Leon Wu, founder and creator of suit design company Sharpe Suiting, located in Los Angeles, recently donated a collection of his company’s clothing to Wellesley College’s Career Education. Sharpe Suiting’s motto is “creating custom luxury wear for all genders,” Wu said. In accordance with this motto, Wu’s donation will allow students of any gender identity to dress professionally for interviews while feeling confident and comfortable.
Wu officially founded Sharpe Suiting in 2013, but in a way the company began when he was a graduate student at New York University. He had an interview for an internship, which was an awful experience because, as he explained, “The only thing I could find when shopping for interview clothing was a modest or ‘cute’ version of a men’s suit from Ann Taylor… I felt really uncomfortable during the entire interview process primarily because of what I was forced to wear, whereas the focus should be on the interview and my abilities.”
After trying on a custom-made suit at a friend’s suggestion and loving how it made him feel, Wu founded Sharpe Suiting and began doing consultations for his friends. The company quickly expanded and sold over 100 suits in its first year—all while Wu was still working a full-time job at a major production studio. He was thrilled at his company’s success, saying “I wanted to create a place where anyone, of any gender identity, could create a suit that not only fit them, but really showcased who they were.”
After the first year, Wu and his team began a Kickstarter campaign to see how successful Sharpe could be. “The goal of the campaign was to create a line of clothing that had a unisex standard of sizing… At least five of the pieces that are currently in Wellesley College Career Education are from that line,” he explained.
Wu was then put in touch with Alyssa Beauchamp, the Program Manager of Civic Engagement at Career Services, through Deeba Zivari ’11.
“She is one of the coordinators for the annual queer fashion show in New York City, called DapperQ. As someone who is a part of the queer fashion community, I knew she would be able to connect me with different designers who create masculine clothing for AFAB (assigned female at birth) bodies,” Beauchamp explained.
Wu agreed to donate some items to Wellesley, thinking of his own time in college. “When Alyssa asked me to make a donation to Wellesley, it instantly reminded me of my school days. Things may have gotten a bit easier for female-bodied and genderqueer individuals, but it’s still difficult going through the process of graduating, applying to grad school, entering the workforce and applying for highly competitive positions. Competing in a cis-normative world to get that top job doesn’t make it any easier,” Wu stated.
The donation includes eight suits, two blazers and two button-down dress shirts, all of which are currently available through Career Education. Although Sharpe has donated over 60 suits to LGBTQ youth centers, non-profit fundraisers and queer-identified high school prom students, Wellesley College is the first college to which Sharpe has donated clothing.
Beauchamp hopes this donation will be helpful for students as they undergo the interview process. “We knew that this was gap in our resources, and we are so excited that, through Leon’s generosity, we have been able to close this gap,” she said.
Wu’s gift is especially noteworthy due to the fact that, as Beauchamp explained, “Prior to this donation, Career Education did not have any masculine suiting options for our trans men/masculine, GNC or non-binary students.”
Students are also excited about the donation. “I think it’s really cool that these suits were donated. My impression of Wellesley is that it’s currently in this transition period of how we’re talking about ‘sisterhood’, which can be pretty exclusive for some people. So it’s cool that if you need a suit for an interview, you now have one that includes you,” said Emily Lashelle ’21.
Meanwhile, Sharpe Suiting has continued to grow and succeed. It has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post, and its work has been showcased on the red carpets of the Oscars, the Emmys and Cannes Film Festival as well as on the catwalks of New York and Los Angeles Fashion Week.
“We’re proud with how far we’ve come as a company, in the LGBTQ community and beyond,” Wu said.
In our October 4 issue, we printed a photo that displayed the incorrect location of the donated suits. We apologize for the error.