigued. What was most impressive was the commitment from the entire team to bring this brand extension to market with authenticity. That meant committing to training the entire team with GET Phluid (gender-expansive training) creating a safe space at work for gender-expansive employees, including transgender and non-binary adults. It also meant creating the campaign with real people whose gender identity and expression exist outside of the binary, in front of the camera and behind the camera. James wanted people in the campaign that had an interesting and authentic story to tell. Leaning into the Phluid community was the natural place to cast.
V: What have you gained or learned from this partnership?
RS: Working with James and the Equipment team is our first full partnership and collaboration, and they have set the bar. At Phluid, we’re looking for partners that want to understand the community and customer they are creating product for. It’s not about seeing fluidity as a trend and just creating products without thought and intention. We both set out to do this right. To take the time and the resources to execute this with thought and intention. We know it’s not perfect, but we’ll keep building on a solid foundation.
V: Would you do a similar project again? What are some of the other brands or companies you would be open to collaborating with in the future?
RS: Phluid is definitely interested in doing more collaborations and partnerships like the one we’ve created with Equipment. We are actually in conversation with several brands and retailers, both domestic and international. It’s not about quantity, but quality. When someone sees a Phluid partnership, they know it’s been created with our values and with our community in mind. It means saying no as often as we say yes. But, I’m always willing and excited to bring new partners along the journey.