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Check Out This Chicago Fashion Designer's Eye-Popping, LGBTQ-Friendly Line

By Gwendolyn Purdom in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 17, 2016 5:02PM

When Sky Cubacub made her cousin, who was born with several disabilities, a screen-printed scarf a few years ago, she lined it with terry cloth to absorb drool—a choice that prompted Cubacub's aunt to suggest the aspiring clothing designer create pieces for kids with special needs. On Monday, Cubacub, now 24, launched her official Kickstarter campaign for the clothing and accessory line she's been working on since 2014.

The line not only offers options for customers across the ability spectrum, but customers across the body and gender identity spectrum as well. Rebirth Garments is aiming to raise $25,000 by mid-September.

Cubacub, who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago last year, makes every item in the line by hand in her North Center studio and completely customizes it based on its wearer's needs, she says.

"Whenever I make something, I really like getting to know [the customers] and talking with them, being able to have some sort of conversation with them to see what they feel like is lacking in the world for their body, and then I try to make that a reality," Cubacub told Chicagoist.

The Rebirth collection so far has contained pieces such as binders for wearers that wish to minimize their chests, tucking garments designed for trans women, among others, prosthetic limb covers, packing garments to add bulges, shirts that come with holes for feeding tubes or colostomy bags, and more. Cubacub's designs feature bright, geometric shapes and stretchy, sparkling fabrics like spandex. According to Cubacub, who identifies as genderqueer (and goes by both she/her and they/them pronouns), in addition to the experience of creating the custom scarf for her cousin, her line was inspired by her own clothing frustrations as a teen.

From Rebirth's Kickstarter page:

"I first dreamed of this collection when I was in high school and couldn’t find a place where I could buy a binder as a person who was under 18, so I’m especially interested in Rebirth Garments being accessible to Queer/Crip youth. Currently, I’m working on a program for making free/low cost gender affirming undergarments for people in need. I would like to organize a fund to make my garments more accessible to trans* and disabled folks globally. I have an interest in making invisible disability visible."

"Radically visible," in fact. Cubacub has taken the term a teacher once coined to describe her aesthetic and run with it in her designs. The result is bright, eye-catching apparel that's meant to celebrate bodies of all kinds instead of hiding or shaming them.

Sky Cubacub in one of her designs, Ireashia Monet image via Etsy

"My dream is for us as QueerCrips [Cubacub's umbrella term for people on the LGBT and mental/physical disability spectrum] to feel as comfortable, safe, sexy or cute in their clothing as many able-bodied and cisgendered people take for granted due to the options afforded them by mainstream fashion," she writes in a lengthy self-described manifesto on Rebirth's site. "Historically the needs of our communities have condemned us to wearing clothes that only partially satisfies our needs but are also unattractive and stigmatizing."

Customer responses to her tailor-made designs are almost always emotional, Cubacub says. "I have a lot of people in tears," she said. "They [always say] they just never knew that someone would care enough to make something so special for them." And she means special: Because of their one-of-a-kind nature and the intensive work that goes into making each piece by hand, some of the items fall on the pricey side. Pieces available in Rebirth's Etsy shop range from a $7 wrist brace cover to a $2,500 sculptural necklace.

Pieces in the Rebirth Garments collection (Jan Hey-Cubacub, Courtesy Sky Cubacub)

Part of the Kickstarter fundraising goal is meant to support Cubacub and her collaborators in their trip to Oakland, California in September to participate in Queer Fashion Week. Additional funding will go toward paying collaborators, product development, materials, an industrial sewing machine, a computer for the studio and subsidized garments for youth or people in need.

Cubacub hopes her designs can foster social change in the same way suffragettes were able to when they pushed for pants for women.

"Fashion is a very direct representation of who is valued in our society," Cubacub said, "and we need to show everyone that everyone is equally valued."