The Importance of Clothing, Comfort, & Allyship with Toni Marlow

Toni Marlow clothing is a Canadian based clothing company that provides undergarment fashion, specifically for transmen and non-binary individuals. Founded by Jalisa Luces-Mendes, Toni Marlow has flourished into avenues outside of fashion, such as community engagement and workshops centered around allyship, particularly trans-allyship. Juncture was fortunate to speak with Jalisa about her clothing line, her personal allyship, and diversity and inclusion.

Juncture: Thank you for taking the time to speak with The Juncture Mag! Hope all is well. Wanted to dive in and ask what do you prefer to be called and what are your preferred pronouns?

    J: Right now I prefer to be called Jalisa. My pronouns are she/they.

Juncture: Do you identify as LGBT+ or an ally? (No pressure to answer this or any other questions.)

    J: I’m definitely queer as hell. *laughs* Lesbian, queer, whatever. And an ally to everyone underneath that umbrella. There’s a lot of transphobia within the LGBTQ2SX+ community. And I’m definitely an ally for everyone underneath that umbrella. And I hope we can all start working together and supporting each other better. 

    That’s also part of why we do our trans-allyship workshops to foster community and understanding within and throughout our community and other communities and societies as a whole.

Juncture: I’m pretty stoked about Toni Marlow Co., and I think you all are doing big things. Can you tell everyone a little bit about Toni Marlow Co.?

    J: Toni Marlow is an undergarment brand—basically our underwear are for people who defy gender norms, and it caters to people who were assigned female at birth. So, that’s women, transmen and non-binary people who were assigned female at birth. Our underwear accommodates our hips, bums, thighs, menstruation, as well as packing. We have our TOM (time of the month) boxers that allows you to put a pad with wings into your boxers. There’s a layer on the inside that lifts up where you can put your pad and wings, and provides more stability and security.

    Our TOM boxers also allow for you to not have to wear “girls” panties in addition to boxers. Our packer boxers have a pocket in the front specifically designed to hold a packer. For anyone who doesn’t know what a packer is, it’s basically a flaccid dildo. So for trans guys or non-binary people who pack, when they’re out and about they can present as their gender. They were designed by our business partner Sampson Brown. It allows you to feel safe, secure, and comfortable so you don’t have to wear a harness.

Juncture: What are some of the products you offer?

    Those are the two main ones. But we also have boy shorts. They don’t have an extra functionality, but they’re super comfortable, no panty lines or wedgies. I’m very transparent about our things. I’m very big on quality control. We have t-shirts, “Respect My Pronouns” and “Beauty isnt Gendered.” We have hats. And we have our workshops and they’re a chance to have an honest and vulnerable open conversation with people who want to be allies or do better.”

Juncture: I love that you pair your brand with workshops to improve allyship. Where do you work?

    J: We are based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I work from my house and I also work from a coworking space called, The Fashion Zone. That or another friend’s house who’s also doing some work. 

Juncture: What does diversity and inclusion look like to you? How do you strive toward more inclusion and diversity?

    J: I think it’s more about being real and having true representation and not just saying here’s a token. It means actually bringing diverse people to the table and including them in conversations, consulting with them about things that are going to impact their communities. Don’t just put a black person on a poster and say, “oh, we’re helping inner city youth.” Well, did you go speak to inner city youth? Do you speak to their parents or their teachers?”

    I think when you bring people who have the lived experience you’re trying to showcase and improve, when you bring them to the table and hear from them and learn what they need and how you can help—that’s actually diversity and inclusion. You don’t just put the queer person, the trans person, the black person, or the Asian person just for that one shoot. If any person could be in the role or experience, put them there.”

    To close off on the question, striving toward more inclusion and diversity is having more representation and visibility that reflects our actual reality—aiming toward a reflection of everyone’s lived experiences. On an individual basis it’s talking to people who don’t look like me, who may have lived different experiences than me. I’ve always been very open in that way and now as I’ve grown, I’m more intentional about it. I don’t shy away from people and places that I think are very different from me. If I feel unsafe, I question that, and why I feel unsafe and what I can do to confirm or disprove that. At the end of the day we’re all humans and we’re more alike than we are different.

Juncture: This may be redundant, but do you think the work you do is important, and why?

    J: Honestly, I started this as a four hour work week idea. I was like, I’m gonna hustle for a bit, put in quite a bit of time upfront. Then, four to ten hours a week, I’m good. That was a joke. *laughs* I did it initially thinking this work was super important. I knew it was important because I didn’t see myself, I didn’t see my friends represented in fashion. I knew there was a need. A lot of people I knew were frustrated, so I knew there was a gap. But as I got into the work, I’ve realized how important it is. And having people say this is gonna change their life, it hits me in a way that—it’s incredible.

    Moreover, it’s the reason underwear is important is because the existence of a product for people who defy the gender norms, the fact that we have this product validates people’s existence, identity, and sense of self. We donate to suicide prevention. We’re doing everything we can to help bring awareness and put funds toward prevention. Because everyone matters, and is important, and deserves the right to be and feel their best selves. 

Juncture: Did you celebrate Columbus Day?

    J: No, for 2 reasons. Number 1, I’m Canadian—we don’t have Columbus Day. Number 2, Columbus ain’t my guy. What’s there to celebrate about him? He was a colonizer and really did centuries of damage through his ideology. And of course it wasn’t him alone, there’s a whole system. But he was the poster boy I guess you can say for colonization and colonialism in America…and kind of to a degree in Canada.

    I don’t celebrate it. I don’t support it. I’m in favor of Indigenous Awareness Day or Indigenous Appreciation Day.

Juncture: Thank you for speaking with us. Is there one last message you want to send out before the interview closes?

    J: I give thanks to everyone who supports local, who support black, who support people of color, who support Indigenous, queer folx, women, people who are differently abled. And even your cishet white man who’s your local neighborhood guy. If he’s a good guy and has a good product, and trying to do good by his community and his family, support it, you know what I mean? I appreciate you and Juncture. 

    In terms of a broader message to everyone: do you, and do what’s best for you. Love and respect yourself and others, and Bless!

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with The Juncture Magazine!

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