Facemask Q&A with HauteButch Founder & Designer Karen Roberts

Karen Haute Butch

The fear, oppression, and sheer frustration that comes along with having a fierce sense of style and living in a society stuck in out-dated mindsets where women should embrace feminine “appropriateness” is what keeps HauteButch thriving even on our darkest days.

One important part of the Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT is highlighting safe and affirming places for trans and queer folx to purchase masks. In addition to this Q&A series, we maintain a list on the project homepage. This Q&A was crafted to highlight some unique aspects of the participating businesses and explore related issues, including the manifestation of racial justice in the LGBTQIA+ community and the real struggles of running a small business in this economy.

First up is Karen Roberts from HauteButch, a company Laura and I both love. Take a read to learn more about why you should support this Black queer woman and her team either by purchasing a mask or other clothing items.

Name: Karen Roberts
Pronouns: She/Her
Your Connection to HauteButch: Founder and Designer

How do you describe your identity? Female

Tell us about your company, HauteButch: HauteButch is a queer black owned brand, founded in 2012 by Karen Roberts & Danette Sheppard-Vaughn in an effort to solve a problem that’s existed in the fashion industry since its birth – creating masculine clothing tailored to fit women’s bodies. Being a masculine woman herself, Karen has a unique and personal understanding of the struggles many queer individuals face when searching for clothing to fit not only their sense of style, but their bodies as well.

The fear, oppression, and sheer frustration that comes along with having a fierce sense of style and living in a society stuck in out-dated mindsets where women should embrace feminine “appropriateness” is what keeps HauteButch thriving even on our darkest days. Our foremothers risked incarceration and violence for HauteButch’s ability to create high quality, fashion forward apparel for all members of our community: butches, studs, tomboys, transmen, and androgynous style seekers.

Our company may be small and US based – but our passion, entrepreneurial spirit, and inclusive nature ensures there will be something for everyone, everywhere. Since opening, we have expanded our products to include virtual consultations, plus sizes, international shipping, and so much more.

HauteButch will continue bringing you innovative, diverse styles with a dignified customer experience. Your clothes are a representation of who you are. Long gone are the days of oppressive clothing, being sexualized or considered second-class citizens.  Our designer understands you and is here to deliver the freedom and power you not only crave but deserve. It’s time to embrace the brand that embraces you.

How did you decide to create and sell facemasks? Because of COVID-19, we wanted to make sure both our customers and people in our community felt safe and stylish at the same time. As well as support and represent the LGBTQ community.


Our masks really aren’t just geared at being masculine and/or butch because we wanted to offer something across the board that everyone may like and enjoy whether they are gay, bi, straight, male, female, trans, queer or anything else. We want everyone to feel safe and secure in their own skin and it also helps to have a little style as well


You have three styles available in multiple colors. Please describe them for our readers. What inspired the designs? Sure!

  • Rise Mask 🡪 We designed this mask to have a bald Eagle with a rainbow theme to represent the LGBTQ community. To represent and to be proud! We also have the same design available in the RISE Tee and Rise Muscle Tank so customers can take it to the next level.
  • Resist Mask 🡪 This mask was designed for another sense of community. To be yourself and only YOU. We have a matching Resist Tee to go with this mask as well.
  • Cotton Cloth Face Mask (White with Black Polka Dots) 🡪 This one was designed this mask as it went well with our Kairo and black/white Trident shirts. Plus, we thought it was quite simple and stylish.

All our masks are CDC Recommended, USA Made and are constantly flying off the shelves!

HauteButch Face Masks
Three masks offered by HauteButch

It is also important for all of us to support a business owned by a Black queer woman. How have you and the business been navigating these past months of plague, economic uncertainty, and demands for racial justice?This is a great question! As a small business this pandemic has definitely affected us. We have really gone with the flow, with offering our masks and promoting safety first. We have also hired social media professionals to help get and keep our name out there – we have a great social media following now as well! No matter what hits the world, the LGBTQ community will always be here, we must care and support each other through all of it. Many people depend on us to be not only somewhere they can turn to for state of the art, comfortable, well-made clothing that will last for years to come but also for a place for community. All our social media posts are incredibly positive, so they can give someone a positive outlook on life if something isnt going quite right.

One issue our project explores is how to support folx who are misgendered because they are wearing a mask AND those who are actually being appropriately gendered for the first time which carries its own cognitive dissonance. Are your masks all in a masculine/butch/stud/trans masculine aesthetic your line is known for? Our masks really aren’t just geared at being masculine and/or butch because we wanted to offer something across the board that everyone may like and enjoy whether they are gay, bi, straight, male, female, trans, queer or anything else. We want everyone to feel safe and secure in their own skin and it also helps to have a little style as well 😉

How long do you plan to offer face masks? We plan to offer facemasks for as long as COVID-19 is still a threat.


Our foremothers risked incarceration and violence for HauteButch’s ability to create high quality, fashion forward apparel for all members of our community: butches, studs, tomboys, transmen, and androgynous style seekers.


What else will we see from HauteButch this fall and winter? Currently in production, we have 3 new styles of dress shirts and new color and pattern choices for a few pre-existing shirts in production that will be ready to debut in time for the holidays!

Where can our readers find you online and on social media?

Of course! They can find us at the following:

WEBSITE: ​ hautebutch.com

Facebook.com/ButchByDesign

Instagram.com/hautebutch#

Twitter.com/HauteButch

Linkedin.com/company/hautebutch-inc-/

Anything else you’d like readers to know? As a small business in this pandemic as well as a proud member of the LGBTQ community, we rely solely on our customers and community members to help. We have recently been accepted into the IFundWomen of Color community as one of their grant recipients!

IFundWoman worked with Caress to make this happen and we are beyond thrilled. Please check out this link: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/hautebutch – if any of your readers would like to help our business survive in these trying times, we would love a small donation to keep us going to bring love and light though this pandemic.

Thank you for time and the opportunity to tell our story,

Karen and the HauteButch team

Thank you, Karen.


The Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT connects members of the trans and queer community with face masks to protect them during the coronavirus. This includes identifying safe vendors for purchasing masks as well as offering mask distributions. To sign up as a featured vendor, please email us at [email protected]

Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT

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