Abby Sugar and Liz Leifer for Play Out Apparel were interviewed on October 30th, 2017 at 8:40 pm by Kelly Reddy-Best via Zoom. This interview was 1 hour and 38 minutes. The oral history transcript reflects the history of the brand at the time of the interview.
Oral History Video
Oral History Transcript
SUGAR: Hi, my name is Abby Sugar, I am the founder and owner of Play Out apparel LLC, doing business as Play Out underwear.
LEIFER: Hi, my name is Liz Leifer, I am co-owner of Play Out underwear, and I am also the creative director.
REDDY-BEST: Awesome. And, so can you both, just tell me a little bit about your background, where did you grow up, and where have you lived?
SUGAR: So, I had no background in fashion, whatsoever, but I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the Mid-west, and moved to New York City for college, and have lived in Michigan, and New York, and also spent a year in England, and then moved to, back to New York City.
LEIFER: I grew up in LA, and I did like, a quickie stint for six months in Hawaii, and then was in San Francisco, and the Bay area for about five years in the late 80s- early 90s, then moved back to Los Angeles, and then, moved full time to New York, in ‘09 after commuting quite a bit for work back and forth.
REDDY-BEST: And then, can you tell me about your educational background?
LEIFER: Oh, I realize I haven’t said anything about my background, so sorry! I have been in fashion for a long time. I’m actually the director of creative productions for a fashion brand, right now, as my day job, and I’ve been a stylist, and a producer, and a script reviser, and before that I was a scenic artist for TV and movies.
SUGAR: I think that you skipped the educational background went right to work history.
LEIFER: Oh, a, educational background,
SUGAR: Wait, this is the Abby, and Liz, show in case you’ve missed that part.
LEIFER: Sorry. The only thing I think we’re going to miss here is cocktails. I started apprenticing working artists when I was 10, and I started going to classes at UCSC, in Fine Arts when I was 12. My parents were involved with the university and I had private tutors for most of my growing up and we did lots of traveling. And I end up going to UC Berkeley, and left in middle of my third year because I gave birth to my first child. I was working fulltime and going to school and had a brand-new baby and something had to give, and you can’t give babies back and you can’t not make money, so school had to go.
SUGAR: I’m much less interesting. I grew up in Ann Arbor. I did my grade school and high school in Ann Arbor, and I went to community high school, which is sort of like, the artsy alternative high school, so I took a lot of University of Michigan classes when I was high school student. Then, I moved to New York City, and did my undergraduate at Barnard College, in literature, and creative writing with a concentration in poetry. I always say that my first love of art is in words in literature. So that’s where my background comes from. I did my year abroad at Hartford College, which is part of Oxford University because the place you go to study English literature is England. I then came back, and finished up at Barnard College, which, side note, is the women’s college at Columbia University. Some people don’t know that.
REDDY-BEST: Can you tell me which gender pronouns you prefer?
SUGAR: Yeah, I use female, she and her.
REDDY-BEST: How would you describe your sexual identity, or your sexuality?
SUGAR: So, I usually identify as queer. Lesbian, or gay are the terms I usually use for myself.
LEIFER: Yeah, I am definitely lesbian, gay, queer, – ah, dyke is fine. Middle aged, Jewish, dyke is often how I would describe myself.
REDDY-BEST: Can you talk about your goals in the company, what a typical day or week might look like for you? Or if it’s not typical, describe why might not be typical.
SUGAR: So, we are looking over these questions while we are talking to each other. The first thing I said flat out was that in a really small startup you end up doing everything – if something needs to be done you just do it, and you have to sort of like, learn on the go just figure out how to get it done, and the you get it done. In terms of strengths and weaknesses and division of labor between us, my strengths and my background comes more in the behind the scenes: sourcing, manufacturing, business to business end of things, and then, Liz’s – Liz’s background comes more on the creative direction, marketing, production, and things like that.
LEIFER: I mean we do as much as we possibly can ourselves. However, I’m, fortunate that I’ve been in, in this business for a long, long time, and I have lot of friends and connections. My daughter is doing illustrations.
SUGAR: She’s amazing.
LEIFER: Yeah, she’s helping us craft our first eight e-mails for our relaunch. So, we definitely will enlist friends and co-workers, people that we know. There are bunch of kids that are amazing that working on my team at work, and I’ve definitely brought them in to do work on the weekends, to do re-touching and you know help us with photo-editing and all these things. I feel like everyone has been so positive, and so receptive and eager to be involved –
SUGAR: That’s the exciting thing. People come to us and want to work with us.
LEIFER: Yeah, we are so tiny, but we definitely, are getting a very strong community built together around this brand/ There is a lot of excitement behind it, and people just really want to be involved, which is very cool, it’s great feeling.
REDDY-BEST: When I refer to the brand, should I say ‘Play Out’ or ‘Playout’?
LEIFER: You can say Play Out.
SUGAR: Yeah, Play Out is good.
REDDY-BEST: So how would you both describe, your personal clothing style?
LEIFER: I am definitely I am sort of dapper, with an edge, and I admittedly like a little bit of bling.
SUGAR: The secret is that me and all of Liz’s little underlings that work for her want to steal her wardrobe when they retires pieces. So, we get to inherit nice things. My style definitely meets – you know in the middle, but a little bit more towards to the femme side of spectrum and I sort of would say the artist’s black uniform for me, a little bit steampunk, a little bit weird, I like weird hats, and like big things like that. Come on, you laughing at me, you know, I’m right.
LEIFER: I am just smiling,
SUGAR: Because it’s. …
LEIFER: Because it’s very true!
SUGAR: I, I wear black, steam punk, bondage-y things, coats, weird stuff, but black is the basically the palette, with some metal thrown in there.
REDDY-BEST: What was your experience shopping for the types of product you that you sell, before you started Play Out?
SUGAR: So, I think that, I can speak to more of this, a little bit more because I started the brand with my ex-wife, ex-business partner, and then, Liz joined recently, but basically, the whole brand, and this sort of jumps to your question of like how the company was started as well, but it was basically, going shopping and not being able to find anything. And that being sort of my ex-wife was definitely a little bit more on the butch side of the spectrum than me, and she was looking for, sort of more masculine leaning underwear that would fit and flatter her body, that was that she felt comfortable wearing that felt sexy wearing, but that was also, fun and cool, and interesting, supposed to just being solid colors, or being lacey, or being pastel or having flowers on it. And part of it was, you know, she would buy men’s underwear that was really unflattering, and as her partner, I would be like, “I know that your style, and that’s you want, but it’s not sexy. It’s not attractive, just purely because it doesn’t fit you, it doesn’t fit your shape.” And then, I decided, ex-wife was, was French, and there were, at the time, and this was years ago, 2011, was when we sort of had the idea to start the brand, there were couple European brands that were doing more masculine styles for women and they were very expensive, and I said there has to be a way to buy this that I can purchase in America, that’s not so expensive, that is what – what she wants to wear, and what would look good on her, and I spent hours and hours trying to search for this and shop for, and just didn’t find it. and so, she came home for work, and I said, I can’t find it. We have to start making underwear. And she was like, “I know, I have never been able to find it,” and we were just crazy enough to do that.
REDDY-BEST: It was, it just broke up a second, so you, the idea was X-mas 2010, and then when did it, and then, you were in 3 years in development, when did it, officially begin?
SUGAR: So, we officially launched with products for sale around Valentine’s Day 2014.
REDDY-BEST: Oh okay, and then, a what about the name? Can you tell me about the name?
SUGAR: Yeah. So, my ex-wife and I came up with name. We did a lot brainstorming, but what we really loved about Play Out was the definition, and the idea behind “play,” which is having fun, being comfortable, enjoying what you are wearing and also, the brand having a sort of elevated – what I like to call “urban athletics.” So, I think of “urban athletics” as something like skateboarding. Being very cool, and having its own sense of fashion style. Or like surfing, which I think of it as sort of little bit urban in a way – you know, like LA surfers, or you know Sydney, Australia surfers or that type of thing. So, that’s where the ‘Play’ comes from. Then, ‘Out’ has a double meaning, like “out,” – play outside, go outside, or a triple meaning even – or “out,” – obviously being gay, being out. And also, “out,” in a really specific way, as in a lot of men you see with wide waistbands with the logo, and the name of the brand, peeking up above their pants because they’re sagging, so their waistband is “out.” So, Play Out mean something that you show off, that is sort of peeking out above your pants.
REDDY-BEST: That’s really cool! That’s a great story. So then, so can you just help me, what types of products do you offer? What are the different lines, what is in the different categories, and then, what is the price point?
LEIFER: So, this company started with briefs, boxer briefs and trunks.
SUGAR: Boxer briefs,
LEIFER: Yeah, like the guy – trunks, but technically female.
SUGAR: Now, you are reversing that.
LEIFER: Oh, I am reversing it, sorry. I’ve been so focused on designing thongs for dudes, my brain is silly. Alright. It started out as basically having anatomically male and female versions of a boy short. It just depends on how you like identify – it really doesn’t matter as what, you know. It’s what you assign yourself. So if it’s a female who’s packing, she can choose to wear the anatomically male one. If it’s someone who isn’t meeting that, you know, if there is junk to be placed, you have that option, and if you don’t there is one without it.
SUGAR: People wanted different types, which is why we like to use the names of the style, as opposed to saying these are men’s, and these are women’s.
SUGAR: Just saying these are trunks, these are boxer briefs, these are thongs, these are bikinis, choose whichever one you want – if you want space or whatever you want to put in it, if you want to put a…
LEIFER: A flask.
SUGAR: Or a banana in it, or a flask. Put a banana or a flask it. But like you know, we would have people that did have the equipment who really loved our stuff that were buying the flat-fronted, sort of traditionally female-cut, if you will, and they were like, “These are uncomfortable, but we loved them so much, but I need space for what I have.” So, we decided to make two different styles, and now we’re expanding that and I think this goes to the next question, into bikinis and thongs, doing two versions of bikinis and thongs across the board – one with the extra fabric and extra space and one without.
REDDY-BEST: So, it’s always sort of like a base, and then you’ll have like, space or no space.
SUGAR: Yes, yes.
LEIFER: Equal opportunity of each of those types of…
SUGAR: And, you know, we don’t care what your gender identity is or whatever. Whatever you are most comfortable in or whatever you want for your needs or both, or none – go for it!
REDDY-BEST: So, can you tell me about the business model, like, how does it work? Or how was it to sell in stores, or do you…
LEIFER: Well, do you want to speak to that? I think you…
SUGAR: Yeah, yeah. So, I think that with fashion or even, outside of fashion, with selling a product, in general these days, has become easier because of direct-to-consumer – because of online sales. The old way of starting a fashion brand, before the internet, would be, you know, you have an idea, you created sample, you shopped it around to buyers, which would most likely be department stores, and that department store would place an order whatever number, and then you would cut and sew that amount. The thing is that when you would sell that amount that department store would then take on the risk, so that if they didn’t sell it, they would be marking down the price, or whatever. With the internet, with crowd funding, that bar for entry has been lowered which is really great, but at the same time, that means, that the entrepreneur, and the designer, and creator takes on more of the risk, so you need to hold that inventory in multiple different sizes and multiple different styles yourself, instead of passing that along to the department store. So, for us, it’s also about, in this day and age, it’s about brand recognition. So, initially, we, and still, are, at the moment, directing our efforts towards direct-to-consumer through selling on our website, through selling online. We have, in the past, with a lot of the press that we had, we were then approached by a few brick and mortar boutiques, in different towns across the country, and they would stock it, but we didn’t pursue wholesale, directly. Now since we’re looking to expand, and we’ve changed our manufacturing, and our back end a little bit, wholesale is one of our newer avenues that we are working on. It’s good because we keep getting approached to constantly, and when you have that need, what you want to say is “yes.” You always want your first response to be like, “yes!” and then it’s, “okay, how are we going to do this?” But you want that. Instinctually, my go-to is to be like, “absolutely!” Okay, now, let’s figure out, how we are going to make this happen. Then need is there, but desire is there, so that is definitely, something that we have to take into consideration with this relaunch, making sure that when we are sourcing things and, where we’re having things made and how we are having them done, that will facilitate that because wholesale is going to be a very important part of our business going forward.
SUGAR: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that, just to clarify something that we keep mentioning, as we keep saying relaunch, I started the company with my ex-wife, and ex-business partner, and about a year and a half ago, she ended up exiting the business. So, the business was put on pause for little while. It’s funny because many people were aware of that because I was still running it and we were still active. The great thing is that, clearly there is need here because we still have had a ton of interest. Liz and I have been friends for a number of years, and I knew that she is in fashion, and we had worked together in the past, in a different capacity outside of Play Out. So, I was seeking a new business partner because I wanted to relaunch this and, really take ownership of this brand, with new business partner, as opposed to, you know, the original iteration of the company that I started with an ex. So, when we keep saying re-launch that’s the future move that we’re moving towards right now.
LEIFER: Yeah, this summer was when I basically became an official partner in this, and we have spent the time since then doing a complete overall. So, different marketing structure, different goals, new mission statement, we pre-built our entire website, which hopefully goes live tonight –
LEIFER: According to the…
SUGAR: According to our…
LEIFER & SUGAR: Web developers.
LEIFER: And, so, hopefully, that actually will happen and when I wake up in the morning. I’ll be happy, and not writing mean emails, but we are definitely having a rejuvenation, and starting with a different market structure, and for us it’s very important that, how do I say this, it’s all about being in queer fashion. It’s not about dominating queer fashion. We’re looking to just create a space that is all inclusive in its marketing, in its messaging, in its ideations that is in main stream fashion. It is just part of the larger fashion industry, and not isolated in any format. And it’s just an unexpected part of the norm. To do that, you have to kind of take a very specific approach to who you are going to speak to and how you are going to speak to them. We want it to be broader, it began in a specific, a niche market place, and though that’s our foundation, and that’s you know, who we are identified –
SUGAR: We are identified as, yes.
LEIFER: Yeah, we are identified as and connect to, I want it to extend beyond that. I was saying that Abby when we were first talking about this partnership because I was kind of doing some brand consulting, and some other thing, and we were like, should we just do this? Like, should we just stop having all these conversations and actually do this for real together? It really just became at the forefront of our vision was to move it in that direction, and to just think in this much more, ah – local headspace.
SUGAR: And, I think that with anything whether it’s a fashion brand or not, when you are choosing partners, you need to know who your partners are, and make sure that you’re on the same page. I think that the beautiful thing is that we are sort of weirdly the same person, and we didn’t really know that before, but then as we’ve been working more closely together it has become apparent, all down to the same physical injuries. You know, I found it very interesting, whether it’s in business, or whether it’s in your personal life. My ex and I started this business together, and I think that both of us compromised in certain ways on our vision, and it sort of gave it a little bit more of a muddled approach, whereas, once we want our separate ways, and really this was my baby, and I was able to take control of it, finding someone who shared my vision and shared what I was trying to do made everything much more streamlined and ultimately more successful.
LEIFER: Well, fingers crossed! I used to be in business with my ex-husband way back in, like, the early ‘90s and it’s hard to do.
SUGAR: But, we’re not together.
LEIFER: No, no, no. what my point is – that’s what I’m working towards.
SUGAR: Just jumping the shark here.
LEIFER: You are!
SUGAR: But that’s because I know you!
LEIFER: It’s hard to have a business with somebody, and then have to lay down next them at night when you didn’t agree on a bunch of stuff that you had to go forward with. I know what that feels like. I would never go into business with somebody that I am in a partnership with unless I knew one thousand percent that everything about this was in total alignment, and that’s a thing, I think if that’s not what your aim is and you don’t have to do that, and you can find somebody who you just gel with and that there is that collaboration constantly, and you know that weird thing of finishing each other sentences that makes all the immense amount of work that you have to do a lot easier. It really does.
REDDY-BEST: So, you said that boutiques had approached you? Can you talk about, or tell me some other boutiques, the physical stores, where stuff is selling?
SUGAR: Yeah so, there are actually two boutiques in Virginia Beach, that were selling and if you want me to look up their exact names later – I have to go through my wholesale accounts. But there is one in Wisconsin, one in Oakland, in the Bay Area, California. I actually realized we didn’t say this when you asked this question, but the boxer briefs of our original styles, the boxer briefs retail for 24 dollars, and the trunks retail for 28, and this is the price point that is very in-line with the indie – lingerie, and underwear market. I mean, we are not trying to compete with Hanes – we are not trying to sell a three pack for 15 dollars. But-
LEIFER: …We are also not trying to be Agent Provocateur and sell one pair of underwear for 180 dollars.
SUGAR: Right. But, if you look at our inspiration – at least, when I started this with my ex -it came from men’s brands, if you look at sort of more interesting, like Andrew Christian, or 2(x)ist, or things like that, they have a single pair of underwear for those brands, is going to retail between 20 and 40 dollars. So that was the price point that we were looking at that we really want it to hit. It’s sort of a, reasonable price point but in the better range for, an indie label. so, that, that speaks to that. That’s the reasoning behind the price point. You know I do see the brand, as a little bit more cosmopolitan. You know people that we’re targeting are buying things online, or going to boutiques. They are not buying their underwear at Target. Or maybe, they are buying their underwear at Target and they’re buying their more expensive underwear as well. That’s also why it was surprising, and also excellent, that we were approached by these boutiques in Wisconsin and Virginia Beach. That were interested in stocking our stuff.
LEIFER: And now we’ve got Texas involved.
SUGAR: Yeah, yeah.
LEIFER: We met with a retailer that was in town from Texas.
SUGAR: From Houston…
LEIFER: Yeah, they really like carry this stuff, so, I can hardly wait until we have new stuff to show them and I mean, it’s the excitement level. It’s so funny because we’re poised with all this other staff we’re about to bring forward, as well, we are just waiting on final approval for samples so that we can place other cut orders. We have so much more stuff to offer and we’re in talks about during collaborations with tattoo artists to do prints for us, and to collaborate with these other people that we know that do these amazing things in all these different formats, and I feel like where the best is yet to come and we are still having all this energy in this immediate desire for the product. So, just knowing that is a waiting for us is an especially amazing feeling because, in all honesty, the brand is taking a little of a break as far as developing new stuff. I think part of why I wanted to get involved with this company so much is because, no matter what, it always gets this wonderful press, and interest, there is a space for it in the market place, and space to develop and grow. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
REDDY-BEST: Can you talk about the design process, and how you go from concept to final product?
LEIFER: Yeah, I think, for this brand, the first thing is looking at demand. There definitely is a demand for different shapes and we realized too, after just having mine for inclusivity, we weren’t speaking as much to our femme audience, and we didn’t have a strong offering for them. It definitely was something that we wanted to add on immediately. In looking at that, we found there’s a lot of different brands out there. So, comfort then, became a huge part of it. Everybody wants be comfortable, and everybody wants to feel good even if it’s under what they’re wearing. I truly believe, as somebody’s who has been in fashion for a really long time, people just feel better when they like what they have on. And that’s not just the outer layers – that’s all the layers. You know, if you’re going to work and you have a date tonight, and you are like, “I am really look awesome, in everything I am wearing because I am ready to have a great night.” You want to have sense of confidence and that sense of self, in feeling sexy and just feeling good in your own skin. We realized that if we were really going to expand on that platform, it had to be more inclusive of people that like different styles other than just these two main or styles. Also, definitely looking at the runway, which I am always immersed in just because of it’s part of my job to look at colorways, and what is trending and speaking to that, but also sort of taking it, getting it away and processing it, and then putting it through our own lens so, that we are speaking to our brand, but taking nods, here and there. It’s nice to have the influence and to see what is moving throughout the industry, and let it inspire you, but not dictate what you’re doing.
SUGAR: And I think the you know, speaking on the shapes and sizes, one thing, that even before Liz came along, that I was working on for years – I mean, one of our original goals was expanded size offering. However, as a very small brand, you have to start somewhere to just get product out there. I don’t know if you have ever followed or if people have read the Lingerie Addict but it’s an incredible lingerie blog, and Cora Harrington has done in an amazing job with her website, and with her blog. She’s tried to explain to people, sort of why indie lingerie, specifically, is so expensive. I think that when you focus as we do, mainly to starting with what’s on our bottoms, it makes a little bit easier, but she has spoken to bra size offerings. How people are always, like, “You know, why can’t I get this cup size with this band?” and she’s like, “Well, when you go to manufacturer, they have minimums that you need to meet.” So then, you know, it doesn’t only become, “I want to make twenty of cup A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H,” and then when you put the band sizes with that, you know, “well, we want twenty of each band size, then you are going from, you know, whatever, 28 inches to 48 inches.” And it’s extremely hard to have the backing or the funding to actually do all of these different, what would in the industry be called SKUs. So, when we started, we needed to start with Small through XL, but one of the first things we were working on right now is expanding our size offerings. To be able to just produce everything in larger sizes because absolutely – inclusivity – that needs to be a priority. In terms of, you know, color and design inspiration – what Liz was talking about – is definitely at the forefront, but also bringing our own interests to that. So, as they mentioned, working with tattoo artists, working with our friends who are artists, who are doing really cool things and taking inspiration from museum exhibits, or that type of thing, because we want to elevate and live in the world of elevated fashion, in style. You know, queer fashion doesn’t have to mean your basic “whatever,” so, we definitely take inspiration from art, and from the world around us, and from people doing cool shit.
LEIFER: Yeah, a lot of the inspiration comes from people, too. I mean, obviously, I have a list of muses as long as my arm and I am constantly in castings and constantly talking to people, and, you know, being out in the world, meeting new people who are doing interesting things. I have a lot of, what you could call, fashion muses and models that I would love to work with and who are awesome and who I have worked with, and I think just they are just really cool people, but it’s also painters, it’s architects, it’s writers, it’s filmmakers, we know who are obviously interesting…
SUGAR: Exactly, yeah, yeah.
LEIFER: …people. Sometimes you’ll just be talking with them, and something comes to your mind, and it’s like “I have been totally picturing you wearing this.” I don’t say that out loud, but, in my head, I am like, “mm-hm, mm-hm, yeah, I could see this.” This could be the “Lindsey” color palette, or whomever it is, and it really just strikes you. You get inspiration from the darnedest places.
REDDY-BEST: And then, can you talk about where you produce your garment, and who is producing them or just the location?
SUGAR: Yeah, so, in terms of location, we definitely, try to do what we can, “made in America.” At the moment, we want to make sure that people that we are working with are trustworthy and that they treat their workers fairly and stuff like that. We are working with a cut-and-sew facility in Mexico.
LEIFER: And, I was going to say, Abby was really lucky, before I came on board, in the month or two before that, she had started working with this woman doing sourcing who has an amazing facility in Mexico, and we met with her a few times. It’s interesting because you need to have that connection – there are a lot of things I do in my job where it’s via e-mail or I am talking to people from a distance or you know, there’s almost no connection to it. In something like this, because you’re entrusting so much, with your brand, and who your brand recognition is, to the people who are helping you construct and make your garments, and therefore your brand and your dream and your vision. It was really nice meeting somebody who, was so genuine, and really…
LEIFER: Enthusiastic, and on top of her game. She’s somebody that when we Skype with her and we are having meetings from a distance, she will be holding her computer, and like, walking through her offices and walking through the manufacturing area and talking to people, or asking a question specifically about what we are working on, which is kind of amazing! Sometimes I just flashback and think about a time when that wasn’t even an option, because technology didn’t exist in that way, and how much trust you are putting in someone from a distance. It’s kind of shocking to me because, you know, I feel like you have such a better gauge of what’s going on with your product now because of all of the options you have with technology.
SUGAR: And, what I think is also really important, is that, for example, when I first started this with my ex, one of our goals was to do as much as we could in United States, but even then, and this was six – five – six years ago, you ran up against the problem that so much of the industry has moved overseas and people do not even have the machinery anymore.
SUGAR: They don’t have machinery to stitch the flat stitch or to measure out the waist band, in the way that it needs to be done to make manufacturing possible. So, it’s really amazing, being in New York City. Two or three years ago, I was walking home from a brand film shoot that we did, and you know, I had such a success working with the director and the assistant director, and the models, and just being like, “there is nowhere else that I could have accomplished this.” New York City, the garment district in New York City, is really a special place that is dwindling, I mean there is non-profit movement called “Save the Garment Center,” here in the city, just because so much of this industry has moved overseas.
REDDY-BEST: Do you have any garments you could show me and talk about?
SUGAR: We do.
LEIFER: We do.
SUGAR: So, in terms of the original styles, we have the boxer brief, so here is one of those. So, you can see the stitching on the front, and you can see the wide waistband.
LEIFER: Put it backwards.
SUGAR: Here is whole thing.
LEIFER: Whole thing.
SUGAR: ….and then, you have the seam in the back, and then the trunks, which are the ones that do have the extra fabric. It’s hard to see with this. Do you want to hold one side of it?
SUGAR: Well I can stick my hand in there.
LEIFER: You got a hand in there.
LEIFER: We have to give you a little profile angle. So, you can see that it’s got a little extra pouch there.
SUGAR: And then these ones also, these also, do not have center seam in the back.
LEIFER: Yeah, these are just the solid piece in the back. A big thing about this too is, and I have been wearing every form of boxer briefs. I’ve been buying dudes’ underwear for years and years and the nice thing this underwear – the first time I tried ‘em on, I was like, “get out!” – is that where the waistband hits is a little bit lower than normal,
SUGAR: They are low rise exclusively.
LEIFER: Yeah, they are low rise, as will be the bikinis and the thongs. Due to the wide waistband, and it’s very soft waist band, the waistband doesn’t roll or folder over the way that you might imagine it would. There’s a lot of time when you wear stuff and everything feels great, except for where the waist band is, and then you have, the dreaded muffin top. You always worry the dreaded muffin top, or, you know, trying to avoid it. So we committed to having an extra soft waist band, and having it sit a little bit lower on the hip, you avoid that folding over, or the stiffness a lot of times, that you experience with different underwear.
SUGAR: A new shape that we’re coming out with is the bikinis here, and it’s full coverage in the back, and then, I can open it, so you can see where the front is right there. Then we are also working on, having a thong, this is the sample…
LEIFER: We actually had modified, so…
SUGAR: …so, you are getting this sneak peek of some samples! We are also, using our same super soft fabric, to make just basic tank tops. Oh, you didn’t grab a beanie.
LEIFER: I can grab a beanie.
SUGAR: They are going to grab a beanie. But, we are doing basic tank tops with accent stitching, and adding like other fun details, like that. They are grabbing a beanie. It’s very exciting! Here is a beanie.
REDDY-BEST: Oh, cute! Oh, okay.
SUGAR: Yes, it has the logo. So, yeah, it’s basic, fun, comfortable, and we can send you like actual photos of everything as well.
LEIFER: Yeah, we have couple of cool limited-edition offerings too with our re-launch, one of which we actually don’t have the sample for this moment because we have sent it out to this amazing seamstress in New York that’s going to be making a limited run of them for us. It’s very cool, it’s almost like a necklace that’s like a jacket lapel, in that it does hang over, but you could put on the outside of t-shirt and if you want to be very suggestive you can wear it with nothing underneath it or you can wear it over a button down, and it has a lot of options. It’s definitely something that I think is a cool, and unique piece that we wanted it to use in our look book for the re-launch, so those will be available on the site when everything goes back up.
REDDY-BEST: I am going to look at it tomorrow, too.
LEIFER: I know, I was like, “gosh, it better be up.”
REDDY-BEST: I am excited to look at it. So then, can you tell me what you feel has been the most successful for the brand so far?
SUGAR: I think that there were two really big successes for us. The first was in 2014, when we participated in Lingerie Fashion Week, that was really amazing, because it was really sort of a mainstream catapult for us. So, we speaking to what we have talked about, just like making queer fashion – it’s just fashion. We got a huge response from that – international press, and that type of thing. As well as, following that up in terms of speaking to friends and strangers that are interested in and really you know responding to our brand, a friend of mine that I have known for many years, is breast cancer survivor and they have had a double mastectomy without reconstruction, and we sort of simultaneously approached each other, and they were like – they used the pronouns “they,” – they were like, “I would love to model your underwear,” and we were like, “we would love to work with you, let’s do this!” So, we did, an editorial with them, and two other breast cancer survivors in our underwear topless. This was, a photo shoot that we did in 2015, and it was sort of the beginning of a lot of the visibility of breast cancer survivor scars, without re-construction because I do think, and what my friend was responding to, was that the dominant narrative was that you go in for the surgery, and you’re pressured to have reconstruction. So, they wanted it to push forward the narrative and it’s not just narrative – the reality, that 58% of people who undergo double mastectomies choose not to have re-construction, which is you know, over 50%, so like come on,
LEIFER: I am one of them.
SUGAR: Then when Liz joined the brand, and they is one of them, and this was before they was part of the brand. So, we really felt they wanted to tell their story and we really wanted it to help that happen. It was this magical intersection of fashion, sexuality, gender identity, health care, cancer, breasts, women, reconstruction, etcetera. We are still having these conversations and they’re very important.
REDDY-BEST: This is sort of related to what you are talking about but, it’s so interesting how the brands get separated. I am talking about the queer fashion, or it is all just fashion, right? It just happens to be. It’s like a really interesting conversation and people have really unique answers to that idea. So I am really glad you agreed to do this because it was just a really interesting.
LEIFER: Yeah, I feel like, just having been in fashion as long as I have been and having been queer as long as I have been – which is even longer – that I feel like, in regards to that platform and that mission statement, it would be interesting to see how it is received. I feel like we will definitely get a lot of flak for it from some people, and from some colleagues in the industry etcetera. I completely understand that, and I feel like there is room for everyone and there is room for many different forms of success, and I think it’s not about comparison, or trying to be like someone else, or not specifically like someone else. It’s that within our structure, and our larger goals that they lie within, just taking this section and moving it forward to just be part of a whole.
SUGAR: I like to tell this little anecdote, because it was taught to me when I was first stepping into figuring out how to actually get my vision created. It is, I don’t know if you know the story of Joe Boxer? But that brand, the Joe Boxer brand, which is now sort of like Walmart’s in-house men’s underwear brand, was started by a gay man in the early ‘90s who wanted to make fun underwear and it was so successful, and it was so well received that clearly it was bought by Walmart. I think the origin story of that has been lost little bit, but as an underwear brand, that was one of the first stories I heard about.
REDDY-BEST: How did you learn that story?
SUGAR: I actually learned it from one of the people that was very involved, and who started the “Save the Garment District” initiative here in the city, because like I said, when my ex and I first started out our first stop, was “Save the Garment District.” How can we get this made in the U.S. and obviously, since we are living in New York, can we get a made in New York, to begin with?
LEIFER: I also feel like it’s interesting to have a conversation about the topic of queer fashion, because I’ve been in fashion for so long I feel like, I just want to go. I don’t want to say anything, but…
LEIFER: There are a lot of gay people in fashion.
SUGAR: So gay!
LEIFER: I hate to break it to anybody who was thinking that was just a super straight industry market place, but, you know, it’s definitely one of those things where it’s been gay men dressing straight women forever
LEIFER: It’s such a thing and it’s so misunderstood, so it’s funny because the demographic in which there wasn’t a lot of gayness inside of the fashion industry, is lesbians.
LEIFER: I worked for a decade and I don’t know if I met another lesbian in fashion. It’s so interesting. I think that’s the most interesting turn for me in the industry is that there is a lot more gay women involved in it now, and there are a lot more women that have come out, who maybe were in it before, but would not reveal that part of themselves because, as we all know, the business of fashion is extremely cutthroat and extremely competitive, and it was not a safe space to talk about that. You know, much earlier on, to be a gay man in fashion and have that be accepted it may not even have been that talked about, but it was just a known thing and nobody made any bones about it, and it was fine. You could be the head of a brand. You could be the frontman for a brand, and it was a non-issue, but I think the, the idea of a lesbian doing that?
SUGAR: …being fashionable.
LEIFER: …being fashionable, and you know being the mascot of the brand, is still in new-next-level phase. You know, it’s not all cargo and Tevas and Patagonia button downs.
SUGAR: …plaid, button downs, LL Bean.
LEIFER: You know, all of that is amazing and that is definitely part of the community, however, I think the idea of having a lesbian is that is just, you know, balls out, unapologetically gay, and out, and being a superstar in fashion has not happened yet. I look forward to the moment.
SUGAR: I also think that speaks to my excitement about this brand and about one of our strengths which is, that I have mentioned before and I have mentioned in a lot of interviews before, I came from absolutely no background in fashion whatsoever. I think that people that do come into industry, for example, I was just reading a book recently, that Jeff Bezos of Amazon, wasn’t a book seller, but he created this website that became this mega-giant, and started out selling books online. You know, so I take my sort of outsider approach, as one type of strength. I think that’s what makes it really exciting at this moment in time is joining together with Liz, and having her absolute, you know, her “fashionalism,” and experience in the industry and marrying those two things, and creating this really exciting forward moment.
REDDY-BEST: Liz, this was I wanted to ask you, can you talk about the time when you think you began seeing lesbians come out, in fashion in the industry. I’m kind of interested in that, as kind of side note but, what, what you are talking about when you talk that?
LEIFER: You know, it’s interesting. It’s definitely, been, for me, I would say, much more so in the last five years.
LEIFER: It’s very recent still, and it’s one of those things where even in the last 4 years, I’ve worked in places where I knew that somebody was lesbian, and we maybe have like our own connection in that way, and chatting, it was interesting because I was at that senior management level at that job, and when I left, this women was a photographer, and she wrote me a card and she said, “thank you for always being an example of being true to yourself. I really appreciate that. And really makes me feel like I can do what I need to do in this industry and be successful at it.” It’s funny because I just didn’t really connect those two dots because it just hadn’t really come up that much. I’ve had more junior people, and people that I have been a mentor toward that of worked on teams for me say amazing things like that, but about just being out, and being really present in who I am, and staying true that no matter what’s going on around me.
SUGAR: And, that has been a more recent thing, as well.
LEIFER: It really struck me. I’ve had it happen since then again and now it’s, it’s much more prevalent. It sounds so silly, but to me, it’s probably a bigger compliment than any other thing I have ever heard in my career, because I just wasn’t thinking about in that way. I just like bulldozed through life and I am just me, and I am just doing my thing, and to have someone take note of it in that way, and then reflect it back to me, I was like, “oh, crap, I have got a take that more seriously.” Like, I need to, very purposefully, be very mindful, with people that work for me, going forward, and that work with me, and really work on making a space for them. It showed me two things: it showed me one, that she needed somebody who was giving her inspiration that way, and, two, that she currently was not in a space where she felt comfortable with that and I don’t want that to be the case. I feel like we can set a tone in everything that we are attached to, that creates a safe space. It was interesting, it’s a very large luxury brand that I worked for, and it just didn’t occur to me as much because I came into it at a management level, and I already had done a lot. I had already proven myself in the industry, and so to me, I didn’t feel like I had to do that, and it just really resonated strongly with me. She was at the beginning of her career in the fashion industry. Now, I am like, so hyper aware of everything all the time, and I am a just like, “alright, we can do this.” If there is ever a problem – whatever, it was interesting the women’s march on that happened- my daughter flew out, from the west coast, and my girlfriend and friends of ours, we are all gathered, and…
SUGAR: In DC, from New York…
LEIFER: …and we went D.C.
SUGAR: We went D.C.
LEIFER: … and tons and tons of people that I knew, tons of people from my office went and it became so clear to me that there was room for all of this. It no longer was the old set of rules that, in general, there was a tone of openness and though that was about women’s rights and women’s issues as a whole and being half of the freaking species that is not treated properly, within that, it was breaking open a door for basically anyone who that was experiencing equality. Within that, I was going to figure out how I was, at work, to make a better space for everyone anyway that I could, every day.
SUGAR: I am really proud of the conversation, and campaign that we did with the flat toppers with the breast cancer survivors.
LEIFER: I think for me, I am really proud of the fact that you have made a product that keeps people coming back over and over again. and it has maintained the conversation in an industry that has sort of exploded around you. I must say, this brand goes back to the front of what very much was in the seedlings this type of movement, and, as far as, the underwear conversation goes, Play Out was at the beginning of that. Underwear is now a much larger conversation in the last two years in the fashion industry, as whole. I have said this to Abby, there is kind of two ways to look at it: you could be frustrated that all these other people sort of jumped on this bandwagon and it’s now become this big extension and it could seem like there is one competition. The way that I look at it is that you are just seating there by yourself, trying to swim upstream, and create this conversation on your own that is a much harder position to be in. It is better, as a little guy manufacturer, to have it be a larger wave that you can ride, which there is now. Now there is a larger conversation around underwear because of all these different brands, that it really stepped out, and made this more of an acceptable conversation. It’s not just about lingerie. It used to be that when we talked about underwear, it was either two things – it was either utilitarian, or, it was, you know, sexual and very much about sexy, provocative lingerie. Now, there is this great, huge, middle ground, where it’s about self-expression, and it’s about comfort, but, it’s also about having a good time, and almost like, “you have this little secret, and you are just like, well, I have this crazy underwear on today, and they put me on a good mood, and before I even walk out the door, I just know that I am going to have good day.” Like, “I have my crazy yellow underwear on and I love them.”
SUGAR: The other thing that I always find, this more important to point out when I do interviews with straight or main stream, if you will, brands, and the question that I get asked is: Is queer fashion, is androgynous fashion, is gender-free, gender-neutral, gender-queer fashion, a trend, or fad? Are you, you know, jumping on the bandwagon of this moment that’s happening. My answer to all of that is always, “absolutely not.” We started thinking about this in 2011, before this was a really a conversation and this is who we are. This isn’t a fad that we’re capitalizing on in anyway. We would be doing this, regardless of whatever interest there is that’s happening right now, for ourselves, and then people are clearly inspired and interested in it, and that inspires us more and lights a fire under our own butts to continue to what we are doing.
LEIFER: Now we are looking at that, basically, we were in the mix of a fashion revolution as far as gender fluidity. Condé Nast has just launched the first magazine, Them, that is based on that platform of inclusivity and genderfluidity in fashion and in self-expression. I mean, you could stick a pin in me because, if you would have asked me even ten years ago, if I thought that was it that close in time to being reality, I probably would’ve shrugged it off, and just been like, “mmm, I don’t know about that.” I definitely think that the millennials are not having it. They have a different mindset. It’s time to push boundaries. It’s their time to find those things that are really important to them that they are actually going to really risk and push themselves forward with, and I think that is one of those clear topics that is not going to be denied. I feel like there was a lot of things trying to be squashed in media. There is a lot of things trying to be squashed by the government and the one thing about doing that is that every time you push too hard, there was going be a nice big backlash against it. I know so many kids in their 20s, and I don’t say kids be condescending. I am old as the hills, so I feel like everyone is younger than me.
SUGAR: The Liz & Abby Show! I told you this was happening.
LEIFER: You know, my kids are 27 and 25, so anyone that’s around their age or younger are kids to me. They are moving in direction of a larger conversation that will not be denied.
REDDY-BEST: What were some of the initial aspects of starting a brand that surprised you or surprised you, Abby?
SUGAR: Well, I think that just from a fashion standpoint, being able to create a product was really difficult, and there were a lot of surprises, like I was mentioning earlier, in terms of how many sizes you can offer, or what goes into finding a factory to make it. From the beginning, I didn’t want to be sitting in my living room sewing single pairs of underwear. This was a larger and more elevated, and more professional conversation I was trying to offer people and trying to have, and so, I think that just trying to be in fashion is very, very difficult and there’s a lot of surprises, and unexpected obstacles that you have to get around.
REDDY-BEST: Can you all talk about funding, for example, how you initially funded or if you approached investors, or anything like that?
SUGAR: Yeah, so I have not approached investors. I started out not wanting to approach investors, and wanting to have an established product, with an established business model, that had a proven sales and income record, before doing that, and before forfeiting a percentage of the company without a proven product. So that is down the line – was always down the line, but definitely not a starting place, and something that I always like to point out to people is that there is such a big conversation, at the moment around investors, around startups in the tech sphere, and I think that the big difference between tech and not just fashion, but between selling a product of any kind, is that when you are in tech you have a lot of very high startup costs. You create that the app or you create the service or the website, and you put a lot of money into that, and then that’s done and then you have your product and the rest of your money is going toward marketing and sales, whereas when you are selling an actual item, a lot of your investment money and a lot of your even sales income has to go back into creating more physical products. So, that is definitely a consideration and challenge where some of your revenue stream is going into creating a product and then, you are left with less revenue to put into marketing and to put into advertising and sales. That being said, when we first launched, and first started thinking about this, it was definitely what I like to consider the bubble of crowdfunding. I do feel as if crowdfunding has moved on. I think that people were so inundated for a number of years with “donate five dollars to this thing that I am creating,” that people stopped to doing that. Absolutely. I think that there is a small sphere of people that are very involved in that this time, but I think the greater conversation has moved on. However, when we first started looking at launching, it was at the beginning and in the midst of crowdfunding, and so that definitely was what was still good about that. That actually speaks to what I sort of started talking about at the beginning of this interview, which is, when you went to a department store with your sample, saying I want to make this product, it gave you a number – a quantity of how many you should make. When you do crowdfunding, and you say pre-purchase this item, at a discounted the rate, it gives you, as the manufacture, as the designer, an amount, and you know that that amount has already sold. Whereas, like I said, there is a lot of risk in old inventory, and also multiple colors and multiple shapes. So, crowdfunding is very appealing for that reason. Ultimately, it’s also a marketing thing, absolutely. So, we did it in the very, very, early stages. It, sort of, also becomes a market test – are people interested in this? Do they want this? Will they pay this price for it? So, we did two crowdfunding campaigns, actually and I am not embarrassed, in any way, to talk about it because it was actually really, really good and helpful for us. Our first one was unsuccessful because you do have to choose an amount. You have to choose a dollar amount that, if you don’t hit, you don’t get anything from, and so, it actually being unsuccessful forced to us to re-calibrate what we were doing. Actually, when we have done the crowdfunding because with fashion, it comes into a quantities issue, and so you have to meet minimum amounts for the factory to create what you bought. When we first did the crowdfunding, we were only able to offer three different designs because of this minimums issue and so, when that was unsuccessful, we were like, “that was never our goal.” Our goal actually was to offer more limited editions of things in very interesting and exciting graphics and colors, and different color ways and to constantly be refreshing that, and offering new things for people that we weren’t able to do in the original approach we had. So, it forced to us reassess and then do things a better way. So, that was really good, and then the second Kickstarter that we did was exclusively for a goal which was raising enough money to be able to show at Lingerie Fashion Week, because showing at any fashion week is extremely expensive. That was a much more modest goal, and it was also a much more directed crowdfunding campaign and so that was successful. It was helpful, and very exciting for people, and ultimately lingerie fashion was amazing, jumping-up platform for us.
REDDY-BEST: What week or what year did you show at that lingerie fashion show?
SUGAR: So, Lingerie Fashion Week took place in October 2014, and the lingerie fashion week season was Spring/Summer 2015.
REDDY-BEST: And then, if you are going to just describe your customer, who are they?
SUGAR: You want to take that one or you want me to take that one. I don’t know I am talking a lot.
LEIFER: Well, I think, ideally, it’s everyone because that’s my goal. I think it really has been more in the past, speaking to more of a Tomboy element and it was really picked up by that vibe and the women who skews a bit more masculine on the normal scale, and wouldn’t necessary want to wear thongs or bikinis. She is looking for something outside of that to wear, feel comfortable in. I think going forward it’s a much broader voice that we will be using.
SUGAR: It’s interesting and very exciting for me because when my ex and I first started the company, we originally started that out with three styles: a boxer brief, a bikini, and the thong, because I want it to be inclusive in that way, but actually when we did that first kick starter, the overwhelming response was towards the boxer brief and was towards the more masculine, so we saw that.
LEIFER: It was needed.
SUGAR: In terms of the greater sense, I always say that the age-range usually, usually falls sort of between 25 and 60, if we’re talking when you are like, “what is fashion, who is buying this.” Between 25 and 60 because it needs to be someone with enough income to spend over 20 dollars on one pair of underwear whereas people in high school… One thing that’s very exciting is that we have sold at Pride festivals and events, for example, and have had people come up, maybe a young kid, maybe an 18-year-old in high school or a 20-year-old being like, “I couldn’t afford this last year, but I saved up because I knew you are going to be here again at Pride and I want it to buy one.” I mean it tends to be little bit pricier, for people that are either don’t have their own income or haven’t started working yet. So, it tends to be someone who has graduated from college, who wants to buy something a little bit nicer for themselves and has moved on from buying a three-pack of Hanes or whatever. In terms of price point that’s sort of what I was getting at for the age range.
REDDY-BEST: How do you think your customer finds out about you brand, and how do they purchase from it?
SUGAR: In the past, social media which Liz will speak more to in two seconds. Also, from editorial campaigns that we have done, all of the articles, international – national – I mean, Huffington Post, Huffington Post UK, the Daily Mail – which is UK people.com. The press that has come out of Lingerie Fashion Week, the press has come out of our campaign with the breast cancer work, the press that came out of Rainbow Fashion Week, which we did in 2015, because we had breast cancer, double mastectomy models walking a runway, has all been editorial, interest pieces, so we haven’t pay for any of that. People definitely found us through that exposure, through those articles, which directs them to our website for direct-to-consumer, e-commerce sales, but, Liz is going to talk more about social media.
LEIFER: Instagram caused a full-blown revolution both in people’s attentions spans, as well as how you market to, to the general population. I come from marketing, and have been on that side of things for so long and thinking about how you perform in every facet of customer-facing marketing. For me, I feel like, we have a great moment already and now is the time to sort of take it to the level. We want to sort of graduate to that next spot, where we are able to do very specific, online paid ads and actually do pop-ups and be able to utilize the technology that’s available. It’s not inexpensive. I worked for a company that does all kinds of all kinds of online marketing everything from, you know, “ebates,” it’s to you know, this partnership with all of this different companies that generate traffic that generate – you know, your “click to open” that can analyze every piece of data we get. I think that we are in a space where we can definitely do e-mail, we can do social media, we can do word of mouth, and definitely, events that are that are in our community and we are lucky that we are in New York, because there is always something cooking as far as fashion and there are lots of group shows and group activities, in different communities within the arts that come together, and that there’s space for things like this. Definitely, the goal is to start really being able to go after that online market place of paid advertisement.
REDDY-BEST: How much interaction do you have with the customers, for example, if somebody e-mails, who’s going to respond?
SUGAR: So, there are a lot avenues of contacting us. I mean, you can message us on social media, direct message on Instagram, or on Facebook, or whatever, or you know, Contact Us forms on our, our website I am responding to the Contact Us form on our website, and both of us are responding to social media outreach people to contact us directly.
REDDY-BEST: I think you answered everything, and so I always ask a follow up: so when you think about the history and all of the questions that I asked, was there anything that I left out that would be important to understand? How the brand started, why it started, where you are today, the products that you have, how people interacts or how you interface with a public or customers?
LEIFER: I think one thing about the aesthetics that I would speak to is that, you know, previously we have always done bold prints, and a lot of different color, and we were moving to phase of, kind of, going to back to basics because we have a lot of requests for solids or to do color blocking, and all these cool things with contrasting stitching and getting a little more into the details, of each piece, and really trying to bring those out and make them more of a stronger part of the overall design. Then, we are going to move into doing a whole other set of prints, which we are going to add to this. We definitely are going to do basic black for the first time, because it goes with everything, and sometimes you just need black underwear or white underwear because whatever you are wearing is going to be black or might be little bit see-through, so you want to make sure that everything works in and coordinates as a foundation garment because as cool as they are, they still are a foundation garment at the end of the day. With this free launch we are definitely going to start with a really strong offering, really fun colors, and fun color combinations, but also having a true, just black version of each thing, and a white version of each thing. People really want that because there was a lot of requests for that. We are definitely, to start getting more deeper collaborations with individual people, and artists who would be creating those prints for us, is the next wave. Less about just being like, “oh, we are going to make a bunch of prints that we are going to, you know…”
SUGAR: Yeah, yeah.
LEIFER: “…create in it.” It’s about having collaborations and bringing other talent in on each of those.
REDDY-BEST: I just have something else. So, can you talk about your models, who are the folks who wearing your product in imagery that the public might see, and for example, if you choose those folks, or how you choose those folks, or who’s represented and why you might have chosen them?
SUGAR: So should I talk about the past?
LEIFER: Yeah, you talk about what’s up there currently, and I could talk about what’s about…
SUGAR: Yep! I think that it really speaks to the community nature of what we’re doing – everything that everyone we work with, we really have strong connection with or they’ve expressed interest and approached us, but in the very beginning, it was my ex’s and mine’s friend’s. I mean, we are talking not having investor backing, not having a lot of money, and having friends of our who are extremely excited, and enthusiastic about what we were doing. So, originally, the original three models we worked with are friends of ours, which also spoke to our approach, my ex and I from being outside of fashion industry, but also spoke to wanting to absolutely offer diversity, in our models, in terms of, size, in terms of ethnicity, and that type of thing. You know, a couple of years ago an intern approach us who is Chinese-American. Her parents were immigrants from China, and she specifically contacted us, and was like, “I saw your models, and you had diversity in your models, you know, a black woman, a Chinese woman, a Chinese American model friend of mine, White models, and I want to work with you, I want to work for you.” Maybe that has changed, I think, I am positive, but it has changed even just in the past six years, right? But, at that time you didn’t necessarily see that as much. So that is definitely still something that we are committed to doing in terms of models we are working with moving forward, Liz can speak to that.
LEIFER: Yeah, I mean, I definitely. I love all different types of bodies and shapes, and, to me, it’s very much a tool of the trade. It’s not, you know, for me, with my background. It’s very much about the concept, and it’s all of these pieces coming together to make a marketing concept that I feel strongly about tell a story, and each one of stories is spoken in the same voice, but is telling something a little bit different, because it’s speaking to the product or it’s speaking to you know a different season, or a collaboration that we are doing. So, for me, it’s very much about putting the right constellation of talent together when I do photoshoots from photographer, to hair and makeup to model. We have people that are coming up on our site – one of the gals who’s going to be on our home pages, she is so awesome, and her name is Elle Dawson and she is a model in industry and was so eager and cool about doing this and really want to be involved. We have a dancer that, I actually know through my girlfriend, and he is just adorable.
LEIFER: He is adorable- he’s the cutest thing ever, and he was super excited to model for us also, and I definitely like having personal connections with people, and there’s a lot of people in the industry that I know that have expressed interest in working with us, as models. We have people that are amazing people…
LEIFER: …in the industry, that are friends of ours. Our friend Mack is actually going to be on our homepage, as well.
SUGAR: So, that was really interesting because, Liz, being in fashion industry, knows a lot of connections, and friends, and is friends with a lot of those people on that side. You know, my focus, when I first started the brand was very much in the niche queer market of that, so I brought a lot of friends and a lot of connections, in terms of queer models, and genderfluid models, and bringing that together with us joining forces. Mack Dial, who has walked in you know, the DapperQ fashion show, at the Brooklyn Museum, she and I met in California at Queer Fashion Week in 2015, and so she is modeling for us now and working with people like that, as well.
LEIFER: She is totally badass.
SUGAR: Bad Ass!
LEIFER: Basically, you just need to be…
SUGAR: …a badass. Exactly. Yes!
LEIFER: I want whatever it is that you’re doing what your jam is, like –
SUGAR: …be a badass?
LEIFER: Yeah, if you have serious confidence, are a total badass, we definitely are going to want to put you in some underwear.
SUGAR: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite lines, when I am selling at Pride and you know, people are just walking past, and they are ignoring you. I like to ask people if they want to feel my underwear, because they are soft, and it obviously, immediately, gets their attention. So, “feel my underwear please I want you in my underwear,” and then I have to follow that up with that I was saying “no, no, no, I make underwear.”
REDDY-BEST: Cool, is there anything else that would be important to know, history-wise?
SUGAR: I don’t think so.
LEIFER: I don’t think so. I am trying, I am going over it in my head now, just trying to think there are any gaps or anything that we didn’t – any connected issue that we didn’t cover. No, I feel we covered pretty much everything. I think, yeah, and it’s interesting because we are in this weird space because we are about to do this re-launch, and sort of just have this renewal of presence, hopefully, and just a new injection of styles, and colors, and just put a new spin on it, and I think to speaking with a broader voice, but very much staying in the realm of inclusion. It is all about adding, there is no taking away. It’s not about exiting something. It’s definitely about just making our arms wider, and bringing more into this space with us. Ah, I will also say, for clarity, I have had a double mastectomy, but it was preventative because I had couple close calls and I had recurring issues for many, many years, So, I have not had breast cancer, but I did choose to have the double mastectomy, and not do reconstruction, after having a couple of incidents where I was like I can’t live in a state of stress constantly.
SUGAR: That was all before we became business partners.
LEIFER: Yeah, that was few years ago.
SUGAR: We knew each other, but we were not business partners.
LEIFER: So, I, just be clear like, because they came up in the same breath as that and I know what it is to have flat topper pride, I did not have breast cancer, it was just kind of evident that I was positive for it, but, I was like, “no, I am not messing around.”
REDDY-BEST: Cool, any, anything else?
LEIFER: I don’t think so, I think may more clarity in that, so you did two crowd- you did two crowd funding attempts – one successful, one unsuccessful, but then other than that, it’s self-funded. So, to be clear, it’s that we don’t have any outside investors.
SUGAR: Yeah, yeah, at the moment.