Jamie and his daughter Ruby founded RUBIES to help transgender girls feel comfortable and confident in form-fitting clothes. RUBIES normalizes conversations about transgender inclusivility and allows for transgender girls to happily swim, dance, and exercise just like their cisgender friends. 11-year-old Ruby has a pulse on what kids like and is able to offer design suggestions and provide feedback on the fit, while Jamie sends the product to girls and women around the world.
Can you tell us about your donation program?
Since our products are handmade in Canada with high quality materials, I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be able to price the items low enough that everyone would be able to afford it. That being said, I strongly believe that everyone should be able to get RUBIES, regardless of if they can afford it. I launched the Every Girl Deserves to Shine campaign to collect funds from people through a variety of different means, which goes towards sending free RUBIES to every corner of the world. On the website, there is an option for people to apply for the free product for themselves or their child. About 15% of all our bottoms are donated to those who can’t pay. Not everyone is permanently in a financial situation that prevents them from affording RUBIES— our community is very loyal and sometimes the donations eventually turn into paying customers.
Why is it so difficult for transgender girls to find clothes that make them feel confident?
To put it simply, transgender girls have parts that they don’t want to show, and either the parents or the kids have concerns about that. The reality is that transgender kids and adults are a very specialized group of people, so large companies like Walmart or Zara don’t make clothes for them because stores try to have the broadest reach. Products like RUBIES only emerge when an idea develops that fits a very narrow group of people. When I was first looking for products for Ruby, the options were very limited. They didn’t have the allure that kids want or the sizing was made for adults, not kids. Transgender kids want products that look and feel the same as the clothes their cisgender friends wear— things that are bright, fun, and comfortable.
What has the response to your launch been like?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I receive the occasional hate mail, but it doesn’t affect me because I know RUBIES is making a difference. There are so many parents out there that are thrilled to finally have a product that is suitable for their kids. I get letters from women who haven’t been swimming in years because bottoms didn’t exist for them, and RUBIES was able to change that. For these kids and women, there is an aspect of feeling support and knowing that someone else in the world cares about their needs. For people in rural areas that aren’t as progressive, that’s even more important. RUBIES isn’t just a garment, but a support system for kids and parents too.
What has been the best part of starting RUBIES?
There are two major components. Firstly, I am a serial entrepreneur, but I’ve never worked on a product like this that properly solves a problem. A lot of start-ups are solutions looking for problems to fix, and that can be difficult to explain to people when there’s not a clear market for the product. With RUBIES, there is a very obvious problem to be solved, and it’s satisfying to know that people are doing anything they can to get their hands on this product because it has a direct impact on them. The second part is that I know that there are so many people out there that RUBIES is able to help. With every new package or donation I send out, it’s an opportunity to change their lives and that’s an awesome feeling. For my daughter Ruby to have the opportunity to inspire people at such a young age is really great to see.