She's liberating gender norms, one boxer brief at a time.
As adults who identified as tomboys, Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez craved a fashion brand with androgynous tailoring. So in 2013, the two launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 in 30 days for their own business, TomboyX. For a year, they hawked button-down shirts, polos, and blazers with mild financial success. The real breakthrough then came when a customer service call keyed them in to the potential market for unisex boxer briefs. The first launch of their signature underwear sold out in two weeks, and company revenue tripled in six months. A two-time Inc. 500 honoree, TomboyX has since grown to more than 35 employees and $10.4 million in annual sales while expanding from underwear into swimwear and bras. The co-founders are now married, and together have raised more than $17 million in venture capital, with more than one million pairs of underwear sold. “Most brands like to tell people how to be cool, but we feel that you’re cool the way you are,” says Dunaway. “We’re not for everybody, but we are for anybody.” --Zoë Henry
Sylvana Ward Durrett
With $15 million in capital, she’s curated a one-stop-shopping site for upscale kids clothes.
“Whether you're shopping for yourself, for your groceries, or for your dog, there's some sort of curated, online, one-stop shopping solution,” says Maisonette co-founder and CEO Sylvana Ward Durrett. “We as parents--my co-founder and I--sort of scratched our heads when we realized this didn’t really exist in the kids world.” A former assistant to Anna Wintour and one-time editor at Vogue, Durrett has made it her mission to streamline the process of shopping for children’s luxury clothing. Maisonette was founded in 2017 with kids clothing, accessories, furniture, and toys from a discriminating roster of designers. The company raised $15 million in capital during its Series A in 2018 and is on track to hit 300 percent year-over-year growth later this year. --Tim Crino
She's making the hijab a fixture of American fashion.
As a teenager in suburban Michigan, Melanie Elturk didn't see many professional women wearing hijabs, as she did. “The only role models [in hijabs] we could look up to, in those days, were our mothers,” Elturk, now 34, says. “I knew that we needed to show a different image to Muslim girls: You can be successful because of your hijab, and not in spite of it.” So in 2010, Elturk and her husband, Ahmed Zedan, founded Haute Hijab, an online retailer of fashionable-yet-functional head coverings. Her myriad designs—which come in fabrics ranging from jersey to chiffon and silk—have been a hit online among the Muslim community. Last year, Haute Hijab brought in $1.3 million in sales, and in February of this year, it closed a $2.3 million seed round. Soon, Elturk plans to expand into athletic and medical hijabs, as well as hair care and eyewear products that work better with headscarves. “The grand vision is to become the go-to Muslim lifestyle brand,” she says. --Zoë Henry
She's using her $500 million brand as an R&D lab for improving fashion's carbon footprint.
Eileen Fisher knows the value of trash. Her eponymous fashion brand has been buying back and recycling old clothes since 2009. Today, under the rubric Waste No More, the company is transforming whatever fabric can’t be recycled into installations of wall hangings and interior design murals on view from Brooklyn to Milan. “We consider Waste No More to be a form of aesthetic activism--what many people consider waste, we consider beauty,” says Fisher. Ninety-seven percent of Eileen Fisher’s cotton and 91 percent of its linen are now organic. The company has also been conducting a process revamp; its goals include giving factories more production time, so more product can be shipped by boat, as opposed to air. What's more, Fisher embarked on research with Harvard University researchers to ensure that new purchasing practices don’t harm her suppliers’ employees. She hopes these efforts will inspire consumers to “acknowledge the tendency toward overconsumption in our culture and reevaluate their behavior." --Leigh Buchanan
The Groomsman Suit
She went direct-to-consumer to hack the wedding suit rental.
When Jeanne Foley got married, her mother blew $500 on two ill-fitting tuxedos for Jeanne’s brothers to wear just once, at the ceremony. The Under Armour veteran knew she could do better. In 2016, she launched the Groomsman Suit with childhood bestie and Sloan School of Management grad Diana Ganz. The direct-to-consumer startup sells tuxedo separates for under $200--much less than traditional rentals. But Foley says the real key to the company’s success has been its “amazing service.” Orders ship within 48 hours, and returns and exchanges are free. As a bonus, the Groomsmen Suit will ship new items before they’ve received the originals. The group-ordering service even nudges groomsmen by email to get it together and order their tuxes--it may be the best thing that’s happened to weddings since candy stations. --Jill Krasny