Chloe Freeman isn’t the first person to make a pivot from the entertainment world to the wellness space. Rihanna, Beyonce, Jessica Alba, and, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few of the folks who’ve dabbled — and sometimes launched full-fledged careers — in creating products that help people live their best lives. But unlike some of their predecessors, Freeman isn’t focused on the beauty and health needs of cisgender women. Their company, For Them, is a pioneering venture for queer, trans, and non-binary people — one that Freeman hopes will “move the needle for those people and create a space that helps them be authentically well.”
“I think that the best companies are started through problems that you feel every day,” says Freeman. For Them — which launched in 2021 — definitely followed that ethos. After a stint in acting, Freeman, who is non-binary, moved into entrepreneurship. Their first endeavor was a production company that worked to get underrepresented people behind the camera. But they still wanted to do something more. “I really wanted to build something for the queer community,” says Freeman. “I felt like across the board we were pretty underserved.”
And then it hit them: Freeman had been relying on a binder to flatten their chest. But the options available to them were far from ideal. “I was wearing a chest binder that was just uncomfortable. It was making me feel really uneasy, because it was restricting my breath. But then when I didn’t wear it, I felt super dysphoric and not in my body,” Freeman says. “I felt like I was in between a rock and a hard place.” Because the binder was so uncomfortable, they could only wear it for short stints, and would prioritize wearing it in public. But that meant that when they were at home, they weren’t able to bind. “I was never feeling authentically myself and safe in my body in my home,” Freeman laments.
Even that uncomfortable binder was a major improvement over dangerous DIY binding techniques like ace bandages, which used to be the main option available to trans masculine people. But Freeman was convinced that there had to be a better way, that somehow, it had to be possible to create an effective binder that was comfortable and safe enough to wear for a full day with no pain or potential health problems. “This might not be a venture-backable business… but I should see if I can try and make a better chest binder just for me and maybe a few friends,” Freeman remembers thinking. A better binder had the potential to change lives. That was enough for them.
Freeman kicked off the project with a solid idea of what they wanted to create. The garment needed to be “binding and compressive and comfortable and good for the environment and accessible, price point-wise,” meeting the needs of a diverse array of people with a variety of bodies and budgets. After interviewing hundreds of trans and non-binary people to learn more about their binding needs, Freeman went on the hunt for a designer who’d be able to figure out how to make their dream a reality. They landed on Rada Shadick, a freelance patternmaker whose resume includes stints at Polo Ralph Lauren and Gap. It was Shadick’s work with ballet dancer Misty Copeland that Freeman was particularly intrigued by, however: the technology behind clothing that would allow a dancer to perform without restriction sounded exactly like the kind of compressive yet breathable fabric that a binder could benefit from.
Binders traditionally have “really strong power mesh or something that basically is not stretchy, so it pushes [the chest] down. What that means is that they’re pretty effective in terms of binding and compression, but essentially they’re no different from a corset,” says Freeman. The resulting product, The Binder, offers a whole new way to think about binding. Made from Renew Prime, a 100% recycled fabric that’s breathable, stretchy, and compressive, the garment is designed as a kind of reverse sports bra, pushing the breast tissue down where a sports bra would push it up. It’s also made to be worn comfortably for eight to 10 hours a day, without compromising breathing or damaging the body — though Freeman routinely pushes that time limit with minimal issues. “I wear mine all day, every day,” says Freeman, noting that the binder allows them to feel comfortable and safe in their body from when they wake up at 6 a.m. to when they go to bed late at night.
For Them’s binder also comes in a wide range of colorful options, rather than the standard flesh tones or black and white. Most notably, every single binder is custom-made: rather than picking from a brief list of standard sizes, For Them customers take a quick quiz that asks about body shape and chest measurements before recommending a colorfully named size option (when I took the quiz, I was told that Fire would be the best choice for me). “We accommodate all sizes,” says Freeman, noting that they haven’t had a customer they couldn’t accommodate. “That was really important for me upfront.” Not everyone will be able to get a completely flat chest with the binder, but For Them has worked hard to make sure that everyone will be able to get the most compression possible without compromising their safety.
But Freeman wasn’t content to just create a better binder. Despite their fear that a binder wouldn’t draw investor interest, Freeman was able to secure several million dollars in funding from a diverse group of investors. That’s a pretty rare privilege for a queer-led, queer-focused company — and Freeman wants to make sure that privilege is put to good use. Hence The Membership, a community space dedicated to queer wellness, was created. Currently in beta phase, The Membership began as a way to platform queer wellness experts and connect them to community members interested in everything from yoga to voice training. As For Them has onboarded the first 200 members, the space has grown into a Discord server and “pirate radio” station where members listen to music, enjoy talk shows and comedy, and, most importantly, come together to anonymously discuss their questions and concerns about health and wellness, all in a safe, judgement-free zone. (The Membership officially launches in mid-July, but waitlist applications are open now!)
“This is a super underfunded area of wellness,” says Freeman. “It’s just taken a long time to get to the point where we have products out there that the community deserves” — and they’re thrilled to be one of the people making those very products. As For Them grows, Freeman is excited to expand the ways they’re able to support queer and trans folk and help connect them to healthier, happier lives. In the coming months, they’ll be debuting a second binder design that offers more aggressive compression for shorter periods of wear, and hosting a conversation between Freeman and a well-known non-binary celebrity, whose name will be announced on June 26. In the meantime, they’ve already changed one life: their own. Freeman’s binder has finally given them the ability to be comfortable and confident in their body all day long, without risking their health. And its that real life experience that’s made them such a passionate face for For Them. Freeman is not just the CEO and founder, they’re a satisfied customer, too.