On July 4, Antoni Porowski posted a photo on Instagram of him and Queer Eye co-star Jonathan Van Ness sharing a kiss. The chaste peck was meant as a joke, a coy wink to hopeful fans, but the bit quickly took off. Today the post have over 750,000 likes and 13,000 comments. The pair, quickly squashed relationship rumors, but set up a shared account to keep the fun going and have been offered endorsement deals (they passed).
“We were at a July 4th party and we decided to share a really silly, stupid photo of us sharing a little kiss,” said Porowski, the food and wine guy on the Netflix Queer Eye reboot, which released season four this summer. He’s now quick to acknowledge that with a loyal viewership for the show and over 4 million Instagram followers his actions–even the silly ones–have an impact.
“A lot of people took [it] seriously. There are things people respond to like me noticing a corgi in an episode of Queer Eye and then it becomes more of a meme than me ever talking about food,” he said at the Fobres Under 30 Summit in Detroit Monday. Adding, “People create their own narrative.”
Meeting people where they are–and not where you expect or want them to be–has also been key to the success of Reformation, the sustainable fast-fashion brand founded by Yael Aflalo in 2009. Reformation is forecasting some $150 million in revenue this year. In July, private equity firm Permira bought a majority stake in the company.
As an example, Aflalo points to the brand’s five-year-old bridal line. Most wedding advertisements, she argues, cast a woman’s wedding day as the pinnacle of her life. Reformation ads, on the other hand, have declared “fuck I’m getting married” or “no more one night stands,” she says.
Aflalo knows from experience that women today are often more pragmatic than romantic about getting hitched, admitting she got married because her now husband needed a green card. (She is quick to point out that they are in love and that she is visibly pregnant with their second child.) “Instead of talking at women, we talk to them. We don’t use preconceived notions of what women are supposed to be,” says Aflalo.
Beyond branding, Aflalo’s goal is to make climate friendly fashion available to everyone. Cautioning, it is elitist to get mad at H&M or Zara for making clothing many see as disposable, since the price points at those traditional fast fashion stores make them accessible to more people. Using sustainable fibers and work practices still costs a lot, but Reformation aims to lower prices by 10% every year from a current range of around $60 and $550.
As a brand “there is a lot of pressure to crowd around doing the same things,” says Aflalo. “If one company is doing something the strategy and marketing departments are like ‘oh we should do that too.’ Then all of a sudden everybody is doing the same stuff. So you need to fight that really human urge to fit in and try not to.”