Peau De Loup: Interview on Brand's Past, Present and Future

Non binary model wearing red sweater and beanie riding skateboard in convenience store

by Theo Korstanje - March 2023

Peau De Loup is a Canadian non-binary fashion brand that was founded in 2012 by Adelle Renaud. While the brand started as a limited run of 1000 button down shirts, it has since grown into a full-fledged fashion line specifically for non-binary people. We sat down with Adelle Renaud, the brand's founder, and designer to learn more about Peau De Loup's past, present, and future.

In the next 10 years, I want anyone to be able to go into a big brick and mortar retail store and see themselves represented.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity. 

Offbinary: Why do you think it’s important to have brands like Peau De Loup that are specifically for non-binary people?

Adelle: Because the world doesn’t exist in a binary. Fashion of all things should not follow the binary system. It’s art, it’s expression. And for some reason the fashion world has created all these standards that don’t represent the world’s population.  

Offbinary: What inspired you to start Peau De Loup?

Adelle: To be honest, it was a selfish need. I had been working in the fashion industry at that point for 7 years. I got to a point where out of the millions of garments I was responsible for making, nothing out there represented who I am. Then I started doing research on things like “Tomboy Apparel”. What I came across was a t-shirt that said: “I Love Girls”, I was like: “Nobody wants to wear this!”.

Adelle Renaud, Peau De Loup’s Founder and Designer

Founder and designer behind Peau De Loup, Adelle Renaud

So, I started creating clothes. I started with button up shirts because those were the fabrics I had access to. I was working with all these big factories and there would always be leftover fabrics. I collected those fabrics and made the perfect body block, or what I thought was the perfect body block for a shirt. At first, I produced a thousand shirts of all different colors and materials, and then when that 1000 shirts sold, I made 2000 shirts. I grew the brand organically, and it progressed from there. It turned out that there were more people who needed a product like this.

Offbinary: What are the next steps for your brand?

Adelle: A big thing we’ve been trying to do is get a place in mainstream retail. To be able to work with a Nordstrom, or those big guys that can take on more quantity. That helps us because the way the fashion industry is set up is you must have a certain amount of quantity to operate the machinery. I’ve been trying to focus my attention on trying to get retailers to open their mind up to thinking outside the binary. Last year we launched in Urban Outfitters which was a huge success. In the next 10 years, I want anyone to be able to go into a big brick and mortar retail store and see themselves represented.

Offbinary: Are there any other big partnerships over the next year that you could share?

Adelle: There are a lot of fun things. I think part of the coolest things about our community is that we all love to work together. We’re all the brands that are in this space. If there are certain things, we can help each other with, we do. I don’t know how other companies work, but for us we’re very fortunate to get to work with a lot of amazing people.

Offbinary: Who are some of the other brands in that group?

Adelle: There is a lot. Kirrin Finch is a big one, they do suits. Both And do a lot of the basics like sleeveless t-shirts. Ohers include TomboyX, Wildfang, etc. This is a growing community.

Nonbinary model wearing burgundy utility jacket with matching trousers

Peau De Loup’s burgundy utility jacket, paired with matching pants

Offbinary: It’s interesting you mention the basics which is something I really admire about your brand. I’ve noticed that a lot of designers in this space are more high fashion, but everyday wear is equally important.

Adelle: 100%. To me, high fashion is what inspires. It creates the trends for everything that happens below. They are inspired by world events, they create art. Then that’s what comes on the runway and that trickles down to what everyday people want to wear.

So, traditionally if you think of Jean Paul Gautier and all those big guys, they’ve been doing non binary for years. But it never trickled down. So, to me, that’s my big thing. We’ve got to trickle it down and get it to the people.

There’s just so many people out there that aren’t being catered to. We have a little storefront attached to our office and the amount of people that have come in, gone into the fitting room, and left in tears. It’s beautiful, but we shouldn’t be at that phase. We need to do better.

Offbinary: Going back to the “perfect body block” you mentioned earlier. How did you come about that design?

Adelle: My preference is that I like to be more masculine presenting. A lot of the pain points I had with women’s clothing is it was all very form fitting. Women generally have smaller shoulders, bigger hips. Whereas more men have bigger shoulders, smaller hips. Whenever you try to wear menswear, you can maybe get it on your shoulders, but you’d have to leave the buttons open halfway down your shirt. So when I was building that perfect body block, I wanted something that fit at your shoulders, so it hugged you and looked like a classic tailored shirt. But it had to drop straight down past your hip. That’s what we do for all our items.

Nonbinary model in patterned blue button up

One of Peau De Loup’s signature short sleeve button down shirts

Offbinary: What challenges came about when you first started Peau de Loup in 2012? I’d imagine it was difficult making clothes for non binary people in a time when that was much less culturally visible. 

Adelle: Obviously, there were challenges that came about, but a lot of our challenges weren’t necessarily that we were a non binary line, because people didn’t quite understand it. There was no terminology. I would use the term “tomboy”, and people would respond like “OK, I remember a tomboy when I was in school”. So, the verbiage wasn’t there, and it was hard to explain what you were.

As for business, I found the biggest challenge was being a woman. I remember a bank meeting with my very first partner Becky. We went to the meeting together, and this was my idea, this was my baby. Then this bank manager would talk to us like we were children. He was like, “I see on here you are the majority owner, well you know if you’re going to be business partners, you guys should really share equally.” In no world would a banker talk that way to two men who are trying to open a business account. So, I feel it was more being a woman in business that was challenging that the non-binary side of things.

Offbinary: Like you said, 10 years ago that terminology wasn’t there, and people didn’t really get it. Since that point how have you seen the world change its views on non-binary fashion and non-binary people in general?

Adelle: Oh, my goodness, it has really changed. And it’s beautiful. Even I catch myself learning every single day. Because, again, I never had the words, I never had the language. It’s been amazing. This is exactly where we want to be. It feels freeing. Nonbinary model wearing blue shirt jacket

Peau De Loup’s dusty blue essential shirt jacket

Offbinary: I noticed on your website you awarded a scholarship to a young designer looking to further non-binary fashion. Can you tell me a bit more about the program and the student you chose?

Adelle: Every year, there’s going to be a scholarship that goes out to a student. It was very organic how the whole thing happened. Amazon wanted to work with us. Amazon isn’t always a fan favorite. They haven’t really been a fan favorite of mine either. But that was part of our deal. We would work with them, but they would have to do something as a give back. So that’s how we set it up. The student we awarded this year was just very creative and thought outside of the box on everything they did which was why they got awarded. Hopefully next year we have more people like them. 

Offbinary: Finally, do you have any words of advice for those looking to enter the world of non-binary fashion?

Adelle: Just do it. But it’s not easy. One of my mentors said that when you’re starting your own business it’s like literally pounding rock. You must be willing to do something over, and over, and fail a thousand times over, and over. But just start. What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s just an idea. If you fail, it’s OK. Don’t put everything you have into it, hopefully. But you know what I mean. Life is one of those things that if you listen to it, it will tell you where you need to go. Just keep putting the right foot in front of the left. 

Theo Korstanje is a writer from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. When he’s not writing, he’s either cycling around, training jiu jitsu, or tending to his garden.