Last week, my gender-fluid friend Ridley invited me to The Phluid Project’s One-Year Anniversary.
The Phluid Project, on the corner of Broadway and Third, is a clothing store toting “Fashion Without Gender,” carrying brands from Levi’s to G.L.E.T. to NicoPanda. It was the first time I’d been in the store: I wore my favorite G.L.E.T. ‘90s tattoo tank with my new T-Rex Coach charm necklace.
Ridley, James and I arrived 15 minutes after the event began, but it was already buzzing. While Ridley double air kissed a salesperson in a silver sequin overall-dress, I read the t-shirts hanging all around, “We Should All Be Them,” “We’re All Immigrants” and “Trans Lives Matter” amongst my favorites.
If I’d done my research, I would have known that a cute top and denim wasn’t nearly dressed up enough for the party. Everyone there was fabulous, dressed in lace and sequins and glitter, and the guest list was A-List: door goddess Markus Kelle (looking like a young Moira Rose in all black), reality TV stars Cory and Nina from “America’s Next Top Model” season 20 and the ever-fabulous Billy Porter (wearing the MOST fabulous hat I’ve ever seen), to name a few.
I made my way to the back of the store (where the wine was, naturally) and passed by Stacy Pisone, owner of Cafeteria on 17th and 7th, chatting with the iconic Lina Bradford, head to toe in red sequins. I would have killed to have a single sequin anywhere on me, instead of hiding in my closet.
I’d already lost Ridley, who knew everyone and thus had to stop to say hello every five seconds. I left James for a moment to use the bathroom. Between signs on the wall that read “Follow the resistance to find out why you’re resisting” and “Break the Binary” was a write-up from “Teen Vogue.”
When I returned to James, he had the goofiest smile on his face. “I just met Billy Porter!” he said, showing me a selfie of the two of them.
“I was gone for a minute!” Billy Porter, now on the other side of the room, only his fabulous hat visible over the crowd of people, was completely out of reach. I went to the bar for another glass of wine.
Rob Smith, founder and CEO of The Phluid Project, stood in the middle of the chaos, and suddenly everything quieted down. Unassumingly handsome, Rob told the story of starting Phluid, tearing up that they were here, celebrating one year in business. When his voice cracked, I heard a rustling behind me: James was taking a pair of shoes out of their box to try on. “What?” he said. “It’s what he’d want.”
A pair of shoes (and several pins) later, James and I hopped in a cab home. Just last week, I was recalling when I was a kid and dressed my (“masculine”) dinosaurs in (“feminine”) Barbie clothes. Yin and Yang: Masculine and Feminine: Me. While my boyfriend studied his shoes closer in the cab, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we were to live in a world with a safe space like The Phluid Project.