A multifaceted definition encompassing appearance, internal characteristics, and outward expression of how one walks in the world, “butch” stands as a broad term for masculine aesthetic and an attitude maintaining assertion, rebellion, and confidence.
“It’s a self-identifying term,” Karen Roberts, co-founder of Haute Butch told 429Magazine.
“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.”
The goal of her fashion line caters to this approach by encouraging and endorsing diversity and acceptance with the idea of pushing “beyond the boundaries of fashion trends to promote visibility and acceptance of, and within our communities, while illuminating the diversity found among our butch/stud/dyke/queer/tomboy fashionistas/fashionistos.”
The line is a concurrent amalgamation of masculinity and femininity. Deliberate in its style, HAUTEBUTCH battles issues such as conformity and trendsetting by maintaining liberation from what is deemed as socially accepted fashion.
“We’re creating a new standard in fashion with an attitude to match—a standard that translates from the runway to the boardroom and out into the streets. HAUTEBUTCH allows us to choose the message we send, to externally express our internal identity to the world,” she said.
HAUTEBUTCH is garnering a resounding following within the community with testimonials such as, “it’s so nice to have a ‘male’ shirt tailored to fit me.”
The brand speaks to its audience, particularly as the founding members are lesbians and butch themselves, which is how the label was created.
Through the frustration of finding clothing suited to their personality and style, as well as that of other women, Roberts yearned for a wardrobe that allowed her to express her internal self.
“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 when I went to corporate trainings, weddings, funerals and the like.”
As a result, she became wary of attending venues where she was unable to dress as herself. It was beyond settling for ill-fitting men’s clothes, but rather a lack of resources to be able to display a sense of her identity.
With an entrepreneurial spirit, Roberts transferred her skills from other sectors of business to develop HAUTEBUTCH. A long time passion of hers, she began doodling fashion designs in 4th grade, and took fashion merchandising and modeling courses in high school. The doodling made a comeback last year in the form of a dream board of articles she’d like in her own closet; which quickly became a look book featuring more women’s butch styles.
“Into the wee hours of the night, I began reading everything I could about fashion, manufacturing and the need for butch clothing. I could not believe that nothing at all existed,” she added.
Immensely inspired by successful entrepreneurs who have come to fill a void with their businesses, she embraces those that have “gracefully risen above the challenges, while pursuing a worthwhile endeavor because they never believed for a moment that their idea or business owned the option to not exist.”
Her advice for someone embarking upon an endeavor such as this: raise money and assemble a great team.
“A strong infrastructure of knowledgeable, talented, trustworthy and reliable individuals coupled with a hefty bankroll and some education can help you navigate the challenges of a new fashion line as smoothly as possible,” she argued.
She dreams, now, to see HAUTEBUTCH make its way to mainstream outlets internationally, and to wardrobes of icons such as Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Maddow, Wanda Sykes, Melissa Etheridge, and Rosie O’Donnell. Ultimately, she strives for the line to be “THE” lifestyle brand for the demographic.
As the line has developed, so has Roberts. She divulged that when she first came out as a lesbian, she was femme.
“After falling for a femme and learning the dynamics between butch/femme dating – I quickly turned the tables!”
In the process, she has become more self-aware beyond her external appearance. Roberts once believed that as she was butch, she must be fearless and protect her ego. Vulnerability was a weakness that she denied in herself and those around her.
“If I am honest within myself about my feelings, celebrate my imperfections, admit my wrongdoing, cry when I’m sad, and love others to the fullest, I get the gift of authenticity,” she continued.
What drives her now is the potential impact HAUTEBUTCH can have on individuals, as well as herself and her partner.
“I believe that HAUTEBUTCH is trailblazing a path that embraces both the wardrobe and spirit of masculine identified women in a way that we have never seen before. As a self-identified butch designer, I am both proud and humbled to be participating in such a powerful extension of this expression, at this time.”