The Butch Clothing Company, founded by Shaz Riley, has been a fixture on the lesbian fashion scene for twelve years. High standards, customer service and a unique sense of style make the company the number one choice for women and trans men who want to carry off their wedding day look with style, panache and aplomb.
OutNewsGlobal’s Maz Gordon finds out more in this Q&A with the boss.
Tell us about your background, what was your career like before the Butch Company?
I started my career at 17. I was extremely fortunate to be employed on a training scheme as a trainee technician at The Royal Court Theatre. My childhood dream was to work in West End Theatre. From 1983 to 2009 I had a rich and varied journey in both theatre and live events. It was exciting and rewarding, I become a Project Manager and this in turn rewarded me with travel and adventures around the Globe.
How did the Butch Clothing Company start? What’s it’s history?
One thing I had learnt from both my career and personal journeys was that globally it was impossible to purchase a perfectly fitting male style suit for a woman.
When you attempt to buy a man’s suit if it fits on the chest its way to long and the shoulders make you look like an American football player. The sleeve length and trouser waist are never proportionate. Basically, it’s a nightmare. In my experience often staff in department stores are really uncomfortable when they realise, they are serving a woman. Which for me made the whole process extremely difficult and led to numerous purchases of ill-fitting suits.
Standard bespoke tailors are often enthusiastic but for me ended up making either an ill-fitting mans suit or a ‘ladies’ suit’ neither of which I wanted.
When I turned 42, I decided I wanted to change direction, my wife Sue and I discussed my options and came to the conclusion that it would be fantastic if I could start a high-end bespoke tailoring company specifically for gay women who wanted male style clothing. A go to brand for gay women. So, I did.
I spent a year in research and development, found an amazing design team and The BCC was born. We have been extremely fortunate to have had major positive press coverage in media like The Guardian and The Times, Diva Magazine in the UK and Curve in the USA and I have been privileged to receive places in LGBT top one hundred listings under both Butch and Business sections.
What makes the Butch Clothing company different from other tailors that make suits for women?
The BCC is for me about the fact that I understand my niche market. I live their lives and they mine. Although I appreciate that they don’t want to look like me in a suit and I don’t want to look like the next person, and all of us, no matter how much we love our Dads don’t want to look like them in a suit either, its all about embracing the longing for a male style fit to our female bodies. That’s the commonality.
I understand how difficult a purchasing experience is for a gay woman. It’s something only we as gay women understand. It’s almost unsaid and when I do say it to all my clients they get it immediately. I provide a safe, professional but fun experience for my clients to design and purchase a suit that works perfectly for them.
I always encourage my wedding clients to choose colour, fabric, fit and style that they will want to wear over and over again. A bespoke wedding suit is an investment for sure but it’s an investment not just for your big day but for all the years ahead. It’s about having 2 or 3 bespoke pieces of clothing in your wardrobe that make you feel a million dollars.
Any idea how many people you have made wedding outfits for?
Well, it would have to be in excess of 400-500 over our 12 years.
Tell us about the most interesting wedding outfit or customer you’ve tailored?
All my customers are interesting and unique to be fair.
But we have made for celebrities & Gentleman Jack followers and Toast Masters (women) and a Beauty and The Beast themed wedding, and lots of women who wanted the style of Ellen Degeneres. We have made super skinny suits and had clients on massive weight loss journeys.
There have been so many and too varied to mention them all. Every client is special, every client is important, every wedding suit we create is handmade and bespoke cut from paper then fabric patterns. These are high end garments that our clients love.
Our clients are woman, and sometimes trans men who we welcome; they are diverse and interesting, some know what they want, and others need a guiding hand but all end up wonderfully happy with a perfect bespoke suit.
Visit The Butch Clothing Company online here.