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Julie Nomi: Pride = Honesty, Action & Respect

Julie Nomi: Pride = Honesty, Action & Respect

. Kara Kieffer

Julie Nomi - (she/her/hers)

Julie was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in South Seattle. Although of third generation Japanese ancestry, she always felt a little bit like an outsider. In school she was the only person of color until her brothers were old enough to join her. She had a typical upbringing for the time, growing up on an old apple orchard as their yard she was allowed to explore, play tag football and softball with her Dad and brothers. She read biographies of famous women in history during her summers and was always making things. Sewing and the arts, cooking and baking, all those traditionally feminine skills were encouraged and honed. Doll clothes and her own clothes were always home-made either by her mother or herself. Her love of fashion and the arts developed early as best as her parents could provide. It started with watercolor classes when she was 5. And she loved to go shopping in downtown Seattle with her mother on Saturdays; dressed up with white gloves and matching shoes and purse. There were lunches with fashion shows at what was then Frederick & Nelson (now Nordstrom’s flagship store). And ironically, it was on those trips to Seattle where she learned about the needs of others.

There was a blind man who stationed himself outside of Frederick’s and sold pencils. Julie’s mother would always stop to say hello and purchase a pencil. Julie was full of questions and her mother explained to her that it was hard for him to get a job like her dad, and that there were many people in similar circumstances but this was a chance to help one person a little. The next trip to Seattle the gentleman received her 5 cent weekly allowance, and eventually her 15 cent weekly allowance.

Julie, along with her brothers, learned how to navigate racial discrimination at a young age. Her parents had lived through being interred during WW 2. The war was not a distant memory any there were still animosities. The family faced down a petition to be moved out of the neighborhood. They were “gunned down” in school recess games. Spit upon at in the locker rooms during swimming lessons and practices. Her brothers survived through their athletic accomplishments and she through the arts. Their grades got them into good universities. But, she notes, notions of human judgement unfortunately don’t change.

Julie eventually found discrimination based on sexual identity and preference a ridiculous judgement. She says, “I always had the sensibility that everyone was equal. There was no one more equal than others, regardless of their status, or position, or given gifts in life.” Coming of age during the 60’s and 70’s and her later work in the apparel industry had Julie working alongside members of the queer community for much of her life. Her temperament as an understated, hard-working, accepting person served Julie well as she moved her way through her career.

Julie and her family

When Julie first arrived at TomboyX it was the quality of the product that first interested her. The next was the ethos of the founders. Julie says, “there's a really strong values match between Fran, Naomi, and myself. And that's something you know when you meet people, it's that first gut feeling you get from individuals and I know I got that from them. Plus we all keep a sense of humor and just like to get stuff done.” As someone who often prefers solo time to group work and had spent much of her adolescence feeling like an outsider, Julie was uniquely positioned to serve the needs of a community outside her own.

When it comes to the process of developing the fit, identity, and feel of TomboyX underwear Julie says, “the differentiator is that we’re doing it to address certain demographics who are calling out for a particular product. Our underwear is styled to fulfill a need. We’re addressing an aesthetic need, an identity need, as much as fit.” She goes on to say, “however people are born and however they choose to express those attributes, whether it's their sexuality, or their religious preferences, or how they dress or decorate their bodies, you know it's a personal choice. It's what suits them. It's what helps them feel comfortable in this world and where and how they choose to live.”

In the intervening years between when Julie joined the TomboyX team and the present, the company has grown into not just an internationally recognized brand, but a community. Julie says, “we have one chance at this where the community previous to Tomboy really didn't have a go to brand they identified with. I think most people have too many choices, it's too much data, a lot of noise. But you do ultimately identify with the fit of a brand. And it's more than that. It's price point, it's quality, it's everything. Good design is the ability to address the constraints.” And in addressing those constraints, deliver a product that people can not only feel good wearing, but see themselves represented in the brand.

As our ally interview, Julie has a unique take on Pride. It’s one that is perhaps not surprising given her body of work and lifelong belief in equality. She says, “Pride is being comfortable with yourself to help, genuinely help, others. If you're so inward and you're not comfortable with who you are, and you don't have that pride in yourself, it's difficult to keep an open mind and really listen to other people’s needs and wants.” To her Pride equals respect, both for communities that aren’t her own, and the internal facing respect that allows her to see how she can contribute to others. A customer’s smile is worth a thousand words and our team’s efforts.


Kara Kieffer

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