For Them, The Brand Creating Safe And Stylish Binders For Trans And Non-Binary People
How do you get the fashion and wellness industries to cater to a community that’s long been underrepresented by both? For a whole new generation of queer, non-binary and trans entrepreneurs, the answer is by doing the catering themselves. The last decade has seen an explosion of queer- and trans-owned businesses striving to offer the LGBTQIA+ community the products they need, based on both personal and shared experiences. For Them, a US-based company launched by actor-turned-entrepreneur Kylo Freeman in 2021, is one of those ventures. Its mission, Freeman will tell you, is to facilitate the creation of true, inclusive wellbeing for all – starting with an essential closet staple for a lot of trans- and non-binary people: the chest binder.
Since its debut, the brand has been specialising in the garment – worn to flatten the appearance of one’s chest – with the aptly named The Binder. Earlier this year, For Them also introduced the Binder Max: a breathable, stretchy piece of clothing that comes in a variety of sizes, is made with eco-friendly materials and works as a reverse sports bra, pushing the breast tissue down where other binders and most sports bras would push it up.
The aim is to balance compression with comfort – a simple but quietly revolutionising concept when it comes to chest binders, many of which, if poorly fitting, can lead not just to gender dysphoria but also, in extreme cases, fractured ribs and constricted breathing.
Freeman first got the idea from their own discomfort with the item. “The binder I used to wear was really painful, so much so that I couldn’t breathe properly,” they tell me on a Zoom call from their New York apartment. “It was just really limiting me.”
As they voiced their complaints to other non-binary people, they realised theirs wasn’t an isolated case. “We all needed better,” Freeman said. “This particular piece of utility apparel is so important for so many in our community, and the easiest place to start if we want to think about wellness and feeling good in one’s body. So that’s what I set out to do: working on creating a safe way to bind.”
Freeman engaged the help of designer Rada Shadick, who had developed a bra for ballet dancer Misty Copeland with similar characteristics to the chest binder they had in mind. They also found a small, women-owned factory in New York to get production going (“It felt important for me to be able to be close to the manufacturing process,” they say).
They also sought the direct feedback of those who would eventually wear For Them binders. “Human-led research was key,” Freeman says. “I didn’t want to build something just for my body and my needs.” To that end, they created an anonymous platform on messaging platform Discord where people could contribute their thoughts. The first binder model they launched, Freeman notes, was the one that 85% of folks deemed perfect for them.
Looking ahead, Freeman wants For Them to continue working closely with the community. That’s why last year they launched The Playground, a membership-based digital and IRL space dedicated to queer wellness. The project spans editorials, a gender-tracking app “for real time gender evolution using daily mood and identity check-ins”, messaging features and priority access to For Them’s new products, as well as surveys to ensure the brand can keep making products people actually want.
“Our community is just underserved across the board,” Freeman says. “We need more safe spaces than ever, especially given the current political and economic climate. The Playground is a place to express queer joy – hence the name.
“Ultimately, everything that we do – our products, our services, the role we play as a company – is about helping our community feel authentically themselves in their body and their mind,” they continue. “I like to say that we’re sort of reinventing wellness.”
Marianna Cerini is a freelance writer for publications including Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, CNN Style and Fortune