Inspired by different things, Luke’s main drive behind the new fashion brand DEAF IDENTITY came about during Deaf Awareness Week in May earlier this year.
“I wish there was something to wear to work to showcase Deaf Awareness,” his mum said.
After a little research, he concluded there was ‘”nothing out there and the things that are, are a little bit naff!”
Another motivation came from his weekly social media videos, “Signing Sundays,” where he teaches a new sign each week. He got creative and showed off his custom t-shirt embroidered with the word “#hEARo,” which attracted lots of attention from his fans.
“People kept asking me what #hEARo meant and if I could create t-shirts for them,” said Luke. “It got me thinking, perhaps it’s something I could explore, especially as there’s an interest being shown. So, I wanted to mix my love for fashion whilst raising Deaf Awareness at the same time!”
After four months of creating the business within the comfort of his own garage, DEAF IDENTITY was born.
“Little exclusive for you there!” said Luke.
DEAF IDENTITY was launched in September 2019, a pivotal time when diversity and equality are being celebrated and talked about more. Luke seized the opportunity to raise deaf awareness through his fashion line.
Originally, Luke had a different name for the brand.
After a meeting, he was discussing how important it is “to showcase that deafness is a spectrum and that there is no right or wrong way to be deaf, and about how you identify as a Deaf person.”
He found himself saying “identify” on repeat.
“Then, BAM! DEAF IDENTITY came into [my] head and [I] went with it!” he said.
There was a week-long build-up to the launch, with teaser posts on social media. It was worth the wait as DEAF IDENTITY was greeted with hundreds of positive comments.
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‘WHEN YOU TELL THEM YOU’RE #DEAF AND THEY STILL SEND A VOICENOTE’ 😑🙄🥴 BLOCKED. ⛔️⛔️⛔️ Our model Labbie ( @l.a.b.b.i.e ) is deaf and is wearing one of our ‘Phrases’ t-shirts! The ‘Phrases’ range has a cheeky sense of humour and is designed to turn heads and get people talking! #DEAFIDENTITY All made from 100% organic or regenerated cotton, these t-shirts are classed as ‘fashion fit’ with more ‘Phrases’ to choose from and fully customisable for you when our website officially launches this Friday 27th September! • • • #InternationalWeekOfTheDeaf // #deafawareness #deafcommunity #deaffashion #deafness #bsl #signlanguage #britishsignlanguage #deafawarenessmonth #asl #hearingaids #deafandproud
“I have been completely blown away by the way DEAF IDENTITY has been embraced by people and I am honestly so thankful, so thank you,” said Luke. “It’s surreal for me to look back through to the start because I never knew how quick time would fly!”
Being born Deaf with a Deaf family, it was important to Luke for the brand to cater to all, from adults to kidswear.
“Deafness affects all ages, after all!” he said.
Lines are available online in a series of sizes and range from British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet t-shirts and custom BSL fingerspelling tops to some tops featuring deaf-related phrases and deaf humor.
“All the goods are tailor-made and customized to the customers’ taste,” said Luke. “It’s all about personalization where customers are able to build their t-shirts, such as choosing the color or ink color, to whether they want text being shown next to the BSL letter.”
T-shirts are such a simple but effective way of getting a message across. Everyone wears them. Cool, comfy, fashionable designs that increase awareness makes for a perfect combination.
“[I] wanted to create something that felt fresh, exciting, modern, and relevant, and to shake up the way people think of the deaf community!” said Luke.
Deafness is one of the most common disabilities, but can be one of the least understood. That’s why fashion brands like this are fundamental to changing people’s perceptions.
“Deafness has a wide spectrum, whether it be communicating orally or through Sign Language (BSL, SSE (Sign Supported English), ISL (Irish Sign Language), or being a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult),” Luke said. “There is no right or wrong way of being deaf and it’s time that deafness got recognized and spoken about.”
The whole prospect of running a business is quite new to Luke. Keen to make it a success, he has been attending business classes, workshops, and meetings to improve his industry knowledge and skillset.
“[I have] honestly learnt so much in the short amount of time that [I’ve] been setting up DEAF IDENTITY,” Luke said.
Luke has words of advice for people who are waiting to pursue their dreams.
“If you wait until you’re ready, you could be waiting forever,” he said. “It may sound simple and a little cliché, and I think that you can plan something for ages and ages and ages and STILL not feel ready. By that time, your ship could’ve sailed. So you’ve just got to go for it!”
Luke wants to change the stigma of deafness that still shadows the modeling industry.
“It’s SO important,” he said. “There are many amazing, talented, fabulous, beautiful Deaf people out there that deserve recognition, especially Deaf models looking to progress their portfolio. When I say ‘models,’ I don’t mean the stereotypical 6 ft, gym bods, etc. It’s about finding Deaf people who feel comfortable in front of a camera and who have stories to tell. People can relate to these models and feel a part of something!”
Taking this action was a no-brainer for Luke. One of his first decisions was for DEAF IDENTITY to be inclusive. This is why he will only use Deaf models or CODAs. Including CODAs within his brand was important.
“Although they may not be deaf themselves, they are still immersed within the deaf world and are able to experience what it’s like to have deaf parents,” Luke explained.
DEAF IDENTITY is a perfect opportunity for deaf models to break down misconceptions about deafness in the industry. It’s also a way to show that deafness doesn’t stand in their way of their careers. It’s only the barriers put up by the industry due to its lack of knowledge that prevents models from securing contracts.
Luke revealed that exciting new lines will come soon.
His dream is “to continue to break down the stigmas surrounding deafness and to carry on creating a platform for Deaf people!” he said.
Luke is on the lookout for Deaf creatives. If you see posts on social media with DEAF IDENTITY TALENT and are a photographer, creative, model, videographer, or you’d just like to get involved, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.