The moment California repealed Proposition 8, San Francisco–based friends Kyle Moshrefi and Erin Berg knew it was time to make a dream of theirs come true: to create Kipper Clothiers, a clothing brand and custom suiting store for the LGBT community. Moshrefi, an openly gay woman, and Berg, a transgender man, saw an opportunity not only to succeed in what was sure to be a growing market—with more openly gay and trans people getting married—but also to provide a needed source of inspiration for the community.
"Our brand is a message of hope to LGBT youth, and we want to provide comfort," Berg says.
Berg and Moshrefi teamed up in 2013 to found the company and have seen a significant growth in their clientele since their first days in business. They started with a space where they custom-designed bespoke suits, more recently launching a more casual ready-to-wear line—but they didn't always know they'd work in fashion.
"I have a degree in neuroscience," Berg says with a laugh. "I was applying for all these different jobs in different fields after I graduated; I fell in love with menswear."
"I knew I was in the right field when I put on my first custom shirt, and the confidence I got from that as a trans person was amazing."
Their custom suiting comes in three categories: menswear, womenswear, and menswear made for women. The unique art of creating men's suits for women has challenged them both since they began, and they made it a top priority.
"We all went through this whole process together, and our vendors learned with us," Moshrefi says. "We've kind of mastered it at this point, where we have other men's tailors asking us how we do it. It's all in the measurements and the pattern-making, tweaking those ever so slightly, and the shoulders. If the shoulders don't fit, it's not going to work out."
To continue their mission of giving back to the LGBT community, Moshrefi and Berg are working on adding a charity component to their still-young business.
"With this election cycle, I'm worried about the mental health of the community at large, especially for the most vulnerable of our population: trans youth and LGBT youth in conservative spaces. As a company, we try to combat that through visibility."
"We're organizing packages where if you purchase an item, we'll be able to donate to nonprofits to help those in the community who are in need and going through difficult times," Berg says.
They're also expanding their e-commerce platform, since traveling to San Francisco for a custom fitting isn't always an option for shoppers. "We got a lot of feedback that people love the suits, but in SF especially, events are just not that formal," Berg explains. "We want people to be able to pair our highly custom pieces with the casual line. We're definitely expanding our wares and expanding accessibility through our online store."