“The name @kara comes from ‘karaoke,’” says designer Sarah Law of her line of pared-down, hardware-embellished backpacks, wallets and cross-bodies. “I wanted to create a brand that had open space—giving someone the ability to interpret my designs however they want to.”
“At some point, we all feel vulnerable,” says @migaswimwear founder Maria Luisa Mendiola, whose line is inspired by real women with disfigurements. “I want to make sure that when you’re going to the beach or pool, you’re being more gentle to yourself and more empathetic to others.” Each bold, color-blocked suit is made in New Jersey and dedicated to a woman whose experience is shared in the packaging of each piece. Telling these stories, she says, promotes self-love and acceptance: “I want to encourage people to embrace what they have.”
“My great-aunt lived in Rome, and she was superchic and cool,” says New York–based designer Leonora Arslani of the inspiration for her shoe line, @thisisgiovanna. Leonora says she also channeled the “Italian seaside version” of herself when creating the brand’s lemon yellow, emerald green and bubblegum pink raffia slides and mules. “Che bello!”
“I love a glam rock moment,” says @imwiththeband founder (and die-hard Rolling Stones fan) Kailee Steward. Kailee’s retro-cool accessories line is handmade in downtown L.A. and features soft velvet turbans, cute scrunchie ties and skinny silk scarves that would look great on anyone going for an Anita Pallenberg—or Keith Richards—vibe.
@ninakastens gives good face. After Nina launched her eponymous line straight out of school in 2014, her Hans Arp–inspired Face Collection soon became a fashion world favorite, worn by both Leandra Medine and Chiara Ferragni. “I wanted to make a pearl necklace but modern and a little bit fun, not old-fashioned,” Nina says.
Elizabeth Backup has some tough customers. But, as the Los Angeles-based founder of @backup_design says, “dogs will be dogs.” With that in mind, Elizabeth ensures that each pet bed is reinforced with the right materials to make it as durable as possible—without sacrificing aesthetics (the beds are made with meticulously sourced vintage fabrics). “I wanted to make something that people could show off in their homes. But I also want it to feel like a fluffy cloud,” she says. “A fluffy, heavy cloud.”
“The thing that most people put on either directly before or directly after a bathing suit is sunscreen,” says @solidandstriped founder Isaac Ross. So expanding to sunscreen felt like a natural fit for the seven-year-old swimwear company. Aside from the “perfect” formula (gentle, not too thick, rubs in easily without a white cast), the brand’s All Over Sunscreen comes in retro-inspired packaging designed to make you smile. “It’s nice to make products that people wear during their great moments, like vacations,” says Isaac. “I’m happy I don’t make rain boots.”
When @purautz founder Anna Andrés says her accessories are handcrafted, she really means it. “Each small bag takes seven days to make and has three different artisans working on it,” she explains. “There are actually 54,900 small beads on a single bag—we counted.” Before launching the brand, the Denmark native volunteered in Guatemala as a nurse and teacher. Her inspiration for the career change? The beautiful craftsmanship she witnessed among the female artisans in Guatemala’s villages: “I wanted to help these women be seen for the incredible talents they are.”
“I owned between 80 and 100 striped shirts before I started making them,” says @Kule’s Nikki Kule. So when Nikki was pivoting the long-running label in 2014, she decided to make her personal passion the brand focus. “I decided I love stripes, and I’m never going to get sick of them,” she says. “And five years later, I’m still not!”
A failed shopping trip led Xiwen Zhang and her fiancé, Yannis Makridis, to found cult eyewear brand @forartssake in 2016. “I wanted to invest in a pair of quality sunglasses, but they were all too expensive,” says Xiwen. “I knew nothing about eyewear, but I believed I could make something better.” Three years later, the London-based line's handmade sunglasses are sold alongside luxury brands worldwide and have been spotted on everyone from Beyoncé to J. Lo. 😎
“Xenophora is a classification of sea organism that’s a carrier of strange and foreign objects,” explains @xenophoraobjects founder Karissma Yve of her jewelry line. “My mission is for my pieces, no matter how strange or foreign, to become a part of you.” Though Karissma looks to the ancient world for aesthetic inspiration, she embraces the most cutting-edge techniques at her Detroit studio—each @xenophoraobjects piece is made using 3D-printing technology.
“I call it ‘happy fashion,’” says designer @oliviarubin of her namesake brand. “I want my clothes to create an aura of confidence.” And her inspiration often comes from unexpected places: “Subconsciously, I relate a lot of my colors back to food,” she says. “I’m doing a stripe now, which is based on Neapolitan ice cream.” 🌈😀🍦
Historically, the word “money” has often been defined as a standard weight and purity of gold or silver. So it’s fitting that jewelry brand @mene takes its name from that ancient practice as they price each piece by its weight. “We want the jewelry to appreciate over time,” says co-founder Roy Sebag. “It’s not just something you're wearing to express yourself—it's also an investment you're making.”
For @golde co-founder Trinity Mouzon Wofford wellness has always been a way of life. “I grew up in a crunchy household,” she says. “My grandmother had me looking at ingredients labels from the time I was 3 years old." So it's no surprise that the entrepreneur, who was once premed at New York University, decided to launch a beauty and wellness company focused on making superfoods more accessible and approachable—from easy-to-use chlorophyll face masks to anti-inflammatory turmeric drinks mixes 🌿🌱☘️
“I knew something was wrong when I started coveting my baby daughter’s play mixer,” says @materialkitchen co-founder Eunice Byun. Toymakers, Eunice realized, had mastered both form and function, but the kitchenware industry hadn’t. So she and longtime friend David Nguyen partnered to start a company to make what she wasn’t seeing: high-quality cooking tools that inspire you to use them. They launched with a seven-piece set, The Fundamentals, in 2018. 👩🏽🍳👩🏻🍳👨🏾🍳👨🏼🍳❤️
“I started making jewelry when I was 5—and I sold it door-to-door,” says @amarilo co-designer Ali Heiss. Ali’s young hustle came full circle recently when she and business partner Stella Simona were contacted by one of those childhood customers to design an anniversary gift. “People buy from us because they connect with the intimacy of the brand,” says Stella. “A lot of our customers have told us that our pieces reminded them of family heirlooms.”
“I want people who carry @mingrayofficial bags to be approached from across the room at a party because someone has to know *where* their bag is from,” says Ming Ray, who founded her eponymous line of handbags in 2015. With their bold, structured silhouettes and utterly fanciful details (butterflies, smiling clouds and shooting stars, to name a few), it’s safe to say Ming’s wish will be granted many times over 💫⭐️🌟
“A year ago, Olivia Wilde texted me,” stylist Karla Welch remembers, “and said, ‘You gotta make a tank top!’ And I was like, ‘Funnily enough … I am.’ ” That tank top—a classic scoop neck—is the latest style in @xkarla’s collection of timeless essentials. No surprise, Karla thought of everything: “It’s long, it covers your bra straps, it has a bit of stretch so it doesn’t bag out, and it’s thick enough so you can’t see your belly button through it.” One more key piece of info about this wardrobe essential? It’s available *today*. Click the product tag above and @shop on.
“I had no idea how to work with skincare ingredients,” says @thebodystone co-founder Kate McLeod of her first steps into the beauty space in 2015. Kate, a former pastry chef, had a vision for a hydrating product that started as a solid and melted into the skin. So she used everything she knew about chocolate from her time as a baker and applied it to cocoa butter, eventually landing on her dream formula. The result? A product that moisturizes your skin...and smells *delicious*.
Natural-skin-care brand @agentnateur started small—as in “launched on a $300 investment” small. That’s how much founder Jena Covello paid to buy the supplies that would become the first batch of deodorant she sold. “There wasn’t any luxury natural deodorant that worked, so I started making it myself,” she says. “I wanted to create something that looked beautiful and smelled incredible.” Since starting the brand in 2015, Jena has gone on to create more than a dozen additional @agentnateur products, from eye serum to shaving oil to hyaluronic toner.
For @kurt_lyle designer Virginia Craddock, each collection starts with a story—a really good one. “For the spring 2019 collection, I imagined a young bride stuck in Tampa, Florida with a love of fashion and nowhere to put it.” That last part was inspired by Virginia’s own upbringing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “My access to fashion was Vogue, Delia’s catalogs and thrifting,” she says. Virginia is already dreaming up the story line for her next collection. For fall 2019, she reveals, the vibe will be “Dynasty meets the mob.”
Spoiler alert: There’s no “Harry” behind @harryceramics. But, admits the brand’s founder, Leisha Scordino, “I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd. I even have a Dumbledore tattoo.” When Leisha started making her cheerful potter-y (😜) in a shared studio, she felt too vulnerable to use her own initials on her pieces, so she went with the sorcerer’s trademark scar. “Having that bit of anonymity really helped me to make the leap,” the graphic designer says. But it didn’t take long for her whimsical mugs, dishes and planters to make an impression. “Now, when people see my work, they're like, ‘Oh, I could tell it was yours right away!’”⚡️🌵💯
“I believe in celebrating the handmade,” says Adriana Epelboim-Levy, the Venezuela-born founder of handpainted-accessories line @alepel_byadriana. “Even when I was in architecture school and we used all of these amazing technologies, I still loved developing floor plans by hand.” ALEPEL’s statement-making mules and clutches are crafted in Brazil, shipped to Miami (the brand’s home base) and then custom painted—with everything from flowers and butterflies to snakes and tigers—by local artists. “I want people to feel like they're buying wearable art when they buy my products,” she says.
In college, @bode founder (and @cfda’s 2019 Emerging Designer of the Year) Emily Adams studied both philosophy and menswear design. So it’s no surprise that when she talks about her brand’s vintage-inspired menswear designs, she does so, well, philosophically. “I always enjoyed making clothes for myself,” she says. “But my process is about separating myself from who I am designing for.” Still, there’s a duality to her pieces. “I work with mostly traditional domestic textiles,” she says. “And those have historically been created by women. I like the idea of using something very female-focused for men to wear.”
“Everyone has a day, a person, an event, a moment that’s meaningful to them,” says @dallanonna founder Jessica Bohrer of the jewelry line's signature calendar necklaces. Jess and her co-founder Rebecca Richards created the customizable designs after Jess’s grandmother presented her with her late grandfather’s calendar tiepin. Launched in 2009 with the calendar necklace as their sole offering, @dallanonna has since grown to include earrings, bracelets, clutches and rings—though the original necklace remains a best-seller.
In 2012, @offseason_nyc founder Abra Boero was taking the subway out to Rockaway Beach and started thinking about the reality of resortwear. “Resortwear has this sort of fantastical story about it, like you’re traveling to glamorous far-off places,” Abra says. “But I wasn’t going to wear a caftan on the A train.” A few years later, when the former fashion exec decided to start her own line, she focused on easy pieces that could be worn on the beach—and on whatever mode of transportation you use to get there.
“We make pound-the-pavement footwear,” says @fredasalvador co-founder Megan Papay of the brand’s city-perfect lineup of sneakers, sandals, espadrilles and more. “They’re the kind of shoes that you put on at 7 a.m. and don’t take off until 10 p.m.—or whenever you get home.” “We call them power shoes,” adds co-founder Cristina Palomo-Nelson. “They don’t hold you back in any way.”
“My skin was horrible in my 20s,” says @noto_botanics founder and former makeup artist Gloria Noto. “So I dove into herbalism, aromatherapy and oils and started mixing my own formulas. Then my skin started to heal.” But Gloria says that when she looked to buy natural beauty products from other brands, she didn’t find much that spoke to her. “I wasn’t seeing diversity in that space as a queer woman,” she says. “And I wasn’t seeing any minimalistic designs either. I just felt like there was a gap there. So I launched my own brand.” #pride 🌈🙌🏽
Years before founding the sustainable swimwear label @ookioh in 2017, Vivek Agarwal worked in steel and iron manufacturing in Rourkela, India. “The city used to get pretty polluted,” says Vivek. “When I made the jump into fashion, I thought, ‘We have to do the right thing.’ ” OOKIOH’s bright fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled materials (including fishing nets), and the brand has pledged to fully end its use of plastics by 2022. “There’s no way around it,” says Vivek. “We need to change.”
“My mother loved to entertain, and I’d always set the table,” remembers Kathryn Duryea, the founder/creative force behind @yearandday’s tableware. While the brand’s ceramic pieces (blush pink dishes, minimalistic mugs and more) are designed in California and forged, fired and hand-finished in Europe, they’re also—happy sigh—affordable. “Our whole idea is counter to really expensive, ornately designed pieces that you can’t put in the dishwasher,” she says. “That’s not how life should be.”
“Luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand,” says @aeranewyork co-founder Tina Bhojwani. To Tina and her partners Jean-Michel Cazabat and Alvertos Revach, that meant not just creating chic, wear-everywhere vegan shoes but offsetting the environmental impact of producing them by 110 percent. ♻️🌎❤️
Ellie and Quang Dinh, the married founders of @girlfriend, were so confident of their debut product—leggings that were ethically and sustainably made with fabric created from recycled water bottles—that they did something bold. They gave the leggings away for free. “We put all of our eggs in that basket,” Quang says of their unconventional 2016 launch strategy. “We hoped that if the product was good, people would come back to buy more.” In the seven months of the promotion, Quang reports the size-inclusive brand shipped close to a quarter million pairs. And, he notes happily, the demand hasn’t let up since.
It all started at Burning Man. @thephluidproject founder Rob Smith attended the free-spirited desert festival in 2017 and promptly went home, quit his corporate job, traveled the world and then returned to New York City to create his vision for a gender-free, nonbinary store. Rob opened @thephluidproject in 2018, and the business now carries multiple brands and collaborations as well as its own label, which has created all of the official merch for World Pride this year 🌈❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 #pride
Like so many great things, @lykkewullf was born of necessity. “I started making pants because I couldn’t find the kind I wanted to wear,” explains founder and designer Jemma Swatek. “I didn’t want to pay $300 for jeans that made my butt look terrible. So every collection is inspired by what I would wear.” What does Jemma want to wear right now? Color. “I’m obsessed with bubblegum pink and limoncillo green for spring!”
“When you go into a jewelry store, sometimes they make you feel embarrassed, as if they don’t want you to touch anything,” says @thelastlinela founder Shelley Gibbs Sanders. “But if you’re going to spend a lot of money, it should be enjoyable!” Enter The Last Line, a collection of fine jewelry sold direct to the consumer in a much warmer way. “We try to work with everyone on a personal level,” Shelley says. “I’ll even jump into the DMs at 11 at night and talk to customers around the world.”
“I reduce waste everywhere I can,” says Marre Muijs, founder of the Melbourne-based shoe label @essenthelabel (the name is short for “essentials”). Launched in 2016 with only three styles, ESSEN’s shoes are handmade in solar-powered factories and sold on a preorder basis to prevent overproduction. “The whole idea is to focus on wardrobe staples,” says Marre. “People want to go back to buying less—and buying better.”
@supernal.co’s Melissa Medvedich thinks face oil is kind of like pizza. (Yes, we said pizza.) “There are so many slices in New York City,” she says. “Sometimes you want gluten-free, sometimes you want a dollar slice, sometimes you want gourmet veggie....” Melissa says face-oil blends have that same level of variety—which is what led the publishing-world veteran–turned–aromatherapist to create a brand featuring her own dream formula.
“Olive oil is not like wine,” says @wearebrightland founder Aishwarya Iyer. “It doesn't get better with age.” Aishwarya speaks from experience. Four years ago, after suffering from persistent stomachaches, she took a closer look at her kitchen pantry and discovered that her oil was making her sick. “I learned that a lot of olive oil being sold is rotten or rancid or has been adulterated,” she says. “That was the initial impetus for me to say, ‘I think there can be something better out there.’” Aishwarya’s year-old company, Brightland, offers three preservative-free olive oil blends, all produced at a single-estate organic farm in California—and packaged in bottles coated with UV-protectant powder, which better preserves the amazingness inside.
“Quite honestly, a handkerchief is just something that I’ve always carried with me,” says @hankskerchiefs founder Colin Hanks. The habit goes back a few Hanks-ian generations. “My grandfather always had one. He’d blow his nose in it, and I thought that that was the most disgusting thing in the world. And then my dad always wore kerchiefs a lot on vacations.” Colin says that emotional connection was the first thing that got him thinking about making handkerchiefs—and the second was the utility of the product itself. “I’ve used them for all sorts of things,” he says. “Protection from the sun, a way to get someone’s attention in public, personal hand towel… I even used a handkerchief as a coffee filter.” 🤧🎉❤️ 📸: Haley Scott In today’s special Father’s Day Story, learn more about Colin’s made-in-Los Angeles brand!
Isabella Giancarlo and Laura Kraber launched @fluidebeauty’s bright lip colors, shadows, polishes and glitters in 2017 with an upfront mission of being a space for all genders within the beauty industry. “It’s about using your face as a canvas,” says Isabella. “There’s no rule book.” #pride 🌈🎉
“You’re too cute to chafe,” says @megababe founder Katie Sturino, whose success with an inclusive fashion blog inspired her to start a personal care brand that focuses on body issues like boob sweat and thigh chafing. Katie’s products have clearly struck a chord—in addition to the best-selling Bust Dust and Thigh Rescue, Megababe’s new natural sage and green tea deodorant, Rosy Pits, drew a 13,000-deep wait list after it was announced. ☀️🔥✨ Today on our Story, Katie shares her tips for beating the summer heat!
“I have expensive taste, but I don’t like the idea of spending a fortune on an item,” says @jlanijewels founder Lani Nesbit. “So I wanted to create items that look more expensive than they actually are.” Almost 10 years ago, while Lani was dreaming up her line, she was working at FedEx, where, luckily enough, she met other entrepreneurs who suggested manufacturers for her to reach out to. (“I really feel like my job was divine timing,” she says.) Eight years after launching and now based in Miami, @jlanijewels offers more than 180 styles and counts Issa Rae, Halsey and Beyoncé among its fans. “You know,” Lani says with a laugh, “I met Beyoncé’s stylist at FedEx, too.” 👑🐝❤️
“ @miaou is one of those companies that accidentally happened,” says founder Alexia Elkaim. “I was working a desk job and making pants on my lunch break. I made 10 pairs, did a photoshoot with friends and put them online. The first 10 pairs sold out, I made 10 more, they sold out and that’s when I quit my job.” The line has gained superfans, including #ladygaga, who wore their signature pinstriped pants in A Star is Born. “I cried when I saw them in the movie,” Elkaim admits. “I was on a date and I just started crying.” 😭🙌🏼🌈
As a fashion editor in New York City, @sagesalt founder Corbin Chamberlin always kept one item in his bag—sage spray. The homemade spritz allowed him to neutralize negative energy around him without actually burning dried herbs. “I’ve always been very sensitive to vibes,” he says. “And it was the only way I could smudge myself throughout the day without going to jail for arson.” In 2014 Corbin returned to his native Arizona and started selling his Smokeless Smudge full-time. The product was an instant hit: He shipped 7,000 units in his first six months of production. “Now,” he says, “I’m a just a full-on professional witch.” 🧙🏻♂️⚡️🌈
“Our entire collection is tried on by everyone,” says @moderncitizen’s co-founder Jess Lee of her all-female team of 13. “We have an immediate focus group.” With an average price point of $75, the San-Francisco-based retailer is building a more accessible wardrobe for women with Jess and her co-founder Lizzie at the helm. “At the end of the day, we are the customer,” says Jess. “We know exactly what she's looking for.” 💪🏼
“I grew up wanting things that no one else had,” says Roxanna Sternerud, founder of LA-made luxury sock line @darnersocks. Inspired by antique hosiery and small-batch produced in fabrics from crushed velvet to floral mesh, Roxi's cut-and-sewn socks are anything but ordinary. 📸: Daniel Sahlberg
Cookware line @greatjones may have launched in 2018, but its origin story goes back 2 decades. “We went to summer camp together,” says @sierratishgart of co-founder @maddymoelis, “and I have all the awkward photos to prove it!” The friends, after an obsessive prototype and testing process, now offer 5 chic-yet-durable pieces that’ll last for years to come. “We want our customers to be able to focus on having a few select pieces in the kitchen,” says Sierra, a former food writer and editor. “A curated set means you can buy less—and buy smarter.”
From her hometown of Los Angeles to Cannes to Tokyo and back, @aimeesong has spent the past 11 years building her fashion media empire (and has the frequent flyer miles to prove it). Today, Aimee drops the second collection from her @songofstyle label with @revolve. Her newest work-to-weekend pieces feature summer-friendly fabrics and an aesthetic she says is inspired by strong working women like Amal Clooney and Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. Be the first to shop her collection with Instagram checkout... Tap the image above ☝🏼! Today on our Story, Aimee gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her new collection💫
“Pride is celebration,” says @chromat founder and designer Becca McCharen-Tran. “It's queer joy. It's happiness. It's community.” @chromat’s embrace of that same inclusive spirit has taken the 9-year-old swim and athletic wear brand from small-batch production in Becca’s bedroom to being worn by Beyoncé (👑 🙌🏽⚡️!) during her 2013 Super Bowl halftime show. The label runs from XS to 4XL and represents its architectural designs through models of different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. “All of our runway shows and our campaigns are about being confident and celebrating yourself,” Becca says. “Pride is 365 days a year for us.” 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈 📸: Ally Schmaling Today on our Story, Becca and her wife, Christine, share 5 of their favorite LGBTQ fashion brands
"Snacking gets a really bad rap," says @claire_olshan, the Fivestory founder who launched surrealist-inspired health food company @dadadaily in March. Claire is turning healthy eating on its head—literally—with the brand’s signature green cranium-shaped serving piece. "I want you to feel that you can bring it to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine,” she says. “We're about liberating the way people eat."