Deadly Ponies and RainbowYOUTH talk Pride, partnership and bags
In a collaboration with RainbowYOUTH, Deadly Ponies has made a custom capsule of seven unique bags crafted out of previous (and unreleased) colours of leather — all seven are different but with a cohesive, rainbow patchwork story, and in the brand’s iconic Mini Leopard shape. Six bags will be silent auctioned off online and in store, with the seventh donated to RainbowYOUTH. 100% of the proceeds from the auction will also go to RainbowYOUTH.
Liam Bowden (Creative Director at Deadly Ponies) & Frances Arns (Executive Director of RainbowYOUTH) talk about why they’re working together, what Pride means to them, and what they hope to achieve for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Tell us about the partnership. Why did it feel like the right alignment?
Liam Bowden: RainbowYOUTH supports a cause close to home for Steve and I, one that has personally affected us both, and is something we can really contribute to, that feels authentic based on our own experiences and what we’ve gone through. That is being part of the LGBTQIA+ community and the hardships that can come with that, especially at a young age.
Steve [Liam’s husband and Deadly Ponies Chief Executive] comes from a really small rural town, and myself from Auckland; we have two completely different experiences, which led us to contact RainbowYOUTH to understand how we could work together to bring more awareness, start a dialogue, and build a relationship with them.
Frances Arns: Deadly Ponies reached out to us last year to see how they might be able to support us, and we were stoked. It’s wonderful to work alongside a business that shares our values and is part of the whānau. A big part of what we do is showing rainbow young people that their identity is a strength, that they can grow up to do anything their heart desires. That there is a whole community here to cheer them on. What an awesome way to share that message having a proud, successful couple like Steve and Liam and an international brand supporting our mahi.
Amidst the launch of Auckland Pride Month, what does Pride mean to you?
Liam: For us, being part of this community is constant. It’s not something we dip in and out of, but Pride month is a great way for other people to see all of the diversity within our community. Seeing the different skills and talents that they have will hopefully open minds and break down some of the stereotypes people might have around what it is to be a part of that community.
Frances: Well for the RY staff, it means a month of working long days and months of preparation! It’s all worth it though. Pride is a time for connection and visibility; want to create as many spaces as we can for our young people to connect with each other and with the older members of our communities. The intergenerational connection and dialogue is really important to us as a youth organisation – honouring those who came before us. It’s also about awareness raising — it’s a time when lots of non-rainbow NZers are talking about rainbow communities, and we want to help them learn about the many challenges still facing our young people.
What do you hope to achieve with the partnership between Deadly Ponies & RainbowYOUTH this year?
Liam: We want to raise a lot of money for RainbowYOUTH to be able to continue to do what they do. We also want to bring awareness to our audience that might not understand or know what RainbowYOUTH does. If we are able to help one person, and point them in the right direction for getting support and help, then that would be a success.
Frances: Raise awareness, raise funds (!), and continue to build a really meaningful relationship between our organisations. We’re so early in our partnership, it feels like there’s heaps of possibility and opportunity to explore, and we’re excited to continue building a strong foundation.
LGBTQIA+ young people are still facing daily challenges in New Zealand. What can we do to change this and bring more understanding to the community?
Liam: 2020 was a year that brought a lot of societal challenges to light, showcasing that we more need kindness in the world, and that it’s not ‘them’ vs ‘us’. We are all the same, we all have the same issues: global warming affects everyone, poverty affects everyone. We need to break down the mindset that one way is wrong, or less than to bring more understanding to the community.
Frances: Wow, where to start. We need all the allies that we can get. There’s so many great resources out there, on RY’s website as well as the websites of other community organisations like Gender Minorities Aotearoa. We invite you to read these resources and educate yourself about the different identities and experiences that exist. We invite you to be an active bystander – if you witness homophobic, transphobic, biphobic or racist behaviour, intervene and educate. We’re all in this together.
How have your personal experiences shaped who you are, and what you hope to achieve?
Liam: My personal experiences with this were really tough as a teenager, especially 20 years ago. What I hope to get out of this would be to help a teenager or youth to have a better experience and coming of age; to make their life easier or more manageable in the smallest of ways.
Frances: I’m lucky to have a supportive family and close friends who are queer, come from a privileged background, and I still struggled to come to terms with my bisexuality and to talk about it openly. The young people that we work with at RainbowYOUTH have so many more barriers to overcome (and they’re f*cking brave). I want to use my experience and privilege to give back to our rainbow communities and ultimately to help move Aotearoa forward, so that young people can grow up seeing their identity as a strength and a source of power.
What is your advice for LGBTQIA+ young people looking for support and guidance in their futures?
Liam: Realising that they’re not alone; they might think of themselves as different but they’re unique and there are lots of other people going through the same thing. Not to isolate themselves, to talk to people and to go to places like RainbowYOUTH which offer a warm and inviting community to get some balance and open lines of communication, and realise how much they’ve got to offer.
Frances: Give yourself space to question and explore – you don’t have to have it all figured out. Our identities are fluid and they will grow and change throughout our lives. If you want to chat and make some friends, or you need someone to talk to while you’re figuring it out, come see us at RainbowYOUTH!
Tell us about the Pride collection, how did this come to fruition and what makes it truly unique?
Liam: The Pride collection came about when we were working on our Recycle collection, so we were in a recycle mindset. We thought about the idea of the rainbow as a starting point, and wanted to create something that was limited and was more about a conversation starter, not something that was available everywhere. The capsule represents the special, uniqueness of the bags just like the individuals that seek support from RainbowYOUTH. So we developed 7 bags, each unique and crafted out of previous – and some unreleased – colours of leather to create a rainbow patchwork quilt on the bags. While each piece is entirely different, there is a cohesiveness and link throughout the collection.
We chose our Mini Leopard in particular as it’s an iconic Deadly Ponies style that is worn by all genders. We wanted it to be an inclusive product that caters to everyone.
Each bag also comes with a limited edition dust bag that doubles as a tote, referencing our archival silk prints, with a mix of our Deadly Ponies purple and rainbow colours.
Frances: Look, it’s not easy to do something new with the rainbow. It’s an ongoing creative challenge for us at RainbowYOUTH! The Deadly Ponies team have done such an awesome job of creating something sophisticated and unique, that is still tied to the iconic and important rainbow flag.
So you are auctioning each of the 6 one-off bags, with the 7th being donated to RainbowYOUTH. How will this work?
Liam: We wanted to do things a little differently to build as much awareness, and raise funds for RainbowYOUTH. We will be conducting a silent auction online and in-store for each of our 6 bags between 18 – 20 February. The 6 highest bidders will win a Pride bag, with all proceeds going directly to RainbowYOUTH. The bags will be on display in each of our Deadly Ponies’ stores during the auction period, so our community can come in and see the capsule for themselves.
Frances: It’s really awesome that Deadly Ponies are giving us the seventh bag. It’s wonderful to see so much dialogue and awareness during Pride month, but our communities exist all year round. It’s really important that these conversations and partnerships go beyond Pride month – and that’s part of why we’re proud to be working with Deadly Ponies.
How can people further support RainbowYOUTH?
Liam: Other than making a bid via our silent auction, customers are able to make a $5 donation to RainbowYOUTH with any purchase online and in-store. Or, people can also simply jump on RainbowYOUTH’s website to donate directly, become a sponsor, and discover more about the incredible work that they do.
Frances: If you support the work that we do, we invite you to join our whānau and become a regular giver. Our regular givers are the people making change happen on the ground, we couldn’t do it without them. We’re seeing more support requests from young people than ever before, especially from those in the regions. We need your help to get them the support they need.