For more than a decade, Seattle-based TomboyX has been leading the way to be a more inclusive company, for every gender and every body. It all started because its founders wanted clothes that fit both their bodies and their identities.
Each week, the employees of TomboyX end their all-staff meeting by reading customer reviews. One note said, "I just want to thank you from here in Australia. I feel both affirmed and comfortable for the first time ever. This means the world." Another says, "These underwear have changed my life. And I am now a happier human due to this design fabric and cut of your items. "
TomboyX started more than ten years ago when married couple Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez co-founded a gender-neutral intimates and loungewear line in their single-car garage.
"Accidental entrepreneurs," Dunaway told Scripps News. "It was not what we were. We did not intentionally set out to do this."
It actually started with a shirt. Dunaway wanted to make a cool button-up shirt out of quality fabric.
"Customers started emailing Naomi and saying, 'Hey, we want boxer briefs,'" Dunaway said. "And so we got online, looked up boxer briefs for women on Nordstrom.com, and up came a pair of Spanx. And so we were pretty sure that wasn't what our customer was looking for."
The duo pivoted, making the first boxer brief targeted for women.
"We are gender neutral," Dunaway said. "We have a wide variety of customers all along the gender spectrum. But we do feel like this is important that we are for everybody."
"This person came up to us last night saying, 'This is the first time that I've ever seen myself reflected in an ad. It just felt like it was something that was for me, because I could see myself.' And that is the validating part of what our brand means to people," Gonzalez added.
The brand took off.
"When we started to think about making underwear, we were just shocked at the reality that you couldn't find anything above a 2x," Dunaway said. "And so immediately were like, we're not going to have a separate tab on our website where you have to click plus."
Stars like Lizzo can be seen sporting their signature elastic on social media.
Dunaway, a two-time breast cancer survivor, had a bilateral mastectomy and realized there was another need not being met. So the duo launched a post-mastectomy bra line that also serves trans women who wear prosthetics.
"As being part of the LGBTQ community, as co-founders, we knew what it was like to not be seen and not be represented. So it was, it was important to us that we do that," Dunaway said.
In 2022 alone, TomboyX sold a half million pairs of underwear. They've shipped to 48 different countries and even got a call from Target last year about the company's Pride collection.
"It was for us a mic drop moment in the history of the company. To know that our product was going to be in every Target store in the nation was huge. And they were inclusive in the category," Dunaway said. "So it was just really remarkable because we knew what it meant for people, for kids and adults and people, to walk into a Target and see themselves and be proud of who they were. Right up in the front of the store. And, it was really well received."
That was a year before Target faced some backlash over its LGBTQ+ merchandise, with some in-store confrontations and damage to displays.
"It's unfortunate that people are turning our lives into politics, in the way that we live in the way that we show up in the world," Dunaway said.
"As much as we possibly can, as a community, communicate with people that are not like us and have real conversations, I really feel that that's the only way that we can really move forward and change one heart and mind at a time," Gonzalez added.
You can still find TomboyX in Target, Kohl's and more large retailers soon. But the company still relies on its grassroots movement and word of mouth to gain awareness.
"We've always been a grassroots brand," Gonzalez said. "I would say today that we have a lot of big bright future ahead of us."
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