These Designers Make Clothing and Accessories—With Pride

Portrait of designers Don Carney and John Ross from Patch NYC in their Boston retail store.

For this group of designers, creating an outfit or accessory goes beyond considering its aesthetics—the decisions are about helping individuals express who they are through what they wear. This is how they’ve mined their personal experiences—and identities—to make and sell clothes like T-shirts to support the LGBTQ+ community, affordable lace front wigs for drag queens, and environmentally sustainable androgynous clothing options.

Kirrin Finch

Kelly and Laura Moffat started Kirrin Finch out of a mutual fashion frustration—“a need of our own to find clothes that made us feel authentic,” says Kelly. When shopping in the women’s section, Kelly and Laura say the styles didn’t feel right. Ditto with the men’s section, where clothes didn’t fit well. The duo knew they had to create their own line. “If you don’t feel good about what you’re wearing, you don’t feel good about yourself,” Laura says.

After testing out designs on many different body types, Kirrin Finch was born, inspired by tomboy styles but made to fit female and non-binary bodies. The founders behind the brand are also committed to using natural fabrics that are environmentally sustainable, with production focused in the US.

Wigs by Vanity

Though a wig is a crucial part of a drag queen’s look, not all of them are created equal. Just ask Vanity Faire, co-founder of Wigs by Vanity. “I just feel like the wig for a drag queen,” says Vanity, “is like the cherry on top of the cake.” They can also be pricey pieces to purchase.

Portrait of Drag queen Vanity wearing a lace front wig in a pink hue.
Vanity Faire co-founded her business as a side gig. Wigs By Vanity

The lace front customizable wigs made famous by RuPaul can run for thousands of dollars and are hard to afford for many drag queens who are just starting out. Vanity and her partner, Courtney Act, a former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, thought of making some that their fellow artists could cut themselves at a much more approachable cost. Since then, their wigs have cornered the drag market. But the business was always a side hustle. What made Vanity decide to go full-time? Listen to her story on Vanguard by Shopify Studios:


Mama always knows best. When John Ross received a crocheted hat from his mother during winter in New York, both he and Don Carney decided to start making hats of their own. The couple, who went from being partners in life to business, launched the brand PATCH NYC. Originally stationed in New York City with a studio and retail space, the duo moved to Boston in 2012 and took their creativity to the city’s South End.

John and Don have since developed their own distinct style: their designs nod to the Victorian era while mixing in bold and quirky prints. “There’s never a shortage of ideas,” says John, who has worked with Don to create their signature PATCH NYC–styled homegoods, clothing, and accessories for their own shop as well as retail partners like Anthropologie, Target, and West Elm.

Designer and co-founder of Patch NYC in his studio creating custom artwork for their signature houseware pieces.
PATCH NYC's retail space sits just across the courtyard from their studio, where Don (shown) and John design their signature collections. Tony Luong


Having experienced a hard time coming out, Liz Bertorelli wanted to create something for others “that allowed you to show who you were without actually saying it out loud.” So she started Passionfruit, a collection of T-shirts and accessories that allow those wearing the brand to show their pride and support—for themselves, or others—year round.

The effort is an ongoing side hustle, as Liz also balances a full-time job at Shopify. But she’s trying to widen her impact: Liz donates some of her proceeds to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that offers a toll-free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth. Over the years, Liz’s designs have also helped people come out and some brought couples together. “It’s amazing how powerful a T-shirt can be,” Liz shares.

Image of designer Liz Bertorelli's sketch book with four ideas for t shirt designs drawn in pencil.
Liz's T-shirts help her customers show who they are "without saying it out loud." Vuk Dragojevic
Image of designer Liz Bertorelli holding up one of her custom t shirts that reads Forever Queer.
Since Passionfruit is a side-hustle, Liz uses a print-and-ship service to help manage the business. Vuk Dragojevic

Feature image by Tony Luong