The QUILTBAG, a LGBTQ+ retail shop, celebrated its one year birthday on December 1.
QUILTBAG is a variation of the LGBTQ+ acronym, standing for queer, questioning, unlabelled, intersex, lesbian, trans, two-spirit, bisexual, asexual, gay, genderqueer, and more. The store carries an array of items, particularly queer and trans goods; these items include, but are not limited to clothes, binders, books, cards, jewelry, candles, and shoes.
Rebecca Blakey, who co-owns the store with her partner Parker, said the idea for the store came out of a “by the community, for the community” model.
After working in public education and teaching about feminism, anti-oppression, gender, anti-racism, LGBTQ+, and more, Blakey and her partner wanted to translate the knowledge and resources they’ve gained into something beneficial for Edmontonians.
“We have the know-how, the skills, and the ability to make a brick and mortar space happen where all the amazing queer artists that we know in Edmonton can have their stuff,” said Blakey. “It’s a super affirming place where [people] know that no matter what they do, they are supporting queer people with their money.”
The QUILTBAG has no gender categories for the arrangement of their clothes and has standardized pricing for all their clothing pieces. For instance, all skirts are $20, instead of different prices for different patterns of skirts. According to Blakey, the QUILTBAG is a safe space for people to experiment with gender presentation.
“Clothing and shopping in general are super gendered experiences, [many] shops are totally divided along the lines of the gender binary,” said Blakey. “We’re really into the idea […] of being a chill space where people can come and try on types of clothes, where if they were to go into a ‘regular’ shop they might get looked at funny or it just wouldn’t feel safe.”
Blakey and Parker do not make money from owning the store; it’s currently volunteer-run with only the two of them working. Blakey and Parker refuse to hire non-paid employees and hopes that one day the QUILTBAG can be sustainable in a way that means employees are paid a living wage.
“I want people to know that we are super responsive. People come in and are like ‘I want to see this’, [so] we figure out a way of getting it,” said Blakey. “That’s the best thing about being a small business is that you get to be like, whatever the people say that they want is what we’re going to do, because we’re for people.”
The QUILTBAG will be closed for Christmas, but will resume business as usual at the beginning of January.