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Rebuilding Fashion from the Ground Up

WHO & WHAT WE ARE

Play Out Apparel was started out of a need for comfortable, validating underwear, outside of the cis-hetero-patriarchal gaze of the lingerie market. We are now a gender equal clothing brand and community, offering both athleisure and underwear, as well as education and resources for our community, and allowing everyone to “Shop Your Style, Not Your Gender.” We are queer and trans owned. Play Out is co-founded by CEO Abby Sugar and & Chief Design Officer Grey Leifer. John Lackner, COO, joined Play Out in 2020.


Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.


Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.



My Experience

There was never a moment when I realized that I was trans. But there was a moment when I realized I needed to come out. I was watching Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, National Geographic’s documentary about trans people, for a gender studies class, and in it there was a trans woman in her 80s. This was the first time I had seen any trans person that old, since there are too few trans elders now, due to a generation lost to the AIDs epidemic. And as I watched that scene it hit me like a bus that I would be trans for the rest of my life, and I would not be in the closet for the rest of my life, and it would be easier for everyone if I came out sooner rather than later. So the next day I came out to my gender studies class, and within a week I had come out to my family and friends. 

Play Out began as, and continues to grow into our deep love and care for our community, and our belief that all people deserve dignity, joy, and are worthy of respect. Queer people, gender nonconforming, and transgender individuals deserve to see themselves joyously reflected in clothing and brands. It’s our mission is to positively impact queer visibility and represent queer celebration. And cisgender, heterosexual people benefit from the dismantling of gender norms as well. Everyone is allowed more freedom, ease, creativity, and truth when we eliminate categories like binary gender presentation in fashion and allow all people to shop their style, not their gender. For Gen Z, binary gender norms are outdated. In fashion and shopping, 56% of them shop outside of their assigned gender. Gender equal fashion is the future of mainstream fashion, and this is a movement. Queering fashion is for everyone, not just queer people. 



WORDS FROM OUR FOUNDERS


In the words of Abby Sugar, "Presentation is a spectrum, and the words that queers use to identify themselves and their styles are vast. When I first had the idea for gender equal underwear, and for Play Out as a brand, the underwear options for cis women were mostly framed in a patriarchal gaze telling us what ‘feminine’ presentation should be: pink, lace, bows, skimpy thongs. Nothing against those styles, but I wanted underwear that I could feel comfortable and sexy in, and I couldn’t find it. I also couldn’t find “men’s” styles that fit my body or had the colors or patterns I wanted, hence Play Out was born.”


The underwear options that existed before Play Out were so limited that many people couldn’t find styles that they felt comfortable in, both physically and emotionally. Grey Leifer shared, “I think a lot about how different the trajectory of my life would have been if I had seen brands like ours when I was younger. It would have made all the difference to me growing up. The world would have become so much bigger, so much sooner.” 


HOW WE GO BEYOND OTHER GENDER-NEUTRAL UNDERWEAR BRANDS


Our brand values and mission go far beyond gender equal clothing. Creating products and community while striving to do no harm, and continually increasing our inclusivity means that we are innovating systems at every level of our company. Play Out Apparel is a Social Good Enterprise with 20% net profits going to LGBTQ+ & BLM organizations. And to us, being inclusive is about action, conversation, and listening. It’s about creating intentional safe spaces for other perspectives. This is the culture we create at Play Out. We are gender, race, age, sexuality, size (XS - 5X), and ability inclusive. 


As part of our mission to benefit the lives of humans and nonhuman life, we use ethical and environmentally conscious production practices. We manufacture our products in Mexico and work with a woman owned factory that employs people over 50, and that also works directly with the trans community and LGBTQ+ community in Mexico, and pays a living wage. We reduce our carbon footprint by designing with materials and notions that have been left behind at our manufacturer by larger companies. We utilize as many of those recycled materials as possible. We reduce, reuse, and recycle when it comes to our shipping materials which are primarily corn based compostable bags.


As a small company, we devote a large amount of our time to creating resources and education for our community, engaging in impactful conversations to create positive change, and spreading love and understanding through Play Out After Dark, our blog and conversations on Instagram live. We also have a resources page on our website with national and regional community organizations providing aid in healthcare, legal expertise, and more.


Gender equal fashion means creating fun and colorful options for everyone, and having all of our clothes available to people of all genders. Our original prints are created by Grey Leifer, who shared, “I come to the design process with over 20 year in the fashion industry and I’m also a painter. I hand paint our designs and then they’re transferred onto prints that I further tweak for the product so that they look great on all different kinds of bodies."



WHERE WE ARE NOW


As Play Out Apparel has grown, we’ve been able to expand what we offer our community. Grey Leifer shared, “Major companies start as small companies, and it always resonates with me how important it is to keep that company culture. That mission, that culture, can go by the wayside when things start to scale. It’s so important to stay connected to the core mission" It is deeply important to us that as we expand, the areas that we are expanding are the things that our community needs and values. We’re so delighted to be able to share resources and education, and we continue to prioritize and grow that aspect of our work. We also have been able to increase our size offerings for garments. Expanding size offerings takes time and research and money but it’s essential to us that we have those offerings. Our apparel is offered in sizes XS to 5X, and we will continue to expand our size offerings as we are able to. And in December 2020 we launched our first athleisure drop. Branching out of underwear and into athleisure has been such an exciting area of expansion for us, and has continued to be an increasingly important part of our brand. 


Recently, a customer submitted a message via our website saying “Just wanted to say how happy I am with the Play Out re-launch! I visited your site a couple years ago and didn't quite find what I was looking for, but I LOVE your new lines! These are gender-neutral designs that I actually want to wear (and are affordable) and that aren't just baggy t-shirts and hoodies. I'm subscribed to your emails and can't wait to see what new products you launch!”


Hearing our community tell us how we’re making an impact in their lives is what keeps us going, continuing to pour love and energy into what we believe in. In the words of Grey Leifer, “Our Play Out drops are made to assimilate into your life, not the other way around. So when people wear their own interpretations of things it makes me so happy. I light up when I see people wearing our clothes or read positive feedback.”


TESTIMONIALS:


Reading messages from folks who wear our clothes brings us so much joy that we wanted to share more of them with you! Below are a few of the messages we’ve received. 


“As a genderqueer person who dreads shopping because of how traumatic it can get in a society determined not to let you live as yourself, especially back when I was a more impressionable teenager, I want to thank you so much for creating a business that caters to people like me and treats us as normal and worthy of respect and clothes that fit, arbitrary gender norms be damned. It's really uplifting to see.”


“I wanted to just say that I appreciate your clothing brand. It’s not just ANY clothing brand, it’s a brand that doesn’t have a gender. A brand that we can all finally look at and be proud of instead of constantly battling with labels. I’m rooting for your company to grow...Thank you for representing us as a queer commuNity. Thank you for standing in your truth and being strong enough to normalize #nolabels #justbeingyourselves”





"If others are experiencing the same joy I experienced while putting this outfit on, you're lighting the community on fire with happiness! It feels so good to wear clothes that celebrate my body and queerness.” 


“Hey there! I just ordered from your company and I wanted to shoot you a message. I'm a young non-binary person and I've been looking for flat front jockstraps for what feels like forever; I always wanted one because I thought the gender euphoria of wearing it would be amazing, but I could only ever find jocks with a pouch in the front until I found your store. Thank you so much for making underthings and clothing accessible to people of all genders, it’s really an important job and I'm so so thankful that there is a cool company out there doing it. Thank you again!”


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