She created a fashion brand—and a platform—to support a new generation of plus-size consumers and designers.
Like many plus-size women, Nadia Boujarwah often felt ignored by the fashion industry. So, she co-founded clothing and accessory subscription service Dia&Co for women in sizes 14 to 32. Its four million users represent 90 percent of U.S ZIP codes. To date, the five-year-old start up has received $95 million in venture funding, with almost half of that coming from a single round last November. Boujarwah uses her company’s success as a platform to advocate for size inclusivity that’s “not just lip service.” In 2019, Dia&Co partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to review grant proposals for their design schools that she would help fund. Her goal: "Ensuring that the next generation of designers are taught the importance of and the skills for inclusive design from the very, very beginning.” --Anna Meyer
Walmart paid $100 million for her cool plus-size clothing company.
As Mariah Chase tells it, she was perfectly happy being a consultant. She’d already co-founded a fashion startup, Send the Trend, which she sold to QVC in 2012. But by the end of 2013, an acquaintance was angling to buy the assets of plus-size fashion brand Eloquii, which was being discontinued. The company would need a CEO, and the first order of business would be to raise money. Chase was hooked. “I’ve been in hundreds of meetings with designers, and [the plus-size customer] has never been talked about,” Chase says. “Yet she’s over half the population.” Chase and her team raised $42 million in venture capital and successfully relaunched the brand before selling it to Walmart in October 2018 for $100 million. Since then, Eloquii has launched collections in collaboration with actor Reese Witherspoon and makeup artist Priscilla Ono, and opened stores in Houston, New York City, and Miami. --Kimberly Weisul
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