Cy Lauz was sure she had thought of everything in the two years of planning that led to the launch this month of Chrysalis Lingerie, the first fashion lingerie line developed for transgender women.
But she wasn’t prepared for the haters.
After nearly a year of production delays — and a blizzard of advance media coverage — Chrysalis launched its online store on May 1, offering a small but unique ‘basics’ collection of undergarments designed to address the most common anatomical challenges faced by TG women.
It should have been a triumphal moment for Lauz and co-founder Simone Tobias, two TG women who self-financed the new label while working day jobs in marketing and fashion design in New York. Instead, the launch of Chrysalis plunged them instantly into the fractious politics of the transgender community and made the label a lightning rod in the debate over what — and who — defines a transgender woman.
“The launch was bittersweet,” Lauz (right) told Lingerie Talk. “The majority of our experience has been positive, but we were caught off guard by the hate in the trans community, especially from trans feminists.”
Critics on social media complained that the size range offered by Chrysalis was too limited to accommodate larger customers, that the products weren’t attractive and that they were too expensive. One commenter on the Chrysalis Facebook page called for a boycott of the young label, while another critic posted a lengthy YouTube video in which she ravaged the new line and said her TG friends were “heartbroken” with disappointment.
Even worse, Chrysalis was accused of ignoring the diversity of their community and promoting a stereotype of TG women as lithe, shapely beauties by selling only to smaller customers with ‘natural’ proportions and womanly figures. In short, being too feminine.
“In an effort to provide lingerie for the marginalized transgender community, Chrysalis has resorted to an attitude that does nothing to challenge traditional cisgender beauty standards,” wrote a blogger named Teagan on the lesbian culture site Autostraddle. “They have created a line of bras that fit trans women who mostly fit into our traditional model of ‘beautiful woman’.”
[Note: The term ‘cisgender’ is used to describe normative gender identity, referring to people whose biological gender at birth matches their gender identity and expression later in life.]
For Lauz and Tobias, the critical pile-on was shocking and deflating. Especially since, as they write on their website, Chrysalis was started “to help change the dehumanizing stereotypes and biases we are subjected to as a group and community [and] symbolizes the diversity of our existence.”
“All these women took it so personally. It really disheartened me,” Lauz said. “Our whole lives (as TG women) are met with misunderstanding, so to turn around and attack people in your own community is hypocritical and really absurd.”
But Lauz and Tobias didn’t waste much time licking their wounds. Instead, they reached out to their customer base and have gone back to the drawing board to address the issues raised.
And they haven’t lost sight of the fact that most of the feedback has been supportive.
“We continue to receive orders from all over the world from our customers who love and support our brand and our mission. We continue to get daily emails even from people ‘outside’ of the trans community,” Lauz said.
“And as a brand we want to reach all corners of the world and address and try to resolve issues that effect transgender women, and to promote positive consumer education about our products.”
The Chrysalis basics collection currently includes two multi-functional garments, offered in five colors. For bottoms, they offer the truly unique T-string, a 4-in-1 garment that combines a thong with a high-waisted control top and a gaff (a rigid elastic panel which smooths out the front). Its bras are called enhancers, with pockets to accommodate a range of inserts for those women who want to increase their bust profile.
Lauz knows their size ranges — the enhancers go up to a 38D — won’t help some larger TG women with broad masculine physiques. But Chrysalis wasn’t trying to exclude anyone, she said.
“Some people took the intention of what we’ve done and turned it around to make it sound like we just cater to specific group,” she said. “They expected a larger variety of sizes and felt we ignored them. But we didn’t ignore you. It’s all we could do at the moment with our (financial) resources. Please allow us time to grow.”
Chrysalis is currently working on a relaunch of its debut line that will include more sizes and colors for its T-string and new bras with wider band sizes and smaller cup sizes. The revamped line will also included a new bikini-shape brief and some more inexpensive pieces.
The company has been running polls on its Facebook page and sends out questionnaires with all its sales orders to get customer feedback. Lauz and Tobias are also featured in two videos (above) on the Chrysalis FB page that offer a backstage look at the company and the story behind its revolutionary T-string.
They also decided to not to remove critical comments from their Facebook page in order to encourage discussion and debate.
“We’ve acknowledged the problems from the start and we’re taking it very seriously,” Lauz said. “We want people to know that we are a company that does care about them and wants to solve their problems. For us this is beyond commerce — it’s about trying to make TG women’s lives easier.”
And the public concerns about garment sizes, she noted, points to a bigger issue — how the fashion industry has ignored the needs of the growing TG marketplace.
“There is a great need for products beyond lingerie and undergarments for the trans community,” she said. “And Chrysalis is here to show the world of enterprise that investing in the trans community can be a lucrative and sound investment.”
Chrysalis originally planned to follow-up its basics line with a couture collection that promises to be more fashion-forward, more seductive and more expensive. That collection is still coming, Lauz said, but it’s been put on the backburner because “we want to make the demands of the trans community more of a priority.”
The expanded basics collection is expected to be available in the Chrysalis webshop in the fall.
In the meantime, Lauz and Tobias will also be busy building bridges and trying to promote positive messages within the TG community.
“Chrysalis is at the beginning of our journey and we are excited to be a part of a growing industry where we have the opportunity to grow along with our customer base,” Lauz said.
“For us Chrysalis has been a true community effort where we encourage our customers to voice their needs and wants. Chrysalis was created to improve the lives of transgender women all over the world and we stand by our motto … ‘Made For You, By You‘.”