17 Female-Owned Fashion Brands You Should Know

For such a female-centric industry, it’s astounding to pull back and take stock of how male-dominated the fashion world still is. The good news, however, is that with each and every day, more women are taking a stand and independently launching their own brands and businesses. 

While women should certainly be celebrated every day, we're thankful that awareness days like today's International Women's Day exist. It's an annual reminder to give pause and recognize all the strides they're making in today's landscape. For us, that means honoring the many women who are taking charge and subverting industry standards by founding their own brands, executing their own visions, and often encouraging other ladies to forge ahead in their footsteps. 

As editors of a media site, we spend a lot of time delivering our own thoughts and opinions on the business of fashion. To celebrate IWD this year, we figured we'd hand over the pedestal to the female industry leaders who continually inspire us. We spoke with 17 female founders currently at the helm of their own fashion brands. Ahead, they voice their thoughts on why the awareness day is so important, ways the fashion industry can start to better serve women, some entrepreneurial tips, and because women supporting women is what today should be about, we had them call out the many other female-led brands they love supporting.

Susan Alexandra

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Just like another female-focused holiday, Mother's Day, International Women's Day is a special time for us to reflect and give thanks to the women who helped to make us who we are and who paved the way for where we are today and where we will be in the time to come.

What prompted you to start your brand?

It was like the desire for water or for air. I needed it to survive.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

I wish there was an agency or company that was financially accessible enough to where women could gather and gain information on how to be a female business owner—and just a woman, period, in 2020.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be careful who you let in and make mistakes.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

There are so many. Janie Korn candles, Jordan Sondler's art, Bode, Maison Cleo, Great Jones, Apis Apothecary, Katie Kimmel, Apprvl, Burnin for You candles, Ivy Weinglass ceramics, Upstate, Lorien Stern, Big Bud Press, Meme Chose, HVN, Nikki Chasin.

Hanako Maeda of Adeam

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

I grew up attending an all-girls school, and female empowerment was something that was ingrained in my education. We were always encouraged to pursue our dreams and to believe that anything was possible. I think International Women's Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on our inner strength and what we can achieve as women. One of the most memorable moments of Adeam is when we designed Anne Hathaway's dress when she spoke for the UN on International Women's Day in 2017.

What prompted you to start your brand?

I started Adeam because I've always loved sketching and creating. I also wanted to empower women through my designs.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Oftentimes, I feel that there are actually more male womenswear designers than women. It would be great to see more women designing for women and to have a support system for female designers.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

I think it's important to believe in the power of never giving up and always staying true to yourself.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

I'm a fan of Glossier and Outdoor Voices.

Sarah Godshaw of Sidway Swim

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Any opportunity we have to lift each other up is one we should take. Women's Day is important because with all the progress we have made, there is still a wage gap, an uneven division of labor, and so many other aspects of our society that make women's lives more difficult.

What prompted you to start your brand?

I launched Sidway with the goal of feeling in control of my work-life balance. After working for Nasty Gal, I was inspired by all the young women I worked with who were launching their own brands. Before that, it hadn't really crossed my mind that I wouldn't have to wait until I was 45 to have a brand of my own. Sidway is still a small brand, but through the last three years of launching and building it, I have been blown away by the support I have received from women in the fashion community. It's been so wonderful to have women I can go to who will be honest and share anything they can to help me succeed.  

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

I think we can all do our part to create brands and workplaces that feel more inclusive, creating work environments that are friendlier to women. Things like mentoring, flexibility, healthcare, paid parental leave, and pay equality are really crucial to the success of women. Owning a brand that sells swimwear, I try to stay away from anything that enforces the idea that swimwear is only for a specific body type. I create Sidway's styles and imagery with an emphasis on showcasing both natural body types as well and models of color. Representation matters. 

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Ask for help! Want to know how that brand you loved gets so much content? Ask them. Want to know what platform they built their site on? Ask them. I have been so impressed at how many women are willing to help one another in this industry. 

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

Darner socks, Selva Negra, Lykke Wullf, Luiny, Galamaar, Andie Swim, Staud, and Gigi C Bikinis. 

Jenny Wang of Petite Studio

Jenny Wang Petite Studio Behind the Scenes

Photo:

Courtesy of Petite Studio

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

I love that women are achieving a more prominent role in the business world. Our company was founded by women and is run by women. It's always been our vision to create this company by and for women. I really appreciate that we take a day every year just to recognize how far women have come. Particularly for me, as a woman of color, to be CEO of our clothing brand, it's really special to be serving in this way during a period where women are finally being recognized. 

What prompted you to start your brand?

As a 5'2" petite woman, growing up, I was always frustrated at the lack of fun, chic options for petites. I also got really tired of the fast-fashion cycle of buying new garments each season and then having them wear out by the end of the season. We always said our vision with Petite Studio was to create a brand that provided petites with the thought and care that they never received elsewhere. We also aim to make our collections with slow-fashion principles so that the garments will last for our customers. We consider our collections to be investment pieces because they take more time and effort to make but are made to really last you for years.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Personally, I think the most empowering outfit for a woman is one that is more conservative. There are so many broken situations in our world where women have been defined by how their body looks, and I think a conservative outfit flies in the face of that. At Petite Studio, our collections are feminine but not overly revealing. It's great to see all the positivity in our culture around affirming different body types, but I think it's important to remember that your identity is not your body type. I am a petite woman, but my identity is so much more than the shape of my body. 

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

The advice I always give is if you want to start a business, just go for it. But don't quit your job until your business idea has shown real proof-of-concept. I started Petite Studio from my living room at home with the help of my husband, and I ran it for the first year during nights and weekends while I was still working my normal 9-to-5. It was a lot of work, but I still had to pay my bills, and it would have been a mistake to quit my job with nothing more than a business idea. I often see people make the mistake of having a business idea and quitting their job to pursue it, only to find out it did not resonate with consumers the way they thought it would. I love to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs, but I also stress the importance of testing your idea out before diving all in.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

I'm a big fan of The Row, Glossier, Rent the Runway, Mejuri. Overall, I really look up to female CEOs who are blazing their own trail. 

Fe Noel

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

It’s important that we stop for a second and celebrate ourselves and each other. I love that International Women’s Day will make the world say, "Hey, queens. We see what you’ve overcome, we acknowledge what you’ve achieved, and we salute you for continuing to be a phenomenal woman."

What prompted you to start your brand?

During my teenage years, I learned the power of communicating your individuality with clothing. Starting the brand felt personal. I made clothes for how I wanted to look and dress at the time.   

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Allowing women to be creative without limits and definitely betting on us.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Everyone is special. You have to discover your unique gift. It's called identifying your niche. Once you do that, you’ll find your tribe. 

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

Fanm Mon, Brother Vellies, and Adele Dejak 

Roxanne Assoulin

Roxanne Assoulin Net a Porter International Womens Day Shirt

Photo:

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

Shop the Roxanne Assoulin for Net-a-Porter International Women's Day T-Shirt ($125).

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

It’s like Mother’s Day. It’s great to have one day dedicated to women, to appreciate and honor them. On the other hand, I think it’s important to celebrate and recognize women every day of the year. It’s more about actions than words.

What prompted you to start your brand?

First and foremost, I wanted to be independent. I didn’t want to rely on anyone to support me. Not parents, not a partner, not my children. Secondly, I couldn’t help but design. It’s in my DNA.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Women entrepreneurs are often judged more harshly than men. I think there’s still quite the double standard out there. We can’t change an entire industry, but we can create a culture within our company that thrives.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Failing is good. It’s part of the process. Let go of pride, get up, and try again. We can be our own worst enemies. And PS: It’s never too late to start over.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

I’m way more interested in what values a brand is putting out into the world, rather than what gender the founder is.

Oleema and Kalani Miller of Mikoh

Oleema Miller Kalani Miller Mikoh

Photo:

Courtesy of Mikoh

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

OM: For me, it’s a special moment to highlight the women that helped raise us, inspire us, and motivate us. Every day, I have the opportunity to celebrate the women around me, but it is so special to have a single day that especially honors the women that truly radiate love, strength, compassion, work ethic, and brilliance.

KM: Every day, we celebrate women. Owning a swimwear line has given me an ongoing appreciation for women as it has allowed us to celebrate the female power every single day. We are so lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women, and as for myself, I’m so lucky to have Oleema as my business partner. She is constantly inspiring me, pushing me to be better and think outside the box, and is the driving force behind the brand. This Women’s Day, I celebrate her! 

What prompted you to start your brand?

OM: Since a young age, I was encouraged by my mother and father to always take the road less traveled. We grew up literally across the street from the beach and spent almost every day near or in the ocean. Our hometown, combined with the fact that my mom is an incredible seamstress, meant that our lives were always filled with creativity, art projects, and lots and lots of custom-made dresses (per my request and my mother’s grace!). I had known my entire life that I wanted to be my own boss and run my own company, so it was only natural to fuse my love of design and the ocean and start a swimwear label. With encouragement from my family and the determination to succeed, I was able to start Mikoh alongside my sister, Kalani, nearly 11 years ago.

KM: Oleema and I started the brand together. We saw a hole in the marketplace and started swimwear right before the big boom. We have worked so hard to create the most flattering pieces that empower women and give them confidence while wearing close to nothing in public.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

OM: I think that our fashion industry can better champion women by better celebrating all ages, all different kinds of accomplishments, big or small, and highlight those women that are behind the scenes that are really running the show. I think it is so easy to highlight the “face” of a brand or a single person, but why not celebrate the women that dedicate their lives to making the patterns, run the factories, are the photographers, or the assistants. I’ve lived by the mantra “there is no job too big or too small,” and that we need each and every person in order to make our company a success. Life is truly about celebrating every victory, big or small, and the women that get us there.

KM: I think that the best way is for women to support women. We are so lucky to have other females with strong voices surrounding us. We always feel supported and are so lucky to have people to bounce ideas off of, team up for events, and overall just support each other. 

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

OM: It sounds cliché, but I live by the saying “never take no for an answer.” I have learned through our business that if you have enough will and determination, there is always another route, another person to help you, and another way to succeed; you can always find a solution. Also, I would say to always treat people with kindness. I think nowadays, people get lost with feeling like they have to constantly prove themselves or be too much of a “boss.” Being kind, honest, and truthful doesn’t mean you can’t still be wise, sassy, and think one step ahead of everyone else.

KM: A quote that I have always lived by is “in each breath is a new opportunity.” If I’m having a bad day or things feel like they are not going my way, I always try to take a pause and change my outlook.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

OM: There are so many incredible brands that are women-founded, even just in our small community of Orange County. Ilia makeup, founded by Sasha Plavsic, is one of my favorite cosmetic lines (not to mention it’s clean beauty, even better!) and makes the most beautiful products. True Botanicals, founded by Hillary Peterson, is another favorite of mine, and they have the most insane lineup of clean skincare. Their facial mist is a constant go-to and their packaging is just perfect. I am constantly inspired by Jenni Kayne. Her authenticity truly shines through from her branding, store interiors, home collections, and even the girls that work in her stores. To be honest, there is a never-ending list of women that inspire me, and I am so fortunate to be surrounded by females that push me to be better, are there to offer words of wisdom, and to celebrate our accomplishments with one another.

KM: I have become such a fan of clean beauty in the last couple of years, and I’m so lucky to be supported by female-run and founded brands. Ilia beauty, which was founded by Sasha Plavsic, is not only a fellow Orange County brand but has the cleanest, most beautiful products. Lawless Beauty has the most amazing story from Annie Lawless, who is the genius behind Suja Juice. She has now created a makeup line that she likes to call Clean AF. Mate the Label, which is founded by Katyi O’Connell Carr, has created the coziest essentials that have quickly become my go-to travel wardrobe. Honestly, the list goes on and on, and I think that is a true testament of how strong women are today in the marketplace.  

Sarah Staudinger of Staud

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

International Women’s Day is both a moment of gratitude to the women that have fought to get us to where we are today and a reminder of the responsibility we each have to each other and to the next generation.

What prompted you to start your brand?

I started Staud because I felt that there was a gap in the market for a lifestyle brand that felt aspirational and elevated but at an accessible price point. I wanted to create a fashion brand that was chic but not pretentious.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

The fashion industry can better champion women by allowing us to support each other more. We’re all in this together, fighting for and working towards similar things. Let’s let that make us stronger, not pull us apart.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be authentic in everything that you do, from the pieces you create to your approach in business and your team. Don’t do something or create something because you feel like you should. If you stand behind whatever it is and believe in it, then it’s the right thing.

What Are Some Other Female-Founded Brands You Love Supporting?

Leset, Alison Lou, Bond-Eye, and HVN.

Alex Waldman of Universal Standard

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Appreciation and respect for any group of people should not be limited to a day or month in the calendar. It would be nice not to just have a Women's day, a Black History month, or a Gay Pride month—these should be all-year-round celebrations of diversity. But since we’re not quite there yet, I am happy to take a day where we can highlight women’s contributions and accomplishments. 

What prompted you to start your brand?

We live in a world where 30% of American women have all of the choices in the world and 70% have very few options. It was a no-brainer to start a brand that desegregated fashion and removed the divide between “them” and “us.” As long as you’re the other, you’re the lesser, so fashion access for all is the change we wanted to bring into the world.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Seeing “all of us, as we are.” We all want to step into the world as our best selves. We have to expand our understanding of what is beautiful, desirable, and worthy of respect and aspiration.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

There is never a “good time” for anything. If you have something the world needs, bring it into being regardless of whatever else might be happening.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

We love women-founded brands like M.M.LaFleur, Chromat, Henning, and Superflower. But we also love male-founded brands that have stepped up to make more women’s lives better like Coyan and 11 Honoré. 

Aurora James of Brother Vellies

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Any opportunity for women to be celebrated is important to me. I think it’s a day to take stock of where we are at and look at the statistical disparities that exist. We can note if they’ve improved and also actively decide what steps we want to take this year to try and improve things.

What prompted you to start your brand?

It was an accident like most beautiful things are.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Honoring women would be a good start. Fashion has a tendency to honor girls instead of women, so I would love to see that shift. Also more respect for female designers. So often the major houses appoint man after man after man into creative director roles time after time while some of the greatest talents of our generation (Kate and Laura Mulleavy from Rodarte come to mind) aren’t given opportunities. It’s just odd to me.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

All ships rise with the tides.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

I really enjoy Bode, ceramics from Memor Studio, my local Pilates studio Fort Pilates. I try to incorporate women-run businesses in my daily life.

Naza Yousefi of Yuzefi

Naza Yousefi Headshot

Photo:

Courtesy of Yuzefi

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

It is so easy to get caught up in the fast-paced industry we are in, and it is more important than ever to stop and recognize progress and to realign objectives and values.

Individuality is the theme of 2020 International Women’s Day, a topic that is very close to my heart. It has taken the fashion industry some time to begin stepping away from embracing unrealistic standards, but it is incredibly reassuring to see what an important narrative celebrating individuality has become over the last few years. It is exciting to see how it continues to gain momentum.

What prompted you to start your brand?

Creative and professional freedom. Being able to choose who we work with and doing things on our terms, building a team and offering career opportunities, but also being able to set up a sustainable supply chain.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

From where we stand, I find that the fashion industry is more diverse and progressive when it comes to employing women, but it has been slower at embracing and celebrating individuality.

There is so much to do, which at times can be demoralizing and debilitating. It is important to find the causes that we are passionate about and do what we can do, even if it may seem small. Every little bit counts. For an industry that never stops, it is so important to take one day to celebrate the things that truly matter.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

That misconceptions can be used to their advantage, to focus on change and progress rather than feeling limited and defeated by inequality. Awareness of issues is important, but staying fixated on them can hinder progress. 

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

While the impact of women like Miuccia Prada and Phoebe Philo on women’s fashion and the industry as a whole is a constant source of inspiration, I have been very lucky to meet some amazing women entrepreneurs who have incredible brands and unique visions. I love Anissa Kermiche’s jewelry; it is the only brand I wear. I also love Nanushka for their everyday chic pieces.

Tamara Malas

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

It’s important to me because representation matters. I’ve seen firsthand how powerful it can be to see yourself reflected in the world and in the spaces we aspire to reach. Having a day dedicated to celebrating women from all over the world is incredibly important for the younger generation to see.

What prompted you to start your brand?

I had been working for other fashion brands designing clothes, and I realized that I couldn’t partake in most of the “fashion” that surrounded me. I decided that I wanted to be able to give back to my own community and dress real women of all shapes and sizes.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

There are so many layers to this question. So much more needs to be done, and I could go on and on about the systemic changes that need to happen, but really it’s about the day-to-day choices we make as individuals. As a female founder, almost the entirety of my team is made up of amazing women, and I make it a priority to collaborate and partner with other women-run businesses, artists, and designers. All we can do is try to make choices that will raise women up every day and not just on holidays and when things go wrong. I’m thankful for the changes that have started to trickle down into the smaller avenues of our day-to-day lives during the Time's Up and Me Too movements. I also believe it’s important to honor ourselves with daily kindness and tenderness. Ultimately, being able to champion other women often starts with being able to champion ourselves. 

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Trust your gut, that deep hidden inner voice. It’s easy to constantly second-guess yourself, but I’ve found fewer things to be more important than finding your voice in a world that ifs often working to silence it. I still struggle with this sometimes and have to remind myself to turn inward to find the answers.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

When I started TM, I had been deeply inspired by the work being done at Premme by Nicolette Mason and Gabi Gregg. These days, I love what Susan Alexandra is doing.

Christina Tung of Svnr

Christina Tung Headshot

Photo:

Courtesy of SVNR

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

IWD is a day for women's issues to be at the forefront of people's minds, a reminder to be aware of the strides we've made and celebrate how far we've come. But also an opportunity to recognize how far we still have to go, socially, economically, politically and culturally. Just like many holidays, these are concepts that we'd ideally be thinking of year-round. But having a designated day each year allows us to measure what we've achieved since the last. 

What prompted you to start your brand?

Since I was very little, it has been a dream of mine to be a fashion designer (and a doctor and a model!). But as I grew up, I began to believe that it was impractical, too difficult, too risky. I pursued a career in fashion PR, which felt more logical given my skill set, but continued to explore being creative on the side, trying my hand at ceramics (very challenging!) and watercolor (I have a side project called @idrawpets). One rainy weekend, I decided to take apart some old jewelry I wasn't wearing anymore and repurpose the beads into earrings. I made some for my friend who posted an image on Instagram. Because she works in sales, she immediately got DMs from buyers and other people in the industry about where and how to purchase. I thought, why not give the pieces a name and take some photos to email to some editors, since that was my job after all? Vogue reached out within five minutes, and naturally, I had to take a walk around the block before attempting to respond.   

I love creating art and wearable pieces, but I think what actually prompted me to start the brand and take it seriously and offer it to the public was the industry interest. Without support from editors and buyers, I would still be making jewelry, but on a personal level.  The main reason why anyone would need to turn anything into a business is recognizing an interest in the market, whether it comes from buyers, editors or ultimately, customers. 

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

As a capitalist society, the fashion industry is built upon creating a desire and need within women to consume in order to be considered attractive and therefore maintain relevance in society; manipulate what's natural to stay youthful, strive for a specific body type, change our hair. Representation matters. Supporting diversity—race, age, body, ability—helps to normalize and show appreciation for all people in the hopes that consumption doesn't stem from trying to feel complete or worthy, but rather from a place of wanting to support brands who stand for issues you believe in. Also, advocating a slow-fashion agenda and decreasing the speed at which trends are being pushed will not only reduce the waste created but also, hopefully, reduce the psychological pressure women feel to consume goods. 

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

1. Create a product or service that is proven to be wanted in the market and preferably helpful in society.

2. Continue to refine the business model so it is economically and ecologically sustainable.

3. Do your research, and have an understanding of your production, marketing, and sales strategies—particularly margins, profit projections, overhead, revenue streams. You're running a business! 

4. Build enough of a profit margin so that you can pay your collaborators fair wages!

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

Nomasei, Giovanna, Abacaxi, KkCo, YanYan, Nikki Chasin, Labucq, Nicole Saldaña, Susan Alexandra, Mara Hoffman.

Jessie Andrews of Bagatiba, Petiue, Jeu Illimite, & Basic Swim

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Women's Day highlights eliminating discrimination against women, a very important subject since the beginning of time. I think as a woman, I see many forms of this even if they aren't meant to be known. The idea of women supporting women needs to be more prominent in all industries. 

What prompted you to start your brand?

I really wanted an outlet for my creativity that would let me express my art in a different way. Art is subjective. Being able to design things that people buy and wear every day feels like I'm contributing to moving art that you're proud to show off.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

Women owning women's brands and more female designers designing women's clothes. Looking at bigger houses like LV, Gucci, YSL, etc., it's still hugely dominated by male designers designing for women.  

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in what you're doing, and don't let anyone tell you something you're doing is wrong. 

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

I love Martine Rose, Miaou, Kim Shui, J.Hannah, Chickee's Vintage, Made Of, Feel Jeans.

Brinker and Eliza Higgins of Brinker & Eliza

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

Supporting women is at the core of our beings. We’re female-founded and female-run, and it’s our internal mission to continue growing Brinker & Eliza into an enriching work environment that fosters career growth and development through mentorship and opportunity.

What prompted you to start your brand?

My mom and I started Brinker & Eliza after we realized that the jewelry we made for our friends as a hobby might actually be something other people would want to wear. My mom had her own jewelry line for over a decade. I, meanwhile, worked in merchandising. We made jewelry together in our spare time, just for fun. I wore a lot of the pieces we made together and always received the kindest compliments from strangers. In 2017, we took a leap, left our respective jobs and officially launched a brand. 

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

By hiring women for leadership roles, by offering more opportunities for paid internships with mentorship programs to a wider audience of women, and by continuing to seek out, support, and invest in female-owned brands.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don't let a no discourage you. Think of it as “not right now—but maybe later.” Follow up by asking what they are looking for, what kinds of things you can do to work on/improve/increase whatever it is to get that yes. And in the meantime, nurture your relationships with the people who are supporting you, who’ve supported you from day one.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

Staud, Brother Vellies, Les Gamins, Sandy Liang, HVN, Lane Marinho, MegaBabe, Poolside, Stik, Kule. I love going down the Instagram rabbit hole of these brands and seeing who they’re following and supporting, too.

Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo of Cuyana

Photo:

Courtesy of Cuyana

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

SS: As two female founders, it was important to create a brand that would enable confidence and streamline women's lives. On the production side, we partner and empower female craftsmen around the world to create many of our products.

What prompted you to start your brand?

KG: Both of us saw an opportunity in the market. There were, and still are, so many options in the fashion space, but very few had craftsmanship and quality coupled with timeless silhouettes at an affordable price. We were able to cut through the noise by creating this offer and encouraging consumers to purchase fewer, better items that could last through the seasons and become wardrobe staples.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

SS: We believe giving back is one of the most empowering ways to champion women. Philanthropy is an inherent, deep-rooted part of our story. Our Lean Closet movement was created alongside our brand DNA in 2013 to ensure that the philosophy of "fewer, better things" is synonymous with the act of giving back. For the initiative, in partnership with thredUp, customers receive a prepaid shipping label to donate unwanted clothing, In exchange, customers receive Cuyana shopping credit. When customers spend their Cuyana shopping credit, Cuyana will donate 5% of the profits of the total purchase amount to H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma).

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

KG: We would encourage them to be confident, curious, and humble all at the same time.

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

SS: We love Parachute, Mejuri, Vrai & Oro, Thirdlove, Svelte Metals, Snowe, and Sweaty Betty.

Phyllis Chan and Suzzie Chung of YanYan

Photo:

Courtesy of YanYan

Why is International Women's Day important to you?

PC: I feel like we celebrate International Women’s Day every day. Actually, almost all our partners are women, and it's amazing that we get to work with them every day. These are the women that inspire me to create and design. 

SC: Growing up and working in Hong Kong, I have encountered a lot of gender stereotyping and discrimination. Chinese society is largely patriarchal and conservative. A lot of my female peers and I have experienced managers asking about our marital statuses and/or child-rearing plans as part of the hiring process. It’s important to address biases that we face every day and also remember to celebrate our achievements. 

What prompted you to start your brand?

PC: Honestly, I was tired of designing for the idea of a kind of woman that came from a man’s point of view. 

SC: I wanted to design for myself and have a platform to express my own interests and experiences without being edited.

How do you think the fashion industry can better champion women?

PC: I was taught we needed to break into the boys club, to have more women in leadership positions, to be championed regardless of our gender, to design for and assimilate to their point of view. I would worry that they would realize I was a minority woman, and I’m nothing like them. So I was always trying to prove I could do a better job over my male counterparts. I wonder if my male counterparts ever questioned if they deserved their job the way I did? You know what, I make smart confident decisions because I am a woman, not in spite of being a woman. We should champion our empathy, our sensibilities, our ability to multitask, our point of view. Those should be reasons to hire and work with someone. 

SC: Fashion manufacturing is very intensive in human labor, and women make up the majority of this workforce. As designers, business owners and consumers, we should always keep in mind the human aspect of the production process. We should strive to provide good working conditions for workers and be empathetic to their difficulties. We should also value every product that is made and consume consciously.

What's one piece of advice you can offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

PC: Don’t be afraid to share your story and your point of view. You are interesting and relatable. 

SC: Embrace what is different and unusual about yourself. 

What are some other female-founded brands you love supporting?

SC: We’re big fans of Labucq, Susan Alexandra, and Overneath. They have been very supportive of us by lending us their products for our photo shoots. It really helps bring our looks together. 

PC: We’re also so proud of partnering with other women-founded companies in our operations. The majority of our partners are women. Our manufacturing company is founded by a woman, our wholesale manager is a woman, our press agencies are founded by women, even our photographers and lookbook producers are women.