Show & Tell was built, first and foremost, to meet the needs of BIPOC and Queer and Trans communities. As a member of both communities, I’ve experienced racism, profiling, and terrible customer service when trying to do simple things like buy food or clothes or get proper health care. For this reason, access and safety are always top of mind for me.
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.
I discovered Show & Tell Concept Shop through an article posted on DapperQ. So I reached out to Alyah and asked her to complete a Q&A for our Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT. Her responses gave me a lot to chew on around fashion, economic capital, and, yes, surviving a pandemic.
Name: Alyah Baker
Pronouns: She/ Her/ Hers
Your Business Name: Show & Tell Concept Shop ( with the ampersand “&” specifically, not “and” )
How do you describe your identity? Black, Queer, Cis-Woman and part-time Femme
Tell us about your company. Show & Tell Concept Shop is a lifestyle brand that celebrates unapologetic beauty and joyful living through a collection of unique, handcrafted apparel, accessories, and home goods. Since 2011, Show & Tell has embodied inclusion, and we strive to delight our diverse community of customers with signature pieces that are as special as they are. After a 13 year career in corporate retail, Alyah founded Show & Tell to celebrate the style and spirit of people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, Women, and other marginalized communities. We believe fashion can be ethical, intersectional, and help each of us to feel like the best, most joyous version of ourselves.
How did you decide to create and sell facemasks? We decided to start sewing and selling masks in April, primarily to friends and family. Shortly thereafter, we began to offer the masks via the Show & Tell platform when it became apparent that the demand severely outpaced the supply. They have been our best selling item this year by far, and I’m glad we can do our part to help keep people safe.
Please describe your mask style(s) for our readers. What inspired the design? The maks is handmade from double-layered cotton cloth with adjustable elastic straps. It features pleats that can be expanded to fully cover the nose and chin, a flexible nose wire, and a pocket to add a filter if desired. They are machine washable and durable. We recommend air drying.
The Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT was established to connect trans and queer community members with facemask vendors that are respectful & safe. We live in a world where bakeries go to the Supreme Court to deny us wedding cakes and health care providers want to deny care to transgender neighbors. It is not a big leap for those of us who are queer to imagine being refused a chance to buy a mask when that is legal, like in most of Pennsylvania. That’s why I want to highlight your masks. Being safe isn’t just about wearing the mask, it has to be about securing the mask in the first place. Your thoughts? Show & Tell was built, first and foremost, to meet the needs of BIPOC and Queer and Trans communities. As a member of both communities, I’ve experienced racism, profiling, and terrible customer service when trying to do simple things like buy food or clothes or get proper health care. For this reason, access and safety are always top of mind for me.
It is also important for all of us to support local/queer owned/ally owned small businesses. How have you and the business been navigating these past months of plague, economic uncertainty, and demands for racial justice? In a strange turn of events, the ability to pivot and sell masks has been a lifeline for our business. It kept us afloat during the months when people weren’t buying anything else. Outside of this, we’ve used this scary, uncertain time to double down on our mission to serve BIPOC and Queer and Trans communities. Social justice and equity has always been a part of Show & Tell. In 2020, we’ve been even more vocal about our values on social media and in our newsletters. We’ve also increased the percentage of money we donate to organizations fighting for racial justice and Queer and Trans rights. We are a small company, so it’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s honestly the least we can do. Access to capital is one of the main issues that plagues BIPOC and Queer and Trans communities, so this is our small way of trying to participate in the redistribution of wealth. As a Black, Queer person fighting for Black Lives and Queer rights is a must.
You list your store as promoting Unapologetic Beauty and Joyful Living. Tell us more about that. I believe that every person deserves the opportunity to feel beautiful and experience joy. The things we buy, wear, and have in our living spaces can help us do that. With Show & Tell, we encourage people to be Bold, to do and wear the things that make them feel proud and comfortable in their own skin. For us, this is not about following trends or looking like anybody else. It’s about relishing the unique little items and parts of life that make you feel special and authentically yourself.
How long do you plan to offer face masks? As long as there is a health need and a demand.
What else can people buy from you? We mainly sell limited edition and one-of-kind apparel, accessories, and home goods, and we update our collections seasonally. People love our shop for finding unique gifts for loved ones, friends, or themselves.
Access to capital is one of the main issues that plagues BIPOC and Queer and Trans communities, so this is our small way of trying to participate in the redistribution of wealth. As a Black, Queer person fighting for Black Lives and Queer rights is a must.
Where can our readers find you online and on social media?
Anything else you’d like readers to know? Shopping small makes a big difference to our economy, especially to the small business owners, so it’s worth the effort, especially during the Holiday season. For me shopping with brands that align with my identity and values always makes me feel extra good! Lastly, I went to high school in Pittsburgh so it’s super exciting to re-connect with community there.
Thank you, Alyah.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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