Designer Spotlight: Gabriela Hirsh-Gonsalez Unbound Estilo

Author’s note: Whether you are feminine, masculine or anything in between, what you wear gives you confidence and power. Unbound Estilo is about safety and acceptance when choosing self-expression. We are more than a style; we are a movement giving people the space to openly reveal and communicate who they are. Unbound Estilo was inspired and created in New York City and is now proudly also representing California. But, Unbound Estilo still has strong roots in New York City, supporting the queer community in the Big Apple. They are the official sponsor of an upcoming queer runway show at Brooklyn Museum that dapperQ is co-producing, VERGE, which will be the largest queer New York Fashion Week style event. Further, they will be raffling off some amazing products at the official VERGE after party, presented by Hot Rabbit

dapperQ: As you know, I’m an avid bow tie wearer: I prefer the process of tying a bow-tie over standard tie any day. I know that in recent years, the bow-tie has become a staple item for many LGBTQ folks, found sporting the ties in professional spaces and rocking them casually. What sets Unbound Estilo a part from the rest? How do you cater to your market? Do you have a particular audience in mind when you work on the different designs each season?

Gabriela: Unbound Estilo is definitely a fan of this new bow tie craze and we love seeing LGBTQ folks rocking them! I also agree with you; there is something to having the satisfaction of looking at your bow tie on and thinking, “I tied that myself.” When we set out to make bow ties, it was a long process. We wanted to ensure that fit and style were just right. We went through many samples and listened to customer feedback before we came up with the sizing that we currently use. The bow ties are still adjustable, but they start at a smaller neck size and the width of the bow tie is also slimmer than the standard size, allowing a greater range of people to wear them. All of our bow ties are also self-tie. We want everyone to feel that self-accomplishment and confidence of having tied your own bow tie. It is important to us that people have access and options to those things that appeal to them.

I would say even greater than sizing is the fact that our bow ties are vegan. They are made with 100% organic cotton and we use a hemp interlining rather than the traditional wool. As a company, our goal is to strive towards a more equal and a compassionate world. We believe strongly in human and animal rights. By producing vegan neckwear we are giving animals a voice as well.

Every line is handmade in small quantity to ensure that our wearers gain a unique addition to their wardrobe. When we create a line, we think about two things: making sure there are work appropriate options, and fun, unique options. We tend to steer clear of the traditional patterns. Unbound Estilo loves going to events and getting the opportunity to speak to our audience members. We take feedback into account as we create each line. So, if there is something you want to see more of, let us know!

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dapperQ: Tell us about your style icons, who inspires your personal style?

Definitely Ellen DeGenres and Ruby Rose, but for two drastically different reasons. Ellen, because a) she is awesome, and b) because her fashion sense is on point. It was great for me to see someone representing their masculinity in professional wear, as I had to go to work everyday in business professional. Then there is Ruby Rose who a) is undeniably very good-looking, and b) is fluid in her style. For me, it was such an inspiration to see someone represent both their masculinity and femininity in their fashion. I, myself, was also very fluid and felt limited by only one style.

dapperQ: Your brand was recently featured in Rainbow Fashion Week. Tell our readers about that experience and the significance of creating spaces for non-gender conforming markets and brands.

Gabriela: I would like to thank Jag for creating a space to showcase non-conforming people and brands. One of the things I valued the most from Rainbow Fashion Week was that each show had a social responsibility ad campaign. The show that Unbound Estilo participated in focused on giving queer kids a voice and to stop bullying amongst the youth. As a teacher, this especially resonated with me. It is so important to involve the youth in this new movement because they are – not to sound cliché – the future. They are going to be the new voice and advocates of our community.
Through visibility comes education. We can open people’s mind by providing opportunities for those who struggle to understand our community to see, hear and experience what it means to be non-conforming. I also think that it is extremely empowering for members of our community to see themselves represented and appreciated. One of things I truly loved about the show was that there was no “right” or “wrong” look; there were just individuals expressing themselves. Fashion, for me, is such a key way in which I express myself; it took me many years before I felt comfortable showing who I was inside. I am grateful that these opportunities and spaces are available now for our current youth, as I think back to the internal struggle that I endured.

dapperQ: How does your identity play a role in your creative process when designing your product?

Gabriela: From the beginning, when Unbound Estilo was still just a concept in my mind, my identity drove the creation of Unbound. I consider myself to be a queer person of color and, as such, I wanted to represent this in my brand, starting with the name Unbound Estilo, which translates to limitless style and the idea of breaking down boundaries that attempt to harness us! By including the Spanish word for style in the name, I wanted to incorporate my Latin heritage and acknowledge the struggle that my partner and many other queer people of color experience as they try to navigate their heritage and their queer identity. Actually, in the beginning, we were going to make bow ties for women only. But then as I reflected on our mission statement, I realized I was yet again creating those very boundaries I was striving to break. From there on, I decided to create products that were gender neutral.

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dapperQ: Why is queer visibility important and how does fashion help create space for members of our community?

Gabriela: So, I have a quick story to tell that gets at the importance of queer visibility through fashion. Last year, I taught second and third grade and there is one memory that I will never forget. One of my scholars in middle of the lesson raises their hand and asks, “Ms. Hirsh, why do you dress like a boy? I though only boys were allowed to wear ties.” This opened up the perfect opportunity for me to discuss individuality and to question the societal norms, as they understood them. Fast forward to later that year when another scholar questioned the way I represented myself. Jah’myre, one of the scholars who partook in that initial conversation, raised his hand and eagerly explained that no, its not just for boys and everyone has a right to dress how they want. I personally welcome questions because it can lead to education, which for me is key the to change. Without visibility, change will never come.

dapperQ: Tell us about your biggest fashion and/or shopping fail!

Gabriela: Definitely one of the hardest things for me to find is pants! I happen to have a little extra cushion on my bottom half and it makes it near impossible to find slacks that fit my waist and everything else. It is these fails, though, that motivate me to want to expand Unbound Estilo to more than just neckwear. There are still many people who struggle to find clothing that fits and represents them.

dapperQ: What advice would you give our readership? What advice can you offer to people who fit outside of society’s understanding of traditionally masculine and feminine styles?

Gabriela: The most courageous thing you can do is to accept yourself and, once you have done this, there is nothing and no one that can stop you. I think that staying true to who you are and not compromising or altering who you are is key. I understand that it is much easier said than done. I know that when I was job searching, there was a moment when I had to hold steadfast to who I was. Unfortunately, the way I presented myself was issue to my possible employers. At this moment, I was extremely discouraged and for a horrific moment pondered wearing more feminine attire to my interviews. My partner and my mother immediately reminded me that I couldn’t compromise who I am for any person or any reason. In the end who I am, and how I feel comfortable, is more important than any job. Never sacrifice who you are. #doyou

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dapperQ: How did you hear about dapperQ? Why were you interested in a feature?

Gabriela: I first heard about dapperQ three years ago when I moved to New York. I was barely coming to an understanding of who I was and what fashion appealed to me. One of my sources of inspiration was dapperQ; seeing like-minded individuals rocking things I was always scared to wear gave me the courage to start the steps of fully embracing who I was and leaving gender norms behind. For me, this is a very great honor to now be featured on that very same website.

dapperQ: What’s next for Unbound Estilo? What can we expect next from your product line?

Gabriela: We would definitely love to keep growing. There are a couple really fun and exciting things coming up. We have a new t-shirt design in the works that I am so very excited for launching. Unbound Estilo has also collaborated with Sam Kirk an amazing artist and we have made a special bow tie called Project Fierce. You can definitely be on the lookout for kid’s neckwear, as we have talked so much about the importance of giving the youth a voice.

Stay connected with Unbound Estilo

Instagram: unbound.estilo —- #upyourdappergame #unboundestilo
Twitter: unboundestilo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Unboundestilo
Tumblr: www.unboundestilo.tumblr.com

Photography by Alex Robles.

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