Suiting 101 aims to help kids dress for success

Denise Brown (second from right) and her children Artie Brown Varnado, Geno Brown and O’Lindsey Brown, shown here at the clothing shop Eugene Brown Sr. founded, hope to help set young people on a positive path. “We can’t wait to get our donation options up and running online and share what we’ve been working on with the community,” says O’Lindsey. Photo by Sean Gasser

It’s probably safe to say that many of us watched our usual grooming habits fly out the window this past year. Why curl your hair when you’ll just be laptop bound on your couch all day? Why wear a waist-cinching dress when you can wear a T-shirt? Why a suit, when sweatpants suffice? For the family behind the custom clothing shop Brown & Brown, however, personal presentation speaks volumes no matter which stage of life people find themselves in, and this year, they’ll take their philosophy one step further with a nonprofit dedicated to helping Baton Rouge youth strut their stuff in school and on the streets: Suiting 101.

“We created the nonprofit in honor of my late husband, Eugene Brown Sr.,” says the family’s matriarch, Denise Brown. “My husband had a passion for helping people and he had a passion for education, believing that everyone should go to college if they can, and he also obviously liked to dress young men for success, dressing several young people for their first job interviews.” 

Set to kick off in August 2021, at the start of the school year, Suiting 101 aims to work with underprivileged high school students by providing ACT prep with Sylvan Learning, engaging in community mentorship sessions, teaching financial literacy with the help of Neighbors Federal Credit Union, and lending the clothiers’ own expertise on image and presentation. By the end of the program, intended to conclude each May or June with its own “graduation” ceremony, both male and female mentees will be fitted with their own off-the-rack suit and accessories to prepare them for the working world of college and beyond.

“I worked with my father for about 15 years before he passed, and one of the things we shared as a common belief is that we should strive to control what few things we can in life,” says current Brown & Brown owner Geno Brown. “We want to positively impact these kids’ ability in school, but also their ability to get job placement, helping them hatch a plan to enter the corporate world and start their professional lives. Part of that lies in presenting ourselves professionally, since first impressions can be so important.”

Suiting 101’s immediate priority rests in spreading the word as board members search for corporate sponsors, volunteers, a venue sponsor and even a possible partnership with a restaurant to help with snacks for mentoring sessions. 

“We recognize that a lot of underprivileged kids often come from a one-parent household,” says Artie Varnado, Geno’s sister and fellow Suiting 101 board member, “and don’t always have abundant resources available to them.” 

The organization will hold a suit drive dubbed “Suits for Success” on April 17 at the Main Library’s west side parking lot. Find out more about the nonprofit and about ways to help at suiting101.org or by emailing Denise Brown at [email protected].