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How You Spend Your Money Is More Important Than Ever

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What’s previously been known as International Women’s Day is, in 2017, A Day Without A Woman. The organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington have called upon women across the world to skip work, refrain from shopping, and wear red. I realized this weekend that I don’t own any red, but I do run a brand that regularly celebrates women, and I’m thrilled to get to do that today.

Below, some stats on just how powerful a woman’s dollar is, a profile of a pair of very impressive entrepreneurs, and a list of where to spend your money if you do in fact feel like doing so. —Britt Aboutaleb, editor-in-chief

What we spend on Clothes and Cosmetics

Sales of apparel in the US — excluding secondhand and vintage — reached $273.67 billion in 2016, Euromonitor says, with womenswear accounting for $131.78 billion in sales over the course of the year (a little over 48 percent). Men’s clothing brought in $87.5 billion, or nearly 32 percent of the apparel pie. That’s not accounting for, say, children and their tiny child clothes.

At those rates, if nobody in the US shopped for new women’s clothing today, they’d collectively deprive retailers of $361 million in crop tops, bralettes, sweatshirts, and Khloe Kardashian Good American jeans. (Which, if you’ll remember, claims to have done $1 million in sales on its first day — that’s a successful female-owned business.)

Another way to stifle the economy? Don’t go to Sephora. Sales for men’s high-end beauty products were $1.5 billion during 2016, according to the NPD Group. High-end women’s beauty products hit $15.6 billion. Again, that’s just in the US.

While we’re on the subject, the overall beauty and personal care market in the US was worth $82.15 billion in 2016, according to Euromonitor data provided by L2. Men represented just $8.79 billion of that, or not even 11 percent. So, you do the math.

The US Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners tallied 9,878,397 female-owned businesses in the country — 7,319,743 of them, or 74 percent, were started by US-born citizens, and 1,228,061, or roughly 12 percent, were founded by immigrants. (Those numbers don’t add up because some people didn’t respond to the question of citizenship.)

The census noted 14,844,597 businesses owned by men in 2012. That’s a decent swath of stores to avoid. But we bet you can do it. Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

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The Inspiring, Black Women-Owned Line You Need to Know
The Okpos

by Tanisha Pina

After just a few minutes of talking with Darlene and Lizzy Okpo — co-founders of the New York-based womenswear line William Okpo — it becomes abundantly clear that failure isn’t, and has never been, an option. That’s why seven years after starting their label, the sisters are still turning out fresh ideas that feel prescient and thriving creatively in an industry that’s not known to be friendly to upstarts — nor overtly welcoming to women of color.

Founded in 2010 when Darlene and Lizzy were just 23 and 19 years old, respectively, the brand takes its name from the girls’ father, William Okpo, who immigrated from Nigeria to New York in 1976. The sisters embraced his strong, unwavering work ethic and unique style — ideas that ultimately inspired them to launch a label despite limited resources, limited experience, and youth all working against them.

The two had interned and worked all over retail — most notably at Opening Ceremony, where the line was picked up early on — but neither, funny enough, knew how to actually sew a garment when they decided to start a clothing label. “I just researched how to start a line, and I Googled pattern and garment makers,” says Darlene of their very DIY start.

The aesthetic of the brand has matured consistently since its launch, but the sharp tailoring, rich colors, and mixed fabrications and hardware — combining materials like neoprene and silk chiffon in one garment — have stayed at the core of William Okpo’s look. It’s with this approach that the brand pushes the boundaries and expectations of designers of the African diaspora — if you’re looking for traditional African prints pumped out for mass consumption, you won’t find them here.

“Just because we're coming from a Nigerian background, that's not what we're about. We were born here also, so we wanted to break that stigma of black designers and African print,” says Darlene. “This is why the brand is named after my dad, William Okpo. When he came here, he didn't fit into that stereotype. He came here, in our opinion, influencing people with style. There are pictures of him in three-piece suits, bell bottoms, and ‘fro, with a Members Only jacket, all white. My dad is the most stylish man you'll ever meet.”

Keep reading >>

One of the objectives of A Day Without a Woman is to refrain from shopping, to see and feel the impact of what happens to the economy when women don’t spend money for 24 hours. There is one caveat, though, and it’s one that this website — a website dedicated to shopping — can easily get behind: If you are going to shop today, shop from small women- and minority-owned businesses.

To get you started, here’s a list of some of our favorite brands that were founded by female immigrants. Read up on them below, and then head to their websites to see what they’re all about. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, so please send any other brands you’d like to see included to; we’ll add them to our extended post on the site. —Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director

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Azéde Jean-Pierre: Womenswear designer Azéde Jean-Pierre was born in Haiti and grew up in Atlanta after coming to America as a refugee. Her career kicked into gear after she graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and last year she made the decision to work with artisans in developing countries on her collections; this past spring season, all of her embroidered pieces were produced in Haiti. She counts Solange Knowles and Michelle Obama as fans.

Maryam Nassir Zadeh: Designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s signature block heel mules, glove shoes, and slides arguably ushered in a whole wave of shoe trends that prioritize comfort without sacrificing style whatsoever (many of the pairs come in bright suedes or rich leathers). Zadeh was born in Iran and operates a store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that sells her label alongside dozens of likeminded brands.

Dana Arbib, A Peace Treaty: The cornerstone of designer Dana Arbib’s brand A Peace Treaty is her commitment to working with craftspeople all over the globe, from Peru to Pakistan and beyond. Her bags, scarves, caftans, and tunics are known equally for their fabrics and prints as they are their origins — a dedicated section on A Peace Treaty’s website details how and where everything is made. Arbib’s global approach to design is a reflection of her background: She was born in Tel Aviv, raised in Toronto, and is now based in the US.

Paola Mathe, Fanm Djanm: Fanm Djanm translates to “strong woman" in founder Paola Mathe’s native Haitian Kreyol. The label specializes in headwraps, which are made in New York City with recycled fabric and, when possible, materials selected from African countries. Since it was launched in 2014, the brand has grown to include jewelry and bags. The product photography is also on another level, often featuring inspiring women from around the world as models.

Behida Dolić, Behida Dolić Milinery: All of milliner Behida Dolić’s designs are handmade, and Dolić herself is self-taught. In 1998, the designer fled the Bosnian War and lived in San Francisco and Florence, Italy before launching her business on the East Coast. Her hats come in such a wide range of styles that you’d be hard-pressed to find a style of hat that’s not represented in the current collection.

Urte Tylaite, Still House: Jewelry designer Urte Tylaite owns a boutique in New York City that carries jewelry and home goods from a variety of designers, as well as her own jewelry collection that was launched in 2013. Tylaite's designs are clean and simple — think small hoop earrings, triangle stud earrings, and necklaces made of long, thin gold chains. She’s a native of Lithuania and moved to the States when she was 18.

Lia Kes, Kes: Kes is a womenswear label founded by designer Lia Kes, who grew up on an Israeli kibbutz. As a child she learned how to sew in a communal workshop, and after studying fashion design in Tel Aviv, she moved to New York to launch her own line. She designs in a palette of gray, cream, black, and silver, but dramatic draping and loose, asymmetrical silhouettes keep it all from feeling too neutral.

Swati Dhanak, Swati Dhanak: Swati Dhanak was raised in Dubai, where her family owned a jewelry workshop. She moved to the US to attend college and, after working at fashion houses like Chanel and Armani, launched her own fine jewelry line. Diamonds and 18K gold are staples of her collections, which vary in terms of style from sharp and geometric to round and organic.

See the full list here >>
Read More About Women Entrepreneurs on Racked


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