Welcome to the Glossy 50, our first annual list featuring men and women contributing to the transformation of fashion, luxury, beauty and technology.
The industries are being turned on their heads. The heat is on to ship faster, lower prices and be first to market with trends. Those driving these modern strategies are the people we’re recognizing. They’re insiders from 10 categories we cover daily — including platforms, wearables, startups and streetwear — who captured our attention in the past year.
In this feature, we dive into their contributions to their industries’ new directions. Below are the honorees in the Startup Circuit category. See honorees in other categories here.
In 2009, inspired by a shoemaker in Hong Kong offering up every shoe style imaginable, Jodie Fox launched custom brand Shoes of Prey with two close friends. In the past year, the company has moved its production to its own factory, cutting its cart-to-door speed to two weeks, guaranteed — or one week, for an additional cost.
In terms of where the industry is going, you seem to be in a good place.
I firmly believe [the move to] on-demand manufacturing is going to be one of the biggest changes we see in the fashion industry: It will affect the financial model, the business model and designers’ perspectives. Making it on par with other manufacturing, in terms of speed, is critical to ensuring its success. To be leading the way in getting [custom] product into customers’ hands fast is a big deal to us.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
[Shopping custom] is a huge paradigm shift that’s very difficult [for customers] to digest. We recently stopped debating how much direction we should provide; for now, we need to paint a clearer picture. We’ve recently hired a senior merchandiser for that, and it’s changed our business model.
How else are you educating your customer?
When she walks into a shoe store, she might pick something up and think, “I wonder if they have it in red,” or “I wonder if they have other heel heights.” The store associate wouldn’t reply, “We have all of those things. Show me what elements you want to change.” But that’s what we’re saying, and she responds to that.
What’s driving Shoes of Prey’s evolution?
I read a lot of industry publications, but the question is never, “What’s new?” It’s always, in my customer’s mindset, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” For instance, “Wouldn’t it be cool if it was intuitive?” or “Wouldn’t it be cool if it had an element of surprise?” I want to deliver that, along with the feeling of “This [style] is me, and I feel good.”
Andie Swim is a tiny, brand-new brand with big ambitions: The company, and its founder Melanie Travis, wants to give women a way to shop for swimwear that eliminates the middleman and unflattering fitting rooms, once and for all. Its first collection of solid-color one-pieces, launched in April 2017, came at the right time: Popularity for the more modest alternative to the bikini surged by 50 percent this year, according to Slice Intelligence. Despite early stumbles, including a departed co-founder, Andie has had an Instagram-worthy summer, manned by a tight team of 10, with a modern business model to back it up.
What led Andie to the try-before-you-buy model that Amazon has since adopted?
I knew the brand had to be about more than just great product. The future of e-commerce is in better customer experience, and when we were putting the final bones of this brand together, I realized this is how we succeed. The barrier for entry for e-commerce is so low, you have to deliver something innovative to cut through the noise.
Andie cuts out the middleman. How do you define success when you’re not wooing wholesale partners?
There are two paths to success, which for a company means profitability. You’re either venture-backed and you go all-in on investing in customer experience, pouring all of the capital into delivery, returns and things like that. The other is to do it without VC funding, which means growing long and [slowly], on a tight budget. We have our eye on both paths and are figuring out how to deliver a magical experience, which is costly, while acquiring as many customers as possible.
How has customer data and insight shaped the business?
For us, every time a customer comes to the site, we know their general demographic, what they’re clicking on and what channel they come from. As a wholesale brand, you’re painting with a broad brush and just hoping you land on the right person. We have a vision ourselves of what the brand should look like, but really, the customer is the brand.
When Lana Hopkins couldn’t find a new purse that suited her style, she decided to make one for herself. Then, she decided to build a business. Today, Hopkins’ customized handbag brand Mon Purse offers 10 billion possible combinations of colors, styles and fabrics using a digital design platform that renders lifelike representations of potential designs. Since it launched in 2014, Mon Purse has hit $2 million in monthly sales, opened standalone stores as well as department store pop-ups and released collections with industry names like InStyle’s Laura Brown. Hopkins believes her business is paving the way forward for brands by producing on demand, in response to customer’s orders, rather than ahead of them. “We want to avoid the pitfalls of traditional retailers, which means don’t guess or overproduce,” says Hopkins. “There’s nothing worse than making too much and then always being on sale. Our technology is an enabler for fashion.”
African fashion is often viewed through a narrow lens, relegated to stereotypes. Akin Adebowale and Kolade Adeyemo are out to change that. In 2015, the Nigerian-born duo launched Oxosi, an e-commerce platform spotlighting current designers and trends from their homeland. “The idea of African fashion has been so limited for so long,” says Adebowale. “We want to show that there’s a lot more to it than just Ankara and Vlisco fabrics or Kente cloth.” Instead, the site sources more contemporary product from West and South Africa, along with clothing that designers of African descent, including Maki Oh and Dent de Man, create internationally. The team also helps smaller brands that lack resources with marketing, branding and logistics. Vogue gave them a seal of approval, but that matters little to them. “We’re not looking for acceptance,” they say. “We’re trying to tell a story that hasn’t been told before.”
Ross Bailey is capitalizing on the shaky retail landscape with his company Appear Here, a marketplace launched in 2013 that connects brands and entrepreneurs with short-term retail spaces. “Physical retail is still needed, but to tell a story, that demands a unique approach,” he says. One of those approaches is the pop-up model, which offers brands less risk and more flexibility than investing in permanent brick-and-mortar locations. Bailey has made testing pop-ups significantly easier for brands with a website that works like an Airbnb for store rental listings across London, Paris and New York City. Now valued at $50 billion, according to PopUp Republic, Appear Here is a welcome addition to the pop-up industry that is paying off for Bailey: It has raised $21 million and worked with top-tier brands ranging from Nike to Givenchy. The store of the future, it seems, will be here today, gone tomorrow.
Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney has her sights set on her business becoming Generation Z’s Lululemon.
Since Outdoor Voices’ founding in 2013, it has raised more than $21 million in three rounds of investor funding, including contributions from high-profile supporters like actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine. The 28-year-old Haney has built a business that has carved a niche in a saturated athletic wear market. In Outdoor Voices’ first year and a half of operations, its leggings and tops sold out almost as soon as they hit the website, and Haney’s team could hardly keep up with demand. Now, nearly four years out, with an expanded team in areas like merchandising and allocation, along with a growing product inventory, the company shows no sign of stopping. Haney says Outdoor Voices resonates because, unlike its competitors, it’s built on whimsy and, most importantly, inclusivity.
“People are responding better to brands that feel approachable, inclusive, friendly and fun,” says Haney, a Boulder, Colorado, native and former college track runner. “Nike, Under Armour and Lululemon are quite serious about being the best — being the best runner, being the best yogi — and focused on performance and crossing the finish line. Outdoor Voices flips that traditional macho activewear approach on its head.”
Although Outdoor Voices was born online, it recently started opening brick-and-mortar locations in cities like New York, as well as pop-up shops around the country. Seventy percent of its sales occur online, but the physical locations help build a community among Outdoor Voices shoppers, Haney says. The shops hold running clubs and other exercise events and ultimately serve as an important customer acquisition source.
For Haney, Outdoor Voices provides a levity rarely seen among the Nikes of the world — one of her company’s core tenets is “freeing fitness from performance.” Outdoor Voices pushes to be as accessible as possible with its branding, even launching kits that allow shoppers to mix and match select tops and bottoms at a discounted price. Its marketing features smiling men and women walking dogs and throwing flying discs in a park.
While Outdoor Voices distances itself from the high-performance realm, its product is made using sweat-wicking technical fabrics designed for maximum movement. Haney says her eye for design as a female leader in activewear, an industry male founders largely dominate, is also vital to her company’s success. You won’t see Haney embroiled in controversy for creating see-through products or making disparaging remarks about women’s bodies like Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.
“We send out customer surveys, and a lot of the time, people send back notes saying they’re so refreshed a female founder is creating these clothes,” she says. “I wanted to make an outfit and a pant that didn’t feel like shiny black disposal spandex and wanted something more long-lasting. Our design rule is orienting around comfort and endurance.”