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Social Good

Bindle & Keep

Bespoke Clothing for LGBTQ communities

For custom suit maker Daniel Friedman, life changed with an email from Rae Tutera.

“At the time, Rae had this popular transmasculine blog called The Handsome Butch,” Friedman remembers. “I was the founder of a bespoke suiting company called Bindle and Keep… And Rae’s question was this: Why not use my expertise as a tailor to create suits for female bodies? For LGBTQ bodies? And could we stop calling them men’s suits?”

The idea was simple: What we wear is a uniform; it’s armor. So, when it doesn’t fit — doesn’t match how we feel inside — life feels off kilter.

“Unfortunately, the current retail landscape excludes LGBTQ communities,” Tutera explains. “There are men’s sections and women’s sections. I used to feel like I was trespassing in every shop… Nothing fit. The salespeople didn’t know what to do with me; other shoppers didn’t want to rub elbows.”

For millions of people, it doesn’t matter whether that friction is real or perceived — it’s still felt. And, so, Tutera pressed Bindle & Keep to erase the issue completely by creating custom clothing for underserved communities. Since 2012, they’ve made thousands of suits for LGBTQ clients. Every piece is custom fit with only one question in mind: How do you want to feel when you wear it?

Custom clothing for the LGTBQ communities

TUTERA’S JOURNEY to Bindle & Keep began with a 2010 visit to a Midtown tailor.

“I was 25 at the time, and that custom suit cost me $1,500,” Tutera remembers. “But it was this incredibly transformative experience. I realized I’d been getting dressed my entire adult life without… realizing clothes could be a way of introducing myself to the world.”

Tutera, who identifies as transmasculine, felt overlooked by retail — that the binary existence of men’s and women’s; boy’s and girl’s sections didn’t cut it.

“I remember Rae telling me how that felt,” Freidman says. “And it’s a reality anyone can relate to, whether you’re LGBTQ or not. We all walk into stores and feel too big or too small… find clothes that are designed for a 5’10” version of ourselves.”

Large corporations mostly ignore that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, but Tutera believed custom clothing had the ability to replicate the sensational freedom that came with her first suit. The only issue was finding a tailor to say yes — yes to every identity.

“Murray Hill is a famous drag king, someone I’ve followed since I was a kid,” Tutera continues. “And suddenly Murray’s suits were fitting him really well. I remember thinking, ‘Who’s making Murray’s suits?’”

The answer was Friedman. Tutera knew that was the tailor she wanted.

Communities Ignored

Bindle and Keep Disruption Rae Tutera Daniel Friedman

“MEETING RAE was so illuminating,” Friedman explains. “She taught me the importance of empathy — that so much of feeling good in what you wear is knowing the people making those clothes understand how you feel.”

And, so, a partnership was born: Tutera shadowed Friedman during fittings. Friedman shadowed Tutera during conversations where clients described how they wanted a particular piece of clothing to make them feel.

“There’s nothing novel about custom suiting… nothing novel about what we’re doing,” Friedman asserts. “How we turned this industry on its head was by making suits not in terms of what’s in fashion, but in terms of how you feel… And that’s capitalism at its best: Making everyone feel like their money matters.”

But what it boils down to — not only for Tutera and Friedman, but also for this story — is the clients.

“So many people are forced to walk around feeling like inauthentic versions of themselves,” Tutera explains. “Folks who don’t even feel entitled to think about what life could be… We’ve had women cry because a shirt fit their bust for the first time, a client who had put off getting married for 10 years because they didn’t want to look stupid at their wedding. We get to help all those people.”

A Transition For Bindle & Keep

Bindle and Keep Disruption Rae Tutera Daniel Friedman
That’s capitalism at its best: Making everyone feel like their money matters.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION on Bindle & Keep, check out their upcoming documentary, Suited, which premieres June 20 on HBO (and was produced by Lena Dunham).

And for more heartwarming inspiration, check out another Disruption social do good-er: Eben Bayer of Ecovative.


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