Women have strived for gender equality for ages, demanding equal opportunity and salary. But what about in workwear? Sarah Greisdorf, a senior studying computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences, has a solution: pockets.
Since her freshman year, Greisdorf has tested many different models of how to best complete this mission. Greisdorf initially began by sending a newsletter promoting clothes with pockets in them which developed into the start-up “The Collective,” which aggregated clothes with pockets from other suppliers on a website, she said.
“Right now, on average, women’s pockets are 48 percent shorter than men’s pockets, which means we can’t carry anything and they can carry everything,” Greisdorf said. “The driving force … has always been how can we most easily get women clothes with pockets.”
Today, however, Greisdorf has taken the leap to create the solution herself: manufacturing her own women’s clothing with pockets. Her start-up, now called “Holdette,” is a women’s clothing company that plans to release its first line of suits this year, Greisdorf said.
Ian Mashiter, director of curriculum at the BUild Lab, who has worked with Greisdorf since her time in the [email protected] Summer Accelerator in 2018, said Greisdorf’s time studying the market eventually led her to pivot to creating the product herself to be successful.
“It’s the process of discovery and learning that [Greisdorf] has been through,” Mashiter said, “leading into this conclusion that to really make a profit, she has to just make her own clothes.”
Greisdorf said the clothing is geared toward women just entering the workforce, a demographic she does not think the current market meets.
“Workwear is a big area in which there’s no functionality,” Greisdorf said. “A lot of the options are targeted at women older than us, and so women entering the workforce for the first time are kind of left in the dark.”
Greisdorf designed the suits herself, with assistance from a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, who showed her how to do flat lay drawing and fashion drawing. She said she worked hard to find the perfect material and fit to make everything drape well and fit comfortably.
“If something didn’t already exist on the market,” Greisdorf said, “it felt like the only thing left to do is just to make something myself.”
Greisdorf said that Holdette, now led by a team of five college-age women, will produce the suits in black, pink, light blue and dark blue, in sizes 0-14. The first sample was completed March 16, Greisdorf said, and a crowdfunding campaign will launch in the near future to support the first production of 200 suits.
Shea Robinson, the media relations manager for Holdette and a junior in the College of Communication, said that beyond just adding pockets to the clothes, Holdette strives to be sustainable and affordable as well.
“What’s the point in making a cute suit and fashionable suit and everything this day and age if it’s not also sustainable or as close as we can make it,” Robinson said. “Another factor is we want to make sure it’s affordable … because again, there’s no point having a cute, functional and sustainable suit or blazer or pants if it’s not also affordable.”
Another major goal for the company is to create a community, Robinson said, for example in highlighting women in the workplace on their Instagram and blog.
“Since we aren’t offering a tangible product at the moment, we’ve been focusing on building that community element a lot on our blog,” Robinson said.
Recent blog posts have been themed around International Women’s Day on March 8 and on advising readers on how to best work from home in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mashiter said he thinks Greisdorf will be successful in her work and in expanding Holdette after graduation.
“I think [Greisdorf] is arriving in a market that’s becoming increasingly aware that this is a problem that needs to be fixed,” Mashiter said. “She’s arriving at the market at the right time [and] I think she’s got some positive tailwinds with her.”
Greisdorf said she is motivated to persevere through challenges and fix this issue for women, and said she is hopeful for the future.
“To be harnessing energy around an idea that literally every single woman I’ve talked to understands, it makes me know that I’m tapping into something really important,” Greisdorf said. “By solving this problem, I’ll be making so many lives easier.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled founder Sarah Greisdorf’s last name and has been fixed.