When Rob Smith attended the Burning Man festival a few years ago, he had no idea the journey he was about to embark on. When he returned home, he gave a few months’ notice to his job and began traveling around the world. While backpacking through places such as India, Central America and Nepal, Smith created his concept of The Phluid Project. Smith joins the Retail Gets Real podcast to discuss the evolution of the company and what’s next for the gender-free brand.
The Phluid Project was born through Smith’s passion for social justice for LGBTQIA+ youth and his experience in retail leadership. The company aims to empower individuals through freedom and self-expression. All of the brand’s apparel is genderless, making a safe, judgement-free shopping experience for its consumers.
Top of mind for Smith was how gender is stereotypically portrayed in apparel marketing. He recognizes the trauma this can bring to LGBTQIA+ youth as they struggle to shop in places inconsistent with their identity while being bombarded by gendered messaging.
Though The Phluid Project store closed in 2019, its reach is expanding more than ever. In addition to direct-to-consumer sales from the website, the brand will also be featured in more than 5,000 retail locations, including Target, Nordstrom and Saks Off Fifth.
Listen to the full episode to learn more about The Phluid Projects’ efforts to support LGBTQIA+ youth, the history of fashion gendering and Smith’s belief that Gen Z will change the world.