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Talking Gender Equality in Fashion with Sharpe Suiting’s Leon Wu

Leon Wu, creator of Sharpe Suiting, took the time to speak with Juncture about how gender equality needs to be extended to fashion. This is essential for everyone, particularly LGBTQ+ individuals, in order to truly feel comfortable in clothes that we wear daily. It was a pleasure and truly inspiring to speak with Leon, who discusses gender neutral measurements, a utopia of genderless people, and his own journey toward being comfortable with being called different gender pronouns as we exist in the transition phase toward a genderless utopia.

Juncture: Thank you for taking the time to speak with The Juncture Mag! How are you today?

            Leon: Feeling gratitude… Today, I’m grateful to finally have this moment with Juncture Mag! Mainly because I think we’ve been trying for 2-3 months now to make this happen. And, now here we are! Thank you so much for your time and interest, Marissa.

J: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I’m excited to introduce some of our readers to Sharpe Suiting. What do you prefer to be called and what are your preferred pronouns?

           L: I’ve gone by He/Him predominantly over the last 10 years. But as time goes by, I don’t feel I need to specify so much anymore. Randomly, about a month ago, a very close friend for over 20 years slipped and called me “she” when telling a story about us at her birthday dinner. She didn’t correct herself, and I didn’t correct her, and then she went on using “he” in reference of me for the rest of the story. And, I have to say I honestly was not bothered! A part of me actually liked it!  And I was like – woah this is awesome – I hadn’t been called “she” in years. It was pretty neat or somehow endearing remembering how I had to go by “she” so uncomfortably for a few decades of my life. I suppose, in a way, that officially means I’m good and comfortable with ALL pronouns. Granted…if everyone in the world picked up on that memo and started calling me “she” tomorrow, I would feel like I’m in Black Mirror or the Twilight Zone.

J: Do you identify as LGBT+ or an ally? (No pressure to answer this or any other questions.)

           L: I identify as both an LGBTQIA member and an ally. I’m open as an LGBTQIA visual activist in my community. I take whatever opportunities I can at queer events and spaces to announce myself as a trans man or transgender individual to new people. I create and perform openly as a trans entrepreneur, designer and model for fashion shows.   

For any initial onlooker or new person I may meet in more cis- and/or hetero- normative (or non-queer) spaces, after 4 years of taking testosterone, I now visibly pass or am seen as a man. So, in that sense, I am a stealth ‘ally’. While I may not find it safe or necessary to announce my trans identity in these spaces, I’m very vocal in all public places about my feminist views. I also speak on behalf of gender and LGBTQ equality as much as I am able to, often using politically- or socially- advanced terminology with the keen purpose of educating those around me. Perhaps, I feel, for the average cis guy standing next to me, hearing me speak in terms they are not yet acquainted with, is essentially my activism as an ‘ally’.

J: I appreciate you breaking down a multitude of ways people can be allies. I’m pretty stoked about Sharpe Suiting, and I think you all are doing big things. Can you tell everyone a little bit about Sharpe Suiting?

            L: Sharpe is a gender-equal luxury clothing label, which creates custom and ready-to-wear clothing, accessories and lifestyle products. Five years ago, inspired by the LGBTQ community, I created the trademarked formula AndropometicsTM, which revolutionizes how one measures the body based on an individual’s gender identity and queer style. Using over 4000 measurements from custom clients, we developed a new gender-neutral standard of sizing for the Sharpe ready-to-wear line, now available at the online store at www.sharpesuiting.com. Sharpe has become a rising name in Hollywood providing custom clothing for celebrity and entertainment industry clients. Sharpe suits have been photographed on filmmakers and celebrities on the red carpet at Cannes, Oscars, Grammy’s and Emmy’s, worn in Top 40 music videos, and featured in numerous publications around the world.

Earlier this year, Sharpe Suiting officially became a Public Benefit Corporation, which means that it’s equally important to [benefit the public] and be financially healthy and profitable is its mission to serve its community. The specific public benefit to be promoted by the corporation is to have a positive effect on, create opportunities for, and to support the LGBTQ community, women, and people of color through charitable channels.

J: What are some of the services/products you offer?

            L: Sharpe Suiting just wrapped a very successful New York Fashion Week (NYFW) show, revealing their latest collections on the opening day of NYFW at Brooklyn Museum. The show received reputable press in elite media outlets, including Nylon, The New York Times, and Paper Magazine. Model and influencer Jazzmyne Robbins, who walked in the show, described her look to Paper Magazine as “serving bougie country club style.”  You can now purchase these Brooklyn Museum looks at our online store at www.sharpesuiting.com in ready-to-wear gender-neutral sizes.

In addition to our online ready-to-wear looks, Sharpe Suiting also offers bespoke suiting design services in several cities country-wide: Los Angeles, Tampa, Charlotte, Chicago and Houston. Clients in these various locations can book a Design Session to get a custom look created for their wedding or special occasions on our website www.sharpesuiting.com/bespoke.  

J: Where do you work?

            L: Other than founding and leading Sharpe Suiting, I also am a Program Manager for a growth-phase tech company which innovates machine learning for audio, automotive, mobile, imaging and home entertainment. When I have additional time, I advise other creative or innovative entrepreneurs, anything from Artificial Intelligence start-ups to other up-and-coming or queer fashion designers. I also love doing creative writing – I’m currently co-writing a sci-fi psychological thriller screenplay which is loosely based on my gender transition. Only the universe knows whether this is all ultimately leading to something more focal. But, at this point, it beats me. I’m just going with it.

J: What does diversity and inclusion look like to you? How do you strive toward more inclusion and diversity?

            L: Full on diversity and inclusion looks like this to me – a utopia with NO LABELS and thus no judgement. Of course, labels are necessary at first to differentiate from mainstream zeitgeist in order to fight for inclusion and equality. But once that’s achieved, there will be no need. Everyone’s label will just be their name or whatever they want to be called.  

J: I like that utopia! This may be redundant, but do you think the work you do is important, and why?

            L: Something deep down won’t let me quit, so the fight must be important. I feel like any passion that’s authentic and heart-centered must be a God-given universe-driven mission for society or humankind. Thus, I think any creative endeavor a person feels passionate about is worth doing, because it’s coming from something greater than yourself. If a passion is greater than you, then it is important.

J: Thank you for speaking with us. Is there one last message you want to send out before the interview closes?

            L: After 6 years of this journey, I’ve become a realist. Artists, designers, and entrepreneurs contact me asking for advice on starting their own businesses. For some, they are ready to take a leap of faith and use all their savings to start the fateful journey in becoming an entrepreneur or “your own boss”. I always start out by telling them “don’t do it”. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You’ll cry, lose friends, sleep less, gain weight, lose weight, lose self-esteem, earn way less money, and likely fail.

If that does not faze you as a person, then I know they have a shot at success. My advice is then to go and find as many advisors or mentors who will give you honest advice and guidance to help you do what you want to do. Then, go and do it. If you can stick through all of the above and still remain standing, then entrepreneurship is one of the most amazing things you can do in your life. You will have a real impact on your community, society and the world. You will meet people you’ve never thought you would meet, learn a tremendous amount, feel emotions you never thought you could, and be surprised every day.

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