Euphoria and The Phluid Project Team Up for a Pop-Up Shop Experience
BY ASHLEY MORTON
Complete with merch, screening, and Q&A with actors Hunter Schafer and Barbie Ferreira, the pop-up tour began in San Francisco.
Euphoria is about many things — Gen Z teens, addiction, body positivity, to name a few — but most of that can be wrapped around a single theme: self-identity. The show’s characters are young people struggling to figure out who they are in a world of social media expectations no previous generation has faced. In its most recent episode, “Shook Ones, Pt. II”, the series further explores the story of Jules, a trans teen played by newcomer Hunter Schafer. Recently, HBO partnered with The Phluid Project, a gender-free clothing store, to create a pop-up experience tour, beginning at San Francisco’s Swedish American Hall.
The experience began outside at “Euphoria Village,” anchored by a 30” airstream-cum-retail store of The Phluid Project merch ranging from t-shirts to hats to socks, and including a “Love Rules” tote bag created specifically for the Euphoria partnership. Proceeds from the sales go toward LGBTQ-help organization The Trevor Project. Alongside the airstream was a photo booth, DJ, and a place to get stick-on jewels for visitor’s faces, inspired by Euphoria’s glittery look. Inside, there was food and drinks and a screening of Episode 4, followed by a Q&A with stars Schafer and Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat, hosted by The Phluid Project’s chief of staff, Preston Souza.
Souza asked Ferreira about Kat’s “newly developed exterior,” suggesting it was a kind of armor for the character. “It’s about being seen in a loud way,” Ferreira explained. “There’s a level of confidence in that.” For Kat, whose story began in the series with the moment she lost her virginity being filmed and posted online, Ferreira said the outward transformation was a choice for the character: “It was an ‘I can either succumb to the feeling that this is the end of the world,’ or say, ‘you can’t f**k with me now.’”
In regards to Kat’s “two personas,” Ferreira offered that Kat’s new online experience was about finding a community where she’s celebrated. “It gives her the validation she’s not getting at school.” Ferreira could identify with this herself, having found her own community online who embraced her differences from the mainstream “ideal” of beauty. She suggested everyone “really reflect on what you find beautiful. My body didn’t correlate to what I was seeing. Now what I find sexy is people having an energy on them where they really know themselves.”
Jules’ Episode 4 story ended with a revelation and the character finding her way to her best friend Rue’s home (Rue is played by Zendaya). “After what happened Jules knows exactly where to go,” Schafer said. “After this she’s on a hopeful road. She’s abandoning the toxic relationships with men she’s built up and turning to her best friend to find an intimacy that’s more wholesome.”
Souza asked Schafer about the character Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi) whose relationship with Jules is complicated (to say the least.) In Episode 2 viewers learn that as a child Nate discovered videos of his father Cal (Eric Dane) having sex with non-cis-women. To his children however, Cal is focused on a hypermasculinity that Nate also tries to emulate. “A part of him admires and wants to be his dad,” Schafer commented, citing a moment in Episode 4 where Nate even mimics one of his father’s sexual moves on Jules. “He’s repressed in his masculinity, and Jules is the opposite of that. Jules represents what he’ll never be, and that’s both intoxicating and repulsive to him.”
Both actors shared that they loved seeing the audience’s reception to the show, and how emotionally involved they are with the characters’ journeys. They discussed with Souza how Gen Z specifically was starting to take control of their own narrative — and not so focused on labeling themselves. “They are so open to exploring themselves,” Ferreira said. Schafer credited some of this to social media: “We can world build outside of what’s in our general vicinity. But the internet is a bubble. It’d be great to see what’s happening there externalized more.”
After the Q&A the party continued as chairs were cleared and a DJ started up the music. The first of three stops, the Phluid Project Pop-Up Shop made it's way to Seattle and Miami as well.