Interview with Queer Clothing Company Kirrin Finch

Kirrin Finch is a conscientious clothing company that creates menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of bodies. The brand began when Brooklyn-based couple, Kelly and Laura Moffat, decided they were no longer willing to settle for ill-fitting menswear and overly frilly womenswear. They are committed to making ethically produced clothes that break gender barriers and embrace freedom of expression, while supporting social causes that empower women and the LGBTQ community.

I caught up with Kelly and Laura to find out what inspires their designs, what sets them apart from other queer-centric brands, and what we can expect next from Kirrin Finch.

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dapperQ: Can you tell me a bit about the history and evolution of Kirrin Finch? What motivated you to start the brand?

Kirrin Finch: We didn’t grow up wanting to be fashion designers. We were both tomboys, and only really cared about making sure our outfits allowed us to ride bikes and climb trees. But as we grew up, it became obvious that mainstream retailers didn’t cater to us. It was always a hunt to find something that felt right, and we were often forced to make the choice between poorly-fitting menswear and super feminine womenswear. Not being able to find clothes that matched our inner core left us feeling like we were not able to fully be ourselves. And it wasn’t just us. We spoke to countless women, transmen and genderqueer folks who felt the same way. So we decided to quit our jobs (Laura was a pharmaceutical marketing consultant and Kelly was a teacher) and start a clothing company that aimed to fill the gap for gender-defying fashion by creating menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of bodies.

We have always envied the fabrics, patterns and details of men’s shirts, but couldn’t make them work for our bodies. That’s why we launched our brand with a collection of menswear-inspired button-up shirts that utilize bold and bright patterns, colorful cuff buttons, and contrasting accent fabrics.

dapperQ: How would you describe the Kirrin Finch aesthetic?

Kirrin Finch: We are going for a fun and playful vibe with our apparel. We look for interesting fabrics and materials and always try to add in a unique twist. With our button-up shirts we have colorful cuff buttons that add in a surprising detail that can bring a smile to someone’s face the first time they discover it.

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dapperQ: What inspires your designs? Tell us a bit about your new fall collection.

Kirrin Finch: We started the brand because we loved the designs and aesthetic of menswear, so that is always our first inspiration. We look to iconic men’s brands like Paul Smith and Ted Baker, who take classic men’s styles and then add fun and unexpected details.

Our new collection is about bringing unique combinations of bold colors and textures together to form a subtle blend of men’s and women’s style. For example, we’ve taken the classic red and navy buffalo check plaid shirt and added in polka dot elbow patches, and with our new gray chambray shirt we’ve incorporated a flannel check fabric to the pocket and cuffs. You’ll definitely see a plaid theme throughout much of the new collection. But we’ve also gone back to classic staples, like a white organic cotton oxford, because we want our clothes to be long-lasting essentials as trends come and go.

With the launch of this latest collection, Kirrin Finch introduces a size 18, to increase their size range to a total of nine sizes running from 2-18. We think it’s important to offer great designs in a range of sizes to fit different bodies.

dapperQ: Many of our readers have problems finding clothing that fits them properly. How is Kirrin Finch addressing this issue?

Kirrin Finch: We designed our button-up shirts to specifically fit individuals for which traditional menswear is not typically made. We spent about 6 months developing the shirts, from researching different shirt fits, to making prototypes and testing the fit with customers. The final design combined the elements all our research findings in terms of what is missing in the marketplace and what customers are looking for.

We offer a more structured and tighter collar for those who want to sport a bow-tie, because we see that with traditional women’s shirts the collar often gets bunched up. We also eliminated darts to create a straighter cut, so our customers can get the look and feel of a men’s shirt, without sacrificing fit. And lastly we have added extra buttons to help reduce the infamous chest gape!

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dapperQ: How does Kirrin Finch stand out from some of the other recent queer clothing collections that have launched over the last few years?

It is pretty amazing how many queer clothing companies have launched in the last few years. We have gone from having zero options and having people wonder why any women would want to wear a masculine looking suit, to having a documentary air on HBO. There is more and more visibility into different gender expressions and identities and this provides a great opportunity for brands to step up and offer different clothing options for people who want to dress outside of what traditional retailers offer.

Kirrin Finch is unique because we are focused on producing our dapper clothes in a conscientious way that is kind to the environment and the people making and wearing our clothing. Fashion is the second most polluting industry behind big oil, so we felt that as a small brand entering the industry, we had to do it in a way that was sustainable and ethical. All our fabrics are natural and we incorporate many sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and hemp. We also manufacture in the USA as we want to keep a close eye on quality and ensure our workers are paid fairly and working in safe conditions.

We recently launched a project to upcycle our shirt fabric scraps into bow ties and pocket squares. Most companies just throw away this garment waste, in fact the fashion industry is responsible for sending upwards of 13 millions tons of textile waste to landfills every year – we wanted to do our small part to help reduce this waste.

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dapperQ: How would you describe your personal everyday style(s)?

Laura: I always err of the side of being more casual. Don’t get me wrong, I love to throw on a suit and a bowtie and I feel amazing doing so, but I am most comfortable wearing a pair of jeans, a button-up shirt and sneakers.

Kelly: Regardless of the situation you can usually find me in a button-up shirt and I have a DEEP love of hats and vests! My favorite time of year is the fall when I can layer a button up, a sweatshirt and a blazer with a comfy pair of jeans and a pair of oxfords. But there is something so powerful about putting on a crisp three-piece suit, a bowtie and a pocket square, so I try to get snazzy whenever I can.

dapperQ: Has it been a journey defining your own personal style? Tell me about it.

Laura: The journey to defining my style has definitely been a struggle. As a kid I hated wearing dresses and was much more comfortable in boyish clothes. But as a became an adult, I started to feel a lot of pressure to conform, especially in the workplace. I would wear smart pants and a nice shirt to work, and every review cycle there would be a comment about my clothes. It was frustrating. There also weren’t as many options as there are today, and I was cobbling together outfits from many different places. When you are a woman with hips and a bust there is really no option of wearing men’s clothes even if you want to (believe me I tried), so I always had to make it work with items from women’s stores and it never felt quite right. For our wedding, I had a bespoke suit made from Bindle & Keep, and it was the first time I really felt that I could dress in a way that made me feel fabulous.

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dapperQ: Who or what has most influenced your personal style?

Laura: This is a tough question, because it is a combination of so many things, friends, where I grew up, where I live now, magazines or blogs I read, television, and so many subconscious influences that I can’t name. But throughout my life I have stayed pretty true to a similar theme: I like what is considered to be classic men’s style, and often when worn by a women or non-binary person, dapper style. A few years back it was magazines and shop windows, now I get all my styles ideas from Instagram bloggers and fashion blogs, like dapperQ. They are the ones who are ahead of the curve and giving visibility to people like me, who want to wear clothes that fall outside of the traditional gender binary.

dapperQ: Who are your fashion icons?

Kelly: Historically I think of people like Katherine Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich and Diane Keaton…these women, and many others, really pushed the boundaries for what woman were “supposed” to wear.

Some more current women who I feel present themselves in an authentic way are Megan Rapinoe, Ellen Page and Ellen DeGeneres. Not only do I think they have great style, but they are also incredibly positive role models for other females who want to break down gender barriers and live authentically.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of courage to break away from the mold if you are in the spotlight, I but I think the person in a small town who decides to wear something “non-traditional” is just as powerful. I think the current movement toward gender neutral/androgynous fashion is getting legitimacy from a combination of celebrities and a swelling of everyday people demanding the options from brands.

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dapperQ: What is the one article of clothing you cannot live without?

Kelly: Definitely the button up shirt! You can dress it up, dress it down…and basically wear it anywhere and everywhere! And I know I’m not alone. I just wish I could get my cat to start ironing them for me.

dapperQ: What can we expect next from Kirrin Finch?

Kelly: We are currently in development for pants. Similar to the button-up shirt, we think they are a staple that you just can’t go wrong with. Just as you’ve come to expect, we are focusing on the details, so you’ll see fun accents of color and unique details and most importantly, pockets that are actually meant to fit things in them!

Follow Kirrin Finch on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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