Carmen Liu – the entrepreneur who designs lingerie for transgender women

The world’s first transgender lingerie brand – Carmen Liu Lingerie – launched 28/02/2019 with a spectacular fashion show, signalling a new dawn for transgender women around the world. After years of transgender women being left with no choice but to wear underwear reminiscent of Borat’s mankini, we welcome the World’s First Transgender Lingerie Brand – delicate, feminine and genuinely sexy.

The lingerie brand comes as part of Founder, Carmen Liu’s GI Collection – a first-of-its-kind brand designed exclusively for transgender women, including a unique series of products and services aimed to help transgender women feel like the women that they are.

Born in the small town of Morecambe into a family of nine siblings, Carmen Liu always knew that she was different, but couldn’t quite figure out why. After coming out to her family as gay at the young age of 13, Carmen set her sights on a unique passion – her childhood was solely focused on being the best ballerina that she could possibly be. Her pursuit proved to be successful, with Carmen getting into the Royal Ballet School in London, where she went on to finish as a full graduate of the school at the age of 19. After finishing her education, Carmen moved to Switzerland to continue with ballet, but crisis soon struck; Carmen injured her back and was forced to retire from the industry. Growing up, Carmen had never even heard of the word ‘transgender.’ So, when she moved back to the capital, Carmen’s eyes were opened when she experienced the city’s thriving LGBTQ+ community first-hand. Living with a female friend, Carmen began trying on women’s clothing for fun and thought nothing of it. She was working in a salon and had been doing drag on the side when she was asked to come to the annual Christmas party wearing women’s clothing. While the plan was for her to come in drag, Carmen decided to ditch the flamboyant makeup, wigs, and outfits, showing up as feminine as she possibly could. The date of the party was 13th December 2014; an important date in Carmen’s life as it marked the moment that she gave up wearing men’s clothing.

Her newfound ways were nearly unheard of in Morecambe – it was rare to be gay, let alone transgender, but Carmen felt far more comfortable in female clothing, so she stuck with it. She instantly began researching how to legally change her name, how to tuck, and tried to work out how men’s clothing sizes can be converted into women’s. After a period of trial, error, and a lot of clothing that was far too small for her, Carmen had finally created her true identity. She revealed herself to her family by changing her name and picture on Facebook – it was the moment when she became the woman who she is today.

But it wasn’t all easy – while she was making incredible steps forward, she still found getting access to hormones expensive and finding online help difficult, leaving her feeling exploited and seeking out illegal alternatives. These first-hand experiences had triggered something in Carmen – she had spotted a gap in the market for transgender women who need to be educated, advised, and offered products that actually work for them and genuinely make them feel feminine. The current products on the market were either incredibly expensive or just generally terrible. Carmen was further motivated to create something new after losing her wig business, which left her flat and with nearly nothing. Downtrodden and exasperated, she went for lunch with her friend where she told him about the concept. To Carmen’s surprise, her friend said he would like to invest in the company and there, GI Collection was born. The company started off small, but with big visions. Over the next five years, they’re planning to bring out a range of unique products, all aimed to make transgender women truly feel like women and not like outcasts. The range includes products like the World’s First Lingerie brand for transgender women, as well as a range of workshops for transgender women, developed to educate, inspire, uplift, and support transgender women throughout society.

Despite significant amounts of progress in the last few years for transgender people, there is still a lot of progress which needs to be made. All over the world, transgender people are still shunned from society and constantly told that they are not “normal”. Understandably, then, this makes it incredibly intimidating for people to come out as transgender. Founded by Carmen Liu and featuring products ranging from cosmetics to lingerie tape, and even the world’s first lingerie brand designed for transgender women, GI Collection is a revolutionary brand that aims to change the way society views transgender people.

Founded by Carmen Liu, GI Collection is a first-of-its-kind brand designed exclusively for transgender women. GI Collection includes a unique series of products and services, aimed to help transgender women feel both genuinely feminine and sexy. The brand comes as a stark contrast to the limited choice of ghastly and masculine products currently on the market, which can prevent transgender women feeling like the women that they are. Despite elements of progress over the last few years, transgender people are still shunned from society and discriminated against unfairly, plus they often lack psychological/ emotional support when it comes to making the transition. But GI Collection is aiming to change things, one leap at a time.

How did you decide to create your own lingerie brand?

It was something I never thought I would in my life. I was always interested in fashion, but the main reason why I created it was mostly because of my own stresses of transitioning and not having lingerie that I could wear or that could fit nicely or looked nice. A lot of trans girls I know say the same “Why don’t we have lingerie”? So, I decided to take the problem  all by myself and make it.

Do you feel that transgender women have been ignored from the lingerie industry?

I think unfortunately there is not enough information out there and people do not understand that we need our own lingerie. People even now do not still understand that trans lingerie are designed differently and they serve the purpose of tucking. They are not supposed to segregate people. Trans women cannot the same lingerie as non-trans women, as trans women have a different body shape to cis women and people do not understand that this is something very important to us. Also, others believe that there not so many trans women to justify for trans lingerie, but there are millions of us out there.

How would you describe your lingerie line and who does it address to?

The lingerie is specific for pre-op trans women. Until now trans women could not just wear one set of lingerie, as they used to use tape and leopards and leggings to hold everything down. My lingerie will allow trans women to wake up in the morning, have a shower and just pop on the lingerie, and that’s it. It is a simple product and this is how it should be.

I am trying to cater for all the tastes of trans women. There is a very big variation of styles, but in this line I tried to go with the most common type of styles. We have the classy thong that is more sexy with the lace and the satin fabric and then there is the thong that is more cute with a hint of sexy. The most important thing was to make lingerie that is sexy and feminine and comfortable. Every month there will be new style of lingerie release.

How was the creative process? Was it difficult to design and choose the materials for the lingerie? How long did it take until the production?

It was actually fairly quick, because at the beginning I was working around 20 hours per day. I was enjoying it a lot and found it very exciting as I knew I was going to make a change in the world. The design process and the development of it was 8 months. It was quite hard because the fabrics of the normal lingerie do not really work for us, so I had to work hard to achieve the flat tuck. It was a long process to make lingerie for all body types and sizes and get the right length, width and correct tightness without being too tight or too loose. Everyone around me was pretty excited and we worked really quick. In the end it was completely worth it, even though it was tough and we have received some amazing comments. We have sold to almost every country in the world and everyone is saying how satisfied they are and how good they feel. I would do it all again.

Did you expect the huge success of the launch event?

I knew that this lingerie was needed, but I did not expect to be as successful at it was. There was a very big media coverage. We were planning initially to sell only in the UK, but we ended up selling thousands of items all over the world.

How do you feel with the anti-transgender protesters that were gathered outside the launch of the first transgender lingerie yesterday? Do you feel there is still transphobia and discrimination?

I think there were only around 7 of them, there were not that many. It does not bother me and it makes me feel that there is so much that needs to be done concerning educating people and giving them the right information. I don’t think that these people outside understood that this lingerie is doing something specific. I think they just though I made normal lingerie and this proves that there is not much information out there. I also heard that the woman leading that is a lesbian feminist, and this was the most disappointing part as we are all in the LGBT community, it is quite sad we don’t have our community members to support us. This is a proof there is a lot of educating to do,

How has your platform empowered transgender women and is the most beautiful comment you have been told?

So many people trans and non-trans came to me and told me how empowering it was to see trans women on the runway. People have called to say that the lingerie changed their lived and helped them feel accepted, just by having lingerie that is for them. People feel more confident and start to feel a better life. They can look in the mirror and now see a lingerie that they like and makes them feel and look better, so they can focus on their transition from now on and I believe we have contributed in improving the trans life.

How has frustration helped you to become a strong business woman, an inspiration for many people and a role model?

I think if I wasn’t trans I would not be able to do this business. Everything comes from my heart and from my experiences and from the stories I have heard from other people. This made me want to help other trans women. My journey and the frustration I got through helped me realise that. I wish to inspire other people to feel they should do whatever they want to do because we have the same rights as everyone. I want to help people see what I have done and what I have achieved and do the same for them.

Who are your biggest role models?

I love Janet Mock, she is a great inspiration. Also, Caitlyn Jenner who uses her platform as a celebrity to her advantage to help improve the life of trans women. Foe me, any trans women that is helping other trans women or the community is someone I consider a role model. This makes me want to help people even more. I find that quite empowering.

What are the biggest challenges that a transgender woman faces?

The first one is acceptance from society. People need more information and there is still a lot of work to be done. If the correct information could go out there people would accept us. Also, the cost of transitioning is another issue. I feel we are exploited a lot because they know that for us these surgeries are something that we need to do. Even buying new wardrobe is expensive, and this can put us in a bad financial condition. Because the transition can leave us depressed feeling we have no money left.

How did your family and friends react to your transition journey and your setting up of GI Collection and Carmen Liu lingerie?

I transitioned in December 2014 and my transition became very public to my family and my friends, ans some of them did not take it very well because they did not know it and they found it hard to understand it. Some of them found it a bit embarrassing, but they all supported me later and love what I am doing and this means a lot to me. They see how I help myself and the community and this is very rewarding. Now, they want to know what I’m doing next.

What are your future plans?

I want to grow my company and expand my lingerie to cater for all styles and tastes of trans women safely, comfortably and at an affordable price. I have a lot of new designs that will get released and also, for GI, we have a lot of products that will help trans women worldwide with their transitions and provide help to trans people and the community, no matter what that help is.

All images are courtesy of Shane Sinclair

Find out more about Carmen Liu and the GI collection here:

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