Welcome to the world of UTILITARIAN - a gender neutral clothing, accessories, and footwear brand for all. My name is Bentley Wederski, and I am the founder and creative director of UTILITARIAN. I am thrilled to announce the launch of my gender neutral clothes and accessories line that can be worn by everyone and anyone. UTILITARIAN’s non binary outfits combine modern construction with minimalistic designs and neutral tones, in order to represent gender fluidity and equity within fashion.
My vision for UTILITARIAN is to ignite cultural change by progressing society forward. For far too long, the societal norms and expectations of fashion and how it pertains to gender have created deep binary divides between people. We can see it all around us. These societal constructs have forced men and women to act and think a certain way - which I believe has limited our ability to progress beyond where we are at today. A divided and broken place.
I understand these are big words and strong ambitions. Words and ambitions we fully intend to deliver on. You can hold me to it, and I certainly hope you do. Quite frankly, we live in a time where fashion brands and any large corporation for that matter throw statements like this out with no real intention of following through. They just want to capture your attention and more so your spending dollars. I’ve worked for these companies. UTILITARIAN intends to not be like those companies.
If you’re questioning how UTILITARIAN can deliver upon this mission statement of igniting cultural change through nonbinary fashion, I can answer it simply: by creating a strong culture through product and storytelling that allows people to be authentic and the way they want to be without condition. The conditions I’m talking about are the ones we may not think are necessarily conditions. Think of a place where you love to buy your clothing, footwear, or accessories. Let’s say you’re a person that goes by the pronouns of he/him/his and you love a floral blouse with eyelet details. Let’s say this top is by a store that only markets to people who identify as she/her/hers and a certain type of womxn. Lastly, let’s say that the floral blouse with eyelet details only comes in sizes 2-10, but you’re a size 14. Those are the conditions I’m talking about. The brand selling the floral blouse with eyelet details is saying that only women size 2-10 that look a certain way can be authentically them in that blouse. I say fuck that.
I’m going to create a beautiful androgynous clothing, accessories, and footwear that subscribe to the UTILITARIAN aesthetic and if you feel that product is authentically you, you can wear it because I don’t design into gender, size, sexuality, or anything that fashion brands have for many years. Through this platform, I’m setting out to create much more than just non binary clothing and gender neutral outfits. I aim to create the product of a community that cultivates inspiration and action in others. Through UTILITARIAN, I want to tell stories and bring to light all different types of thought leadership that are thread together by the same theme: igniting cultural change. Big or small, I want to share with you people who have faced adversity but used those hardships to create meaning in their life and shift the paradigm. This idea of sharing stories to cultivate a community comes from my own personal story and very much how UTILITARIAN was created.
UTILITARIAN - the business and its unisex clothing - is the product of many experiences in my life, but the biggest part stems from the story of my colorful pants. Sounds odd but you read that correctly. The modern and minimalist brand rooted in neutrals fashion for all genders was born because of colorful pants. When I was younger, I had an affinity for color. In 7th grade, I was tired of wearing the same banal wardrobe my peers were and I wanted to wear colorful pants. So, I did. Growing up in the small, rural, and ultra-conservative town of Riverton, Wyoming, boys did not wear colorful pants. I faced a lot of adversity for what I was choosing to wear. The labels that I was given started soft such as girly and fruity - but they quickly escalated to very derogatory terms such as homo and faggot. There were times where the hatred for my pants turned to physical violence from others. All because I was choosing what I wanted to wear, and not what society was telling me I could wear.
Growing up gay in a place that didn’t widely accept homosexuality, or colorful pants on boys for that mater motivated me to get out of the dying town as soon as I was able to. I dreamed about moving away to a big city and never looking back for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do leading up to graduation, but it eventually became clear at the end of my high school experience that I wanted to make fashion my career. I was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology through an impressive high school resume as well as a beautiful essay about my experience with the colorful pants and how they were the pen that helped write my story in fashion. I never realized it until then, but fashion played an integral part in my formative years and shaped much of the person I am today. I moved to New York City that Fall after receiving my acceptance letter.
After working diligently and continuously learning more about the fashion industry, I found myself inspired to create positive change through this creative outlet. My first role in the fashion industry started at The Row. There I came to fall in love with the minimalist and modern aesthetic of their androgynous clothes. Constructed with amazing fabrics and inimitable attention to detail, they created art, not just products. This is where my style truly began to shift and I felt I hit my stride. I hadn’t worn or played with color much after 7th grade (mostly because I suffered from PTSD after the experience) but focusing on minimalist shapes rather than color gave me the same intoxicating and stimulated feeling I felt when I wore the colorful pants. I believe you know this feeling too, dear reader. The feeling when you wear something that makes you feel sensational; it makes you stand a little taller, your strides become bolder, and you just be. You will notice I focus on and experiment a lot with shapes in my gender neutral clothing and footwear collections. I love accentuating and extending angles of the body; mixing fluid with structured; elongating and shortening portions of the body. We are sculptors of our own bodies. After The Row, my journey led me to a completely different experience at Anthropologie. Both experiences provided me with invaluable skills and insight at an early age. Through this journey, I saw the work and care that went into designing clothing and accessories and found the motivation to create my own brand - thus, UTILITARIAN was formed.
As you get to know me through this journey, you’ll come to find that I’m a person of symbolism. Not in the literal sense of just putting a rainbow on a t-shirt to symbolize the pride movement. More so in a way that many of the things I do come to fruition to resemble something of my past. An indirect, and sometimes very direct, suggestion to express my mystical ideas of how life can be better, my emotions around a subject or ideology, and my evolution to my current state of mind. Even the name of my brand intentionally symbolizes more than just a utilitarian aesthetic. The word utilitarian is used to describe usefulness and practicality. My unisex clothes, handbags, and shoes are utilitarian because they are not adorned with decadent embellishment, but refined, polished, and versatile enough to be used in all areas of the customer's life. I also think of the word utilitarian as it relates to clothing as a useful tool to express who we are. If you are a person who values the modern and minimalist aesthetic and chooses to dress that way to express who you are, then UTILITARIAN clothing is in fact utilitarian to you. Additionally, when taking a philosophy class in college, I became fascinated with the utilitarianism theory in ethics - which even further solidified naming my brand UTILITARIAN.
Utilitarianism is defined as “a doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.” Utilitarian, relating to or adhering to this doctrine of utilitarianism, perfectly embodies the values I aim to share with my clothing line. Through the creation of UTILITARIAN, I seek to create a cultural shift in the fashion industry, by designing clothing that could be worn by anybody and rejecting the establishment framework to emphasize that style and clothes have no gender. UTILITARIAN exemplifies not only fashion but values and the desire to create change: by ensuring authenticity in clothing, we can begin to recognize and take on the labels and stereotypes that are frequently matched with gender.
What can you expect from UTILITARIAN? The first and most exciting thing you can expect from UTILITARIAN is to break down a lot of barriers and blow up a lot of glass ceilings. The fact is there are very few gender neutral clothing brands that exist in the world today - so we get to create a lot of firsts in fashion. Although gender neutral clothing is still considered a niche market, we don’t plan on providing you with niche products and experiences. UTILITARIAN strives to provide great products that suit many areas of your busy lifestyle. In our non binary style way, UTILITARIAN offers a diverse wardrobe of gender neutral business casual to well-tailored androgynous formal wear. All while maintaining the beautiful modern and minimalist aesthetic we love across all androgynous clothing styles. Whether you’re a man looking for mens feminine clothing or a womxn looking for masculine clothes for females, UTILITARIAN is a brand for the entire gender spectrum for those who appreciate quality, luxury, and the aesthetic of the brand.
When I began building the framework of UTILITARIAN’s sourcing matrix, I had to make the hard decision of how I was going to organize my production. Many USA clothes brands choose to manufacture their products outside of America for cost reasons. Manufacturing outside of the United States is much cheaper than manufacturing in America - especially for bigger brands. The USA clothes brands that do manufacture in the United States, have a very high and unattainable price tag, which is not what I wanted for UTILITARIAN. I wanted UTILITARIAN to provide luxury products at an accessible price point. However, there’s a certain energy and vibrance in the New York City garment district that makes it a hidden gem (underneath its very grimey surface).
When I was visiting factories both in America and abroad, something kept bringing me back to the fantasy of keeping my production stateside. I decided that for now and the foreseeable future, I will try my hardest and be a brand that manufactures my clothing in the United States of America. By manufacturing in the United States, I personally can ensure that UTILITARIAN is providing quality brands clothing by being in the factories during production and overseeing the quality of the manufacturing. I was even able to find a great handbag manufacturer locally. Even more importantly, the factories that make my clothing and handbags provide their workers with a safe place to work and good wages. I want there to be equity in every aspect of UTILITARIAN. The only product we do not manufacture in America is our gender neutral shoes. This is because there are virtually no footwear manufacturers left in the United States that can produce at the capacity we need. However, the manufacturing partners we have chosen have exquisite facilities and embody the same values as our company.
Beyond finding impeccable quality in the fabrics and construction of our products, and the sublime aesthetic of minimalism and modernism, UTILITARIAN strives to be a place more than just commerce. We will also be a place that is an epicenter of culture, where you can find both innovation and inspiration. Through our website, YouTube channel, Instagram, and TikTok, you will be able to find us spotlighting others, who, like me, have overcome adversity and championed individuality. I find myself most inspired when listening and learning from other people's experiences and I want to share that kind of inspiration with you! By way of sharing powerful stories with similar threads of hardships and valiant efforts to make the place at least a little better, I hope to create a community with you, dear customer. I’m excited to start building this so you can find and experience it with me.
In forming a non binary clothes, footwear, and accessories line that promotes originality and validity in what you wear, my motivation for UTILITARIAN is to continue to be a strong advocate for equal rights and social justice. Working in the fashion industry I noticed, and it became overwhelmingly clear to everyone in the summer of 2020, that many large fashion brands lacked the voice and the spine to stand behind something they believed in. Or, and this might be more of the case, many large fashion brands just didn’t care much about humanity. They cared about investors' pockets and pumping out more products as fast as they could so they could sell more stuff and get more of your money. I truly believe that is what most large fashion brands prioritize, and that is not how I am going to run my business. When I think about UTILITARIAN, I think about the people first, then the products I can design to make their lives a little better.
I also believe that you can’t be everything to everyone. When writing my business plan, I thought long and hard about what causes I care most about. What did I want my business to stand behind ferociously? What was the hill I was willing to die on? As a result of my own childhood ties to Wyoming, I hope to be a supporter and friend to those in LGBTQIA+ community in my home state and beyond, striving to be an aid for young minorities who may be struggling to feel comfortable or welcomed by others due to their own sexuality. UTILITARIAN will stand behind all equal rights and social justice, and we will hone our efforts by focusing on a state that needs the help the most.
UTILITARIAN represents becoming a part of something bigger. The brand represents becoming part of a movement, a culture, an aesthetic, and a purpose. We embrace feeling good in what you wear, whether it be colorful pants or an oversized white cotton poplin turtleneck top. The brand ensures practicality and comfortability in clothing, whatever those words might mean to you. Thank you for coming on this journey with us - welcome to the UTILITARIAN community!