Feature Writing Sample: PH7 Pop-Up


PH7: When “unisex” transcends sex

A pop-up shops focused on creating a welcoming retail environment for queer and trans-identifying individuals is opening up at Ryerson University’s student learning centre this March 21. The student lead initiative spearheaded by fashion design senior Charlotte Carbone is titled PH7, representing the fluidity of gender through creating a parallel between the most neutral point of the pH scale. The goal of the pop-up is to create a dialogue on how fashion retailers can create more inclusive experiences that are not just binary but can cater to all gendered individuals.


Charlotte has spent the better part of her senior year doing qualitative research with queer and trans-identifying individuals to understand what they are looking for in an ideal retail space. Her research was conducted on both cis-gendered and trans-identifying individuals while they were shopping in various fashion outlets in Toronto.


“I wanted to create meaningful change, and show meaningful change, from gender non-conforming people,” said Charlotte when asked about why she decided to pursue this idea for her capstone project.


Based on her research she derived the following key insights:


1.  There’s an underlying bias that affects the shopping experience and that often friction-filled atmosphere can affect overall buying behaviour. There was an observable inequality in the behaviour of staff towards treating cis-gender and non-binary conforming individuals with regards to purchasing preference, changing room allocation and browsing habits. For example, a trans female person may not necessarily be treated as well when she’s shopping for lingerie than a cis-gender female at a popular local lingerie boutique.

2.  The standards of unisex items today are still just between the cross usage between cis-gendered male and females and do not take into account gender non-conforming individuals in the LGBTQ community. Unisex fashion is commonly seen as uncreative and intentionally inoffensive to the point that it’s not really designed for the gender non-conforming community.

3.  There is a desire for better ranges in sizes to accommodate different bodies (heights, shapes). It’s a common dialogue in the industry that has taken up momentum in recent years to create something more inclusive of every gender. There needs to be an expansion in sizes made and allocated. Breaking down barriers between what is often conformed to in terms of what the ideal man and woman should look like and move forward with creating clothes for everybody.


“We need more than just designing potato sacks and passing it off as so-called unisex,” said Charlotte. “We need more conscious design and more inclusive discussions to create more impactful designs.”


Charlotte will be using insights from her research to design an inclusive pop-up experience that she hopes can be the stepping point to a broader discussion to improve the overall fashion retail experience for everyone. She will also be using the feedback she gets from attendees to further her understanding and research to get actual actionable data that can hopefully one day lead to significant change in the industry.


Come out and support Charlotte with her unique and exciting project this March 21 from 1 – 7 p.m. at Ryerson University’s student learning centre located at 341 Yonge St.