“I will be damned if I ever live my life through the scope or expectations that someone else has put on my life and I encourage everyone to do the same.” Preston Souza talks identifying as gender-fluid, what Alok Menon and their Mom have in common, The Phluid Project, the future of gender-fluid fashion and playboy Erza Miller.
YOUTH and ROLE MODELS
When did you first start exploring gender fluidity through fashion? What inspired you to take ownership of your identity and how has it transformed?
I always had a tendency and an attraction to “feminine” pieces. When I was young I would wear my mom’s heels and drape a towel over my head pretending they were long locks that I would whip around.
It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I really started to actively push myself to be feminine presenting when I dress and defying gender constructs. New York City has this special underlying pulse of rebellion that courses through the streets and that breeds such a unique type of person. I was able to find my “chosen family,” they are who push me and inspire me everyday. It helps to know that the fight for gender fluidity isn’t being done alone and I’m doing it for myself and for many others who want to express themselves freely.
The best advice you were given in your youth and a shout out to a queer icon or role model who has inspired you?
The best advice I was ever given regarding my queerness and expression is from my mom. Although not directly talking to my queerness specifically but rather around self-expression. My mom helped guide me to always ask the question “Who said?” There is so much power is those two simple words and can be applied to every hesitation you might have – how you dress, what job to take, etc. I will be damned if I ever live my life through the scope or expectations that someone else has put on my life and I encourage everyone to do the same.
One of my favorite queer icons are Alok Menon. Their fearless ownership of their style and self expression has inspired me endlessly.
What advice would you have for gender-fluid people threatened by microagressions in everyday life and how to navigate being safe whilst expressing who they are?
It is really hard. I’m very cognizant of the fact that I live in one of the most diverse and accepting cities in the world, New York City, and I understand that there are many areas of the world that aren’t safe. I find it hard to provide one piece of advice that transcends every experience. All I can say is, even if you live in a place that makes it difficult to self-express, it is important to have even just one small thing that you feel is representative of your expression. Sometimes I don’t always want to be feminine, but I might put on a pair of fem undies, or wear lace socks, paint my nails, or maybe some subtle makeup – but there is always something, no matter how small, that represents that side of my style and I encourage people to navigate this in a way that is still safe wherever they might be from.
Playboy Ezra Miller, Givenchy Feathered Ezra Miller, Toadette Ezra Miller or Puffer Gown Ezra Miller?
Playboy Ezra Miller all the way.
“2019 I want to lead everything I do with nothing but light, love, and gratitude and if I can rest at the end of the day knowing I made one person smile or feel confident, I’ll feel like I did my job.”
Fashion and The Phluid Project
What impacts do you see The Phluid Project having in a social and cultural context?
I have so many hopes and aspirations for what The Phluid Project can do for the world. In the 10 months we’ve been in business, the most amazing part of it all is when we receive a message from someone across the world saying thank you for what we’re doing. It’s challenging as a small brand trying to make big cultural changes but we really authentically rely on our community to support us and the movement – change doesn’t happen solo, only together can real change happen. I think Phluid has the potential to encourage the world to embrace genderless shopping and gender-free expression.
Heteronormal constructs shape the fashion industry’s beauty standards. Do you think we need more non-binary designers and buyers working in fashion to disrupt these conventionalities?
100%! As the buyer for The Phluid Project, you have no idea how difficult it is to find designers creating with the intention of being non-binary or gender-non-conforming. A lot of the times when you do, they tend to be high fashion and very expensive. So the challenge is being aware of our customer and what they can afford whilst also providing non-binary and gender-free alternatives. What is comforting is that I see this changing very soon.
How would you describe the founder of The Phluid Project, Rob Smith in three words?
Genuine. Leader. Loving.
Gender-fluid fashion has been criticised for being glorified XL, ill-proportioned menswear lacking uniqueness. What are your views on this generalization and how do you see the future of gender-fluid fashion evolving?
That is another challenge when it comes to buying for a genderless store. There is a big misconception that gender-free clothing needs to be shapeless and just really large – this isn’t the case. I believe that being gender-free is all about just removing the association of “this is made for X person” but rather “this was made for all people.” Designers in this arena have a lot to undertake but I’m extremely hopeful and already seeing a lot of fresh faces coming to the scene that are helping to correct this generalization.
“I will be damned if I ever live my life through the scope or expectations that someone else has put on my life and I encourage everyone to do the same.”
Are there any young models or creatives that make you excited for the future?
Richie Shazam, Alok Menon, Yves Mathieus, Ludovic De Saint Sernin, Palomo Spain.
Where would we find you on a Saturday night?
You will most definitely find me out with my other queer, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming brothers and sisters, serving you the most savage of looks, and going to a cute party in NYC or Brooklyn.
What does self-care mean to you and what are your wellness goals for 2019?
Self-care to me is about self-love. I wake up every day with a spoon full of gratitude (corny maybe) but this really helps change up my whole day and mindset. It sets your intention and dictates the energy you put out, and that changes the energy you receive in return. 2019 I want to lead everything I do with nothing but light, love, and gratitude and if I can rest at the end of the day knowing I made one person smile or feel confident, I’ll feel like I did my job.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
LIVE. YOUR. BEST. LIFE or Ask who said?