Rachel Berks’ queer-owned and themed shop Otherwild is famous for recreating slogan shirts from feminist culture past—most famously, The Future is Female T created in 1972 for the opening of the first women’s bookstore in New York, Labryis Books. Now Otherwild, which has locations in both Los Angeles and NYC, is launching a new collaboration with Kelly Rakowski’s Herstory project, and it’s celebrating queer history and culture through fashion.
Kelly’s @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y account on Instagram is dedicated to lesbian lives and our rich cultural past, which is how she and Rachel first connected—it was there that Rachel first saw The Future is Female photo (taken by Liza Cowan of her former partner Alix Dobkin).
“I wanted to keep making things inspired by photographs and graphics from the past, images posted on @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y,” Kelly said. “We began reinterpreting graffiti and phrases on balloons, pins and T-shirts into wearables.”
The new collection debuted on Friday, with slogans from lesbian history reimagined. Ball caps and hoodies boasting “Gay Power,” duffle bags and totes reading “We Are Everywhere,” double Venus signs on bright red socks, homo pins and an oversized sweater emblazoned with a sly cursive “Sisters” are all directly inspired by signs, banners and patches from prides, protests and photos past.
“Many of them have been found at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the most special gay space in the world,” Kelly said. “I spend time there doing researching, pouring through folders, binders and books.”
Repurposing parts of lesbian culture is more powerful now than ever, Kelly says.
“I think it’s important we have a voice. As inconsequential as it sounds, wearing a tee shirt or cap or a pin with a message you believe in feels good. Ever since post-election Trump era I’ve been wearing the ‘Gay Power’ cap, it feels powerful to claim something and be loud about it,” she said.
And seeing others wearing her work has been gratifying, as well as unifying.
“One time I stopped a girl in the middle of Fulton Street station who had a ‘We are everywhere’ tote,” Kelly said. “Nerdily, I got excited and wanted to connect. Alternatively, I like when I am wearing something and people give a compliment. It’s supportive; you know who is on your side. It’s nice to hear a stranger say, ‘Like your cap.’ It’s a nod; a gesture. We are in it together.”
The Otherwild x Herstory collection is cool political fashion that’s supporting queer business owners and artists, and it’s also serving lesbians at a time when they’re feeling more marginalized and forgotten than ever.
“[The pieces] are a tribute to the struggle and our fore-sisters/brothers who were wearing the same messages 30/40 years before,” Kelly said. “We are carrying the torch.”
The Otherwild x Herstory collection is available now from Otherwild.