Vanessa Newman

Produced with  Cool Hunting

Vanessa Newman is featured in Cool Hunting 25, a showcase, presented in partnership with Cadillac, of 25 creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

It’s hard to believe that the oft-told story of meeting a best friend was the impetus behind something as radical as Vanessa Newman’s ButchBaby—the first-ever “alternity-wear” company for the those expecting. It caters to people who are bearing children, and who are trans, genderfluid, genderqueer, butch, stud, boi or take their place anywhere on the non-heteronormative rainbow.

 

Newman, the bright-eyed 20-year-old who founded the new company, got the idea based on just such a college “bromance.” But for her and her best friend—both of whom identify as butch—the dream stopped when they got to having children. They couldn’t imagine themselves in the scoop-necks, maxi-dresses, florals and pastels that dominate the market. Not content with these ways to stay clothed while growing a human inside you, Newman set out to find a way for them to embrace their birthright of carrying children while still feeling like themselves. “Most importantly, I want my customers to feel comfortable in their own skin and unchanged, in the sense that becoming pregnant didn’t take away from or compromise their identity,” Newman tells CH. “Secondly, I want customers to feel secure in our clothing, and by that I mean, know they’re wearing clothes that were made ethically and specifically to the highest quality with them in mind.”

How does one go about redesigning pregnancy without reference to traditional or conservative notions surrounding femininity? Building on the work of partner company Butch Basix and other lines in the androgynous fashion space, Newman draws a comparison to the role adopting traditionally male-only clothing played in the feminist movement’s early days. She views her clothes as a means of catalyzing further social change, freeing people from having to change “just because their bodies do,” as the Butchbaby motto emphasizes. “I think our designs, simply the existence of this concept, speak to the widening gap in the maternity wear industry. Our message is this: motherhood or child-bearing is not a singular experience. It is not a singularly heterosexual experience, it is not a singularly feminine experience, the experience does not belong to a certain class or race or size,” Newman says.

“I want my customers to feel comfortable in their own skin and unchanged, in the sense that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity.”

The revolutionary (but pragmatic) approach runs deep through Newman’s vision for Butchbaby & Co. Committed to keeping prices affordable, her go-to-market strategy reflects the data that lower-income queer women, often queer women of color, are most likely to carry children. And of course, a revolution like this is taking funding and capital investment right to the people: the Butchbaby & Co. Kickstarter will be launching later this year to produce the first line of alternity shirts, jeans, hoodies, and nursing sports bras.

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