Overview: It can be hard to feel comfortable in your own skin if you identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. The Brooklyn tailoring company Bindle & Keep helps by creating custom suits for a diverse LGBTQ community, looking beyond the gender binary. “It’s all about just feeling great in your body, especially when people have been struggling their entire lives,” explains founder Daniel Friedman.
From producers Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner (HBO’s “GIRLS), SUITED tells the story of clothier duo Rae Tutera and Daniel Friedman, who take a holistic approach to their work, considering each client’s personal narrative as they strive to create the perfect suit. It reveals the private emotional experience that those who struggle with gender identity go through when it comes to fashion. Rae Tutera, who had a custom suit made at age 25, recalls, “I got something imperfect from it, but it made such an impact on me. I just never felt so good about myself before.” The experience inspired Tutera to contact Bindle & Keep founder Daniel Friedman, who had started his company intending to cater to Wall Street clientele. Tutera encouraged Friedman to help others in the LGBTQ community feel the same sense of empowerment by creating custom suits. Now, Bindle & Keep outfits hundreds of clients with a range of gender identities.
Expectations: There is a simple takeaway to get from HBO’s first documentary in several weeks. I could give a crap about the making of a good suit or the business model needed to run such an enterprise; what is important here is to hear testimony about how the simplicity of a well-crafted suit can making a person feel good about themselves. It is something I’d never thought would matter, but I’m about to be proved wrong.
Gut Reaction: Bindle & Keep is a unique business indeed. Rae and Daniel seem to treat what they do as not a business as much as a societal contribution. Do you really need to know a person’s life view just to make them a suit? No, not really. You do need to know what they want to accent or hide surely alongside accurate measurements, but not details of who they are. Bindle & Keep have tapped into a certain clientele not because they want to roll in money, but because they care and, in the case of Rae, because they’ve been there.
After getting caught up to speed on why they do it the real nitty-gritty of the documentary comes into play. The meeting of the clients. In the 75 minute film we meet a variety of LGBTQ individuals that come in for their first fittings. Six different meetings are filmed and they all have stories to tell. They do not, however, all get equal camera time. The client with the most screen time is Derek who is seen coming for a fitting for a suit, a hospital visit for a full hysterectomy and a wedding ceremony. The most heartfelt visit for me out of all of them though was Everett.
You can’t explain to someone the range of emotions that crossed over Everett’s face while standing in front of the full body mirror suited up to the max. Priceless and evidently, the whole experience for all of the clients was just as priceless. Each one needed to feel comfortable and relaxed in their own skin. The psychology of seeing them looking so sharp and looking just the way they’ve always wanted to, was a caring and smart way to make these people feel good about themselves. Bindle & Keep understands what is at stake here and values the significance of it all and just provides a good, empowering experience that hopefully lives on every time that suit is put on.-
In Conclusion: I came into this not sure how a well-made suit was going to matter. Hell, I don’t feel anything special when I put on a suit. I came in not really attuned to the struggles and hopes of the LBGTQ community. I now see just how and why a suit could matter. Ah, but not any old suit. It only matters if Daniel & Rae craft one with love, compassion, respect and understanding. That’s the key these clients witness and that is the lesson learned in SUITED.
Next: Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox contemplates our climate-change future by exploring the human qualities that global warming can’t destroy in HOW TO LET GO OF THE WORLD AND LOVE ALL THE THINGS CLIMATE CHANGE CAN’T CHANGE debuting 06.27.