Act Straight is the exciting new fashion range that grabs hold of the notion of ‘straight acting’ and turns it on its head in a fun, camp and very sexy way. Dave Cross spoke to founder Pierre-Yves Monnerville about these exciting T-shirts.
Hi Pierre, can you tell us the idea behind your company Act Straight?
For a long time I’ve been seeing a lot of profiles that use the expressions ‘act straight’ or ’straight acting’ as if it was something to be proud of. I’m very sensitive to that because I’m black and a small part of my family was really ashamed of being black. They wasted so much energy trying to compensate for their feelings of unworthiness and inferiority. The other side of it comes from my love for British humour’s typical sarcasm and irony. Ultimately though, the idea is to promote self love and affirmation through humour.
So you reject the notions of shame based on our behaviour?
Exactly! However it’s not just about overcoming shame. I also want to keep advancing equality and rights for the entire LGBTQ community. I’d like to pay tribute to the people who fought decades ago for us to be able to marry and watch RuPaul on TV. There are loads of people who are fighting now too and I want to honour them.
What is your history and how did you come to start the company?
I was born in Paris but I’m from Martinique, a small island in Caribbean. When I was a child, I wanted to be a fashion designer until I came across Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book at 15 years old, which instantly made me want to be a photographer. I retrained as a designer and after graduating last year decided to hire myself just to save on payroll. I’ve always wanted to live abroad so after leaving Martinique and Paris, I spent two years in Berlin, then moved to London and settled in Brighton 11 years ago.
And your products are ecologically sound and you support fair trade too…
It’s very important for me to not just have as little impact on the environment as possible but also do my best to help people along the way. The T-shirts are made in India with 100% organic cotton in factories that are regularly inspected by the FairWear foundation to ensure workers get bargaining rights and unions are recognised. What I’m the proudest of is an initiative where women were trained to be supervisors and in parallel they trained men to work under female supervision too. The factories are powered by wind and solar energy. The clothes are printed in the UK with vegan inks and from 1 April shipped in biodegradable envelopes. There’s still a lot more we can do but it’s not too shabby a start already.
T- shirts have been used for a long time to make statements – did things like ‘Frankie Says’ from the 80s influence you?
Yes. I also remember Wham’s ‘Choose Life’ T-shirts, which I found amazing at the time. There was Act-Up’s pins from the early 90s that read ‘Nobody knows I’m Gay’, which inspired my ‘Not ready to come out just yet’.
How do you choose what to go on the shirts?
I try to think of when the T-shirts are worn whether it’s for a house party, a club or if it’s a present. Then I try to offer a mix of graphic illustration and slogans to cater for different tastes and occasions. I like to keep it short and relatively simple and minimalist. I guess most people enjoy a witty one-liner. I then ask my friends for feedback. Some are brutally honest. I love it!
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Mainly launch new product lines and get involved with charities. And, of course, prepare for and enjoy Pride season.