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Spotlighting Founders on the Leap Platform for International Women’s Day

March 8, 2022
Spotlighting Founders on the Leap Platform for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s achievement the world over, as well as call attention to our society’s gender inequality and other issues that women face internationally. To that end, we wanted to spotlight some of the many women founders and leaders across the Leap Platform at the brands we deploy stores with.

Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey, Co-Founders, Birdies

Bianca and Marisa, were two busy moms and entrepreneurs who were tired of hosting dinner parties in their homes while wearing the same old slippers or socks. So, together they invented an entire new category of footwear: one that combined the support of a sneaker, the softness of a slipper, and the style of a do-it-all flat.

Now they’ve cultivated a passionate following and created a thriving business, deploying their first store with Leap on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA in August of 2021. Now shoppers can discover a whole family of comfortable and stylish flats, slides, sneakers, and sandals designed to look and feel great inside and out. 

“Birdies is a brand built by women, for women. We’re committed to serving as a champion for all women and to building a community centered around inspiring, supporting, and empowering each other to live our lives with purpose. From our internal personal development opportunities to our partnership with Angel City Football Club, our Fly Together mentorship program with Step Up, and other impact initiatives, we are committed to living this vision day in and day out. As we look to the future, we are excited to scale these initiatives to make more meaningful impact, create more opportunities and continue building a strong community.”
Marisa Sharkey, Co-Founder and President, Birdies

Arielle Charnas, CEO, Something Navy

Arielle Charnas founded Something Navy in 2009 as her personal style blog. She quickly became a trusted style authority, and has evolved Something Navy into a full fashion, media, and lifestyle brand. In 2020, Leap deployed the first Something Navy boutique on Bleecker Street, carrying their full independent fashion line. 

From there, the brand has expanded to the Upper East Side in NY, to Melrose and Fashion Island in Los Angeles, and to Highland Park Village in Dallas. A celebration of personal style, The Something Navy collection embodies Arielle’s aesthetic and features elevated wardrobe staples and not-so-basic essentials. Their editorial content is filled with inspiring and engaging lifestyle stories from Arielle’s life and the wider Something Navy world.

Haley Byfield, Co-Founder & Lead Designer, Yoga Democracy

Haley founded Yoga Democracy with the vision of creating high quality, sustainable garments for the yoga lifestyle. She is deeply involved in every part of the business, starting the sewing process for every product and touching every garment that gets completed, as well as ensuring every employee is set up for success each and every day.

Yoga Democracy is also a deeply conscious and mindful brand. All their materials are made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets, using a no-water dyeing process that cuts down on waste. They also support local communities through their dedication to manufacturing in the US. Their first powered by Leap store is at Hudson Yards in NYC!  

Lia Kes, Founder, KES

A native of Kibbutz Afikim, Lia Kes grew up in Israel, where she learned to use a sewing machine at the age of 12 and was inspired by the unique utilitarian traditions of her community. After studying as a fashion designer, she relocated to New York City and launched her namesake collection.

With an emphasis on modern, stylish cuts and natural, biodegradable materials like silk, linen, cotton, and leather, KES's designs leave a lasting impression. Kes’ designs reflect her upbringing, the realities of her current life, and her vision for the future. As an environmentalist, Kes focuses on sustainability and offers an organically dyed program as part of her collection. KES just deployed their first store with Leap in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.

Amy Voloshin, Co-Founder, Printfresh

The daughter of industrial designers, Amy graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Textiles and honed her design skills early in her career at Urban Outfitters and Free People. She launched Printfresh Studio, a to-the-trade textile design studio, in 2006 at the age of 25. After 15 years of designing prints for the fashion industry, Amy took the leap to create her own lifestyle collection, Printfresh. A majority woman-owned business, Printfresh is a collection of sleepwear and lifestyle items that are inspired by plants, animals, and home décor. 

In addition to their online shop, Printfresh launched their first storefront on the Leap Platform in 2022 in New York’s NoLita neighborhood, and continues to grow the brand through collaborations and expanded collections. 

Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Founders, Aurate

Fed up looking for jewelry that is both stylish and made from high-quality materials at an affordable price, longtime friends from grad school Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui first conceived of Aurate over brunch. Hailing from the Netherlands and Morocco respectively, Sophie’s background in fashion and Bouchra’s experience in finance made for a perfect partnership to transform the fine jewelry market. 

The results have been a lineup of products that are ethical, chic, and well-priced. The Aurate brand is centered around empowerment, and encourages customers to buy for themselves. They are bicoastal on the Leap Platform, with a store in San Francisco on Fillmore and another on the Upper East Side in New York City.

Adriana Carrig, Founder & CEO, Little Words Project

Carrig started Little Words Project as a brand with a greater purpose—one focused on building a community around kindness, self-love, collaboration, authenticity and inclusivity. With fun bracelets that encourage kindness through inspiring words of encouragement chosen by each customer. Little Words Project believes that the words you tell yourself matter, and their bracelets help you remember to love yourself first, and then pass that love onwards! Now shoppers can discover this unique line of accessories at their first retail store on Bleecker Street, powered by Leap. 

Ashley Merrill, Founder and CEO, Lunya and Lahgo

The idea for Lunya came to Merrill when she realized she wasn’t making the most of the final hours of her day—despite it being the time that she looked forward to most. This realization sent her on a journey to find comfortable, quality, and flattering sleepwear. Nothing she found matched the modern woman she saw herself as, and so Lunya and Lahgo was born to create the kind of sleepwear and loungewear Merrill had in mind. Their first store on the Leap Platform is in Austin at Domain Northside.

Heidi Zak, CEO, ThirdLove

ThirdLove was inspired by Zak's own challenges finding bras that fit comfortably and look beautiful.  In 2013 she left her job at Google to take a data-driven approach to designing bras. They started by working with 100 women to design prototype bras and an app that would determine cup size—and found that standard cup sizes do not fit 37% of women, leading to the creation of their half-cup sizes.

Now they are one of the world’s fastest-growing lingerie brands. They are also the largest donor of undergarments in the US, donating over $50 million of products to help women make powerful life changes, plus returning products that can’t be donated or resold to upcycle these materials for new uses. The first ThirdLove stores powered by Leap have opened at Fashion Island in Newport Beach and on Abbot Kinney in Venice, California—with more on the way!

We continue to be inspired by the vision and dedication of all the women we work with, both at the brands for which we deploy stores, and at Leap internally. We look forward to continuing to help support and empower women and using our Platform to amplify their voices wherever possible.

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