Anita Dolce Vita is the owner, creative director and editor-in-chief of queer fashion website dapperQ. dapperQ was created to serve as #fashioninspo for masculine of center women and trans individuals Over the past few years, dapperQ has quickly become one of the most popular websites among young fashion conscious queer people. Dolce Vita describes the site as, “a queer fashion revolution, one of the most stylish forms of protest of our generation.” dapperQ dishes more than fashion, it dishes empowerment and a sense of community.
On Friday March 11, Dolce Vita and dapperQ are set to hit a mainstream audience at SXSW– an interactive media festival and cultural phenomenon. Dolce Vita will be participating in the panel, entitled ”Queer Style: Visual Activism and Fashion’s Frontier.” The panel will feature eight prominent queer style leaders, including Sonny Oram of Qwear (Boston); Aja Aguirre of Fit for a Femme (Boston by way of The Bay); and Leon Wu of Sharpe Suiting (Los Angeles). We interviewed Dolce Vita about dapperQ, SXSW, work-life balance and fashion.
How did dapperQ come about and how did you become involve
Launched in 2009, dapperQ was originally a personal blog chronicling the individual style of its founder. However, I quickly noticed that dapperQ could be much bigger than another Tumblr-esque fashion blog. There was as serious dearth of comprehensive fashion and lifestyle magazines that were similar to GQ and Vogue, but that actually served the needs of the dapperQ market. I took over the website and brought on a te
am of queer writers, photographers, videographers, designers, and stylists to start producing wide-ranging original content and events for which we have received media coverage in The New York Times, Vice, Nylon, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post, to name a few. Our events have been showcased at world renowned cultural institutions, including Brooklyn Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and the California Academy of Sciences. This year, we will be the first ever queer style panel to present at South by Southwest during their official Sxstyle lineup.
Congrats on Dapper Q hosting the first queer style panel at SxSW! Did SxSW approach you or did dapperQ take the lead on this one?
I submitted a proposal to SxSW, which has a competitive application pool. Proposals are considered for SxSW’s annual programming based on a three tier process. Community votes comprise 30% of the final decision, and are not the only factor in the decision making process. The SXSW Programming Committee accounts for 40% of the final decision while the SXSW staff is 30%. SxSW receives over 4,600 proposals annually. We are deeply honored to have been selected by SxSW as one of the leading thought leaders in our industry.
That said, SxSW does not compensate all of their speakers, nor do they pay for a good majority of the participants’ travel costs. Therefore, some of the people I invited to be on the panel to represent a more diverse range of queer style were unable to attend. I acknowledge that participating in SxSW is a financial privilege that not everyone can afford. Luckily, The Brooklyn Historical Society has invited me to moderate a queer style panel in June
during NYC Pride month, and this panel will include voices that were not represented at SxSW due to financial constraints.
What do you hope to accomplish with the panel?
Our panel, titled “Queer Style: Visual Activism and Fashion’s Frontier,” will feature eight prominent queer style leaders, including myself representing dapperQ (NYC); Sonny Oram of Qwear (Boston
); Aja Aguirre of Fit for a Femme (Boston by way of The Bay); and Leon Wu of Sharpe Suiting (Los Angeles). We will explore queer style as an enigmatic art form that is the new fashion frontier and examine queer style as visual activism that creates positive social change. Attendees will gain knowledge about how to succeed in this growing market using approaches that are effective and culturally competent.
We hope to start a conversation about gender identity and expression, celebrating queer style and advancing greater freedom for all people to express themselves as they so choose, regardless of how they identify. Queer style is a revolution for the people!
As a writer and editor for LGBT media, I see a ton of hateful comments and just crazy negativity. I can imagine as a website that pushes boundaries and questions gender norms, dapperQ is probably also the target of a lot of hate. How do you handle the negative comments while creating a safe space for readers?
In the beginning, I would take unsolicited criticism personally. I would waste my time engaging with trolls, trying to defend my work. Today, I just live by the motto “haters wanna hate.” Unless, that its, someone posts hate speech, which I delete. Or, if it’s positive feedback and I can legitimately learn from it, I try to put my personal feelings aside and learn from the community.
You have a day job, a really demanding one! How do you balance all of this writing and activism with your career as a nurse?
Sometimes I do get overwhelmed, particularly when I agree to do too much and don’t have time for self-care, such as cooking, getting a manicure, or going to the gym. But, for the most part, dapperQ gives as much to me as I give to it. After working in an emotionally trying environment all day, it’s nice to lose myself in the art of style as visual activism.
What is your absolute favorite “go to” outfit?
Well, that depends. As a research nurse, I have the option of either wearing business casual attire with a lab coat or scrubs. To be perfectly honest, sometimes a good, comfy pair of scrubs is my go-to, especially when I know I have dapperQ-related writing or events that I have to focus on after work and don’t want to be in power heels for 12+ hours. But, even when I default to scrubs, I always try to add stylish touches, like sporting old-school Converse with a pair of super dope socks that peek out from under my pants when I cross my legs.
I do have a black, open-back jumpsuit from Club Monaco that’s my version of a go-to little black dress. I can wear a blazer over it to hide the open back for a more business-professional look, but then quickly take the jumpsuit from day-to-play by tossing off the jacket and showing off my shoulders and back for nightlife events.
What is your advice for queer people who
are trying to figure out their personal sense of style in a society with such rigid, heteronormative gender roles?
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a variety of looks. Document your style history, noting who your style icons are and what inspires you in your surrounding environment, such as architecture, nature, and art. And, never underestimate the importance of self-acceptance; Many will try to knock you down and discourage you. It’s all about self-love.