My favorite food is: Sushi The superpower I'd like to have is: Get eight hours of sleep in two hours
Gender-inclusive apparel that defies trends
DISRUPTING THE APPAREL INDUSTRY. Grey Leifer and his co-founder Abby Sugar's company, Play Out Apparel, is leading the charge when it comes to gender-equal clothing. The pair launched the company in 2017 because they didn't see themselves reflected in existing apparel brands. Starting with streetwear and loungewear, they set out to fill a gap in the market they, unlike most, were aware was rapidly expanding.
Play Out is now breaking into the mainstream as Gen Z's buying power grows. "More than half of Gen Z shops outside their assigned gender," Grey explains. "We're seeing with millennials, Gen Z and the upcoming Gen Alpha that people don't want to be told how to shop. Also, their consumption is grounded in ethics, so they want a transparent company that's trying to move the needle as well as satisfy their customer." Currently, 20% of Play Out's net profits go to LGBTQ+ and social justice organizations.
Rather than removing gender identity and creating 'gender-neutral' products, Play Out takes gender out of the shopping experience altogether. "Some people don't like shopping, but for many people it can be straight-up triggering and traumatic. That's what we're trying to help alleviate. We're creating a space where people don't pop on to a website, and the first thing they have to do is select men's or women's clothes. We're building the company I wish I'd had in my twenties, that really might have changed the direction of my life."
EMBRACING YOUR PATH. Grey has always been a risk-taker. While much of his 20-year career in fashion has been in the corporate world, his career highs are in startups, starting out as a scenic painter in television and film before launching his own styling business. At one point, he used to flip houses. Play Out, he says, is the result of his life's work. “My life experiences have shaped the actions I take today and have contributed to the creation of my brand. The brand I've built transforms people’s lives daily, which is why I am passionate about it.”
"I carry so many pieces of information from those experiences that inform my decision-making, understanding, and knowing what's possible. I try to remain positive about it because I don't believe in failure; you can keep learning and do better in every iteration you tackle. My life philosophy is that you upgrade your problems."
Despite what he describes as a complicated childhood, Grey says he is fortunate to have grown up surrounded by people who refused to give up and, crucially, challenged him. One of those people was his dad, who owned a car dealership. "He was a military strategist and taught me how to take that bottom-line meter reading when considering a business deal." Grey adopts a similar attitude when hiring folks for Play Out. "I want to constantly be surrounded by people who do things better than I do and that I can learn from, and vice versa."
As Play Out plans to expand into non-gendered kids' clothes and increase its overall size offering, Grey reflects on the challenges they've overcome and ones they continue to face on their journey. "As a trans-masculine non-binary person, I think you're the sum total of your life experience. I don't think there's any negative or disparaging interaction or comment that we haven't had. Having worked for large and successful brands before, I know that we chose the hardest road possibl