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Abby Sugar is the Founder and CEO of Play Out Apparel, a Silicon Valley Founder Institute portfolio company and gender-equal apparel brand, focused on delivering underwear and streetwear with a social impact. Play Out offers clothing that lets the LGBTQ+ community and Gen Z shop their authentic selves while supporting their values. 

Play Out boasts a full lineup of sexuality- and gender-expression affirming apparel, with unique artistic designs at affordable price points, and all produced with ethical manufacturing. The inclusive and digitally-native shop focuses on the individual shopper through a no-genders, just-styles storefront user experience.

Watch the full video interview with Play Out CEO Abby Sugar, or see the highlights below: 


Key Insights Include: 

  • Scope of challenges for people to find clothing, who don’t conform to typical gender or sexual binary standards
  • What makes Play Out’s shopping experience and brand unique, and how Gen Z is changing the fashion industry 
  • How CEO Abby Sugar thinks about creating and measuring social impact through a startup fashion brand
  • The state of the startup industry in 2021, in its current support for LGBTQ+ founders, and how it can improve
  • CEO Abby Sugar’s predictions for the future of the fashion industry and Gender Equal clothing
  • Play Out’s first fundraising round, and the current opportunity for mission-aligned investors
  • Launch of Play Out’s new Pride collection and its Customer Loyalty Rewards program

CEO Abby Sugar makes a strong case for a massive market opportunity in Gender Equal fashion, noting some consumer and industry statistics that point towards a monumental shift already underway in the industry—upfront, she notes, 

The gender binary is over—research shows that 56% of Gen Z shops outside of their assigned gender.

The challenges that people who don’t conform to typical gender or sexual binaries can face, in simply finding clothing that aligns with their identities and values, can be very significant, and may be under-appreciated by those outside the LGBTQ+ community. CEO Abby Sugar explains, 

For anyone who doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes, shopping for clothing can be incredibly stressful and intimidating—so our tagline [at Play Out] is ‘No Genders, Just Style.’

Founder Abby Sugar’s vision for the Play Out brand includes ample room for the expansion of broad Gender Equal categories, across the fashion landscape. In explaining how to think about a new emerging category, she draws a comparison to the birth of the athleisure market segment,

When Lululemon started, the athleisure market didn’t exist, they created it. And right now, the Gender-Equal clothing market doesn’t exist. It’s us, and a few other startups, that are leading this new market creation in the fashion industry.

Being at the vanguard of that emerging Gender Equal market segment of the fashion industry has garnered Play Out some recent well-deserved attention, including profiles and media features in The New York TimesBustleInput Magazine, and more.

Play Out founder Abby Sugar explains why underwear, as one subset of the overall fashion industry, is an area where queer representation especially matters, and where the fashion industry has traditionally shunned diversity in favor of overtly sexualized and heteronormative underwear marketing—she explains, 

My original inspiration was underwear, because it is so hyper-gendered and hyper-sexualized… And it’s not just about LGBTQ+ shoppers, but it’s about the images, the advertising—to women, of the male gaze—how you ‘should’ look sexy, in a certain specific way in your underwear. And I love the fact that, especially in the past few years in the marketing around underwear, it’s about you wearing something for yourself. And so for Play Out, for me, that started with gender-equal, gender-affirming: it’s the first thing you put on in the morning, and everyone should be able to get dressed, and move through the world with confidence.

Play Out is laser-focused on its mission to deliver meaningful social impact, not just directly through their product offerings, but additionally also indirectly, via a substantial pledge that makes sure the wider community benefits from and shares in the company’s success. As a Social Good Enterprise, Play Out has pledged to donate 20% of Net Profits to support aligned LGBTQ+ and BLM nonprofit organizations. 

CEO Abby Sugar deeply understands where her startup’s social impact focus lies, and speaks eloquently about why Play Out is specifically most aligned with UN SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) as opposed to SDG 5 (Gender Equality), in terms of the company’s impact focus:

With the conversation taking place during Pride Month 2021, CEO Abby Sugar gave shout-outs to a few standout organizations that are providing great support to LGBTQ+ founders in the startup ecosystem, including Start Out, Out in Tech, and Lesbians Who Tech. CEO Sugar also challenges investors to put their proverbial ‘money where their mouth is’ and step up to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community by investing in those founders, 

I am challenging investors to be more than simply LGBTQ+ allies, but to be true champions—by hopefully investing in Play Out; my pre-seed round is open and I’d love for people to get in touch with me directly; Play Out is a queer-owned and impact driven company—but take a look at what other LGBTQ+ founded startups are out there! That’s my challenge for investors right now [during Pride].

CEO Abby Sugar notes in closing that Play Out had just released its new Pride collection, as well as launched a new Customer Rewards and Loyalty program for their community. To learn more about Play Out or to get in touch with CEO Abby Sugar, visit her LinkedIn or go to PlayOutApparel.com

 
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Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $1 billion in funding, and building products people love across over 200 cities worldwide.

See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey


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