Gender conformity is slowly going out of style.
Brands like Nike and Asos have already embraced gender-neutral clothing. But can the same be done for an underwear line?
Fran Dunaway, cofounder of the gender-fluid intimates and apparel brand TomboyX, said yes.
“Our product is very comfortable and fits every body type,” Dunaway told WWD. She said men, women, trans individuals and everyone in between — even her 80-year-old father — can be found in TomboyX underwear.
“We’ve gendered clothing in a way that’s the trend of the future,” Dunaway said. “It’s more of a spectrum. And people can fall anywhere on that spectrum, rather than trying to fit people into a societal construct that is about gender.
“We’ve got various prints and patterns that work for those who prefer pinks and florals — and that isn’t always females,” Dunaway continued. “And then we’ve got stuff that is more of what would be stereotypically masculine. The important thing is how inclusive we are and how we think about all the various body types. One of the premises that we built our brand around is that we’re not sexualizing people in their underwear.”
The Craftory, a consumer-centric venture capital fund, worth about $300 million, seems to agree. The firm just invested $18 million into TomboyX, which also makes swimwear, loungewear, apparel and accessories, making The Craftory a majority stakeholder in the 2012 start-up.
“TomboyX is a forward-thinking brand, which tackles some of the biggest issues faced by society today and we are extremely proud to be welcomed to join the team as they expand their global reach and continue to design innovative sustainable pieces,” Elio Leoni Sceti, cofounder and “chief crafter” at The Craftory, said in a statement.
Dunaway said approximately $7 million of The Craftory’s $18 million investment was used to buy up existing shares. The other $11 million will be used to create new products and campaigns.
“We’ve been very resource-constrained as a growing start-up and to have this investment means we can really put some effort into our marketing campaigns,” she said.
In fact, TomboyX’s humble beginning began in Dunaway and her wife Naomi Gonzalez’s garage. Neither one of them had any experience in retail. Dunaway was producing political ads for a media strategy firm at the time. Gonzalez had her own practice as a sports massage therapist.
But Dunaway, a fan of Robert Graham and Ben Sherman button-down shirts, was tired of not being able to find something similar in the women’s section.
“The stuff I loved was always in the men’s department, but it didn’t fit,” she said. “Naomi got tired of hearing me complain about the lack of options out there.”
With the help of angel investors, who contributed about $6 million, Dunaway and Gonzalez founded TomboyX in 2012. The name, Dunaway said, was fitting for the duo, both of whom identified as tomboys as kids. But the pair quickly discovered that the name resonated with a much-larger crowd.
In 2013, TomboyX.com sold its first products, buttoned-down shirts, like the ones Dunaway loved but couldn’t find. The following year, the company launched its first boxer briefs for women, pre-selling out orders in two weeks.
Since then, the brand has grown to a staff of 28 people — possibly more later this year — and a larger assortment of apparel, including streetwear. The web site is full of bold colors and splashy prints in bikini bottoms, briefs, sports bras and the popular “uni” swimsuits — worn by both men and women. Dunaway said every style, ranging from extra small to 4X, is priced the same, helping grow sales by double digits in 2018, compared with 2017.
Now TomboyX is experimenting with pop-ups, including a collaboration with The Phluid Project in New York during Pride Month, and is releasing a Pride collection later in May, also full of rainbow colors and happy vibes.
“Turns out, when you develop good products using quality fabrics, it really works on every body,” Dunaway said.