From their breakout role in HBO’s record-breaking post-apocalyptic drama The Last Of Us, Bella Ramsey has continued to use their platform to champion the LGBTQIA+ community. This month sees the debut of their brand new collaboration with Both&, where they take on the role of Creative Director.
A trans-owned apparel brand founded by Finnegan Shepard, Both& designs garments for transmasculine / gender non-conforming and non-binary people. The brand places the community at the centre of their work with the motto: “Don’t try to fit into a world that wasn’t built with you in mind. Create your own world.”
As the campaign launches and fans are on a digital quest to find the new micro-site, Bella tells GAY TIMES their motivation to be involved with the brand and the importance of “everybody deserving to have clothes that fit their body, whether that’s plus-size clothes, petite size clothing or clothing for transmasculine, non-binary people.”
In this interview, Bella reflects on their experience with clothing in expressing their own gender identity, why “if Eliot Sumner was a gender identity, that’s how [they] would identify.” And, if there is one takeaway, it’s the importance of recognising the current shift and “having more spaces where transmasculine and non-binary people who don’t fit into regular clothes can go and find stuff that fits their body.”
What a great campaign to be a part of, how did the collaboration between you and Both& Apparel come about?
I had known about Both& for years and had been buying their stuff. I then DM’d them about one t-shirt, as I couldn’t tell whether it was still in stock. They briefly got back to me and said, ‘No sorry, it’s not in stock.’ A year or so later, Finn [Shepard] saw that I had sent this DM and said, ‘Let’s collaborate if you’re still into Both&’s stuff?’ Right from the beginning, when I first saw both& I thought, ‘If I am ever going to collaborate with a brand it would be with a brand like Both&.’ That’s how it came about and the ball started rolling.
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We saw our first tease of the campaign dropped last night, what can we expect to see next?
That’s a good question. More pictures to come. Me and Finn are doing a letter reading, as that is one of the things with the campaign. We are encouraging people to share their stories and write their own letters to themselves and their younger selves or the community. Me and Finn are going to be reading out four, as well of our own, in December. What I am really excited about is the wild posting that is being done in LA. I really like how there is something physical that people can go and find. There is a clue hunt going on at the moment to find the micro-site that has been made for the campaign, that some people have found, some people haven’t. But at the end of the week we will be releasing that website. People will be able to go and interact.
Both& Apparel are one of the first brands specifically catering to transmasculine/GNC/non-binary people. What does it mean to see this and be a part of this new movement in fashion to be more inclusive?
That was the reason I loved Both&’s stuff. I was like, ‘Whoa, finally clothing that fits.’ I could not believe there was a brand like that and that Both& seemed to be the brand making specialised clothes. It means a lot to be a part of this campaign and be working with Both&. I hope that it supports Both&’s future and it will continue to grow and develop. Also, that other people will be inspired. It is nice to see things shifting and it is just about having more spaces where transmasculine and non-binary people who don’t fit into regular clothes can go and find stuff that fits their body. Everybody deserves to have clothes that fit their body whether that’s plus-size clothes, petite size clothing or clothing for transmasculine, non-binary people. I love that Both& is not just for the queer community. I have never wanted it to be something that is reserved just for the queer community. That marginalises you more when you’re placed in separation, so I hope that it will be really inclusive and open to everybody.
Who have been your major fashion influences and inspirations?
Ooh, that’s a good question! There is someone called Eliot Sumner. I used to say, ‘If Eliot Sumner was a gender identity, that’s how I would identify.’ They’re just the coolest and the way that they dress is really understated, cool and androgynous. So, Eliot Sumner as a person is who I am influenced by. I also love secondhand clothing on Depop and Vinted – charity shops is my vibe, as well. That has been really good for me finding clothes that fit my body, by going on sites like that and finding unique t-shirts. This is from Depop and it’s my most worn t-shirt because it fits in a way that high-street stuff never has. Secondhand stuff, Eliot Sumner and Lazy Oaf are one of my favourite brands of all time.
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How has clothing helped you express your own gender identity?
Clothing has been really important to me and I’ve only been realising that more recently. I need to feel comfortable in what I am wearing to be comfortable in the world. Sometimes if I wear an outfit and it is just not right, it has to be right. If it is not right and I am out and about walking around London, it really has an impact on how I feel. Finding stuff that fits right and how I want it to fit, stuff that is baggy but not too big, is a fine line. I naturally dress quite simply and androgynously. I feel my clothing isn’t really gendered, anyone could wear it. Not that clothing should ever be gendered.
What have you found most enjoyable about this project?
I found the actual shoot really fun. The idea for it was that we would use paint on the final look as a campaign and for it to just be a mess. The idea that I’ve been able to think of the concept and for it to come into fruition… To sit in a studio in London with my friends and paint each other and a wall and be messy is the coolest thing. That was very fun, it was a very joyful day. I would say the actual shoot, as it was a lot of work. I didn’t quite realise how much work goes into organising and preparing something like that.
What do you hope people will take away from this collaboration?
I hope people are just inspired to be themselves and how/whatever that looks like.