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Abby Sugar: Gender-Expression-Affirming Apparel—The Future of Fashion

Abby Sugar: Gender-Expression-Affirming Apparel—The Future of Fashion

Hi folks! I’m Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth, back with a new guest. Abby Sugar, the founder and CEO of Play Out Apparel, is a winner committed to making a difference in the world. Let’s see how she’s doing it! 

Spiffy: Welcome to the blog, Abby! Let’s jump right in and talk about the challenge you’re addressing through Play Out Apparel

Abby: Thank you so much for having me, Spiffy! Play Out Apparel is a Gen Z lifestyle brand. Our mission is to lead the next generation of self-expression and fashion by applying equality to design, shopping, and gender expression. What does this mean? It’s not men’s or women’s shirts - it’s a shirt. It’s not a women’s dress - it’s a dress. Our apparel is sexuality, gender, race, size XS-5X, age and ability inclusive - in the designs, construction, and our brand marketing DNA.

Spiffy: Is an interplanetary journalist included in that, because I know what I’m doing once this interview is done! What motivated you to do it, Abby?

Abby: You have plenty of options to choose from, Spiffy! To answer your question, Play Out came from a personal need for gender-expression-affirming apparel to exist. Every person should feel able to authentically express themselves and move through the world with positivity and ease. Clothing, and shopping from brands that represent who we are and reflect our values, is a major way that we do that as social beings. We’re creating the brand we wish existed when we were younger.

Spiffy: I definitely wish this was around when I was younger? So, tell me, how is the company’s work and motto involved in making Planet Earth a more equitable world?

Abby: Legacy Brands reinforce or are limited to hyper-gendered styles and binary categories. Gender-equal fashion is the future of all fashion and retail. When we say we design inclusively—our apparel is sexuality, gender, race, size XS-5X, age and ability inclusive—this means there is equal opportunity for shape, size, color, and style in shopping, without gender categories or othering due to body differences.

Spiffy: I like the sound of this world. I heard about your recent Forbes profile, congratulations! What impact does this make on your target community?

Abby: Thank you! My cofounder, Grey Leifer (he/she/they), and I were profiled in Forbes with the title, ‘Play Out Apparel Creates a Community for LBGTQ to Express Themselves Through Gender Equal Clothing.’ Representation matters—this visibility as out, queer, lesbian, and trans startup founders—has a real impact on younger entrepreneurs, and them seeing what is possible!

Spiffy: I’m always curious about how entrepreneurs such as yourself deal with the inevitable failure that we all must experience, but especially those in the forefront of change. Is there an incident you want to share?

Abby: I had a business with a previous business partner, and when that failed, I definitely felt like a failure. Why couldn't I make that work? But after spending time really working on myself—my self-esteem, my communication, my leadership—I learned to trust myself, and that I really do know what I'm doing. That simply wasn't the right circumstance or opportunity. I didn't give up on my passion or dream of being a startup founder, and took those lessons into building a much stronger company with the right cofounder, partners, and investors who believe in me and what we're creating together.

Spiffy: And look where you are now! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience, Abby?

Abby: My life motto is: Figure it out. I don't know is not a helpful answer—figure out what you do know, and other options you can explore when you feel stuck on something or don't (yet!) have enough knowledge to execute on it. You can do it!

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Abby—it’s been an honor!

As an outgoing, unapologetically queer startup founder, Abby Sugar strives to be a leading voice in and for the LGBTQ+ community. A Founder Institute Select Portfolio Company and named to the Forbes Next 1000 List in 2021, she speaks on podcasts, international panels, and gives frequent interviews about startups, fashion, diversity and inclusion, and topics important to LGBTQ+ individuals. (Nominated by Lorenzo Thione at Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 8, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.