Luke Christian is an out and deaf entrepreneur who created his iconic fashion brand, DEAF IDENTITY with his redundancy cheque. He talks to us about his love of fashion and why it’s weird to fetishise deafness.
Tell us a little a bit about your company, what’s the goal?
I created DEAF IDENTITY last September 2019 as I took redundancy from my old job and came to a bit of a standstill where I had an idea of mixing my love for fashion whilst raising deaf awareness.
The goal is to highlight the deaf community by breaking down the barriers and stigmas surrounding us and to show that there is no right or wrong way to be deaf! I also wanted to create a brand that felt fresh, modern and relevant and to show that being deaf isn’t all people may think it is…
How are you going to marry fashion and deafness?
I aim to mix my love for fashion with deafness by allowing the consumer to personalise their items in British Sign Language to their own personal taste and they can also select their own ‘DEAF IDENTITY PHRASE’ which is designed to be quite tongue in cheek and to grab attention such as ‘WELL YOU DON’T LOOK DEAF’ which is something I have and still get told countless times!
Who designs your clothing?
I design all of my clothing and get inspired by current affairs and what is going on in live time.
What are the biggest challenges facing you or DEAF IDENTITY at the moment?
The biggest challenge at the moment is Covid-19 restrictions as I’m sure it is for many, many other businesses out there too! But, the positive out of this is that it’s allowed me to pause, reflect and plan for the future.
Are there any great LGBT+ deaf role models?
I think this is a tricky question because one of the main reasons why I started DEAF IDENTITY is because being born deaf and whilst growing up deaf, I never had anybody to look up to in the public eye that was deaf so never felt I could relate to somebody or have a ‘deaf hero’.
With DEAF IDENTITY all the models that I use are all deaf or CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) so I hope that over time as the brand grows, there will be more role models to look up to and for people to feel connected with!
Who are your personal role models?
For me personally, Kate Moss. I’ve just always admired her from a young age and I remember falling in love with an image of her in a magazine and my love for fashion grew from then! I think what I love about her is that everyone knows who she is yet we know very little about her…
What are the barriers and stigmas that Deaf people can face?
I think the barriers deaf people face daily is equal rights. We as a community are always, always an afterthought and I think the main, current example is the ‘Where is the interpreter?’ campaign going on.
Throughout the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, here in the United Kingdom, during the BBC news special at 5 pm with the daily briefing, there is no interpreter and we seem to be the only country in the world that doesn’t have one.
Again, this is a pandemic and affects everybody yet deaf people who rely on British Sign Language aren’t being thought of and are once again, an afterthought.
Do you think people are frightened or scared to interact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing?
For me personally, I think that from my own experience people are actually quite open and nice about it! I’ve had people notice my hearing aids and say ‘Oh I know BSL too!’ or ‘I know someone that’s deaf as well!’ which is quite sweet and I would rather they made an effort than not at all.
I don’t know why gay men feel the need to tell me things such as ‘Oh you’re deaf? That’s so cute, I just want to look after you!!’
Is it hard to feel part of the wider LGBT+ community or have you found people to generally welcoming?
I would definitely say it’s mixed but one challenge I face is my deafness being fetishised. I don’t know why gay men feel the need to tell me things such as ‘Oh you’re deaf? That’s so cute, I just want to look after you!!’ or ‘It turns me on knowing you’re deaf, maybe we could have some fun and I’ll turn your hearing aids off as well’…
It’s crazy to me and whenever I try to explain why this isn’t okay, I either get blocked or called ‘sensitive’.
Each to their own I guess!
To find out more about DEAF IDENTITY visit their website
The editor and chief of THEGAYUK. All in a previous life wrote and produced songs on multi-platinum records.