Alice Wong interviewed Sky Cubacub for the Disability Visibility Project® at StoryCorps San Francisco on September 29, 2016. Sky talks about her work as a chainmaille artist and how she learned to design and sew clothes. Sky also talks about her company Rebirth Garments and what how the fashion industry fails disabled and non-conforming bodies.
SKY CUBACUB: I, so, I’ve been chain-mailing since I was 13, and that’s kind of like my main thing that I’ve been doing. My Filipine grandmother—Grandma Cora—she has been sewing forever and is an amazing pattern maker. And so, I was always really, like I would design outfits for her to make me, but I didn’t learn how to really sew officially until high school.
ALICE WONG: And where did you learn from? How did you learn?
SKY: I learned from my twin best friends’ mama. [chuckles]
SKY: She taught me how to make a unitard and use the serger, which is like the kind of sewing machine that I use for most of my garments. That’s what these seams are. But yeah, she was a dancer and had been making her own unitards for a long time, and I was kind of upset that I had to figure out some way to cover up my models underneath my chainmail garments that were too see-through. And I was upset with the options that were only black, white, or like a peachy-beige, and I was like, I want something fun and colorful and that isn’t a weird, fake skin tone. [chuckles]
ALICE: Mmhmm. So, it grew out of chainmail.
ALICE: And you make unitards for the chainmail.
ALICE: But then you went through this whole new line for gender fluid and crip bodies.
SKY: Mmhmm! Seeing the way that people move when they’re in my clothing is so amazing. You know, I’ve seen so many transformations with my friends just over the last year. The more that I make them clothing, the more they feel comfortable and confident in their body. I mean I love collaborating on stuff, and even though this is my business and I want it to be able to sustain me, I also am just like this is my life’s passion. I don’t really care how many hours I have to spend on something as long as it makes the other person really happy and feel confident. It’s like such an amazing feeling.
For example, with my friend, Melinka, who I’ve been mentoring at the high school that I went to, she has alopecia, and she had been wearing all these human-hair wigs but got really into social justice and realized that they were made in sweatshops basically by slaves. And got really excited about my headpieces and wanted to make her own ones and have them be metal so that they’d last for like 100 years instead of only two. And I see pictures of her from before, and she looks very timid and kind of just like hiding behind her wig. But now, she rocks her no hair at all.
ALICE: She’s fierce.
SKY: Yeah, she’s so fierce.
ALICE: Rocking the metal look.
SKY: Yeah. [laughs]
ALICE: That’s awesome.
SKY: Starting her own business.
SKY: Yeah, I just want more queer crips to start their own businesses for us. Yeah, I’m very into for us, by us type. Yeah, I would love to have a couple more folks who can help me sew, and of course I love collaborating on designs. But yeah, I mean I do have this concern of wanting to, yeah, I wanna have all of the designs showing all kinds of disability. So, I know that that’s a thing that I’ll be constantly working on ‘cause it’s just like, you know, mainstream fashion has completely failed us.
I think that just the entire fashion industry needs to have an overhaul and completely change. And I think that the way that they’re teaching it in school is that you cannot change it and that you just have to keep going with how it is. But if they’re just teaching that, and if people are just going with that, then nothing will ever change.
It’s this idea that yeah, the clothing is more important than people’s health. The clothing is more important than the models that are wearing it. And while I think that my clothing is important, it’s only important because it’s important to my models. It’s changing their lives. Yeah.
ALICE: There’s so much to discover—
SKY: Yeah, yeah.
ALICE: —and to highlight with our bodies. That’s really fun.
SKY: Yeah. There’s completely endless possibilities.
SKY: I mean if they’ve focused so much the last like thousand years on just heteronormative, able-bodied white folks, we’re gonna be able to explore these possibilities for different kinds of queer crip folks for like [laughing] a million years!
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Disability Visibility Project®. (2018, December 1). DVP Interview: Sky Cubacub and Alice Wong. Retrieved from: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2018/12/01/dvp-interview-sky-cubacub-and-alice-wong/
On the left is Sky Cubacub, a non-binary queer and disabled Filipinx human wearing colorful chainmaille headpiece in magenta, purple, turquoise and yellow. She is wearing a sleeveless purple mesh tank and a necklace that looks like chains in purple and magenta. On the right is Alice Wong, an Asian American disabled woman in a wheelchair. She is wearing a top with a geometric print with stripes, in aqua, black, white, and red. She is wearing a mask over her nose attached to a tube for her ventilator.
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project® by Alice Wong. Interview recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com