The HBO documentary Suited introduces viewers to the world of Bindle & Keep, a tailoring company that specializes in bespoke, gender-nonconforming suits. Director Jason Benjamin first learned of the Brooklyn-based clothier in a New York Times article in 2013.
“The thing that attracted me to the story was the description of the moment when Bindle & Keep arrives with a suit for a client that’s never tried on something that fits before – and how that moment was the moment of self-empowerment and self-realization,” Benjamin told NBC OUT.
At the time Benjamin worked as a boom operator on HBO’s Girls and pitched the idea of a documentary to prolific producers Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner in hopes of bringing this story of identity and sartorial significance to screen. Dunham and Konner were game.
Instead of focusing primarily on fashion and design, profiles seven transgender and gender-nonconforming people who contacted Bindle & Keep in search of clothing that made them feel like themselves. The film follows several of these clients from their initial measurement to their final suit fitting.
“I thought to myself, if we could get the audience to invest in these characters, and care about them, then showing [the fitting] would ultimately be incredibly powerful,” Benjamin said.
You know, the most touching thing that’s happened to me at almost all of the screenings is that, once the Q&A is over and the audience is shuffling out, there would be one person who seems to fit into a certain category – maybe they’re 17-21, and they don’t have anything to say, but they’re crying, and they’re just kind of overwhelmed with emotion,” Benjamin said. “Maybe they’re on some sort of gender journey of their own, and in some way I feel as though the film has reached them [in a way] they’re not able to articulate or communicate about, and that to me has been the most touching and powerful thing.”
The process of making the film further informed Benjamin’s outlook on gender, as well, reinforcing the idea that at the core, we’re all humans that deserve to be treated with respect.
“Gender as a binary, with male on one side and female on the other, is a very limiting way to look at gender. If we see it as a spectrum, and all of us having a distinct place between those two elements, I think it’s more helpful to all of us as people.”
Suited airs Monday, June 20, at 9 p.m. on HBO.