Recent years have seen huge milestones for the queer community in all sectors of society: Daniela Vega, the first openly transgender woman to take the stage at the Oscars; Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where the sitcom’s character Rosa Diaz came out as bisexual in a tasteful manner free of typical stereotypes and stigmas; Danica Roem, the first transgender woman to be elected into any US state legislature; Moonlight, an Oscar-winning film detailing the life of an African-American man struggling with, amongst other things, his sexuality.
Among these triumphs, we must remember to continue forward. We need more LGBTQ people in media (GLAAD reports that in 2017, only 6.4% of regular characters appearing on scripted primetime were gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer), we need more LGBTQ people in advertising, and we need more positive role models for LGBTQ youth to look up to. So we must keep pushing: for acceptance, for inclusion, for representation.
Fluide, launched in February 2018, is challenging gender norms and rewriting the traditional beauty industry. Using models of all genders and identities, the brand’s website declares their goal to create “an irresistible future where radical inventiveness & queer kinship thrives.” BeautyMatter sat down with Fluide Founders Laura Kraber and Isabella Giancarlo. Read our Q&A below:
Fluide was founded by Laura Kraber and Isabella Giancarlo. Can you share your individual backgrounds and how you came together to start Fluide?
Isabella: Since I was a kid, I’ve had a bit of an entrepreneurial bug. I always have a weird personal project going on, whether that’s baking typographic cakes, making candles in my kitchen, or writing poetry. Before starting Fluide, I was working as a designer, where I used my agency experience to help brands from a creative and strategic point of view. Fresh out of college, I had the chance to be a part of a five-woman start-up, which was changing the conversation around women’s menstrual products. With Fluide, as co-founder, I bring my biz strategy experience, point of view as an artist, and scrappy, DIY spirit to the table.
With neither of us coming from the beauty space, we were able to approach Fluide with an open mind. Thus, leaving us open to create the beauty space we wanted to see, as opposed to being limited by what has been done before.
Laura: I’ve worked at a range of companies including early-stage startups, boutique design shops, and big digital agencies; based on my own past experiences of gender discrimination, unequal pay, and workplace harassment, I was incredibly motivated to build a company that provides a safe, fair, and respectful workplace, and which offers acceptance and community to our customers. As a mom of teenagers, I have been deeply impressed by this generation of high school and college students—in the process of discovering and expressing their most authentic selves and through their engagement and activism, they’re creating a worldwide movement and a more expansive understanding of gender identity. The genesis of Fluide really comes out of my personal admiration for the people who are putting their lives on the line to create this societal shift. I was fortunate to meet Isabella through a job in early 2016, and I was immediately impressed by her talent and abilities. It was pure kismet that we were both passionate about creating a more inclusive beauty line and were ready to take the entrepreneurial leap.
Why is Fluide’s mission so important to you?
The vision for Fluide was always about inclusive representation and celebrating the beauty and lifestyles of people who are underrepresented in the industry. We both felt that we could create something new—a beautiful and intimate online universe where everyone is comfortable being themselves. Central to our mission is creating a generous and supportive company as well.
There aren’t many companies that start as an LGBTQ mission-driven brand. Did you face criticism when you first launched?
We’ve received a ton of supportive and affirming feedback since the launch, which can be so energizing, given the challenges of starting a company and making a go of it. So we are incredibly grateful to all of the people who have reached out on social media or via email and expressed their excitement about Fluide. We’ve had a handful of haters and some negative reactions, but we think it speaks more to the power and importance of what we’re doing. Isn’t there a saying that goes: “If you have haters, you must be doing something right”?
Tell us about the decision to employ Jacob Tobia in your “Uncuffed” campaign, and what that means for the gender nonconforming community.
Jacob is many things—a writer, performer, and activist—and because Jacob is so generous with their time and so committed to opening up a dialogue and engaging with others on gender and identity issues, they are a great model (in all senses of the word!) for Fluide. With Jacob Tobia as the face of our Uncuffed Collection, we had the opportunity to showcase Jacob’s glamorous, non-binary beauty (those lips!), and hopefully, inspire pride in people of all genders.
How does Fluide stay in touch with the wants and needs of the queer community?
Isabella: New York is a fantastic place to be queer. After graduating from college, it was the perfect place to come out and surround myself with people who unapologetically and creatively defy cultural expectations and gender norms. This vibrant and supportive atmosphere helped evolve my own definition of beauty and shifted the ways in which I feel comfortable expressing myself. My experience in the NY queer scene undoubtedly informed my point of view when creating Fluide. From a personal place, I wanted to ensure that queer folx like me were both in front and behind the camera as much as possible. I knew that a younger me was dying to see queer beauty represented by queer people and I know the process of coming into my queer identity would have been a lot easier had I had more gender-expansive role models. I constantly feel energized by queer spaces and events of the city: the exuberance, the positivity, the possibility, and warmth. (At Fluide, we actually name all of our shades after queer spaces!) There are so many incredible events popping up around New York, like Queer Soup Night, Babetown, PAT, and events hosted by venues like C’mon Everybody and Secret Project Robot, to name a few.
What do you hope to see for the future of more “traditional” brands that have yet to embrace this community?
Traditionally, makeup has been an instrument of an outdated and patriarchal beauty ideal—women wore makeup to improve themselves and to make themselves acceptable to a standard of (often white, cis) female beauty which few could achieve. To locate makeup outside of this paradigm of cis-female beauty is liberating and it opens up the potential for makeup to be a creative, empowering means of self-expression for all. Representing queer beauty and self-expression opens up possibilities for all—in how we look, who we are, and who we want to be. We believe that more “traditional” brands can learn from that perspective.
Fluide donates five percent of profits to help the LGBTQ community. How do you decide what organizations to donate to?
Fluide originated from a place of love — for our LGBTQ community, for the inspiring work and activism of trans and gender nonconforming individuals, for the parents and other allies supporting kids and teens facing discrimination and bullying for their gender presentation—and from our inception, we knew we wanted giving to be central to the company. Through our choice of models and imagery, we are able to showcase LGBTQ beauty, but we know that beauty and representation only go so far. Healthcare and legal support are crucial to the success of our community, which is why we are dedicated to supporting health and legal nonprofits that specifically focus on LGBTQ needs.
Your products are cruelty-free and made without harmful chemicals—was this a defining pillar of the brand from the beginning?
Yes; from our inception, offering products which are cruelty-free and which exclude parabens was non-negotiable.
As a fairly new brand, what is your distribution strategy? What target goals do you hope to hit?
We love interacting directly with our audience and our goal is to continue to be a direct-to-consumer company, which offers many benefits. Since we only launched four months ago, it is hard to predict at this stage where we will go (but we are working hard to grow as fast as we can!). Our business “dream” is to just keep on doing what we’re doing—to be here and be profitable, doing our charitable giving, representing LGBTQ folx, showcasing people of color, and setting the bar in terms of authentic, inclusive, queer representation in the beauty space.
What advice would you have for brands looking to serve the LGBTQ community?
Bring underrepresented people to the table—as managers, art directors, photographers, consultants, stylists, models, etc. Ensure that for every underrepresented person in front of the camera, you have three times as many behind the scenes.
To learn more about this barrier-breaking brand, go to Fluide.
Photo credit: Fluide.us