An Interview with Designer and Entrepreneur K.Michelle

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An Interview with Designer and Entrepreneur K.Michelle

Behind the scenes story of HAUTEBUTCH


K.Michlle, Owner and Founder of HAUTEBUTCH

How did HAUTEBUTCH come about?
I got started as a result of my own experience and the expressed frustration of other women that felt a need for clothing that fit their own personality and style. I wanted clothes that expressed who I was internally. Inside I was a confident, capable, fearless butch with a swagger that walked the fine line of tough and tender….yet my wardrobe didn’t express it. As a result of that, I never wanted to attend venues where I couldn’t dress as myself in order to avoid settling for ill-fitting men’s clothes.

Do you have a family history of entrepreneurship?
My grandparents were real estate entrepreneurs that owned several residential and commercial properties. They owned and operated the first black taxi line in Houston and a small night club which afforded them the ability to hire and help others who were in need. As a young girl, I had the luxury of having them around me all day because they worked from home. On Fridays all sorts of people came to pay their rent while Granny and I served up homemade fish dinners for extra money.

I have to ask….what does it mean to be butch?
I’m not sure it’s possible to define “butch” because it’s a self-identifying term. Anyone can be butch if they say they are and yet there are others that rebuke labels at all. I see it more as an attitude or way of life that speaks to the individual’s sense of self. It can be a multi-faceted identification with regard to appearance (masculine looking and/or style of dress, hair style), internal characteristics (assertive, rebellious, confident) and finally an outward expression of how one walks in the world.

Tell me more about HAUTEBUTCH in terms of style. Do you maintain a bit of femininity or is the point to cut that aspect entirely?
HAUTEBUTCH is creating an aesthetic that simultaneously blends masculinity and femininity, a deliberate harmonious style that combats conformity and trends while declaring independence from the fashion “norm”. There are tomboys, soft butches, stone butches and many other terms and labels that someone may use to describe butch or not. We don’t want to exclude people with different styles or ways in which they may describe themselves. There are many heterosexual women and men that purchase clothing and footwear from HAUTEBUTCH and we celebrate that level of integration.

The company vision is very inclusive to all types of people and also includes a philosophy of visibility, self-definition, truth and diversity. Can you tell me how that evolved?
This aspect of our mission evolved after having done a fashion show, a couple of months after we began. In the midst of all of the runway chaos and fittings, I caught glimpses of the level of pride exhibited as the models struck their poses. Each showcased their masculinity and style in different ways, but that look of pride, the look of “we matter” and “we have our own” was universal. It ceased to just be about fashion and became a higher purpose. We can be completely silent yet still express our identities and convey how we fell about ourselves based on how we dress.

As a visionary entrepreneur, how are you feeling about running a company and designing lines of apparel?
We have grown so much in the past year. The company is finding its way and developing its voice amidst both hurdles and successes alike. I am definitely in my passion and enjoy the design aspect of my contribution to HAUTEBUTCH and the overseeing of operations. As an entrepreneur in the apparel sector, we struggle most with (lack of) capital and the ways in which it influences the pace of the process of design to production to distribution. Even though we’ve achieved a few milestones, left to our own devices, we would have more collections to offer the community, but we’ll get there. HAUTEBUTCH teaches me something every day. It helps me to build character, especially in the area of faith, humility and patience. I am grateful each day that HAUTEBUTCH takes another step toward its aliveness on the planet.

What advice do you have for beginning LGBT entrepreneurs?
Get educated. Get clear on your motives. Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business that you are building. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Raise capital. Build strategic alliances. Surround yourself with people even more qualified than you are to build a great team. Focus, patience, persistence, and never give up! Stay humble. Repeat all of the above on your way to the top.