A personal journey into self-discovery, creating a fashion brand and gaining some perspective (with a little help of a pair of platforms).
by Alejandra Conesa
I was 27 years old when I fell in love with a woman for the first time. How could “that” be happening to me? Despite the fact that I was experimenting the purest love feeling I had ever felt until that moment, a whole life of hetero-normative privilege brought out an “autohomophobia” I didn’t suspect was hiding deep inside of me. The fear of my closest ones looking at me differently also appeared and as I caressed my partner at the time, I could feel the growing discomfort of the woman with the beige knitted jumper sat in the table by us. I heard a few insults when kissing her at the Ciudadela park, and my grandmother was still looking for the perfect guy for me at every party.
After some time, back to the single status and in the midst of an identity crisis, I ran into an into an old good friend from my teenage years in a gay party:
- Me: What are you doing here?
- Éric: What are YOU doing here!
We laugh at each other and shared beers for some months.
He had studied at Parsons. After working in a few international brands, he wanted to create his own shoe brand and share with the world the security he experienced with a pair of Gucci platforms. As he had helped me with my inner conflicts, I wanted to thank him with a helping hand creating the perfect universe for his designs. I left the communications agency at 8pm to start developing moodboards and staging multiple brainstormings while we emotionally undress between bad pizza slides until the after hours. So AFT-R Barcelona was born, a genderless platform shoe brand for those who break the rules. AFT-R became the synthesis of our personal metamorphosis during that second adolescence.
We were a duo with a shared project, so we sealed our partnership turning into an uncommon-law marriage. We had a baby in October 2019. We have spent the last eight months juggling to balance our lives, pushing forward a project with the inconvenience of a product that is miles away of commercial imperatives. Balancing how proud we are of the diversity of our #aftersouls -that’s how we call our clients and followers-, with having to constantly defend that a platform of 9 centimeters in a 45 size isn’t only a “shoe for drags”. In our universe we celebrate every and each difference and every and each person, no matter the gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or physical condition because everyone has the right to live a dignified life.
Setting up a business implies that some weeks Eric, the designer, has to read press releases and me, officially in charge of communication, I have to dive in oceans of metallic leather. We both have to put an extra effort in every masterclass imparted by our bookkeeper. There’s a lot of decisions to make every week, and most of them are important. That not to say that the Instagram post we worked in the most got only 70 likes while that one you weren’t sure about reached 254. Every conversation while waiting the train can be AFT-Rized by your brain, because its favorite subject are now platform shoes. Of course, results take time and lots of sacrifice, but you feel lots of happiness as well. The day you woke up wondering why you ger involved in this mess in the first place you met Gaelle waitressing at a bar in the Raval neighborhood. She tells you that she loves your shoes, but she could never wear them as she has an orthopedic leg. She tries them on and can perfectly walk. Then comes the pandemic to pause it all. When we reached the Stage 3 of confinement, six trans women told society they “have had enough” in our Alex Pose, and that they only want “to be left alone and not judged by their sexual condition anymore”. Then, AFT-R is without question the best thing I’ve done in my life and thanks to that, we are.