Minneapolis Wedding Officiator Launches Gender-Inclusive Clothing Label, Hensa
Hensa's new "Be Bold" line of gender-inclusive tees and tanks
Images by Ryan Terry from Joy Studios and Emily Isakson
As inclusivity becomes more prominent in the mainstream fashion world, it’s slowly beginning to trickle into the bridal industry. Fashionista recently covered the trend toward size inclusivity at the recent Fall 2018 edition of New York Bridal Week, but the wedding industry still has a long way to go before it’s truly representative of a variety of body types and gender identities.
After she began to notice wedding formalwear didn't cater to the specific needs of the LGBTQ community, Minneapolis wedding officiator Liz Babinski took matters into her own hands. Late last year, she launched Hensa, a clothing label with a mission to provide wedding wear for a broad array of gender identities. The label made its official debut in March at London Bridal Week, and garnered a writeup up on A Plus (aka Ashton Kutcher’s digital media company).
This fall, Hensa is expanding with its first line of casual, everyday wear. The debut collection, “Be Bold,” comprises gender-neutral tees and tank tops. Babinski is celebrating with a launch party this Saturday, which doubles as an informal presentation of the brand’s 2018 collection.
I interviewed Babinski on her role in making fashion more gender-inclusive, the challenges that go into creating gender-inclusive apparel, and her future plans for Hensa.
What gave you the idea for Hensa?
My first business, which is still active, is a wedding officiating company geared towards LGBTQ weddings. I noticed that a lot of weddings had very mixed wedding parties, meaning that there weren’t just all men on one side and all women on the other. Couples would also share horror stories about women trying to buy suits that compliment their partner’s suit, and vice versa, and the sizing of the clothing just not fitting well. I did a lot of research about non-binary wedding clothing and overall just the marketing behind LGBTQ weddings, which was pretty minimal or showed what I believe society view’s as a “traditional” LGBTQ wedding instead of all of the untraditional ones. This drove me to create a change in the fashion industry, and I think having a background that wasn’t in fashion allowed me to approach this with a totally different set of eyes.
What is your design background?
I went to school for Sports Management, so my background in design is minimal. Once I came up with the concept, I spent a considerable amount of time studying fabrics, manufacturing, and the entire process of creating clothing from drawings that lasted about a year. During this process, I also reached out to designers that I had known from previous jobs to help draw what I was envisioning. I also try to be as hands-on in the process as I can when I’m not running some day-to-day tasks, and I’m hoping to spend the beginning of next year working alongside our manufacturer.
Where did you get the name for Hensa?
It’s a combination of many words from around the world. “Hen” is a gender-neutral pronoun in Swedish that was introduced in 2010 and caused controversy. “Hensa” is the pronunciation of a Chinese character that means to differentiate.
You recently participated in your first bridal trade show event, London Bridal Week. What was that experience like?
Busy. Really busy! It’s attended by about 2,000 buyers from all over the world, most of them based in Europe. Going to our first bridal show outside of the United States was eye-opening because it showed us that there are a lot of improvements that can be made in the world for how we view weddings and clothing in general, even in such a fashion-forward country.
What are some of the challenges that go into creating gender-neutral formal wear?
Everything! But that’s the fun part of it—we constantly question our ideas each time we draw an item or come up with a thought for a collection. It reminds us that we started this line to create clothing for all humans, regardless of how they identify or their shape, and we have to keep that in mind each time we move forward with an item. We constantly question why we’ve made something and how we can make it better. The development is definitely longer than most lines, but it forces us to think twice about what we are creating and pushes us to find functionality in our formal wear to create a really fantastic product. This bleeds into our casual wear too, as we aren’t going to make oversized baggy sweaters and label it as gender-neutral. We’re going to spend a lot of time on product development. This creation process has really made us realize that it seems a bit silly to create clothing just based on gender or outdated sizing and we should be focusing on the build of the body more.
Why did you decide to launch the “Be Bold” line of tees and tank tops?
While we were creating the formalwear, we realized that we wanted to create a more casual line that would allow people around the world to also be introduced to our line and wear clothing in a more everyday setting. We want to support our customer as much as we can, whether that is for everyday clothing or for an important event in their lives. Being bold is a big part of our mission statement, and we wanted to express this as our first major campaign. Our shirts have been sent around the world with our customers taking photos and sharing their story. We also have a few major influencers lined up to wear the clothing and share their story. We’ll be releasing their stories shortly after the launch party. Our Be Bold line is meant to emphasize that you can be whoever you want to be, express yourself however you want, without limitations. Additionally, it showcases that anyone can wear our line—you can be gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, a bro, a hipster, it doesn’t matter. We’re here to create amazing clothing and inspire freedom of self-expression through fashion.
Will you be expanding the collection beyond the two initial styles you’ve introduced?
Yes! We are working on new designs for the casual wear and also working on a sizing chart that will create better fitting clothing for all body shapes in addition to implementing more technology to help with this. We also have a few other announcements that we will be making at Saturday’s event involving partnerships to give back to the world and our company objectives to create community around fashion and better inclusivity.
Hensa “Be Bold” Launch: Saturday, Oct. 21 from 7-10:30 p.m. @ Soo Visual Arts Center, 2909 Bryand Ave. S. #101, Minneapolis, hensaco.com