While the fashion industry has made progress in terms of diversity, it still has a long way to go before one can confidently say that it is a world for everyone. And, like most monumental changes to the status quo, shifting the needle towards inclusivity requires fresh minds with new perspectives, like those of Siying Qu and Haoran Li, the duo behind New York-based fashion label Private Policy, which showed its spring/summer 2023 collection at New York Fashion Week earlier this month.
Founded in 2016, Qu and Li use the genderless fashion label to make both political statements and encourage their audience to step out and get dressed—exactly how you want to get dressed. “We thought, ‘Why are we labeling clothes to a specific gender? Shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, it doesn’t have a gender,’ and that made us think,” Qu shared with ELLE.com over the phone. “There are a lot of [women] who go shop in the menswear section just looking for clothes with pockets. Guys are going to the women’s section in department stores to find cool colors and fun prints…they love it and look good in it. That’s how [Private Policy] started, to give our wearer freedom to use clothing to express themselves however they want.”
For NYFW, Private Policy teamed up with DIAGEO, the company behind brands like Guinness, Crown Royal, and Casamigos, for its “Fluidity is Freedom” initiative, which also included partnerships with Luar and CHRISHABANA. With this partnership (which was not the brand’s first with DIAGEO, according to Qu), Private Policy was able to honor gender fluidity even beyond fashion. “It’s great to feel like a community—the three brands from New York Fashion Week and DIAGEO collaborating with their three brands,” Qu said. “That support really helped us express this idea of genderless, fluid fashion, and challenge gender norms through creativity and fashion together.”
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For Private Policy, initiatives like this are crucial, especially when there’s so much progress yet to be made. “It can be hard to break boundaries and say, ‘Oh, just be free,’” the designer explained. “But society has been changing over the years, and it’s beyond just fashion. It’s the work of everyone who is trying to fight for freedom, trying to fight for a more diverse world.” Qu explains that she and Li want their label to be a part of the positive change and are excited to see how their designs influence others in the industry to follow suit.
For its spring/summer 2023 season—which features plenty of mesh details and white dove imagery—Private Policy focused on the concept of peace. But, rather than thinking of peace as the end of a journey, it’s the beginning of one. “[The dove] is a small part of the story. Noah’s struggle, building the ark, and everything leading up to the dove is the whole story, and that’s not even the end because they have to land and start over,” Qu tells us. “So [the story] is actually about peace beyond this final moment. It’s the process; it’s hard work! We wanted to bring that out in this collection.” Other details in the new collection, titled “Capturing Peace for All,” include utilitarian silhouettes, big pockets, belts, and harnesses.
And, as with every other collection Private Policy creates, there’s an emphasis on self-expression and individuality. The label hopes to encourage fashion lovers everywhere to experiment with fashion and, hopefully, explore new perspectives outside of fashion. “When we talk about inspiration and show [our audience] interesting designs, that starts to open up their minds about other things as well: how they can see the world, how they can be involved in different community projects, or how they’re thinking about how to change the world for the better in their own ways.”
Dale Arden Chong is the Senior Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Previously, she was an editor at MensHealth.com and has written for Who What Wear, GLAMOUR, The Coveteur, and more. She loves fashion, food, and art, among other things—but her greatest love is K-pop idol V of BTS.