“It was born out of pride, like flaunt what you got; be unapologetic,” Courtney Rhodes, co-owner of FLAVNT Streetwear, says of the company’s name.
FLAVNT is a one-stop shop for those looking to buy some swag that gives back to the queer community in a very tangible way. The Austin-based independent clothing company (pronounced "flaunt") opened for business in April 2014 with the stated goal of “creating clothes that promote confidence and pride.” Five years later, they stock over 50 of their own designs, have sold thousands of chest binders, and have raised over $20,000 for gender-affirming surgeries.
Chris Rhodes (left) and Courtney Rhodes, FLAVNT Streetwear co-owners (Courtesy of FLAVNT)
Twins Chris and Courtney Rhodes, 26, decided to create FLAVNT after Austin Pride in 2013. The former graphic design students screen-printed themselves shirts for the occasion and Chris’ T-shirt, which featured the phrase "Pretty Boy," quickly caught the attention of other Pride-goers.
“I had identified with the phrase ‘pretty boy’ for a long time,” says Chris, who is transgender. “But there was like lesbians and gay guys, straight guys, trans guys all coming up to me and saying, ‘I love that shirt, I would wear that.’"
The duo officially launched the company the following April when they dropped the "Pretty Boy" T-shirt and a logo T-shirt. The brand has since expanded their stock to include binders, hoodies, joggers, hats, socks, and a slew of accessories such as stickers, koozies, and phone cases.
After gaining some traction, Chris and Courtney decided to incorporate fundraisers as a way to set themselves apart from other small clothing brands while also giving back to the LGBTQ community.
“There’s this whole GoFundMe culture of trying to share it online and hoping that people will get behind you,” Courtney says. “If you don’t have enough followers or enough friends or anything, you can’t make a dent, it feels like. So, we were like, what if we became the support system for individual people and tried to signal boost whatever fundraiser they have going on.”
Chris and Courtney now partner with folks who need help funding their gender confirming surgeries, with 15% of their proceeds going to a designated partner’s surgery. Since starting this partnership, FLAVNT has partnered with trans individuals from across the United States and has just completed its 12th fundraiser.
“We try to mix up the type of people we partner with,” Courtney says. “Because it helps to show the wide variety of people who need help.”
Models wear FLAVNT's Bareskin Binders (Courtesy of FLAVNT)
Chris and Courtney launched a Kickstarter for their Bareskin Binders, skin-colored chest binders that help flatten chests, in November 2015. While binders were not a new invention, Courtney suggested making them in flesh-tones, with minimal skin coverage, and optimal for swimming – an activity that can cause trans individuals serious gender dysphoria (the distress that occurs when your gender identity and how you appear do not match up).
“I hadn’t had top surgery yet,” Chris says. “Courtney was always around me and my other trans guy friends and was like, ‘You don’t have anything to wear in the summertime to go swimming.’”
The Kickstarter raised $26,000 in a month, a period they describe as the “most stressful month ever” and also the “biggest milestone” for the company to date. The binders quickly became a bestseller.
“They sell out super fast, and we have a lot of people tell us, ‘This is the most comfortable binder I’ve worn. It made me really confident in the summertime,’” Chris says.
FLAVNT “changed the market” for binders, Courtney says. She credits their binders with starting a trend toward other skin-colored products. Following the success of their Kickstarter, Chris and Courtney saw their biggest competitor incorporate skin-colored binders into their own catalog – a move that Chris says frustrated them as a smaller brand that couldn't match their production rate, but nonetheless affirmed the value of their idea.
"We still like our binder better,” Chris says.
Chris and Courtney plan to continue improving their binders and hope to expand their size range and color range, as well as expand the demographics of their customers.
“We’re very focused in the trans masculine space,” Courtney says. “Like we have a good amount of lesbians who support the brand, but getting more and more, even allies, on board and just being a lifestyle brand in general that people support and people know would be cool.”