Watauga High student starts inclusive skateboarding apparel line

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Courtesy of Josie Gagnon

Josie Gagnon with her clothing line LadyBoys. Gagnon was inspired to create an inclusive skateboarding apparel company from her own doodles during quarantine.

Zoe Zink

When 17-year-old Josie Gagnon started doodling skateboarding figures and characters to kill time in class, she never expected to see these same characters on T-shirts, hoodies and crewnecks around Boone just months later. 

LadyBoys, a skateboarding apparel company, emerged from Gagnon’s basement in May. Despite the pandemic, Gagnon brought her doodles to life after experimenting with a heat press and $6 blank t-shirts from Walmart. 

“One day I ran down to Walmart and put my prints on them,” Gagnon explained. 

Gagnon’s desire for equality in all aspects inspired her. She describes her figures as gender neutral and respectful to everyone. LadyBoys markets to many different gender identities, and doesn’t have defined men’s and women’s lines. 

“You can’t really tell if it’s a girl or a boy or someone who doesn’t have a gender identity,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon said she is also determined to make her merchandise accessible to everyone. 

“I try to keep prices low so everybody can get something if they want it,” she said. 

Earlier this year, LadyBoys premiered a design supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained traction after police officers killed George Floyd in May. Gagnon donated around $200 of the profit from products featuring this design to the Color of Change education fund, a nonprofit civil rights organization which aids in leading campaigns for Black communities. 

All LadyBoys’ designs exhibit people of at least two different races or ethnicities, which is part of Gagnon’s desire to keep things inclusive and welcoming. 

“Everybody has an option,” she said. “My biggest inspiration is making it available for everyone… and making everyone understand what it means. It is all about respect, equality, and skateboarding.” 

Despite LadyBoys’ being a newcomer in the fashion world, the company has already gained considerable local attention. In September, Gagnon started selling LadyBoys at Anna Banana’s, a local consignment shop. 

Anna Roseman, the owner of Anna Banana’s, said selling LadyBoys in the store was a “no-brainer.” 

“Her personality and brand are both genuine and full of heart, both magnetic,” Roseman said. “She came in with the business side all buttoned up … she’s a star, a creative, an entrepreneur, a hard worker, a rad skater and has a huge heart.” 

Gagnon collaborated with the store for its 10-year anniversary, and her brand sold out in two to three days.

“Having it in the storefront helps a lot. Doing that has changed LadyBoys completely,” Gagnon said. “Anna’s has really kicked it off for me. They have helped me so much.” 

Gagnon has also gained traction outside of Boone. She uses social media to continue her outreach, hoping famous skateboarding accounts can promote her brand. Just days after contacting viral TikTok star Wolow Gatluak, Gagnon said they just “became homies.” 

Gatluak says a lot of his interest in working with LadyBoys came down to how dedicated Gagnon is to her work. He posted a TikTok displaying LadyBoys merchandise for the first time on Oct. 30.

“I felt like she and the brand needed more recognition for the hard work Josie puts into it,” Gatluak said. “I believe that LadyBoys and Josie will make it big someday.” 

Gagnon said this promotion is just one step toward her larger goal.

 “I want to get to the point where I can sponsor skaters, send them stuff and make boards, but it’s a slow process,” she said. 

Gagnon hopes she can move LadyBoys out of her basement and into a real office, moving the brand to a store, and maybe one day have a production factory.

“My dream has always been to start a skateboard company,” Gagnon said. “I didn’t think it was actually going to happen, and then it did.” 

LadyBoys merchandise is available at Anna Banana’s on King Street, and via its Instagram page, @fckladyboys.