The Test Shot Interview with Exceptional New Design Unisex Clothing

The following article was originally published on The Test Shot website. Republished on dapperQ with permission.

The Test Shot meets Exceptional New Design

In March, The Test Shot received an email from Michael Pusey at Exceptional New Design, a Philadelphia-based unisex clothing store, asking us to feature their clothing and concept on our blog. We loved the idea of a store specialising in clothes that eschew the traditional gender divide, but felt that it was impossible for us to review something we hadn’t checked out in real life. Fortunately, later that month, our workshop on DIY trans* media was accepted to the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. In June we travelled to Philadelphia and set up a shoot with Michael and Steven Wildenberg, the company’s founder, to showcase some of their favourite pieces from the collections they stock for Spring 2013 and beyond. The public art around South Street in Philadelphia was an amazing backdrop to streetwear from Raphael Hauber, PROUDRACE, SHOOP Clothing Asger Juel Larsen Madhouse, Born in Chains and Sir New York.

We interviewed Michael and Steven about the philosophy behind END, their approach to style and their plans to grow the project. We would like to thank them for the opportunity to shoot clothing from their store and for showing us around their neighbourhood. We had a blast and think their message is really valuable. Check out their online store. International shipping is available.

TS: What made you want to launch Exceptional New Design as a concept?

Steven: I launched Exceptional New Design as a type of rebellion against gendered clothing. I would get disgusted walking into stores or shopping online and seeing these gendered divides: Men’s & Women’s sections.

Michael: I helped my friend, Steven, with the concept since inception. He was really passionate about this concept and I’ve helped him refine/provide support as much as possible. I personally like the idea because I feel that the concept behind END is very queer. I think the concept can be a vehicle for progressive ideas and I feel that aren’t too many stores that are really passionate about being socially progressive.

TS: What do you find limiting about gendered clothing? What are the advantages of unisex clothes in terms of style and self presentation?

Steven: Gendered clothes create physical barriers in terms of the garment’s structure. There is also an emotional divide. Should I wear this, should I wear that? Do I “line-up” properly? Unisex clothing allows for a sort of, emancipation from these barriers. As far as style is concerned, unisex allows for anyone to participate in any style. The anxiety of self-presentation is lessened to your own neurosis.

Michael: I feel that gendered clothing promotes a form of peer pressure. You should dress similarly to those who also identify as “male”, who also identify as “black,” who also grew up from or live (insert neighborhood here)… it’s all so unnecessary. The only thing that matters is finding clothing that you feel belongs on your body, everything else is superfluous.

TS: You mention on your site that ‘by refraining from catering to socially contrived concepts such as gender, E.N.D is helping to pioneer new attitudes in how we dress ourselves’. How does this inform what clothing you choose to carry as part of the E.N.D range? Any favourite designers who have similar principles?

Steven: Our mission is critical to our process when we review collections. First and foremost, we have increasingly become more restricting in our process. There are tons of designers making great clothes, but finding designers who make clothes that fit any body is a challenge. For our second season, we brought back Human Potential, a brand from South Korea. Most of their collections are unisexy. They love to experiment with different fits and materials.

Michael: We try to find brands that have unisex lines or whose clothes we feel could be defined as unisex. I personally like the challenge of adding pieces that might have been designed for women or men and adding it to our unisex site. I think it’s necessary to push the conversation forward on the encompassing nature of unisex wear. The designers behind Human Potential are some of my favorites. Rad Hourani produces amazing unisex wear and House of 950 is a brand whose works I like.

TS: Part of your concept is to create a community of creative individuals who share the same principles surrounding fashion and gender, how can our readers be a part of that?

Steven: We are open to featuring the creative works of global artists from all walks of life, especially if the art is influenced by progressive means of expressing identity. We want to “put on” artists who are creating and doing and experiencing in ways that are free from societal constraint.

Michael: Of course supporting and buying our clothes is a major way to show support but we also have a blog through our site and even sending us links/emailing us with progressive events happening throughout the world is another way to become involved.

TS: Any style tips for this summer for us across the pond in the UK? What’s big in the States right now and what do you think the next major trend will be?

Steven: My biggest style advice would be to create a personal uniform and just create different ways of achieving it. The States are currently obsessed with like, heavily branded t-shirts and like throwback hip hop gear. I am more interested in design than trends. If something has a neat embellishment or is made of a funky material, I am more likely to be interested in it. The next major trend should be being yourself!

LGW in SHOOPLGW wearing New World Logo Hoodie Tee from SHOOP Clothing’s New World collection.

LGW in SHOOP meshLGW wearing New World Mesh Sweatpant (White) from
SHOOP Clothing’s New World collection.

Jamie in Human PotentialJamie in Silk Wrap Skirt Shorts in Black from Human Potential’s Born in Chains collection.

LGW in SHOOP basic logoLGW wearing Basic Logo Basket Tee from SHOOP Clothing’s New World collection.

SW and MP of END

Steven Wildenberg and Michael Pusey of unisex concept store Exceptional New Design

Jamie in Jule LarsenJamie wearing Madhouse Cloud Logo T-Shirt from Asger Juel Larsen’s Madhouse line and “Eye Heart U” cap from Proudrace’s Spring/Summer ‘13 collection, ‘1990Nile’.

Jamie in Asger Jule LarsenJamie wearing Madhouse Cloud Logo T-Shirt from Asger Juel Larsen’s Madhouse line and “Eye Heart U” cap from Proudrace’s Spring/Summer ‘13 collection, ‘1990Nile’.

LGW in Raphael HauberLGW wearing Techno Jungle Mint Parrot Repeat Print Tee from Raphael Hauber’s Spring ‘13 collection.

LGW in Techno JungleLGW wearing Techno Jungle Mint Parrot Repeat Print Tee from
Raphael Hauber’s Spring ‘13 collection

Jamie in Snow LeopardJamie wearing Snow Leopard Pant by Sir New York from Exceptional New Design

LGW in ParrotLGW wearing Techno Jungle Mint Parrot Repeat Print Tee from Raphael Hauber’s Spring ‘13 collection.

Jamie finalJamie wearing 1990Nile Sad Girl Isis T-Shirt  Graphic print tee from Proudrace’s Spring/Summer ‘13 collection, “1990Nile”.

Exceptional New Design stats:

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