Back in 2013, inspired by the lack of high-quality formal wear [including suits] for masculine and androgynous women and trans men, Leon Wu founded Sharpe Suiting.
For Leon, who identified as masculine-of-center at the time, it was that uncomfortable feeling of heading into standard tailor shops that sparked an idea. Sharpe Suiting quickly turned into a national queer-owned suiting brand that focuses on the individual; their style and their identity.
Why is Sharpe Suiting so important?
The people in my community have experienced frustration in not being able to find apparel that fits and/or enables them to feel comfortable with who they are. I cannot count the number of times a friend or I has walked into a men’s clothing store only to walk out feeling defeated. The last time, I went with a buddy of mine to go shopping for a suit she could wear at a wedding. She had tried on over ten different suits when the salesman finally turned to us and said, “I’m sorry, she does not fit anything we have in the store.” My response to the salesman was, “I’m afraid it’s the other way around. Your store does not have any suits that fit her”.
Until now, tailoring and custom suits have historically been a marker or a ‘right of passage’ for a boy becoming a man where the father takes the son to be fitted. Now, at Sharpe, we have mothers coming in with their daughters, LGBTQ+ lovers with their partners, and even whole wedding parties. You can see the transformation in the client when they finally come to a place where they feel comfortable and actually have a suit that fits. They feel at ease, stand straighter, look and feel more confident.
Where does the name come from?
Prior to my suit-making days, I performed as a drag king under the name of “Trey Sharpe.” So, naturally, I took on the name for the company based on my passion for bending gender [and performing gender nonconformity] on stage.
Also, coincidentally, Sharpe per Urban dictionary’s definition means a male or female from the upper-class society.
What does being gender-neutral mean to your brand?
For Sharpe, gender-neutrality means gender equality.
What are your top priorities when it comes to designing each piece?
We create high-quality suits and dress wear with an intellectual approach, a classic feel, and a modern twist. Our mission is to create these garments for the queer community and beyond. We want to build longstanding relationships with our ever-changing community, build confidence in our clients, and in turn, raise the bar on queer suiting.
Every collection or capsule we release has a specific purpose and underlying theme.
For example, we had a collection back in 2018 that was inspired by Jamie Wilson [an American transgender musician], and from that collection, 3% of all proceeds from online sales will go to helping homeless youth campaigns.
It remains to this day that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ identified.
The youth have been such a huge support to the Sharpe label. However, the majority may not be able to afford a custom suit. We want to keep inspiring our youth to be better. As a brand, we want to stick around to be that fashion label they aspire to wear one day.
Tell us more about the fabrics you use.
We offer over 350 different high-quality fabrics to our clients including Super 110s-180s wool, linen, cotton, and various blends. More importantly, we can put together any design or cut you like. We use our own formula, called Andropometrics®, to achieve whatever look you are going for and our designers are experts at helping you create your dream suit.
How much do trends and seasons influence your work?
Our client’s individual styles and our passion for visual activism are bigger influences to Sharpe designers than the trends we are already attuned to in pop culture or the Zeitgeist. We like to balance a mixture of what’s already trending alongside our clients’ individual styles and personalities to celebrate their identities and ultimately build their confidence.
Sharpe Suiting has also donated more than 100 suits to LGBTQ+ youth centers, non-profit organizations and queer prom students across the United States since its inception.