Sharpe Suiting is a premiere suiting label in Hollywood, Los Angeles. They design and make body-appropriate dresswear for people who identify as butch, trans, genderqueer, androgynous, and anything else masculine-of-center. We spoke with Founder Leon Elias Wu about the journey of building this business, and funding LGBT+ businesses as a way of creating social change.
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Supporting LGTBQ businesses is not just an investment in that particular business; it’s an investment in you and your community.
It’s been a long and prosperous road together, Sharpe Suiting along with our loyal clients. We’ve been in business for almost a decade now; we could not have done it without the support of our community. When I started this company 7-8 years ago, I had a vision of putting people who identified similarly to me, you and all queer identities in the mainstream zeitgeist or public eye. Back then, I didn’t see a secure path or light at the end of the tunnel, especially since so many queer fashion pioneers in the past decade at that time had tried to no avail. Building a fashion brand alone in itself is challenging — how can one build a queer fashion brand or industry where none had previously and viably existed? Looking back, 95% of our peers or competitors went out of business or filed for bankruptcy within the first 5 years. Against all odds, Sharpe Suiting, a public benefit which is queer and POC-owned, has weathered the storm. We feel immensely grateful and lucky to have played a big part in history supporting marriage equality and LGBTQ / trans visibility into becoming a reality.
Business and markets need capital to grow, either from investors or external markets or revenue capital. Investing in queer businesses infuses capital into queer fashion, this industry which we have created altogether. The business or economic cycle not only grows the business but it also allows us to put money back into empowering the community socially and financially. Over the years, we’ve put every penny back into our community, donating money or product to LGBTQ youth organizations, educational institutions and homeless shelters. We’ve put public figures, influencers and LGBTQ celebrities onto the runway and supported the careers and opportunities for these rising stars. In addition, we’ve been able to create dozens of new employment opportunities and business partnerships that continue to grow in their endeavors as well.
Together we get to build a ‘change engine’ or locomotive that keeps filtering capital into all the right places while at the same time bringing justice and opportunity to our clients, constituents and community.
Photo credit: Kelly Balch