Sharp Style by Sharpe Suiting
Filling the fashion gap for butch women and trans men!
It’s something that might depress someone else. But for entrepreneur Leon Wu, it served as an incredible inspiration. There is an incredibly sad lack of high-quality formal wear for butch women and trans men. So, Wu founded Sharpe Suiting and created a trademarked system called Andropometrics to capture the perfect fit to began creating custom made suits for deserving set.
Sharpe’s team crafts custom-constructed suits and dress-wear for every shape, size, and gender. The company, based in Silverlake has spent the last year measuring and custom-fitting butch women and trans men to develop a unique sizing system perfect for anyone who wants a more androgynous fit.
Now Sharpe is launching a Kickstarter campaign to rally community support and funds for a new ready-to-wear line, for purchase off the rack or online, inspired by the queer community to take their brand global.
I caught up with founder Leon Wu to find out more!
Curve: What is your background?
Wu: I am the Founder and CEO of Sharpe Suiting, a queer centric suiting and high quality dress-wear company inspired by the queer community. I have an M.B.A. from New York University specializing in Marketing, Luxury Retail and Entrepreneurship.
I’ve led several small cap to large multi-million dollar projects including anything from market entry strategy, global outsourcing, legal entity restructuring and IT implementation. Fashion has always been tightly integrated with my personal and professional life and building and growing a successful queer fashion brand is my passion.
Curve: Where did you get the idea for Sharpe Suiting?
Wu: Drag king performance is what ultimately steered me towards my passion in queer fashion. I became responsible for procuring my own performance wardrobe and costuming and came to realize my talent for styling and creating masculinity on stage. Outside of my day job, I worked as a mens-wear stylist for a few different fashion shows, both straight and queer. In 2005, I co-produced one of the first Butch Fashion shows in Los Angeles.
Ten years ago, the concept of Sharpe was just within its infancy and so was queer women’s fashion. However, the timing of a viable market for us was not quite right. I decided in the meantime to focus on progressing my education and spent the next two years at New York University for business school, choosing to specialize in marketing, luxury retail, entrepreneurship and just being gay, as all queers do in school.
During business school, I traveled the world with my peers to various places: Beijing, Hong Kong, and London. I had custom suits made for me in each location I visited and was very much impressed with the overall artistry of tailoring. I integrated this knowledge with my own experience styling for mens-wear and masculinity on female-bodied individuals. I wanted to bring the art of tailoring to women in my community.
Curve: Starting a company can be daunting. What made you think you could make this work?
Wu: In less than a year of business, we have sold over 100 suits not only to our LGBTQ community but also to other fashion-forward cisgender men.
I witnessed how quickly Sharpe was growing and saw the demand from so many clients who walked out transformed and happy from our studio. After just one year of moonlighting double leadership roles, I left my corporate job as a Senior Project Manager for a major entertainment studio to throw myself 110% into Sharpe working harder than ever to serve my community. The growing market and extreme gratitude from all of our clients was enough for me to take the leap of faith to become a full-time entrepreneur.
Curve: What do you want people to know?
Wu: Currently, we are developing a progressive line of Ready-to-Wear suits and dress-wear so that we can bring our vision to the world. This new collection is debuted as part of our kickstarter campaign that launched on October 15th. You can get more info here.
You can pledge for some heavily discounted custom suiting as well as Ready-to-Wear dress-wear prizes.
Curve: Why do a Kickstarter?
Wu: To raise funds necessary to build a Ready-to-Wear line with new sizes that actually fit those women who identify more with androgyny or masculinity and then be able to distribute this globally.
Angel and VC investors have expressed a whole lot of interest in Sharpe but labeled our market as ‘niche.’ My response to them is that queer fashion currently is the fastest growing segment in the fashion industry. If mens-wear and womens-wear are polar ends of the fashion spectrum, the potential and opportunities for queer fashion comprises everything in between.
From crowd-funding campaigns alone, not including aggregate revenue, queer fashion companies already constitute a multi-million dollar market share of the entire fashion industry. Let’s really support these businesses so we can show the world what we can do…
Curve: What is your goal or dream for Sharpe Suiting?
Wu: At Sharpe, we developed a system of measuring and tailoring whereby we minimize stereotypically female curves for those who identify as more masculine. Our suits fit androgynous bodies better using Andropometrics, which is our trademarked formula for androgynizing or better matching the individual identity of androgynous or butch women, gender neutral individuals, trans men, and anyone who wants a "Sharpe fit".
Most of our clients want a more traditionally masculine cut, but we’re happy to accommodate any identity or style. We will always listen to our clients needs and never judge anyone’s suit based on their appearance. For instance, we are now developing a curvy pattern with our manufacturer for a more feminine cut, since some of our clients have expressed interest in this style.
Think of it as a parallel to personalized technology but personalized fashion.
Curve: Why is this project important in our community?
Wu: So many of our clients have expressed their daunting experiences shopping for clothing... That is what we are here for! Brides, grooms, partners no longer need to feel uncomfortable going to a standard tailor. Until now, it has been a time old and coming-of-age tradition for a father to bring his son to a tailor to get a suit custom-made for his son.
Within the past year, we have taken over 100 of you in and innovated suit designs that specifically fit your individual identity. And with all your measurements, we have built a new sizing model and fashion label that is made to fit you and your style.
Curve: In what way is it about more than clothing?
Wu: We want everyone to feel comfortable and confident with their own individual identity, style and expression. The Sharpe Group wants to do that by revolutionizing the world of fashion.
Curve: Why are clothes so important when it comes to our community?
Wu: Kate Bornstein once said...
"I see fashion as a proclamation or manifestation of identity, so, as long as identities are important, fashion will continue to be important."
...I identify as neither male nor female... What I've found as a result of borderline life is the more fluid my identity has become, and the less demanding my own need to belong to the camps of male, female, gay or straight, the more playful and less dictatorial my fashion has become -- as well as my self expression.
Curve: Who are your suits for?
Wu: Anyone who wants an innovative, edgy, and fashion-forward suit. It doesn’t matter how you identify. Before we make the suit, we spend about an hour getting to know our client’s identity, what makes them feel confident, and what event or occasion the suit is for.
Curve: What are you hoping your suits will do for people?
Wu: Empower them and build confidence.
Curve: I’m a femme girl who is anxious to express her less femme side but I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard or like I'm wearing someone else’s clothes. Is Sharpe Suiting for girls like me?
Wu: The new women’s suit pattern is a great look for our femmes, whether it’s to bring your no-nonsense style to the office or wear a fitted tux to a red carpet or VIP event. It could even just be for mingling at special social occasions where you want to dress to impress. A custom suit is always the best way to express your own individual style!
Sharpe Suiting is here for you. In the past, gay men and fashion, sure. Gay women and fashion is now! Welcome to your runway…