Shopping for clothes as a queer, masculine woman or transgender man is no easy task.Traditional department stores are typically geared towards heterosexual people and don’t take into account those who are gender-queer or gender non-conforming. Enter Saint Harridan, a 500 Startups-backed company that creates and sells masculine clothing and accessories for women and transgender men.
This is a big market opportunity “because of the ways technology has allowed niche markets to exist and validate each other across geographies or in spite of geographical vastness,” Saint Harridan CEO Mary Going told TechCrunch. “As we gain more and more technology to bridge geographical gaps, we get to be more deeply ourselves in an individualistic kind of way so that as a masculine woman, I am not a freak because I can connect with other masculine women all over the world. And technology is a phenomenon that allows us to do that.”
“I was intimidated by [Wildfang] when they first came out,” Going said. “They have $2 million in backing. I figured they were going to wipe me out, but they’ve just gotten more and more mainstream and more feminine.”
Saint Harridan prides itself as being far removed from the mainstream. In fact, Saint Harridan’s mission is really about validating and inspiring a community of people that doesn’t get validated in mainstream society, Going said.
“I wouldn’t even say we’re a clothing company,” Going said. “We’re a company whose mission is about validation and inspiration, and for people who have traditionally been marginalized and sort of felt the opposite of those things. When you feel you go into a store and at the most you can expect to be tolerated, that sucks. For masculine women, we’re a place where you’re not a freak anymore. You’re expected — not just tolerated and certainly not rejected. You’re expected and appreciated and wanted. That’s what I think of us as.”
What helps Saint Harridan stand out from the pack is its sizing and fitting process. The company started with a standard men’s suit, put it on a woman and then noted everything wrong with the way the suit fit on women. Last year, Saint Harridan traveled to 15 cities throughout the U.S. and measured over 2,000 women. A couple of things they found that don’t work for women in men’s suits are the size of the armhole and space for the bust. In total, Saint Harridan’s base pattern takes into account over 60 differences between the pants and the jacket.
Saint Harridan is currently in the process of launching its ready-to-wear line, featuring vests, dress shirts and eventually, pants, jackets and full suits. For now, only custom-made suits are available, which start at $898. Since ordering clothes online might cause some anxiety for people, Saint Harridan recently opened a store in Oakland, Calif. for walk-in fittings and buying the ready-to-wear items. Saint Harridan’s bread and butter is clothing for masculine women and trans men, but the long-term vision for the company is to enter other niche markets.
“There’s a whole lot of stuff around sizing that people feel very marginalized around,” Going said. “There are all kinds of ways where we could repeat these niches and become a pretty big company.”
With that in mind, Saint Harridan recently joined 500 Startups, a four-month accelerator program that offers entrepreneurs access to mentorship, office space and $100,000 in funding in exchange for 5% of the company.
“We needed the education around some of the how-to, growth machine kind of stuff,” Going said. “And the second thing, and more important for us, is we needed an education of how to swim in the sea of raising more money than I had ever been exposed to.”