Thanks to Daniel DuGoff, now we can all feel what it’s like to dress up in rainbows. 🌈🧢✨
Daniel is the founder and designer behind HOMOCO, the “enthusiastically queer” clothing brand that’s made a colorful splash with its comfy style, sustainable approach, and do-good mentality: donating a portion of all sales to LGBTQ+ non-profits.
“HOMOCO is super queer and that’s what makes it special,” Daniel says. “We probably have more straight customers buying HOMOCO because we’re not afraid to be ourselves. It is pretty damn satisfying to be myself and to be embraced for it.”
We got a chance to connect with Daniel to ask him more about HOMOCO (@homoco.co on Instagram) and the future of the hit clothing brand for and by queer people. Just don’t expect a fashion show anytime soon. 😏
What inspired you to start your own clothing brand?
There’s too much waste in the world, especially in fashion. It was important to me that HOMOCO marry joy and responsibility. We’re sourcing sustainable materials to make high quality products, and since we sell directly to the customer (without a traditional retail markup) we sell our products at accessible prices. And we’re able to donate a portion of all sales to non-profits working to advance queer-rights.
Why do you think this message has resonated with so many people?
We can all close our eyes and imagine what a swim brand for gay men “should” look like. We’ve seen oiled-up guys in magazines and on phone booths and at sex shops. And they’re all selling the same image of what a gay man is supposed to want to look like.
HOMOCO doesn’t use that language. Whenever we sit down with a photographer to talk about a new campaign, we always have the same conversation: “You know what gay swim images look like? Don’t do that. We’re interested in showing the best weekend you’ve ever had with all of your friends. Photograph that.”
What does it mean to you to be a queer clothing brand in 2019?
HOMOCO is built to be collaborative. I love to design prints, so of course I do a lot of our print design. But I also bring in guest artists to design prints. We did one big collaboration in 2019 and are working on a couple more for 2020.
The other thing HOMOCO has to do, and I am constantly worried we’re not doing a good enough job talking about, is admitting that we can do better. With as much intention as we put into the brand, we can always find a way to eliminate more waste, find better materials, work with more underrepresented creators and models, donate more money to more causes, and create more space for more voices.
Can you explain some of the materials you use in your designs?
Oh, I can talk about materials forever! In developing products for HOMOCO, we’re very careful with our material sourcing to create products that are responsible and will last.
Our swim trunks are made from REPREVE, a brand that efficiently recycles plastic (specifically plastic bottles) into polyester. On a chemical level, there’s no difference between recycled polyester and “virgin” polyester made directly from new petroleum.
We’re using Tencel for our camp shirts. It is similar to Rayon (think a classic Aloha Shirt), but Rayon has some serious environmental issues (including a chemical process that creates toxic sludge). Tencel is made from FSC-certified fast-growing trees that go through a chemical process that is 99% reusable (rather than one-and-done chemical use) to create a soft and strong fiber.
We also source t-shirts, hats, and bandanas made from organic cotton. We’re always talking to our suppliers about new materials, new printing and dying techniques, and better packaging options.
Do you think it’s important for clothing brands to look for more sustainable materials?
There is no question that it is brands’ responsibility to use recycled and lower-impact materials. It is also our responsibility as brands to ask for materials that don’t yet exist. Just as customers have power to influence the market with their dollars, brands have the leverage over their supply chains.
There’s also a charitable component to HOMOCO. Can you tell us more about the donations that go to LGBTQ+ causes?
Giving back is part of the full HOMOCO story. It’s part of our larger mission of being part of the queer community. We built a percentage into each product margin that goes to philanthropy. We’ve worked with GMHC, The UnLonely Project, and Voices4 so far.
Have you found that customers respond to your brand being so socially and environmentally responsible?
Absolutely. There are so many brands out there. To cut through all of the noise a brand has to mean what it says and show up for its community. We find that customers are initially attracted to our prints and tone of voice, but what flips the switch in terms of making the decision to actually spend their money is learning about us as a brand. We’re driven by our morals and our customers respect us for that.
What makes you most proud about having started HOMOCO?
I’m really proud of how HOMOCO engages with queer people. We’re fun, playful, accepting, approachable. Whereas most gay brands speak to gay men through the lens of sex (and most media frames discussions around queerness with an undercurrent of fear) HOMOCO accepts you as you and hopes we can help you have a little more fun.
Can we expect a HOMOCO fashion show in the near future?
It’s definitely not on our to-do list. In my experience, fashion shows a meant to elevate brands above us, but that’s not the approach we’re taking with HOMOCO. We’re working hard to build a brand that feels completely approachable. For now, HOMOCO feels at home online where we’re always open.