Trailblazer: Stoney Michelli

Meet an L.A. fashion designer unconstrained by gender.

stoney michelli
Gregg Segal

Stuzo Clothing was created out of necessity. When Stoney Michelli shopped at department stores, merchandise was split into men’s and women’s sections. “There wasn’t a section for me,” Michelli says. And when she found clothing she liked—a pair of men’s jeans, say—“everything was just so misproportioned.” At five foot two, she had to alter nearly every purchase. “I probably pay double the amount by the time I’m done,” she says. “Also, I felt really uncomfortable in the men’s section, because a lot of guys would be like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” So Michelli, whose background is in fine arts and graphic design, created her own gender-free clothing line, Stuzo, “where nobody could feel, ‘Oh, well, this is not made for me.’ ” An early success came out of her frustration with people asking her if she was still gay. She emblazoned her response—yup, still gay!—on a T-shirt. It was a hit, and things took off: Stuzo Clothing, based in Los Angeles’s Mid-City neighborhood, has been worn by celebrities including Spike Lee, Lena Waithe, and Ruby Rose.

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On making the best of the pandemic: “You have to be very crafty. Obviously, things are predominantly online [now]. I take it like a blessing in disguise. It was time to dive in and clean up some stuff, business-wise, and it pushed me to do more marketing and social media, like diving into TikTok.”

On seeing celebs wear her designs: “It’s enriching to my soul. It feels good to know that I’m in alignment with certain people, because a lot of people look up to them. And that means that they’re looking up to me, too.”

On her own style: “I do everything by feelings: How do I want to show up? What do I want to say? I like to feel royal and lavish. I don’t just wait until a special occasion to wear certain things. I want to be fly every day.”•

Julia Herbst is a senior staff editor at Fast Company.
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