Before launching the first lingerie line by and for trans people, Carmen Liu, had no experience in the fashion world.
She spent her formative years studying at the Royal Ballet School and going on to dance in Switzerland. But she had never even thought of fashion as a career until she began transitioning four years ago.
That’s when Liu noticed not only a gap in the market, but a need for authentic lingerie for trans bodies. So she went ahead and launched the GI Collection.
‘Unfortunately in the trans world, a lot of the companies that provide for us are not by trans people so they’re taking advantage of us,’ Liu tells Gay Star News.
GI stands for ‘Get It’. That could mean trans people should go out and live their best lives. It could also mean for politicians to better understand trans issues to build effective policies for the community.
‘My transition started four years ago and it was fun, it was exciting,’ Liu says.
‘But then you slowly start to see so many things we are missing as a community and things that we don’t have.’
Beauty for trans people
Trans people go through a daily trauma just getting dressed or going to the bathroom. Garments not made for their bodies making daily tasks like putting on underwear very hard.
‘It would’ve been about two years after my transition that I started to feel the frustration of not having anything that worked for my body. And the main frustration was the lingerie because everyday obviously when you get undressed your always seeing these hideous pants that we had to work with or things we had to make ourselves,’ she said.
‘That was one thing that drove me to make the company.’
The entrepreneur set out to make her revolutionary products which ‘have been changed and adapted to fit better on a trans woman’.
‘So even our bras they fit differently than a bra that you would buy in a high street store,’ Liu says.
‘The panties have been designed specifically so you don’t have to wear anything specifically to tuck. You don’t have to tape anymore, you don’t have to wear three pairs of pants or body stockings as well, or body shapers to hold everything in.’
‘It’s simple: you wake up in the morning and get dressed.’
For us, by us
The team at GI Collection are inundated with daily messages of gratitude from trans women about their lingerie products. That clearly makes Liu happy that people love her products, but she can also relate to the overwhelming emotions of finding underwear that fits easily on a trans body.
The first time she tried on trans friendly lingerie was also the first GI Collection prototype. She might have been ‘butt naked’ in front of three cis women, but it would be one of her greatest moments.
‘As soon as I put it on, the one thing I can still remember to this day was the feeling of having cotton touching my skin down there,’ she says.
‘It was so soft.’
Liu explains trans women are ‘so used to a weird fabric down there which is like a mesh and very coarse’.
‘It’s really painful against your skin and I put on the prototype. I looked in the mirror and I just thought “Oh my god”.’
Liu couldn’t believe she was wearing something lacy and all she had to do was ‘just put it on’.
‘I was so emotional after and I was actually crying walking home after that,’ she says.
‘And other than walking down the runway was the best moment of my company so far.’
Don’t stop me now
The first Carmen Liu line in the GI Collection sold out in days. Her first runway show in March was a smash hit despite anti-trans protesters setting up camp outside.
She has hosted makeover masterclasses for trans women, to teach women how to do their hair and makeup.
But Liu has no plans to slow down. The Carmen Liu line will launch a new collection at the end of this month. Then next month she will launch some new products that ‘will get people talking’.
She’s keeping her lips tightly sealed for now. But then takes a second to reflect on her journey to this point.
‘I do work seven days a week, some days work 20 hours just because I have so much passion,’ Liu says.
‘I just know how much good I’m doing for the community myself.’