HOMOCO, a queer-owned sustainable unisex clothing company, wants you to have a perfect queer summer
I stumbled upon HOMOCO completely by accident last month when I was looking to feature comfy clothes for working from home that are from queer-owned companies. Daniel DuGoff, the creator of HOMOCO, stumbled across Queer Media Matters in a similar fashion, and when he first reached out to connect, had no idea that his clothes had actually been featured on our site. Talk about queer kismet. I fell pretty hard for HOMOCO's sustainable and comfy as hell t-shirts, as well as their commitment to social justice and unisex fashion for all. I chatted with Daniel about how HOMOCO came to be, what's next for the company, and how to have a perfect queer summer.
Queer Media Matters: How did HOMOCO get its name?
Daniel DuGoff: Honestly this is my favorite part of HOMOCO. The entire brand development for HOMOCO happened really quickly (zero to full brand identity and product in hand in three months). I had recently wound-down a menswear fashion brand and was thinking about next steps. And the idea of an inclusive and queer swim brand kept boiling to the surface, but for some reason I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around it.
And then one afternoon I was sitting at my desk and thinking about the family business my great-grandparents started in Washington D.C.: Their last name was Homes, and they had a local chain of gas stations called Homes Oil Company. Like Texas Oil and Sun Oil (TEXACO, SUNOCO), Homes Oil went by HOMOCO.
All of a sudden, the whole brand made sense – HOMOCO would be reborn as a swim brand for all queer people. The name said it all!
I called my grandmother and got her permission to use the name, and got to work.
QMM: How did you start out in the world of fashion?
DD: I studied architecture in undergrad, but I was never 100% sure that was the right career for me. I wanted to work with design that was closer to human scale, so when I was graduating and moving to New York I applied to work with artists, furniture designers, and fashion designers. I lined up two internships with fashion designers. And then that became what I knew how to do professionally.
I did a three of fashion internships at once to see what different sections of the industry were like (women’s, men’s, different price points), and made a friend who introduced me to a friend of hers who offered me a freelance position at Marc Jacobs.
It started as one day a week while I was still doing an internship, but quickly became full-time freelance and then a real full-time job. I was the Menswear Technical Designer for Marc by Marc Jacobs, responsible for translating the sketches the design team made into wearable final production-ready pieces of clothing. I learned how to work with factories in New York and all over the world, and how a company with real resources produced clothing.
QMM: Why is sustainability so important at HOMOCO?
DD: Part of having a fun name like HOMOCO is being a fun brand. We’re bright and colorful and like to have a good time. But in order to sell a fun product, we work so hard to be responsible behind the scenes. From sourcing sustainable materials to manufacturing ethically to building philanthropy into each sale, we are thinking about the world live in at every step.
The truth is that fashion is an incredibly wasteful industry. From trends driving consumers to toss their clothes for new ones, to fabrics that are made from harmful chemicals and wasteful processes, the whole system is inefficient and needs to be changed.
I feel that the best way to make change is from within. Demanding better from my suppliers and manufacturing partners pushes them to put pressure on their suppliers and partners, all the way down the line. Every time I sit down to develop a new product, we go through every possible material available and work to find renewable, recycled, and recyclable, low-water, low-impact alternatives. It’s never a finished process – we’re constantly working on improving it component by component.
QMM: Are there certain challenges and opportunities unique to having a unisex fashion brand?
DD: Fit! Fit is not universal! Everybody’s body is so different. Even for a traditional brand, fit is the most complicated part of product development. If you make it work for a short guy, it won’t work for a tall one. If it works for a full-chested woman, it won’t work for a petite one.
HOMOCO is focused on fits that accommodate the widest range of bodies. But even that’s a challenge. We try to be as helpful with size guides and photos as possible, and we’re super responsive to emails and DMs, because even I know how hard it is to guess what might work for me when I’m shopping online (and I’m practically sample size).
Truthfully, the biggest opportunities come out of these challenges. It gives us the opportunity to learn and share what we’re learning with our community. Building connections with customers, improving products, and telling those stories - that’s what I value the most about building a brand.
QMM: Where did the idea behind the travel shirts come from?
DD: We are a brand built on the idea of perfect queer summer. For so many queer people throughout history the perfect summer is tied to specific queer summer destinations where they could truly be themselves.
It started as an idea of a couple of t-shirts to places we were planning pop-up shops in 2019. But it has grown and grown. There are queer neighborhoods and queer beaches and queer towns with amazing histories, and to be able to tell our story of queer inclusion through souvenir T-shirts from these spots just makes sense.
This summer we are running an Instagram campaign called #HOMOtrip, where each week we highlight a different destination or region and donate a portion of sales to a non-profit in that community that does work with either queer youth or the trans community. Since we’d normally spend so much of the summer on the road in these queer places, it’s been a nice way to support them when we’re staying at home.
QMM: Tell us about your new collabs?
DD: Well, there’s an exciting one launching later this summer that I can’t say too much about yet. But I will say that it is a three-way! We’ve partnered with an artist foundation and invited another artist to re-imagine the first artist’s work for today. It’s coming out … soon, so keep your eyes on our Instagram (@homoco.co).
QMM: Why should QMM readers check out HOMOCO?
DD: So many products targeted at our community are not actually made by queer people, and a lot of them divide us into sub-groups based on our sexual behaviors. HOMOCO is working to build alliances across the community around being queer and loving summer. It’s pretty simple but feels radical, doesn’t it?
If you think Homoco.co is as cool as we do, then you'll love this! HOMOCO is giving away two of their Travel Shirts, and a donation of their value to The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a legal aid organization that serves low-income or people of color who are transgender, intersex and/or gender non-conforming. *Your email will be shared via the below form with HOMOCO, and you will be contacted directed by them if you are the recipient. The recipient will be chosen on Friday, July 10th. No purchase necessary to be entered.