San Francisco's Play Out Apparel creates a gender-equal fashion ecosystem.
SF-based Play Out Apparel recently released its summer collection.
Abby Sugar seems to relish this moment in both fashion and social history. Her creation, San Francisco-based Play Out Apparel (playoutapparel.com), is the embodiment of sartorial equilibrium. “Play Out Apparel is a Gen Z lifestyle brand, leading the next generation of self-expression and fashion by applying equality to design, shopping and gender expression,” says Sugar, who co-founded the company with Grey Leifer. “We’re building the future of inclusive fashion through a new gender-equal values-driven shopping ecosystem, offering community and clothing to help Gen Z shop their authentic selves.” Here, Sugar discusses the apparel company’s future.
How has the company continued to evolve since its launch a few years ago? Grey Leifer, who’s also our designer and creative director, and I see the company as a disruptor and leader—in fashion and in our community. We see a huge opportunity to disrupt the crypto-NFT and metaverse-gaming industries by making sure that new-majority groups—especially women and the LGBTQ community—are participating in these emerging opportunities.
What has surprised you most about the reaction and success of the brand? I’m most inspired by and optimistic about Gen Z’s focus on acceptance and authenticity. We finally feel as if culture has caught up to who we are and how we move through the world. Even though most wealth in this country is still held by cisgendered heterosexual white men, I receive positive feedback weekly while pitching these investors. They tell me, ‘My 12-year-old daughter is trans’ or ‘My teenagers are nonbinary.’ This is incredibly inspiring, and it really makes us determined to keep going. We know we are doing something impactful.
We receive messages from customers and community members weekly—how they have personally been affected by our brand, seeing themselves for the first time represented in fashion.
Swimwear is a big part of the brand’s summer collection.
Why is it so important to you that Play Out is a social-good enterprise?
I know that I have come from a lot of privilege, even having a supportive family, a safety net that allows me to take the risk of founding a startup. It’s important to me that I’m honest about this, because it’s not easy being a startup founder. I know that BIPOC and members of our LGBTQ community don’t always have that privilege. With the success of Play Out, I hope to become an investor in the future in companies started by underrepresented founders.
l love the concept of gender-equal shopping. How has this concept evolved for Play Out?
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.
Just as people come in different sizes, they also come in different shapes. For this we offer both flat-front and pouch-front bottom styles of the same garment, with no men’s or women’s section or gender allocation.
All styles are designed in-house, and our limited-edition prints are original paintings that are digitized and made into our apparel. When we say we design inclusively, this means there’s equal opportunity for shape, size, color and style in shopping, without gender categories or othering due to body differences. We’re not trying to neuter or remove gender—everyone should celebrate their authentic self-expression. We say gender-equal for this inclusive reason—no exclusion, or othering, but equal opportunity for all.
The brand espouses gender-equal fashion.
Standout pieces you love in your new summer collection?
We’re really excited to be launching swimwear! Inside of the gender-equal shopping experience that we provide for people, one of the most difficult things for them to shop for is swimwear. It was really important for us to add this to our offering. When we talk about gender-equal fashion, we want everyone to understand that this is about authenticity and self-expression and social justice—not simply sweatpants or slogans. This is the future of fashion.
Misconceptions about Play Out? Our brand isn’t just for the LGBTQ community. It’s a lifestyle brand for everyone, and it’s about affirming and authentic self-expression, human equality and inclusion. Gender-equal encompasses all retail market sectors, and all are welcome.
Photography by: COURTESY OF PLAY OUT APPAREL