“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives” – Michelle Obama
We’ve seen women leaders rock many an industry. We’ve seen them prove themselves time and again to be as skilled and brilliant as their male counterparts. This women’s day, let’s train the spotlight on 10 fashion retail organizations where women call the shots.
These women have bucked the trend. They’ve taken on the norm and stood for the values they believe in. They’ve become an inspiration to millions of other women who have been told that being ambitious is unfeminine.
Resilience, tenacity, and hard work have brought them where they are now. These are women who have chosen the path less travelled. Women who have successfully fought against the current and persevered. Here’s to every single person they have inspired in the course of their journey.
Jessica Hendricks Yee
The life-changing journey of this New York based designer began on a stint in South East Asia as an English teacher. On a trip to Cambodia, she noticed that many Cambodian women lacked dignified job opportunities and were forced into sexual slavery. This pushed Yee into deciding that she had to help empower these women. And she certainly did make a difference!
Jessica launched The Brave Collection of bracelets with the twin aims of providing job opportunities to survivors of human trafficking and shining a light on the plight of vulnerable Cambodian women.
Her collection pays tribute to the many brave women who have, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, dared to stand up for themselves and turn their lives around. Her efforts have managed to add substance to the discourse on human trafficking.
Artisans who work with The Brave Collection are paid above average wages and provided fair and dignified working conditions at a studio in Cambodia. Many of them are young mothers who work from home. All of them are provided health insurance and stipends for their children’s education.
Such a noteworthy effort ought to be appreciated!
Emma McIlroy & Julia Parsley
Wildfang is a brand for the unapologetic woman. For her who is bold, unafraid and in tune with her identity. A brand for the tomboy is what it is, and founders Emma McIlroy and Julia Parsley embody this identity!
The former Nike executives were on a shopping spree back in 2010 when they realized that the options for women forced them to fit into something classified ‘feminine’. This experience served as the motivation for founding Wildfang in 2013.
The brand has carved a niche for itself in the years since, spreading the message of emancipation and female pride. Unapologetically feminist and unafraid to take a political stance, the Wild Feminist line of tees has a fan following of its own. Those who love it feel part of a community.
Wildfang makes a real-world difference by contributing to organizations that further women’s causes: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Malala Fund to name a few.
Diana Harbour risked it all and came out trumps in the end. Red Dress Boutique, the brainchild of Diana and husband Josh Harbour, is a classy, affordable fashion store for women.
The brand is committed to offering hardworking women an opportunity to have a rewarding shopping experience. What initially began as a brick-and-mortar store has eventually made a successful online transition.
Red Dress Boutique won Season 6 Episode 5 of Shark Tank and received 600,000 in funding from well-known investor Mark Cuban.
The website is famous for its ‘Shop the Look’ feature which makes it possible to add an entire ensemble to one’s cart just by clicking on an image.
Margaret and Katherine Kleveland
The attitude behind Dôen is casual and bohemian. Sisters Margaret and Katherine Kleveland started the direct-to-customer site as a means to celebrate all it means to be a woman. Exasperated with a state-of-affairs in which men called the shots at most levels in fashion, they started a company that would be run entirely by women.
The Kleveland sisters are so intent on female ownership in business that even the factories they source from are either owned or co-owned by women. This is what real-world emancipation looks like!
Dôen has amassed a cult following for its dreamy aesthetic. The website lists categories such as tops, knitwear, footwear and sleepwear, among others.
Laura Choi’s Par en Par has given resort wear a modern, hip makeover. Par en Par is Spanish for “doors wide open” and the brand is all about going on long, relaxing journeys of soul searching and discovery.
Laura believes in alternating hard work and relaxation. This spirit of duality is what drives and sustains Par en Par. The L.A.-based company is known for its liberating and comfortable line-up.
Laura, a Wharton school alumnus, worked at Bloomingdale’s and Warby Parker in Buying & Planning and Retail Experience before embarking on the journey that would lead to the founding of Par in Par in 2017.
Sustainability is something that Laura swears by. The material she uses, Khadi, is an organic light, handspun yarn produced by artisans in rural India.
At Par en Par, Laura wears many hats. The brand’s early years have seen her working bravely as a one-person team. She has been the designer, manager of marketing, and coordinator with weavers in India.
Imagine walking into a store and surprising yourself. Or looking into a store and walking in with the expectation of finding something new and cool. Or just basking in the warmth of a space that embraces people of all orientations. Otherwild will not disappoint you.
If you step into an Otherwild store, the first thing that greets you is the fresh quirkiness of the space and its merchandise. Apart from funky apparel and ceramics, you also have your pick of boob pillowcases, hand rolled chillum necklaces and big nude blankets (not kidding!) with a good natured dose of LGBT friendly merch thrown in. The woman behind this radical, fun store is Rachel Berks. An artist and graphic designer by profession, Berks has created her concept store with the aim of providing a space for events and a platform for upcoming design artists to showcase their wares.
Instagram has been her go to place to advertise anything new her team has brewed. The most easily identifiable objects in her store are “the future is female” tees that have gone crazy viral on Instagram.
As Berks herself says in an interview, the focus is on LGBTQ, artists and designers.
How would you like to own something that has an intricate, beautiful story?
Dana Arbib and Farah Malik have made that possible with A Peace Treaty. In an age where fast fashion seems to light everybody’s fuse, the duo went for something traditional. You could, in fact, call them champions of slow fashion!
The store is now solely owned by Dana Arbib. Arbib has an eye for bold hues and brilliant designs, and each piece of fabric is hand made in Pakistan. The techniques used to dye them and create them are age old traditional ones that are slowly dying out.
Every single garment there tells a story. When you buy a brilliant sunset hued scarf, you also buy the story behind it. To a woman who values individual characteristics associated with the products she sells, giving back to the community she sources them from ought to be important. Part of the proceeds of each sale goes to Counterpart non profit organization. So that’s like an ethically sourced, socially helpful product that customers take away. Gotta say, excellent work!
Yep, you might have heard of Rocksbox. The woman behind this blooming business is Meaghan Rose. Her Sephora inspired jewellery subscription store is creating quite a stir. Sure, we were aware of stores like Stitch fix that did personal styling for a nominal price. But how about something solely devoted to jewellery?
What started as a WordPress website designed by Rose herself is now a million dollar business!
Rose has used her experience in the fashion industry to choose a product and a demographic that you simply can’t go wrong with. Rocksbox features a little more than products from various artists and designers like Loren Hope. Its own exclusive brands are also featured- Slate, Perry street and Olivia.
Despite being a subscription model where customers just pay $21 a month, her revenue comes in from over 40% of them resulting in a purchase. As a business owner, she believes in using data driven methods to reach more customers and establish her brand identity.
Drawing inspiration is one thing, putting it to action is another. Kudos to Meaghan Rose!
Darlene and Lizzy Okpo
With quite a few popular sibling designers around, here’s another pair. Lizzy Okpo and Darlene Okpo. Inspired by a ‘90s hip hop style, the sisters have named the store after their father William Okpo. Both women claim to have drawn inspiration from their stylish and meticulous dad who still gives them great inputs when designing.
The sisters have embraced their dual cultural identity and each garment is a testament to it. There’s a unique and modern Nigerian twist, that accentuates the bold colours and fabrics they use. Their store boasts interesting garments designed to create flattering silhouettes that you can’t find elsewhere.
The fun thing about this store is the feeling of home it brings you the minute you step in. I mean, why not just kickback on that couch a read something before you start browsing? It’s a great idea, and stands out from stuffy storefronts and sleek rows of merchandise that you see almost everywhere else.
Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler
Why does it have to be so hard to shop when you’re a plus size? Why do you not get the same options as everybody else? Why do you have to forgo the pleasure of shopping due to lack of options?
These are some of the questions that enabled Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler to create their own brand: Universal Standard.
Their clothing line has all sizes (0 to 40). Dealing with high end basics mostly, the focus is on catering to any woman who walks into the store wishing to buy a garment. Nobody will be turned away as their size isn’t available.
What these women aim to do is downright admirable. Plus sizes and average sizes are now sold separately. They seek to bridge the divide. They believe it’s high time traditional sizing models went out the window and new ones took their place. Not only did they introduce clothes sizes up but also down. Gotta love the all inclusive policy!
Good quality stylish clothes that fit perfectly should certainly be available to everybody! Way to go ladies!
Let’s raise a toast to all the wonderful, hardworking women out there! May every day be a celebration of womanhood!
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