Motley Growth Manager Leigh takes a moment to talk Pride, how to be inclusive, and his favourite gender neutral Motley jewellery.
Pride is a powerful movement. For a long time, that movement went unnoticed in the mainstream and among corporations and brands. But as we’re reminded yearly by corporate logos turning rainbow, that’s no longer the case.
Brands worldwide are more outwardly vocal than ever before in their support of Pride. But in the LGBT community, we ask ourselves how many are just a reaction to social pressure, with little genuine meaning behind them. The fear about the dangers of performative allyship that anti-racist activists have voiced recently is one the LGBT community has experienced too.
Brands or high profile corporates will often only engage with certain parts of social movements - that’s definitely been the experience of Black Trans activists, who have been sidelined for decades despite the crucial part they played in the origins of Pride (if you’d like to support an organisation this Pride month that supports Trans youth, I recommend Gendered Intelligence). I’m hoping brands will act on their social promises to both movements beyond moments of intense social pressure in lasting, meaningful ways.
So how can a brand be a genuinely inclusive place to work for people from marginalised communities? Here’s how I’ve experienced it at Motley.
When you’re a gay man in marketing, and especially a gay man in a corporate context, you’re expected to fit a certain ‘sassy, camp’ stereotype. It’s a real change to work somewhere where that’s not the case, and I don’t have to drop a regular ‘yass queen’ in conversation. It’s also refreshing to work for a brand that promotes expression and personality in the workplace that doesn’t relegate gay employees to a tired stereotype that belongs in an episode of Sex and The City.
Our team is small, but has lots of backgrounds and cultures represented. We consider the designers and artisans an extension of the team, and they come from all denominations, orientations and backgrounds too. It makes for interesting work, and interesting chat in the office. Encouraging that kind of freedom of expression is what makes the Motley model tick - we tell our designers to create without a brief, which is why our collections are so unique. They draw on lived experiences or social issues they care about to create jewellery that’s often the first of its kind - take Hannah Martin, who was making gender neutral jewellery before the concept of gender neutral jewellery existed.
A favourite collection of mine is Motley x Christopher Thompson Royds, a playful take on body positivity. His designs, inspired by paper dolls from Christmas crackers, resonated with me as soon as I started - the Handy Studs were the first items I added to my ever growing Motley collection.
Something that makes Motley unique is the ability to tell the story of the designer and their artistic influences, which my friends love to hear about when rifling through my Motley collection. This has also meant that my friends now constantly borrow my jewellery, which is what it is all about! I seem to be sent a Motley wish list by my partner before every birthday and Christmas...
Our collections are deliberately not split in gender categories, because the idea of splitting jewellery by what looks more traditionally masculine or more feminine just didn’t make sense to us. I’ve compiled my favourite androgynous pieces here. I sense a change in what men consider to be ‘acceptable’ jewellery or accessories (my favourite is definitely the men in pearls trend of this year). Jewellery has a long history of being worn by men, from the English Restoration to the Mughal empire. I’d definitely love to see men in Motley x Frances Wadsworth-Jones, which does away with outdated perspectives on pearls by fusing them with screws.
Jewellery is empowering in a way no other type of clothing or accessory is, and I’ve definitely enjoyed exploring that myself in my time at Motley. I can’t wait to see what our designers will bring out next - having seen some early sketches, it’s exciting times ahead for my jewellery box.