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The Cryptid Collection!

The Cryptid Collection!

Cryptids are inherently queer. It's a vibe, a nebulous connection: queer as in "what is that?" Queer as in, “there aren’t words for what I am, and the more people try to make them up the weirder they get.”

The Cryptid Collection is a collaborative design project created by co-owners Eli and Krista exclusively for Shapeshifters. The collection has four main components: binders and sports bras made with fabrics of our own design, the fabrics which you can purchase through Spoonflower, the vintage style travel posters, and the couture fashion looks which you can see in person at fashion shows across New England this year. Shows will be listed on our Events Page as we confirm them.

While the collection was inspired by cryptids in general, we decided to spotlight six in particular: Mothman, Champ, the Jackalope, the Squonk, the Jersey Devil, and the Fresno Nightcrawler.

We'll talk more about them and why we chose those cryptids in particular later in the week. Today, we want to talk about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of The Cryptid Collection and cryptids in general.

You may be asking: Why a fashion collection?

We've been in business for ten full years! At the start of this year, Eli declared that it was time for us to discard imposter syndrome and admit that after ten years of making and designing clothing and and graphic art, we might actually be qualified to call ourselves Designers. A themed fashion collection is the step they've fantasized about for years.

The cryptids weren't Eli's idea, though. Anyone who's been following Krista's artblr, @3ofpents, has seen her series of vintage travel posters that feature cryptids in their various natural habitats. The very first poster she designed was for the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the Jersey Devil, inspired by the state she grew up in. But the one that Eli cites as the one that really got them thinking was for our home state: Burlington, VT's own Champ.

"The tagline for that one was You’ll never swim alone. The friendly, ominous, terrible, wonderful mystery embedded in those four words is a vibe I think about a lot." —Eli

Krista's choice of cryptids as a subject for her posters, and the well of inspiration she drew from in designing her parts of this collection, stemmed from her childhood in New Jersey. While the Jersey Devil isn't as popular and well-known as some other regional cryptids like Mothman and the Loch Ness Monster, it is a huge part of New Jersey culture. Every kid in the state grows up learning some version of the Jersey Devil's origin story; and the local indie, alt, underground, punk cultures slap Jersey Devil imagery on their posters, logos, and products the way some states use their state shapes.

"In New Jersey, the story of the Jersey Devil holds a similar kind of legendary local pride as the story of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Eve to take the British soldiers camping on the other side by surprise." —Krista
For Eli, meanwhile, cryptids are inherently queer. Like many folks in the community, Eli didn't get into cryptids until they were well out of the closet. It's a vibe, a nebulous connection: queer as in "what is that?" Queer as in, “there aren’t words for what I am, and the more people try to make them up the weirder they get.” Queer as in, “oh, that's you? Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that, my cousin’s sister’s friend dated somebody like you once.”

Queer community spreads and forms by word-of-mouth, you see; likewise so do cryptid tales, the eyewitness accounts that bring the story into color and focus and reality. There are plenty of killjoys who will tell you that neither really exists, that reality is as flat and boring as a gradeschool textbook. There are people who will look straight at the evidence, directly at a queer person right in front of them, and go, "no, that's fake, I'm seeing something else here, something that makes more sense to me."

Eli's had that happen to them enough times that they can't help but empathize with the Mothman.