Willie Norris uses the power of language to create clothes that protect and empower her community

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“I’m creating clothing for my people, for the people that are around me,” Brooklyn designer Willie Norris tells In The Know. “It’s very important to me that I provide something that is accessible to queer people.”

Norris, who works under the brand ethos of “queer entrepreneurship as a means of defense,” is no stranger to using fashion as a vehicle for change. The designer has not only used their clothing to amplify the voices of queer people but also to send radicalized messaging on unity for social causes that disproportionately affect BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Take, for example, her ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ shirt that was created and distributed for free amidst protests of the unjust killing of George Floyd.

“How can I most be of assistance to what’s going on?” the designer says, explaining her thought process for that time to In The Know. “I knew there was going to be photo ops. I knew this was going to be in the news somewhere, and optics matter. So what our studio decided to do was create Black Trans Lives Matters shirts for free distribution. It was really powerful to see a message repeated at an in-person event.”

On what style means to her:

“The word style to me means a no-holds-barred approach and hold on your humanity. It’s across every field that has nothing to do with clothes. It’s a way of living and doesn’t care about how much money you make. It doesn’t care about your background or what you look like.”

On their usage of words in clothing:

“I use words a lot. I really think that language is all we have at the end of the day to truly understand our feelings and communicate with those around us. Yes, I like to be confrontational in what I make. I want to make clothes that make [you] think, that make you a little uncomfortable. Maybe make you aware of what you’re wearing. Language and putting words on clothing is a really effective way to do that.”

On advice for young queer artists:

“Make it a constant daily practice and habit to identify, acknowledge and embrace your power and privilege. Do not be shamed by it. Do not hide it — embrace it and use it to create betterness in the world, somehow.”

Check out Willie Norris on Instagram and shop the brand below.

Shop: Promote Homosexuality T-Shirt, $45

Credit: Willie Norris Work

If you liked this post, check out John Dean’s streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture.

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