When transgender woman Cy Lauz began to make her transition, she had a hard time finding undergarments that suited her needs--let alone that made her feel pretty, confident and feminine. Having formerly worked in fashion styling and interior design, she was accustomed to seeing beautifully made things that felt luxurious, and she wanted those kinds of products to be available for women like herself.
"There was nothing that made me feel good about being a trans woman and who I was as a professional and most importantly, who I was as a person," Lauz says.
That's when she started Chrysalis, the first lingerie brand designed by transgender women for transgender women. Though it's just launching this spring with a line of basics, Chrysalis is already receiving buzz from the media and trans community alike. We caught up with Lauz to hear the struggles of designing a line of lingerie for transgender women, and what she hopes the new brand will accomplish (including starting a foundation devoted to helping transgender youth, among other things).
What challenges do transgendered women face when trying to find undergarments? I think every woman, trans or not, face challenges when trying to find undergarments. But as Trans women, we have very specific needs unique to our experience. The obvious are finding ways to create a bust line and ways to "tuck" comfortably, all while keeping your dignity and sense of self in tact.
Other challenges trans women face when trying to find under garments come from society. If you are a trans woman who is not particularly "passable" and are shopping at a store or public venue, you face the possibility of being harassed, judged, and even physically hurt. People fear things they don't understand and because of fear act out irrationally.
How does Chrysalis meet those needs? Chrysalis meets these needs by [addressing those challenges.] Our bras create a natural looking bust line that not only looks natural but feels and moves like natural breasts, using full cup silicone inserts held in hidden pockets. Chrysalis also provides a panty we call our "T-string" that effectively tucks, holds, and smooths out our bikini area for a seamless look. And because our products are available through our online store, our customers can shop safely and comfortably from their home.
Emotionally, Chrysalis provides a sense of dignity and self assurance for our customers with how we market the Chrysalis brand, and our mission behind who we are and what we do. We're not here to paint a picture of what a trans woman is suppose to look or act like, we're here to add a different perspective in how we are portrayed and seen by the "outside" community. In the end, there is no one person exactly like the other, and the same can be said for the trans community at large.
What are your inspirations behind the line in terms of design? Is there a specific look you're going for, beyond functionality? We are launching this spring with our Basics Collection, which is meant for practical every day use; it's very streamlined with minimal "bells and whistles." However, the design and inspiration behind our couture line, which is set to launch via a fashion show in fall 2013, will always be inspired by butterflies! We are inspired by their colors, the way they move, their evolution and transformations, and their individuality. Our couture line will carry corsets, teddys, stockings, tunics, capes, and so on.
What is necessary for a transgender lingerie line to be functional? As a designer, I'm all about form and function and so is our brand of lingerie. We also acknowledge that there are trans women out there who are "post operative" who've had SRS [sex reassignment surgery] and breast augmentation. So of course we will also design and provide lingerie without the need for silicone inserts and "tucking." We want to attract women who want to feel beautiful in their underwear and lingerie, who are strong willed, intelligent, and unapologetic about their femininity!
What has the response to the line been? The response has been overwhelmingly positive. From the trans community specifically, it's been a very emotional response of gratitude, excitement, and support. A lot of our customers feel like their prayers have been answered, quite literally! As a trans woman myself this is very touching.
Do you find that there has been more of a spotlight on the transgender community, especially in fashion, because of models like Lea T and Andrej Pejic? Indeed! Every little bit helps and counts. What I think makes them very successful is their "relatability." With other trans activists like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Isis King, and Jamie Clayton, being relatable is the key. When I started Chrysalis, that is what I endeavored to do. The only way a person will hear you and listen to you, and hopefully understand you, is to approach it in a way that makes them feel relaxed, calm, and safe. And I hope that is how people from the outside looking in feel about our brand.
What hopes do you have for the line? Any plans for expansion? Our hopes for the brand is that it is successful, first and foremost, and that we cater to the needs of our customers. Beyond that, a flagship store in NYC is a possibility. We endeavor to be a namesake lifestyle brand for the transgender community at large. If the name Chrysalis is on it, we want our customers to know they can trust it and feel good about it. But who knows what the future may hold, we're always open to exciting and new opportunities.
As we gain recognition and create a name for ourselves, Chrysalis the brand, would like to give back to our community. A foundation to help our often at risk and homeless youth is at the top of our list.
What do you wish more people understood about transgendered women's needs in terms of clothing and fashion? That clothing and fashion for transgender people is exactly how it is for non-trans people. It exists because there is a need for it, it has a function, a purpose, and therefore should not be looked at any differently. It shouldn't be a cause for concern to anyone. Clothing and fashion exists because it is utilitarian and is a conduit for self expression.
Photos Courtesy of Chrysalis