Every year for as long as I have lived in West Hollywood, I have always thrown a party to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city, LA Gay Pride. I spend weeks preparing to host friends from near and far. From decorations and food to drinks and a sassy invite, I pulled out all the stops.
But, like the long list of events cancelled in 2020 due to the Pandemic, Pride LA and similar celebrations in cities across the U.S. were cancelled.
One evening, over a “Virtual happy Hour”, Allan and I were discussing how bummed we were that we would not be celebrating with friends and started to brainstorm about sending the perfect “Pride in a Box” as a fun way to cheer everyone up and celebrate Pride.
“God was this hard. For starters, it's slim pickins,” Allan recalls.
“When it comes to what you see out there you're stuck with only a few options; cheap pride flags, tacky t-shirts, and rainbow underwear.”
We spent hours scouring the internet for products and businesses that were elevated and gay-owned and found it extremely difficult. Why wasn’t there one cool place where you could find quality gift giving options that featured LGTBTQ+ makers?
This was the moment that FRUITLOOTS was born!
Allan and I recently sat down to discuss the humble beginnings of our company and share the vision of where we want to take it as the world opens back up again.
Let’s start with the name of the company. What does FRUITLOOTS mean?
DAVID: Our name comes from a couple things... First of all the name "Fruit" has historically been considered a derogatory word for gay men. But in the vein of reclaiming words like 'Queer' and 'Fag', we wanted to reclaim this word and make it a positive. Allan and I consider ourselves a couple of "Fruits" who started a curated gifting company. And we like to call the amazing merchandise in these boxes "Loot".
ALLAN: And boom! "Fruitloots" became our moniker! And our logo has become our official mascot who we've lovingly named Winky. He's a literal personification of a FRUITLOOTS gift box giving you that wink & nudge we like to refer to as our "Wink Factor". He's got an innuendo-ridden sense of humor that you can pick up on in everything we do.
DAVID: Winky the twinky!
What can you find on your website?
DAVID: Amazing products first and foremost! We curate gift boxes that are themed by special occasions like "Birthday" and "Thank You" and give them bright, Pop Art-inspired design elements to give the recipient a fun experience from the moment they receive the box!
We also have our blog which we've deemed the "FRUITFEED", where you can get to know the amazing partners that we highlight. I really want our shoppers to know if they love a product from these makers, where they can go to support them. They are all amazing small businesses and need all our love.
ALLAN: It's all about the love & synergy! I'm really proud of the partners we've been able to bring on board for this first collection of boxes. They're quality makers who share the same values as us. Honestly, it's both humbling and exciting at the same time. Also- I want customers to know that our gifts are meant for everyone! They're intentionally gender non-specific and meant for anyone & everyone, queer or straight.
Describe what sets the company apart from other curated gifting companies?
DAVID: That we are a "LGBTQ+ First" company! We actively seek out the very best makers and designers to feature and buy from. After that we feature POC, Women and Ally-owned businesses.
ALLAN: We also have a distinct voice that's certainly unique to us. As consumers ourselves shopping the gifting market we kept asking ourselves "Where's the fun? Where's the humor?" And we wanted to bring that - along with the excitement you get when you give someone a gift that you've put time, effort, & thought into. So we've packaged it up & are happily doing the heavy lifting for you.
How did you feel as you both prepare for your company’s launch?
DAVID: Stressed and Excited. But at the end of the day, I know we are creating something really special, so to me its worth it. I have a feeling deep in my guy that this will be a big deal. Which is scary to say because you don't know anything. I just think it's all really good energy.
ALLAN: I was so excited and really anxious because there was so much to do. But (fingers crossed) I think we've done a good job at dotting our I's and crossing our T's. What's even more exciting is that you and I had our very first conversation about this company in Pride of 2020 and we are on the eve of Pride 2021, almost 1 year later, and look at what we've accomplished. It's all come to FRUITion!
DAVID: Oh god. *laughs out loud*
There's an obvious focus on packaging design with FL, where do you draw your design inspiration from?
ALLAN: Creatively speaking, when we started this journey we talked a lot about bringing fun and, quite frankly, our queerness to the world of gifting.
So we wanted to draw from our appreciation of Queer Pop Art icons that we admire so much like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol to create a visual confection. But more importantly we wanted to give our customers a sense of nostalgia. Like from when you were a kid- you'd get excited about the games on a cereal box, or digging out the toy in a Happy Meal.
DAVID: And again, we have that 'Wink Factor", which I think is what really sets us apart. We never take ourselves too seriously and it's that "wink, wink. nudge, nudge" sensibility. It's being ever so slightly naughty without being too vulgar or overtly sexual. We're cheeky & flirty. This is a part of all that we do.
Why was it important to you to create an “out and proud” LGBTQ+ company?
DAVID: For us, this was never a question. We wanted to create a brand that, from its very inception, was unapologetically gay. We were tired of larger companies capitalizing on our community during Pride Month, but disappearing after that for the rest of the year. FRUITLOOTS is a brand that is gay owned, buys from gay businesses year round and actively seeks to support and promote other LGBTQ+ owned brands.
ALLAN: Yup. We're here to disrupt status quo and want to pave a path forward for other gay business owners- all while waving that Pride Flag high in the sky year round.
Tell us about the products that we have chosen for this collection.
DAVID: I mean, I could be here all day telling you about them. They are a collection of some of the very best LGBTQ+, POC, Female and Ally-owned makers and designers. We searched high and low to find the very best and brought them all here today.
What's even crazier, is that we have MANY more cool brands coming in a few months when we launch our holiday and other box themes.
ALLAN: It's definitely about quality over quantity, but we've totally stuffed our boxes *laughs out loud* with such great product. And there's no filler! What's important to us is telling a story and making sure the products in the box make sense together.
DAVID: Our boxes are meaty.
ALLAN: Gurrrrl. *laughs out loud*
Where do you see your company in 10 years?
ALLAN: I see us on a Pride Float, on a marquee of a digital billboard, on the margins of a movie poster because we sponsored a queer filmmaker in his directorial debut. I see the brand being as big as that.
DAVID: I think about this all the time. I would love to see a super cool "FRUITLOOTS HQ" right off the main street in West Hollywood. We would have a brick and mortar store at the front and hopefully become a destination within the neighborhood. I want it to be a part of Gay Main Street USA!
I also see us having a really cool product assortment that is created by us, completing the circle of not only helping gay brands grow but becoming one ourselves.
ALLAN: I'm right on top of that Rose!
If you could do a special collaboration with any person in the world, who would it be and why?
DAVID: OMG, this is very easy for me to answer!
1. Do something with the Keith Haring Foundation. I would love to create a capsule between our two brands. I think Allan will agree with me on this. We both love him and his art.
2. Do something with one of my favorite Drag Queens, Trixie Mattel. I love, love LOVE everything that she does. She is a smart cookie and I think she's doing it right. I think a special collab would be a DREAM! She is so on brand for us!
ALLAN: I second, third, fourth, and fifth those! I'd love that journey for us. I'd also love to work with the Andy Warhol Foundation for a collaboration. Beyond that, as an avid music fan I'd love to collaborate with an artist from the music world. First & foremost, a gay icon like Gaga. Could you imagine?! Gaga x FRUITLOOTS presents the Born This Way Box.
If you could throw a party, with an unlimited budget and you could invite anyone, tell us about the party and who would be there!
DAVID: Ugh, I am the worst to ask this question to 'cause I love a party and I LOVE to go big. So here is my list: ALL Drag Race Queens of every season, All of the top Gay Icons (Cher, Madonna, Kylie, Celine, Janet, Elton, Adam Lambert, Britney, Beyonce, Gaga) and then I would invite all of the emerging gay artists, actors and entertainers. It would be the ultimate Gay Party! By the way the theme would be "CAMP" - cause couldn't you JUST IMAGINE!??!! We love that theme!
ALLAN: CAMP DAVID! *laughs out loud*
DAVID: I can't with you.
ALLAN: WELL then- since you've invited everyone on the planet why don't we just call it a joint party because my list wouldn't be so different from yours. But can we rent an island? Obviously build custom accommodations, bring on caterers, open bar- OH and we have to have these guests perform. It'll be QUEERCHELLA!
DAVID: I'll consider it.
Last question, If you could be any fruit, what would it be and why?
DAVID: Coconut! I say this because I am from an island and I feel like I am cool, refreshing and tan on the outside. Lol! Since I am a proud son of the island of Guam, I will always be the coconut!
ALLAN: Ok, Banana! True story- back in the day, I had a friend who used to call me "Banana Boy" cause she drew these little superhero cartoons and I was a Banana Boy with a cape and she was an Asian Pear Girl. I loved it so much I made an email account out of it. *laughs out loud*
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Photo courtesy of Adam Perez