This season on Working, we’re taking a look at some LGBTQ-specific jobs.
Visit Bindle and Keep’s studio in Brooklyn, New York, and you’ll almost certainly be greeted by Albert, founder Daniel Friedman’s massive, genial puppy. Calm and comforting, Albert is an apt representative of a business that is, as Friedman puts it in this episode of Working, “a custom suiting company for everybody.” That means he and his colleagues aim to dress people of all body types and gender identities, especially women and trans individuals who’ve been underserved by existing clothing standards.
Traditional suiting typically aspires to impart normative shape and structure to those that wear it. Where that effect can sometimes flatten the specificity of individual bodies, Friedman—who originally trained as an architect rather than a tailor—seeks to respond instead to his clients’ own desires. Sit in on one of his sessions with a customer, as I did before we recorded this episode, and you can see those commitments at work. Feeling them out slowly and thoughtfully, he gradually works to suss out what they want to emphasize or de-emphasize—how they want to appear to others.
“Instead of just saying, Well, this is feminine, and this is masculine, we asked ourselves what those things mean,” Friedman says. “And instead of prescribing it, we learned to design it through empathy.”
Some of Friedman’s work is also educational: He and his colleagues spend a great deal of time talking with their customers about the way they’ll live in their clothes once Bindle and Keep has manufactured them. “We call that the wearing curve,” Friedman says. “We never stop talking to people about the strategies and the way clothing fits … and how it will pull. It is just fabric after all. All of these things deprogram the mind to be more open to accepting this new silhouette that they’re going to have.”
As Friedman acknowledges, even a perfect suit can only do so much. “A lot of our clients, not all, but some of them, many of them, can’t help but feel that the suit’s going to fix their lives,” he says. “You know, Finally, I’m going to get something that fits, and it’s going to be the panacea to everything, my whole struggle with gender and how I present in society. It’s all going to be great now. And the truth is, a suit is cool, but it’s just one milestone on this lifelong journey.”
Then, in a Slate Plus extra, Friedman talks about Bindle and Keep’s work with the Innocence Project. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at slate.com/workingplus.
Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.