The business world wasn’t always welcoming to women. There were roadblocks and hurdles — and still are. Some are large, while others are small enough that they can be carried in your pocket. PWR WMN founders Kimberly Borges and Miriam McDonald stumbled upon this in the area of women’s work wear. Or rather, it’s the lack thereof.
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Borges and McDonald had to look professional as car saleswomen at Sewell Cadillac in Dallas. This meant that they had to mirror their suit-wearing male colleagues. This is easier said than done. Even though both women had blazers and pants, the outfits weren’t practical. “We couldn’t carry business cards or even have a pen or our phone handy because the clothes we were wearing weren’t designed or made with our needs, a woman’s needs, in mind,”Borges.
Women have worked at every moment of history. Today, women are working more than ever and are taking over positions that were once reserved for men. Then why is it that clothes haven’t followed suit?
At the turn of the 20th century, menswear became practical: top hats and tails made way for comfortable and pragmatic business duds like Brooks Brothers’ ready-to-wear No.1 Sack Suit, fashion’s first mass-produced tailored threads for men. But women’s work garments lagged behind, and it wasn’t until the ’80s that women had a separate wardrobe for work with the iconic power suit. It was expected that young women would leave their jobs after marriage. Women’s business attire followed contemporary fashion trends — which have long been dominated by male designers — instead of meeting real-world practical needs. “And then there is the antiquated notion that pockets ruin a woman’s silhouette or figure,”Borges.
“The fashion industry has not listened to women’s actual needs and desires for far too long,”Borges. “It dresses women as it wants to see them, not as they actually are.”Women need a fashion industry which understands function and not just looks. Borges and McDonald’s had no connection to fashion. According to McDonald’s, they were. “frustrated consumers,”Looking for business clothes that are not only stylish but also practical?
“That’s exactly why we created PWR WMN, to put a stop to outdated ideology and give women what they want and, more importantly, what they need,”Borges. And that’s more than just pockets. “Not only do we make our blazers with functional pockets that are made specific to women’s needs,” adds McDonald, “but we also make them machine washable so that a wearer’s cost of maintenance is incredibly low, allowing her to save money and invest in other areas of life.”
It is difficult to leave a successful career to start your own business. “I was pregnant with my first baby, and I knew that if I didn’t do it then, it would be much harder to take my first steps as an entrepreneur while also trying to navigate being a first-time mom,”Borges. Borges said that without investors, the only option was to do this themselves. “Every bonus went into savings, no questions asked,”Borges. McDonald’s said that they discussed their business idea for over four months before finally moving forward. “Our first step was to sit down and draw out the things we wish we could buy but couldn’t when we looked for blazers,” says McDonald. “After we drew out our ideas, we then filed for an LLC and started looking for a manufacturer.”
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The COVID-19 pandemic struck right after the company was founded in 2019. “I can’t tell you the panic we felt, knowing we had started a blazer company a few months before all offices shut down and no one was wearing work clothes anymore,”Borges. They persevered: they increased their social media presence, connected with others and kept pushing. “Eventually, people went back into the office or decided they wanted to look nice for their Zoom calls, and our sales picked back up again.”
Borges and McDonald’s created the PWR WMN brand based upon the idea that women shouldn’t sacrifice their looks for functionality. “They should be mutually inclusive,”Borges. “Women shouldn’t have to decide between feeling good and being prepared. Women deserve to express themselves and come to the table as they are, as well as be equipped with the tools they need to be successful.”
The result is a sharp, stylish, and easy-to-wear blazer that’s both practical and stylish. It’s not just the outside of the blazer that empowers women. “We also use PWR WMN blazers to celebrate other women by putting artwork from female artists in the lining,” says McDonald. “So you get to wear art and celebrate other women every time you wear a PWR WMN blazer.”
Now, almost four years later, McDonald’s and Borges look back at the lessons they learned along the way. “Starting a business forces you into the role of a constant student,”McDonald’s: “You don’t have to know it all or do it all, just start with one first step and approach it with lightness and confidence. Brick by brick, you will build the house.”
Borges faced one challenge in her journey: finding balance. “On the one hand, you want to invest every cent into your dreams and passions, but on the other, you have bills to pay and a little mouth to feed and nurture,”She says. “At the end of the day, we had to be smart about every step we took.”
Now, the two best friends–turned–co-owners are looking into their plans for the future of the company. “We are planning to scale PWR WMN and take her into other states,”Borges added, “We’d like for PWR WMN to be an international brand in the future.”They deserve more power.