Ayanah Moor and Raquel Rodriguez are the founders of Queer & Brown in Steeltown (queerandbrown.com), a Pittsburgh based podcast created out of love for QTPOC.
Ayanah and Raquel
In addition to providing this amazing resource for queer and trans* people of color, they also design incredibly dapper pocket squares available at Queer and Brown Qartel.
We sat down with Ayanah and Raquel to discuss queer style, culture, food and visibility in the Burgh and find out more about the inspiration behind their pocket squares.
dapperQ: Tell our readers about Queer and Brown in Steeltown
QBST: We started the podcast in May 2012 as a way of extending ourselves to community, nurturing new relationships and archiving marginalized voices that are based where we live, Pittsburgh, PA (aka Steeltown). So much of what we see in mainstream media shows queer and trans* people of color in a tragic or superficial light, if it all. We want to counter those views and celebrate our existence by offering a broader, more complex view of qtpoc.
A big part of our project is to invite a guest into our home to engage in a conversation that showcases their interests and activities. We share food or drink and our conversation forms the basis of each podcast episode. We edit the recording for length and then share it on our website and itunes. We specifically decided on a podcast because it’s a form where listening is the objective. While visibility is important, we also want people to listen to us!
It’s also the first project we’ve collaborated on as a couple. So the podcast is an extension of our love for one another and to celebrate the lives of other qtpoc.
Visual activist Zanele Muholi and journalist Lerato Dumse via Q&B Episode 20
dapperQ: What inspired you to start designing pocket squares?
Q&B: We wanted to extend our project beyond a web based podcast to something tangible. In May 2013 we attended the Allied Media Conference in Detroit and came up with the idea of making handkerchiefs/pocket squares, posters and postcards celebrating our queer & brown selves to share with other attendees. The hankies/pocket squares were popular so we decided to keep making them and eventually created an online shop (queerandbrown.com/shop). It’s great to have something material that people who want to support our project can purchase, especially if it’s something handmade by us that you can wear.
dapperQ: What shapes your designs?
Q&B: We’re drawn to the idea of stylish and handmade items. We up-cycle fabric and rely on our skills in design and printmaking (Raquel’s the designer and Ayanah’s the printmaker) to complement the fabric. Our first batch of hankies/pocket squares was a combination of solids and patterns that prominently displayed of our “Loved” design, which itself is a reminder to ourselves and other qtpoc that you are loved in this world. Our second batch was exclusively patterns and featured either the “Loved” design or smaller “Queer & Brown” monograms in opposite corners. The next round is in the works! More patterns! more designs!
dapperQ: Style is obviously important to your identities. How would you describe your style(s)?
Raquel: Broke preppy with a bit of Chicago 90’s hip hop. I like to be comfortable and creative. I don’t get caught up in brands or what everyone else is wearing. Just because something costs a lot or is popular doesn’t mean that I’ll like it.
Ayanah: It’s really hard to describe my sense of style. It’s all over the place. Mostly, I love to defy expectation. I like to switch up my style and look good no matter how I’m presenting.
dapperQ: Has it been a journey defining your style(s)? Tell me about it.
Raquel: I grew up playing sports and running around quite a bit so I was usually wearing jeans and gym shoes. In high school I was into baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts. Since then, I’ve slowly been streamlining the size and cut of what I wear.
Ayanah: Depending on the day, month, year I might enjoy very different styles. My looks reflect different times in my life. I don’t enjoy fixed style. My appearance evolves as I evolve. My style is playful, fun and mad fluid.
dapperQ: Have you experienced any challenges when it comes to dressing dapper queer? What are they?
Raquel: Definitely. In those instances where the clothing I like is classified as men’s, finding a small enough size can be tricky. That’s on the very specific shopping level. On a larger level, the binary gender norms that come with shopping, dressing, and living are challenging in that there are expectations and sometimes violent policing of who should wear what and how we should act based on a presumption of gender.
Ayanah: It’s more playful and inventive than “dapper queer.”.It’s like, “What the hell? She is totally femmed out today and she was all “preppy boy” yesterday!”
dapperQ: Where are your favorite places to shop?
Raquel: Thrift stores.
Ayanah: I like to mix thrift stores finds with new items that may be from a discount store. I try to keep up with my partner Raquel. She’s always the best dressed!
dapperQ: What has most influenced your style?
Raquel: Growing up with limited money.
Ayanah: My sense of humor, my lady and my age.
dapperQ: Who are your personal style icons?
Raquel: Prince. Not in the sense of influencing the specific clothes I wear, but in the way that he wears what he wants. I especially like that he has displayed and adorned himself in ways that are most often associated with women.
dapperQ: What is the one item of clothing that you cannot live without?
Raquel: Right now it’s a vintage Levi’s work shirt that fits just a little too tight and is missing a button, but it’s perfect.
Ayanah: Right now, it’s this black tank top with a built in bra. I have 8 of them.
dapperQ: What can we expect next from Q&B?
Q&B: On the product level, keep an eye out for more hankies and possibly some t-shirts. Of course, on the podcast level we plan to keep connecting with folks and keeping the episodes fresh.