Target shrinks nonbinary artist's Pride 2024 products

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday May 29, 2024
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GRRRL Spells owner En Tze Loh created designs for Target's 2024 Pride collection, but only one item will be sold. Photo: Courtesy En Tze Loh
GRRRL Spells owner En Tze Loh created designs for Target's 2024 Pride collection, but only one item will be sold. Photo: Courtesy En Tze Loh

As Target unveiled its 2024 Pride collection this week, one nonbinary designer is disappointed that the retail giant drastically reduced the number of pieces they were to have provided.

En Tze Loh, who is based in Toronto, Canada, runs their small business GRRRL Spells on Etsy, the e-commerce company. They had originally designed 15 items, including T-shirts, stickers, patches, and greeting cards, for the giant retailer's Pride collection. But one by one, items were cut.

Target also removed all branding, in response to the 2023 controversy that saw Target take away Pride merchandise from stores and relocate it online.

"I asked to please keep the logo," Loh said during a recent Zoom call with the Bay Area Reporter, "so that my community gets represented."

Loh said that the whole experience didn't start out that way.

"It seemed like an amazing opportunity," Loh said of the initial plan presented by Target.

The B.A.R. published an article online May 24 that detailed issues LGBTQ designers had with Target's 2023 Pride collection. As had been widely reported last year, the Minnesota-based retailer buckled under pressure from conservative activists and others, announcing shortly after the collection was unveiled that several items would no longer be sold at all, while other merchandise was moved online for purchase.

For this year, according to a May 9 statement, Target is "offering a collection of products including adult apparel and home and food and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback. The collection will be available on and in select stores, based on historical sales performance."

In other words, not all the stores will have a Pride display, as NPR reported. Based on what the queer designers told the B.A.R., it seems likely that Target locations in more conservative areas of the country will not feature Pride-themed merchandise.

Target is the sixth-largest retailer in the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation. The publicly traded company, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has a net worth of $70.08 billion, as of May 17, according to analysts.

The "I Am Valid" T-shirt is being sold by Target this year. Image: Courtesy En Tze Loh  

In the end, out of the 15 items Loh designed, only four remained, they said. Those had already been manufactured but in April, they were informed of another change. Loh said that ultimately, only one T-shirt remained, which has the message, "I Am Valid," in the pink, blue and white trans colors. The T-shirt originally was to say "Protect Trans Lives," Loh said. The remaining product does not contain Loh's brand name, they said.

The other products, including a vest and a Trans Future beanie hat, would not be sold after all. Loh stated May 22 that they were supposed to get those products returned to them so that they could sell them, but two days later Loh stated that the beanie hats would not be returned.

Loh has now set up a new website, where people can purchase their Pride-themed merchandise.

GRRRL Spells is decidedly more Goth-influenced. Loh said that they were looking forward to creating products with a Goth or alternative theme for Pride that spoke to the queer and trans communities.

"I found it hard to find things that were representative — that combined Goth and queer," they said, adding that Target's 2022 Pride collection was mostly rainbow-themed items that the store "got flack" for in some quarters. That was one reason Target reached out to LGBTQ designers for 2023. But that seems to have returned for 2024.

"It's very innocuous stuff this year," Loh said.

"The Gay is Out There" patch was designed for Target, but En Tze Loh is now selling it themself. Image: Courtesy En Tze Loh  

Similarities to 2023
Loh's story is similar to what lesbian Latina couple Jennifer Serrano and Veronica Vasquez and queer couple Ash Molesso and Chase Needham experienced last year. Serrano and Vasquez run JZD, which produced apparel for Target's 2023 Pride collection. After the backlash, some items were removed from store shelves and were only available online. Molesso and Needham, like Loh, designed numerous items for last year's collection under their Ash & Chess brand, only to see the items pulled at the last minute.

None of the four designers are taking part in this year's Pride collection.

When Serrano and Vasquez heard about the issues with this year's Target Pride collection, they weren't surprised.

"But I was livid," Serrano said. "I feel so much for the brands impacted this year. I know what it's like to be chasing those dreams."

As the B.A.R. reported, Target declined to answer specific questions about the 2023 and 2024 Pride collections. It issued a statement attributed to a company spokesperson.

"Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round," the statement read. "Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members, which reflects our culture of care for the over 400,000 people who work at Target. We have long offered benefits and resources for the community, and we will have internal programs to celebrate Pride 2024.

"Beyond our own teams, we will have a presence at local Pride events in Minneapolis and around the country, and we continue to support a number of LGBTQIA+ organizations," the spokesperson stated. "Additionally, we will offer a collection of products for Pride, including adult apparel, home products, food and beverage, which has been curated based on guest insights and consumer research. These items, starting at $3, will be available in select stores and on"

Loh said that they became aware of Target reaching out to queer designers in 2022, but on a smaller scale. They increased participation of LGBTQ artists for 2023, and planned to do so this year as well, Loh stated in a follow-up email.

Loh, who put up an Instagram post May 28 detailing their experience, said that they couldn't disclose aspects of the Target deal. But they did say that they were supposed to get royalties on the original 15 items, so should receive royalties for the four products Target had manufactured.

"They told me I wouldn't get paid until after Pride," Loh said, adding that "hopefully" they will see something.

Dana Piccoli of News is Out contributed to this report.

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