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Genderqueer designer talks clothing line, schooling, inspirations
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2016-04-12

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Designing garments and accessories has been a part of Sky Cubacub's life since their early teen years. They also showcase their designs through performance art.

Cubacub, a graduate of Northside College Preparatory High School and the School of the Art Institute ( SAIC ), grew up in the North Center neighborhood and has lived in the same house their entire life.

"My parents bought the building ten years before I was born," said Cubacub. "I live on the second floor and my studio is on the first floor while my parents occupy the rest of the first floor of the building."

Cubacub got a scholarship to SAIC based in their senior project, a repetitive motion garment collection.

"It was handmade, hand intensive work like my chainmaille and hand embroidery pieces," said Cubacub.

Cubacub—who is 24 and identifies as genderqueer—calls their studio a "controlled, messy, creative space."

Regarding why Cubacub decided to name their clothing collection Rebirth Garments ( www.rebirthgarments.com/ and www.facebook.com/rebirthgarments/ ), they said, "'Rebirth' has been a word I've used for a variety of projects over the years. I have a panic disorder and have been a very anxious person my whole life. There was a point in my past when I decided that I was sick of having panic attacks every day. That's when I decided I needed to become a new person who lets things pass through me, instead of getting things stuck inside my head, so I had a re-birthing ceremony to renew myself.

"After the ceremony, I decided to use the name Rebirth Garments for my studio space and clothing collection. I like the message the name conveys. I want the line to show that we should move past the constructs that are making life worse for those who are trans, queer, people of color and people with disabilities."

In order to sell their wares, Cubacub set up a store on Etsy ( www.etsy.com/shop/RebirthGarments ).

"It's been going well and, right after the holidays, I had a huge spike in orders," said Cubacub.

"Every single time I make a garment, I perform in it," said Cubacub. "When I started at Northside, I made this full chainmaille halter dress and I modeled it on a pedestal at the end of the semester show. Now I'm purely interested in garments that help everyone move more freely."

One of the ways Cubacub is helping people move more freely, is by using spandex—which is their favorite fabric—to make garments.

"I like the variety of colors and patterns in spandex and the fact that it can fit people of all body-types," said Cubacub. "It's especially good for people with disabilities who might not have as much limb action or mobility."

When asked who's been the biggest influence in terms of their style and design choices, Cubacub singled out the late Leigh Bowery.

"I stopped looking at fashion part-way through high school because current stuff was disappointing to me and I hate the fashion industry," said Cubacub. "I position myself as a garment maker, not a fashion designer."

Cubacub has a new clothing line for queer people with disabilities.

"I've been thinking about it since high school because I wanted to wear a binder in place of a bra," said Cubacub. "As a person with a small chest, it was always difficult to find a bra that wasn't heavily padded and I didn't feel comfortable wearing a bra with padding. I wanted to fill that need for myself and that in turn made me want to help people with disabilities be able to wear clothes that worked for them that were also stylish.

"I also identify as crip, which is a politicized umbrella term for people with disabilities that includes visible and invisible, physical, emotional and psychological disabilities. I've also learned through my friendships with people with disabilities that it's hard to find clothing that works for them. I make things that are functional and stylish for them to wear. QueerCrip was coined by Carrie Sandhal of UIC. I was interested in her idea of queering the crip and cripping the queer. It's mixed with sexuality within the disability community."

Cubacub has also written a manifesto, Radical Visibility: A QueerCrip Dress Reform Movement, that is featured on their website under radical visibility zine.

Carrie Kaufman—whom Cubacub met through Access Living—is one of the many QueerCrip models featured in their shows. ( To view Cubacub's shows, visit www.vimeo.com/136226544, www.vimeo.com/144653825 and www.vimeo.com/140699082. )

"I love working with Carrie because she has a great sense of style and flair as a performance artist," said Cubacub.

"Being a model for Sky has been so fun and such a beautiful experience," said Kaufman. "They are a designer who specifically wants to design items for QueerCrip bodies, bodies that aren't usually considered worthy of design, attention or adornment. It's a struggle for me to find a home as a QueerCrip, both inside and outside of my body. The opportunity to work with Sky and talk about things I could wear that make me feel amazing and sexy has been a gift. I'm excited to continue working together on other projects related to fashion, art, bodies and sex. Sky's vision is radical, revolutionary and so necessary."

Cubacub also gives back by volunteering at Northside during their Wednesday Class Colloquiums. They help wherever they are needed depending on the week and what's going on during the colloquiums.

"One of the reasons why I love volunteering at Northside is the ability to help the students," said Cubacub. "It's so cool to see the students become even more open and accepting of others since I graduated. A teacher told me recently that more and more students are asking them to use they and them pronouns."

Cubacub's work will be featured at the "Radically Visible" show April 29—June 11 at Thunder-Sky, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit raymondthundersky.org/thunder-sky-inc-2016-radical-approaches/ .


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