We said it last week- TomboyX was created to represent all bodies and identities, to give options to those who weren't being represented. This vision did not happen by accident. It was born out of the love of our founders, Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez. Our celebration of love and individuality started with their love for each other, but has blossomed into something bigger than any of us. They took a moment to share some stories of how TomboyX began, and how the love and support of our global community has propelled the brand into so much more than a shirt.
We met through mutual friends. I was spending a lot of time in DC for work, and Naomi had just moved there. We were friends for about a year before things turned romantic. We dated long distance for a year. Then, our baby Maggie [their dog], was on the way. Naomi sold her business and moved to Seattle. That was it.
The first time we hung out was at a museum, and I had to tell her to put her phone away.
It seems like you've lost that battle since Fran's always on her phone.
I don't know if I was ever winning. (laughs)
What inspired you to go down this very risky path and start a new business, particularly one like TomboyX?
N- It really started when we were in Boston visiting a very close friend. I remember her wife came home in tears. She was shopping for a wedding. She is a little more masculine presenting in gender and went to a clothing store to find a shirt. First off, they called her sir. She couldn't believe that in this day and age, there was no clothing to suit her. There was nothing in the women's department that fit her style, but she didn't want to be forced to shop in the men's department.
There are many ways traditional stores bring out that shame. There's the boy side and girl side. It does something to you. When you talk to women who don't fit, they hate to shop. I don't think it's because they cannot find cute clothes, it is because the clothes do not make them feel comfortable in their own skin. And that's where it all started.
We had a successful Kickstarter campaign
. It started with a shirt , but we quickly recognized that the word Tomboy
was resonating with women and girls alike. We started feeling a sense of responsibility because we were touched by the stories from people. These people were feeling seen for the first time by a clothing company. It also triggered our instincts- the need and desire to fix things. That's why we took this leap of faith by focusing on boxer briefs. It seemed like a compelling business decision- focusing on undergarments. The underwear industry is about an external gaze, often just for males. The idea of boxer briefs as a first product as we grew our foundational clothing line was more about loving yourself from the inside out, and putting on your base layer of armor before you go out into the world.
It's the greatest love story. If you can love yourself, you can give that out into the world.
Running a start-up is a lot of work. What makes it worth it?
Just hearing from customers, like 70-year-old women saying they have been tomboys their whole lives. They tell us we bring them back to their youth. It touches your heart.
Reading the reviews on our site keeps us going. We have customers in 37 countries! One customer in Romania. Another in Israel. One customer in Japan who's made five purchases alone. This is powerful. Tomboy means something to them. We have a responsibility to get this right- to represent people with love. It is a spirit and way of treating fellow humans. Instead of highlighting our differences lets find similarities.
It makes us so happy to see customers who buy the underwear and send us pictures. The customer who survived 3 strokes and buys boxer briefs to celebrate.
Or the mom who writes in and says "I love my 7-year-old. She only wants to wear boxer briefs. The undies in the girl's department doesn't feel like who she is." That was so moving. We made her daughter a pair of underwear. How could you not love a supportive mom and a child who knows who she is?
What is your hope for the future of TomboyX?
That we can be profitable enough to work closely with non-profit foundations we believe in.
It would be amazing if one day TomboyX was a household name, that our company was known for breaking down stereotypes of gender and clothing.
If there is one thing you could say about the TomboyX brand, what is it?
Tearing down of stereotypes through our clothing. If we react out of fear, that marginalizes people. This has happened to us personally, our friends and our community in the past. It is a faith we have- together as a global community we can make things more positive and inclusive, not negative and divisive.
The message of our brand is inclusivity and embracing people. As long as we're doing that, we are successful.