Independent lingerie designer Dani Read named her brand FYI - for Fuck You Industries.
That should really tell you everything you need to know about her.
Let's get started.
Dani Read, backstage at Lingerie Fashion Week. Photo by Carly Sioux.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I'm a Brooklyn-based designer, bass player, feminist, Pisces, dyke, artist. I'm originally from Indiana, but moved to NYC in 2004 to study fashion design at FIT. Since then I've worked for some really rad lingerie brands, played in a bunch of bands, and started my own company, FYI (est. 2010).
Actually, I was never interested in lingerie until I started working in the industry. I always thought of it as this unnecessary, super-feminine thing that just never resonated with me. Lingerie stores used to make me really uncomfortable and I think, in hindsight, that feeling had more to do with the message the stores and marketing conveyed than with the items themselves.
After a few years of working on womenswear, I took a sales position with Marlies Dekkers in New York, and saw a completely different take on what lingerie could be. I really admire Marlies for her powerful approach to intimates. Her history as a designer is amazing and the women in her brand images always seem commanding. After that I went to work at Kiki de Montparnasse and knew I had completely found my calling!
The aesthetic for FYI is so unique. How did it emerge?
As a designer I was always most interested in couture and rtw that was decadent but a bit dark-- I love those Belgian designers! I think my personal design aesthetic was really solidified by the time I "found" lingerie. I'm also really influenced by the fetish world for FYI and I try to bring the high-end look and quality of luxury fashion to items that are sexually inspiring to the wearer.
How has it been for you as a queer-identified designer, to be out in a relatively conservative industry?
I don't think it's my queerness that sometimes alienates the more conservative people in our industry - it's the whole FYI approach! I've actually never felt that being out has been a problem for me among lingerie professionals (acknowledging my considerable privilege as white/cis-gender/"passing").
However, I have had some rough encounters with press. I think it's an easy go-to or gimmick for bad reporters and I've definitely been asked really inappropriate questions about my sexuality and even had one of my collections boiled down to "lesbian-themed" and "appealing only to a lesbian market" by one interviewer (you should've seen my answers for that guy!!).
What sorts of challenges (and joys!) do you face as both an independent designer and a small business owner?
The biggest challenge for me is time and money management. Running your own business really takes over your life! But, the creative freedom of being an independent designer is priceless, and seeing one of my ideas come to life, and be enjoyed by a client or styled in an incredible shoot is so so worth the effort!
What, to your mind, are the greatest challenges facing the lingerie industry today?
1. "Trend forecasting." Haha. I don't understand it. The mass-market fashion mindset that a certain color palette or theme or silhouette needs to be followed creates so much redundancy and doesn't require a lot of talent. I really believe that good design is art, and should come from the mind and not the market. Also, women are so different in body type, skin tone, aesthetic and comfort preferences, and personal presentation. How could one theme satisfy everyone?!
2. The male gaze! There are more queer brands emerging and I'm so glad to see more and more authentic portrayals of homoeroticism and gender fluidity in intimates. The really bad fake and objectified lesbianism though... I'm glad people like you call it when you see it! Most lingerie brands still really directly push heteronormativity though. I still see a lot of "wear this for him", "he'll love you in this"; the idea that's being pushed is essentially that women are little gifts to men, and lingerie is the bow on top. I obviously take huge exception to this.
FYI has been covered by Inked, Vice -- definitely non-traditional coverage for a lingerie brand, even an indie! What kind of world are your fans coming from that make them different from mainstream lingerie consumers?
I do think the FYI grrrls are coming from a different place than the mainstream consumer. I think they're a little more informed in alot of ways. I get a lot of feedback on our imagery/branding for instance, and not for an artificial "cool factor" or anything, but because it genuinely offers a powerful female perspective on eroticism in marketing. Of course we take a high-fashion approach but I work with womyn that influence and give life to my collections. A lot of my models are very active/outspoken feminists that I admire as people--not just bodies-- and I try to make sure that comes through to some degree.
Our clients are also more discerning as consumers. Our products are admittedly not super-accessibly priced, but that's because they are locally and ethically manufactured, and made from luxury materials. We aren't selling nylon bras made in sweatshops.
Most importantly, I think our fans are a lot more daring in their sexual expression than most consumers. Everything about FYI (including the name: "Fuck You Industries") is completely subversive. So are our grrrls!
Who do you go to for inspiration?
Bad bitches in history! I love historical reference and I like to choose a muse each season for FYI that sort of informs the mood of the collection. I also name a lot of pieces after the friends, clients, FYI models or collaborators, that inspired me to create them.
Photo by Thorsten Roth, wearing FYI Love Handles Belt
Last but not least: what are some of your favorite underthings/designers?
My lingerie hero is definitely Chloe Hamblen of Lascivious. That woman's a genius and I love everything I own by them! As far as what I love to wear, it's Calvin Klein for those iconic andro basics. My favorite designer in general is Olivier Theyskens--he's been a huge influence on my style and aesthetic since I was a teenager.
As far as what's next for FYI, I've kept it quiet for a while by taking a break from seasonal collections this year, but new things are in the works. I'm adding some new styles to our "Classics" collection that I'm really excited to show off: more of our signature hard femme looks with a few andro/boi pieces this time around... I may have been a little inspired by my partner. I've also done some custom swim for FYI clients (I LOVE swimwear), and am working on adding some of that in to the line more permanently!
P.S. Follow Dani on Instagram - I do!
P.P.S. Shop FYI by Dani Read at Bluestockings!