Sara Blakely sold fax machines door to door. Then one day she caught a glimpse of her own butt in a pair of white pants. That led her to invent SPANX Footless Pantyhose, which get rid of visible panty lines and cellulite--and let you wear open-toed shoes. Now SPANX has over 200 products that tackle everything from muffin tops to back fat. They’ve even got men’s guts covered with SPANX for Men.
“Every time I hear a celebrity on the red carpet say, “I’ve got my SPANX on,” I have to pinch myself,” Blakely said. “It’s been a wild ride.” Her products are carried in more than 10,000 retail locations around the US and in 35 countries around the world. Plus, SPANX just launched its first in-store shop at Bloomingdale’s 59th St. “The butt business is good!” she said.
Fashion Woe: You’ve got to be back at your desk from your noon workout before your boss returns from lunch. And you burn too much time changing from your business attire into your workout gear. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a work-out in without changing clothes twice?
Tina Goldfield left her career as an executive to be at home full time with her two children. When they grew older and more independent, she decided to get back into business, but on her own terms. So she opened a pilates studio.
She wished her busy clients had a quick change option, like seamless tees that stayed in place for a work-out but were comfortable enough to wear beneath jackets. With that idea, Goldfield launched Tees By Tina, a line of lightweight woman’s clothing designed to be worn from “studio to street,” or as standalone pieces.
Goldfield’s products are sold in over 400 stores, including Neiman Marcus Cusp, Intimacy and Fred Segal Yoga. Recently her company has rolled out a new product line called PureToes, footcover for yoga, pilates, marital arts, dance and lounging.
Fashion Woe: You’re dressed to go out in your trendy butt-hugging low riders. And you feel hot, until you bend over to pick up your purse, and flash your husband a bit too much skin. Not that he cares. But now you’re self-conscious. How can you look stylish and feel comfortable, without slipping on a pair of mom jeans?
Leslie Wilkins-Gaudio, Lori Wilkins and Elise Wilkins’ Reinventions
While shopping for low-rise jeans, sisters Leslie Wilkins-Gaudio, Lori Wilkins and Elise Wilkins noted, “You could see right down the back of the pants if we bent over or sat down.” They decided to come up with a product to eliminate the peep show. They released isABelt, a clear, adjustable thin belt that holds your pants in place, without leaving a bulky lump at your waist.
isABelt has been featured in national magazines, as well as on The Today Show. They’ve expanded their product offerings to include isABeltWIDE, isAStrips, Strapdowns and StrapSecure. Their products are available in over 1000 retail outlets.
Fashion Woe: You ordered a new shirt online, which looked great on the model. But when you put it on, you can see your back fat through it. Do you wear it anyway? Return it, and eat the shipping costs?
Wait a minute. Maybe the problem isn’t that you have back fat. Maybe, the problem is...
Your bra. A former esthetician, make-up artist and nail technician, Staci Berner took some time off to stay home with her children. She noticed even the band on professionally fitted bras left a back bulge. “I looked everywhere trying to find a bra that could provide great support and shaping for my breasts and be able to keep my back smooth,” she said. “Everything I tried left me disappointed.”
While her kids were at school, she worked in her sewing studio to come up with a real bra without elastic bands that kept her back smooth. She and her husband then worked to get her design, The Unbelievabra, patented and manufactured. “I’m so proud and honored to bring to the market the first bra of its kind,” she said.
She expanded her line of shapewear under the Shapeez umbrella,. Now her products are sold in over 400 stores throughout the US and Canada. Plus based on customer feedback that her garments alleviate pain for breast and lung cancer survivors, as well as ongoing back and shoulder pain, she’s launched the Shapeez Health Distribution Program. It allows doctors to purchase Shapeez garments for their patients at wholesale prices.
Fashion Woe: You’re dressing for a night out on the town, and your sweater keeps slipping off your shoulder. You could pin it in place, but know you’ll be boogying later, and with as wild as you can get on the dance floor, it could pop open and poke your partner.
Serial entrepreneur Marni Bumsted was struggling to pin a gapping sweater one night when her friend, a wardrobe stylist in LA, pulled out double-stick tape and closed the gap for her.
Bumsted realized double-stick tape could prevent all sorts of wardrobe malfunctions: from falling hems to plunging necklines, to securing spaghetti straps and holding scarves in place. She teamed up with Jane Dailey, and together they launched Hollywood Fashion Tape a year later.
Now their product assortment has grown from 1 to over 40 SKUs, available in over 1500 outlets nationwide as well as abroad. They also won the Best of Beauty award from Allure Magazine and Best New Product Award from ECRM industry buyers.
Karen Bell worked for a venture capital firm before her boring white socks got to her. So she launched a fashion legwear company, K.Bell Socks. She added her decorative touch to her socks, as well as a splash of color, so now you can leave your shoes at the door, not your fashion sense. Her socks are in stores across the country, including Nordstrom, Dillards and Costco.
Fashion Woe: You’re walking out of your home when you realize your dress has no pockets. And you’ve got a wad of cash, not to mention your ID (‘cause given how young you look, there’s always a chance you’ll get carded, right)?
Do you (A) Take your mother’s advice and stick your belongings in your bra? (B) Simply carry them; or (C) Come up with an innovative solution?
Event planner Kendra Kroll chose (C). After accidentally dropping a tampon on a gym floor, Kroll invented PortaPocket, a lightweight carrying case you strap to your body. Now you’ve got a good reason not to take your mother’s advice.
Her product is sold across the country in outlets like Six Flags and Walgreens. It’s garnered much press, including being featured on The Today Show.
Julie Kalimian had never been the frumpy type. She’d been the Vice President of Marketing at Newsweek before she quit working to become a stay-at-home mom of four. But when she tried to pull together her preppy look from before she had children, a button-front collar beneath a sweater, she felt bulky and messy.
“I had my eureka moment,” she said. “What if I combined my favorite collared shirt with my favorite stretchy camisole? It was so simple, but nobody was producing it.” She went to her neighborhood tailor, and the SkinnyShirt was born.
Kalimian’s shirts have been featured in Lucky Magazine, InStyle and on Good Morning America. But she considers her biggest success satisfied customers. “So many women tell us, ‘We have been waiting for your product. Thank you.’,” she said. “And, we thank them!”
Fashion Woe: You love to have reliable basics in your closet, but you play hard, and now you’ve got holes in your shirts and sweaters. You wouldn’t mind spending a little bit more for good quality, but who wants to break the bank?
Just four years after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Meghan Kinney opened a retail store, Meg Shop, in New York’s East Village. But she wasn’t about the latest fads; she designed versatile clothes that were functional. But classic. “Unique timeless fashion at a happy price point,” she said about her clothing label, meg. So you don’t have to worry about starting your wardrobe over each season.
Now Kinney has three shops, two in New York City and one in Toronto. But for her, her real success is, “a real love for my work.”
Screenwriter Kara Harshbarger and actress Melissa George met at a mutual friend’s wedding. As they chatted, they connected. And later, over coffee, talked hems. Melissa’s hem had been dragging up and down the streets of New York City. The two came up with Style Snaps, an adhesive snap hem. Your hems never have to touch the ground again.
Style Snaps have been featured in national magazines and on The Today Show.
Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a freelance writer and author of52 Fights. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Find her blog atUnplanned Cooking.