RIIF’s Largest Loan To Date: A Closer Look at Suay Sew Shop

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Written by: Emilie Linick, Senior Director, REDF Impact Investing Fund

This spring, we’re celebrating a major milestone! REDF Impact Investing Fund (RIIF) has closed its largest loan to date: $1 million to repeat RIIF borrower and REDF Community member Suay Sew Shop.

Suay is a Los Angeles-based sustainable sewing and production company, founded in 2017. 

Tired of your old sheets? Looking for that perfect remade bucket hat? Need a denim jacket repaired? Suay can up your game with its community dye bath (including colors such as Rodeo Rose and Electric Denim!), repair shop, and post-consumer sustainable apparel and home goods.  

Racks of shirts and other apparel, inside Suay Sew Shop's store located in Los Angeles
Inside the Suay Sew Shop store, 2023

The company aims to create a culture of community and reuse, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reverse the historical exploitation of people in the fashion industry workforce. Suay employs folks from many of REDF’s focus populations and pays all employees a living wage. By investing in skilled garment laborers and working primarily with waste, deadstock, and organic domestic fibers, Suay is working to create a transparent textile recycling, reuse, and repair model that serves the full community. According to their website, Suay has diverted over 3.5 million pounds of textiles from landfills to date.

Many of Suay’s sewers and cutters have been with the company since day one. At a recent event attended by RIIF staff, Suay employees proudly described their individual contributions to the company, highlighting specific articles of clothing they made and the details that go into the garments’ pattern and construction. Over lunch, several employees shared how Suay is the best company they have ever worked for in the garment industry. One employee proudly showed pictures of his son, who he is able to financially support in college with the wages he earns at Suay.  

The Suay Sew Shop team is all smiles at their new location in the LA Arts District.

RIIF’s first loan to Suay, a $900,000 loan that bridged a reimbursable grant from CalRecycle, enabled Suay to make major upfront purchases in equipment and materials. After successful repayment of the loan, Suay returned to RIIF in 2024 with a request for a working capital loan that enables Suay to fully transition its production and retail business lines to a larger location in the LA Arts District, refinance existing debt to generate savings, and make improvements to online customer processes. Through this new financing, Suay intends to increase the total number of employees served, and continue its growth plans.

With the closing of RIIF’s second loan to Suay, we’re reminded that stretching ourselves to meet the needs of our borrowers helps incredible businesses to flourish. RIIF’s partnership with Suay has ensured that Suay has access to the capital they need to grow, without resorting to extractive equity arrangements. We’re proud to work in community with Suay, and are excited to cheer them on.

And that’s just the beginning: RIIF continues to attract new capital sources to catalyze the growth of the fund, and has been recognized as a leader in the field, presenting on panels at OFN, being recognized as an IA 50 Emerging Impact Manager, and as a current participant in the Underwriting for Racial Justice Program Lender Pilot Program. RIIF is poised to continue to support catalytic growth in the employment social enterprise sector in the years ahead.

Check out Suay Sew Shop online, use their mail-in services, and visit them in person at the beautiful new Arts District location in LA!