The Queer Asian Designer Taking On Toxic Masculinity With Sensual Knitwear

The Queer Asian Designer Taking On Toxic Masculinity With Sensual Knitwear

by Brycen Saunders

With the debut of his fashion label FANG, designer Fang Guo joins the ongoing conversation of expanding menswear as a means of liberated gender expression.

From shopping with his mother every weekend as a child to receiving a BFA in Fashion Merchandising, Guo centered his life around fashion, but he understood that there was more to be accomplished through his craft. In a dimly-lit department store men's section one day, Guo recognized a need for change and aligned his mission with shaking up the menswear landscape. But what makes the mission all the more poignant is his commitment to championing expression and identity.

Guo's urge to broaden the scope of menswear comes at a crucial point in menswear history. Decades ago, figures like Prince, David Bowie, Denis Rodman and Elton John laid the foundation for disrupting the social norms of gender expression, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Today we've seen the expansion of this conversation at the hands of figures such as Billy Porter, Jaden Smith, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny and many others. Just like the aforementioned, Guo is continuing the dialogue in the most tangible way with the introduction of his new e-commerce site FANG.NYC.

Launching today, the brand's collection works to celebrate the body in its natural form. The brand incorporates traditionally "feminine" shapes, silhouettes, and fabrics for its sensual knits and shapewear, creating a diverse offering for queer and queer-minded people. With FANG, Guo is intent on celebrating the contemporary male experience through an inclusive lens.

"FANG is a menswear brand that observes and celebrates the contemporary male experience," Guo said. "The feeling of being masculine, feminine, and everything in between."

In a PAPER exclusive, the designer discusses the inspiration for the brand, his origins and the desire to expand menswear.

What was the inspiration behind launching FANG?

I'm just really inspired by the queer-minded people that I have met through all the years here in New York. Their family didn't support them. They all started from scratch and built amazing careers and opportunities for themselves. So I think that really inspired me and as a queer person myself I just really wanted to offer my unique point of view in fashion to kind of give back, uplift, and inspire the community. That's where my determination of Fang started.

What was your queer journey?

I have really struggled with my own masculinity and self-confidence when I moved to America as an immigrant. I was learning a lot about where I stand and how people perceive me within the community. Then of course I found out that being gay and Asian stereotypically means a certain type of person which is submissive, effeminate, and in turn not desirable. I was sort of compensating a lot and trying to belong by bulking up, wearing certain types of clothing, and trying to appear more masc. But now, I am just a lot more secure in my sexuality and gender identity. I want to turn toxic masculinity on its head and bring my unique aesthetic to the forefront and tell the world it's okay to be flamboyant, emotional and romantic.

How did you approach your first collection?

For this first collection specifically, I wanted to bring forward knitwear pieces. It's not only comfortable, it's just so forgiving to the body and shapes the body in a really unique way. I intentionally added stretches to all my pieces to make sure the collection fits everybody. Style wise, I included some super romantic pieces with bows. Statement pieces feature asymmetrical designs to accentuate body parts as well as some contemporary takes on classic menswear pieces.

Is Fang a reflection of your style or something completely different?

It's definitely more of a reflection on myself and how I would like to present my unique experience as a queer person in this world. I feel the best when I wear more form-fitting clothes and I'm just really informed by the 2000s when Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Zoe and the other American style icons when they were all coming out, they dressed so effortlessly but also chic at the same time. That's when I first came to America and was so fascinated by American culture. I really wanted to bring a lot of what I would wear on a day-to-day basis to my brand.

What has been a defining moment in your experience regarding you wanting to be a designer?

I think I was really frustrated with the lack of diversity in menswear in terms of the type of clothes it offers. I was shopping at this department store in the men's section in the basement. It was so dark and dim-lit. Everything I saw was boring formalwear or shapeless sportswear. That was my aha moment and I was like, I can definitely do something better than this. I just think how you present yourself is so important and how it informs your identity. The silhouettes, shapes, colors and different things within the inaugural FANG collection really highlights that and celebrates all sorts of bodies who wear it.

What are your goals for FANG and as a designer?

I just really want to push the envelope of what's considered menswear. Change people's mind about what's considered maculine or feminine. Or maybe just don't gender clothes at all. I would love to do something super meaningful with the brand as well, to use the brand as a vehicle and redirect my brand's resources within the community.

Three words to describe the brand. What would they be?

Romantic, flamboyant and comfortable.

Photography: JJ Geiger