Grosse Pointe Farms native creates gender-free fashion brand

Darlene A. White

Rob Smith is on a mission to end stereotypical clothing

“I’m all about gender-free fashion,” said Smith, founder of the Phluid Project. “It’s just fabric. If it makes you feel good, wear it.”

Smith, a Grosse Pointe Farms native who majored in marketing at Michigan State University, has more than 30 years’ experience in the retail industry, having held executive roles at Levi’s, Nike and Macy’s. After working for decades, he realized that most stores failed to cater to marginalized young people and wanted to change that.

He combined his passion for social justice and retail into a gender-free fashion brand called the Phluid Project,, a nonprofit that aims to empower individuals by giving them a way to express themselves through clothing.

 In March 2018, the Phluid Project opened what Smith says is the world’s first gender-neutral store in New York City. 

“Gender is a typical binary that people get trapped in, and we want to go beyond that,” he said. “There is no ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ section or differentiation of silhouettes and sizes; we want to erase any preconceived notions of how people should dress.”

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