"Be yourself, bitch. Step your pussy up, honey. Get a job. Own a business, bitch. Suck a dick." - TS Madison
In the midst of police brutality, unemployment, a global pandemic, and so many other traumas disproportionately affecting QBIPOC communities, we are all experiencing what I can describe as a perpetual rebirth of ourselves and our spaces. What should I be doing? What are my values? Is this person good for me? You're CANCELED! Wait, am I canceled? Who am I? As we collectively navigate these feelings, a comfortable space in which we are welcomed and appreciated is high on my "give me this NOW" list.
Jennifer Zapata (she/her, right) and Ashley SP (she/her, left) took their collective downtime and used it to their advantage: Let's open a clothing and lifestyle retail store - inclusive to all and reflective of our communities - which allows us to rebuild ourselves and support other artists who work tirelessly to bring their art to light. Hell, waking up on time for my weekly therapy appointment is hard enough...opening a retail store in the midst of a 2020 crapshoot is nothing short of remarkable. The roaring 20s fashion explosion is here again, a century later – and all the fits are coming from Género Neutral.
The Echo Park space, painted all white, is warm and inviting - I've been there ~6 times, many of which were just to hang out, get some love from Jenn's dog, Charlie, and introduce friends to the owners. And, after you've made your purchase, Jenn and Ash will take your picture out front and post it to their Instagram story (ngl, @generoneutral's IG stories have become my go-to for LA thirst traps....). I spent some time getting to know the owners and find out why and how they were able to dream and execute on the hottest spot in Echo Park during a pandemic.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN LA?
JZ: 7 years
ASP: 2 years
HOW DO YOU TWO KNOW EACH OTHER?
We met at Bar Flores almost two years ago, through a mutual friend.
WHY THIS STORE? WHY NOW?
The pandemic created the opportunity for us to have the time to work on a dream that we’d always had – we were both furloughed from our companies at different times in 2020 and found ourselves wanting the same next step; something of our own. Opening a brick-and-mortar store in such uncertain times seemed crazy to most people we shared our idea with, but we wanted to have a space that you could walk into that reflected us, our favorite brands, our friends, and the community.
WHAT DOES GÉNERO NEUTRAL MEAN? WHO IS YOUR PRODUCT FOR?
Our unofficial slogan is “by us, for everyone” and we mean everyone. To us, “género neutral” is a reflection of how we celebrate clothes in a genderless way and how this space is a combination of so many communities coming together.
DID YOU HIT ANY ROADBLOCKS OPENING THE STORE?
It’s weird but we didn’t hit many at all. We had no experience in commercial real estate, so the leasing process took longer than we anticipated, but truly everything came together so seamlessly that looking back, it doesn’t feel like there were any real complications.
A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF PRODUCTS SOLD ARE CREATED IN MEXICO CITY. WHY THE FOCUS THERE?
There was actually no intent or focus surrounding creating a store filled with designers from Mexico City. These were designers that we enjoyed and shopped in our personal lives, or admired from a distance – so many of whom we’ve forged close friendships with now. We’re so grateful that they’ve put their trust in us to represent them in Los Angeles.
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE ON YOUR COMMUNITY?
We’ve always known that GNLA is meant to be more than a retail space – so the fact that we can build a community out of these doors is incredible in the first place. We hope that by opening this store, you can see that anyone can do what we’ve done, regardless of your age, background, or gender. Creating a safe space for people to share their ideas and grow with us is one of our main goals.
FAVORITE DESIGNER(S) CURRENTLY
JZ: I don’t have a specific favorite designer, I tend to like to shop local or smaller brands – including vintage.
ASP: It’s probably cliché to say but all of the brands we carry in-store are my favorites – that’s why it’s so cool to have this space, as it really feels like a reflection of us.
FAVORITE SONG/ARTIST CURRENTLY
JZ: Khruangbin, I’m so excited to see them this Fall at the Greek Theater
ASP: Sen Senra is on repeat every morning for me
JZ: Re-watching Law & Order SVU
ASP: Re-watching Narcos (both Colombia and Mexico)
BIGGEST PET PEEVE
JZ: bad table manners
ASP: lack of follow through or rudeness