Interview: Girlboss Founder & CEO Sophia Amoruso Is Building A New Kind Of Community For Professional Women

In the wake of #MeToo activism, Girlboss founder and former Nasty Gal CEO, Sophia Amoruso, is taking her efforts in supporting women's success to the next level with a new professional community

Sophia Amoruso is the founder and CEO of Girlboss, an organization dedicated to providing support for women at all stages of their careers, with everything from wellness resources to financial advice. She got her start as the founder of online retailer Nasty Gal, which rode the wave of early millennial-oriented ecommerce to great success until its very public bankruptcy filing and acquisition by BooHoo Group in 2017. Along the way, Amoruso collected her wisdom gleaned as leader of what was once one of the internet’s fastest growing retailers into #Girlboss, an autobiography offering advice to other ambitious young women.

Since stepping down as CEO of Nasty Gal, Amoruso has dedicated herself to building Girlboss, creating an annual Girlboss Rally, online content, a podcast, and a recently announced private networking platform for professional women. Launching in 2019, Amoruso hopes the Girlboss community can help provide women with the resources that platforms like LinkedIn have not, filling a niche in a time of rapid social change.

This year’s New York rally welcomed 1,100 women from 31 different countries over two days of programming. PSFK spoke to Amoruso following the event for an inside look at how she is using her past experience to build a community of women supporting women across industries and at all levels of achievement.

Roseanna Roberts (PSFK) : You’re about a year into running the Girlboss platform?

Sophia Amoruso:  It’s actually two years. Our first rally was in March of 2017—this is our fourth. We’ve also been creating content on girlboss.com, and our podcast network.

Then there’s the product I announced yesterday in terms of bringing the community and this feeling and all this content on to a single platform—we’re in beta. It’s a closed early environment where we have women and they’re using it, but it’s not fully baked. What we shared [at the Girlboss Rally] was an iteration of it that will be completely built the next few months.

What do you feel, in the time that you’ve had the platform, that you’ve learned about your community?

What was really the basis of it was this Facebook group, called the Girlboss Gang, that we’ve been watching for a year. They’re asking questions like, “I have three logos. Can you guys help me choose one?” “I have a website that’s not converting. Can you click through and tell me where you’re getting hung up?”

Or, “I’m going to Austin. I need WiFi and an outlet to work for the day. Where can I do that for free? Do you guys know?” Then stuff like, “I’m having a really hard day. I need some words of support.”

It really runs the gamut. The general theme is that they’re entrepreneurial, whether they’re in a career or they’re building a career. We have women from Uber, Google, Heineken, women who are really in these incredible positions in their companies. There are entrepreneurs, but there are intrapreneurs. We have these women who’re actually building businesses.

Then there’s everything in between, where they may have a career, but they have a side hustle—they don’t know if they’re ready to make it their full time, or face fear about doing so.

What do you think is the key to engagement and getting these women to start to have these conversations on the platform?

It’s going to be built woman by woman, or relationship by relationship, individually. I don’t think this is something that we can really broadcast because it wouldn’t be as authentic as the way the community has already grown. The hashtag has been used 13 million times. That’s not because of us on Instagram. That’s something they did.

In many ways, the Girlboss community has built itself. We’re just showing up now four and a half years a later saying, “Hey, we’re going to give you a place to do this.” We started with Girlboss Rally and we’re taking that online, and creating an environment where it can happen all day every day.

Have you seen the conversation change since you first launched?

I’d say identity and activism have become a part of the conversation where they weren’t when I wrote Girlboss, because we were in a very different time. I took feminism for granted because I was in my bubble and I thought everyone was already there.

I also had the privilege of only having been in companies that I invented or created rather than being in a corporate environment with the kinds of things that we’ve seen come to light.

It seems that community is at the core of what you’re building. Could you explain how that’s manifesting through Girlboss, and why also it’s important to create offline experiences?

We just want to be the conduit for something that already exists. Girlboss is part of it, but it’s a much, much larger conversation that we’re part of. Experiences are a way for people to have a sense of discovery that we want to replicate online, but I don’t think it’s been done very well. Especially when it comes to professional networking or professional resources.

Where you Google something, you might end up on WikiHow or a YouTube video of somebody who’s giving you advice to start a business who’s probably never started a business.

Having that level of credibility when you can see people’s faces is really powerful. The way we curate such a diverse group of women on our panels who are seasoned executives to women who are just starting their businesses is important, because our women are at different stages in their careers.

Just highlighting people who have had a long‑storied career—there’s a lot of inspiration there and a rich experience that women who’ve been in the workforce for 20-plus years can share, as well as the businesses that are innovating and marketing in new ways. I’m inspired by it because five years ago when I was building Nasty Gal, marketing was different. It’s changed so quickly.

It’s a completely different game now. How do you feel like you’re empowering women to participate in your community ? How does their feedback inform what you’re developing?

At the beginning of each day, I asked everybody to turn to one another, introduce themselves and exchange either business cards or email addresses. Often you just introduce yourself to someone, maybe you see them later in the day but you don’t have the confidence to ask them to stay in touch. Each one of those relationships creates opportunity. If I hadn’t said yes to so many things over the first 10 years of my career, I’d be in a really different place. Who knew that a book would turn into a second career? What else would I be doing right now? Consulting for fashion companies?

In terms of encouraging interaction, we have the conversation pitch. It happens naturally because that’s what people came to do. I opened up yesterday saying, “At some point in your career, have you thought networking is kind of creepy?” Because I have. That word can be kind of creepy.

Then I asked, “How many of you came here to network?” Everybody raised their hands. What is the stigma around networking? Is it that we want something from one another? Is it that we have to admit that it’s awkward? What is it? We want to create a place where it’s expected, it’s mandatory.

They’re here to take action. With one another, with themselves personally. There are notebooks out, not phones. These girls are soaking it all up and they want to go home and immediately implement what they learned.

Have you noticed any ideas or themes at this particular rally that are new?

Wellness is the theme. The Museum of Ice Cream founder, Maryellis Bunn, was here yesterday. They’re banning phones from their experiences. That’s a huge risk to their business because that’s been all of their marketing—inherently shareable.

What these devices are doing to us and our memory, how much time we spend on them, how they affect our mental health—it has become evident that there’s a negative impact on us. Bumble introduced a news function. and the new iOS can babysit your time.

The dopamine rush that this created, companies are now trying to help us solve. Arianna Huffington came on stage yesterday and told us about the sleep revolution that she’s created and everything they’re doing at Thrive Global. She’s really done the grind. The glory of the hustle is over‑glorified.

I was partly responsible years ago in propagating that. It’s something I’m a lot more careful about evangelizing, even though it’s important at times. It’s a question of how do you make sure you’re also taking care of yourself? That integration is now essential. That’s what we’re doing with the Girlboss community.

It’s a place where you can share not just what you do, but who you are, your personality. Monday through Friday we’re a professional networking platform and on weekends we’re sharing our fun drinking adventures. We’re living all of those together all the time.

What would say are the most significant signs of progress based on the female empowerment community?

The KPIs we want to tackle: Are these women making more money? Are they making one another richer? How can we facilitate that? Are they negotiating more? Are they starting more businesses as a result of being a part of the Girlboss community? That’s what we want to build this around more than revenue metrics or daily active user metrics.

Of course, we want people using the platform. The most important thing is that they’re deriving value from it.

Is there anything else that we can expect coming down the pipe that you would like to share?

Bigger and better rallies. So much substance comes out of these two days. It’s a lot of work, but it’s easy for us because women are so underserved.

One final comment: You’ve been incredibly honest in a lot of the interviews and information that’s out there about you, which really breaks down that barrier so that women can actually start talk honestly and openly.

Thanks. I could have gone into hiding, but everything was already headline news. I might as well turn lemons into lemonade. Nothing is really ever a lemon. It’s all an opportunity to learn.

Written for and originally published by PSFK

Is Waterless The Next Wave In Beauty?

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If the word anhydrous sounds more scientific to you than skincare, let this be your introduction (and cheat sheet) to the world of waterless beauty.

What Is Waterless Beauty? The Facts.

From a technical perspective, the definition of anhydrous is a substance that contains no water. When it comes to beauty, anhydrous products are those that are water-free.

You might be surprised to learn that most beauty products contain anywhere from 70-80% water, with shampoos, gels, and toners ringing in closer to 95%.

A quick scan of the back of your beauty products will prove this point, listing water (or aqua) as one of the first ingredients. This means that the products are going to be diluted—and likely not as effective.

Most Common Anhydrous Beauty Products:

Oils: It can be counterintuitive to use an oil to cleanse (read: like attracts like, oil attracts oil and also dissolves residue), but cleansing oils are the latest in complexion care. They are also great moisturizers, operating on the philosophy that oil traps water on the skin, encouraging long-lasting hydration. Look for options that use oils such as almond, jojoba, and rosehip, which absorb into skin without leaving behind a slippery slick.

Balms: One of the most effective solutions for solving winter skin woes, balms are the ultimate hydrators that can also double as makeup remover. The uber-concentrated formulas are often luxuriously dense blends of oil and wax that soothe the driest of dry patches but work equally well for oily, break-out prone complexions.

Powders: Cleansers have dominated the category (a little sprinkle of one of these is perfect for gentle exfoliation), but a number of brands have started to experiment with other product applications, such as topical vitamin C. When mixed with your favorite serum, they become potent upgrades to your skincare routine.

Bars: These are the compact answer to your space- (and environment-) saving dreams. The minimal packaging and concentrated formulas cut down on waste. Best of all, bars have moved beyond traditional soap; you can find your full arsenal of products, from shampoo and conditioner to body lotion, in bar form. Added bonus: they’re TSA approved!

Key Benefits Of Waterless Beauty

Water has reigned supreme as an additive because it’s both an affordable and neutral ingredient—it can be added to virtually any product without concerns over skin reactions. However, H2O does promote the growth of microorganisms, which means that preservatives must also be present, raising questions, particularly within the clean beauty community, over potential negative impacts. Waterless enthusiasts will also argue that water actually dries out the skin, taking natural oils away as it evaporates.

Anhydrous products, on the other hand, are naturally self-preserving and often use concentrated forms of antioxidants to keep their formulas fresh, which can carry additional skin benefits. When you remove the water, you can produce more highly concentrated formulas, which means lighter applications of a product with the same amount of oomph. In other words, a little goes a long way. What’s more, this smaller footprint requires less packaging and reduces transportation costs.

To me, anhydrous beauty represents the ultimate luxury in skincare. The rich formulas and high concentration of ingredients literally feel expensive to the touch. Because you only need a small amount of product, I have found that I am more mindful in my application of these products. The ritual encourages me to take pause and think about my skin and overall well-being, which feels more like an act of self-care than a means to moisturize.

Potential Challenges:

Since water acts as filler for a lot of beauty products in the market, it can be expensive to go “waterless.” Higher concentrations demand higher price points.

Why Is This Relevant Now?

Beyond daily showers, flushed toilets, and washed dishes, there are many under-the-radar elements that add up to a heavy water footprint. Case in point: the amount of water that goes into making all of those products sitting pretty on your top shelf.

The Nature Conservancy estimates that the average American uses what’s equivalent to 32,911 glasses of water a day. That’s a lot of water that we can’t afford to waste. Experts believe that 1.2 billion people currently lack access to clean drinking water. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. As reality sets in, water conservation becomes a key issue for the planet.

Originally written for an published by Counter Intelligence and reposted by BeautyMatter

5 Of The Most Engaging Activist-Inspired Installations at 29Rooms

Refinery29’s sold-out event produced experiences centered on art and activism that went well beyond branding.

As New York Fashion Week comes to a close, we look back on one of the hottest tickets in town this season. Refinery29’s 29Rooms had over 20,000 visitors from 45 states and 13 countries—a testament to the far-reaching appeal of the lifestyle media outlet.

In its third iteration, Refinery29 brought together a curated selection of independent artists and musicians, brands, and a handful of celebrities who collaborated to create 29 unique installations within a Williamsburg warehouse. The space was a funhouse of color and distraction, like a whimsical Instagram wonderland. Beyond that surface layer, it was an experience with substance, symbolism, and in-your-face activism.

Creative director Albie Alexander Hueston said this year’s “Turn It Into Art” theme “celebrates the transformative power of creativity in its ability to lift spirits, shift perception, and drive change. From controversial issues like gender bathroom laws to riding a carousel with unicorns, 29Rooms 2017 is our most thought-provoking and joyful experience yet.”

29Rooms tapped into the ways that art and social issues are intertwined, and—if the crowds are anything to go by—people are interested in engaging with this conversation. Below, we highlight five of the 29 rooms that explored feminism, self-acceptance, and other culturally relevant issues head-on.

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Room 3: Erotica in Bloom

At the entrance of 29Rooms, ‘Erotica in Bloom’ hangs like picture of floral decadence. Upon closer inspection, this swirling world of oversized blooms reveals these flowers as symbols of female fertility. In collaboration with Maisie Cousins, a photographer known for her provocative use of nature as expressions of sensuality, this modern garden of (She)-den invites you in with playful giggles and whispers coming from behind the petals. Short videos are hidden deeper inside the buds, with beautiful imagery celebrating the female body, sexuality and nature. A sweet clean fragrance, like fresh picked wild flowers, lingers in the air, subtly persuading your senses to drift into this dreamscape.

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Room 11: The Future Is Female

We’ve all had those days where we would just love to put on some gloves and take it out on a punching bag. Artist Jen Mussari and drummer Madame Gandhi capitalized on the sport’s current popularity, producing the ultimate creative expression: turning that aggressive energy into music. Hitting one of the punching bags inside this installation activates sounds. Both the bags and the gloves have painted lyrics like “The future is made of what we do each day” and “Fight for the future” to set the tone. The more you punch, the more music you make. The installation celebrates inner and outer strength and the power that can come from them.

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Room 22: NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism

As you swing into your chair in this conceptual salon, you are transported into the body of a young black woman. This is no ordinary trip to the hairdresser. Hyphen-Labs has created a transhumanistic experience that forces the viewer to walk in another person’s shoes (via her hair), if only for a few minutes. This virtual voyage confronts some larger themes, such as how do we harness synaptic plasticity to free our minds so can we reprogram our mental maps? When will we move past the limitations of our memories, and who is building our future? This experience confronts an empowered future, limited only by one’s own imagination.

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Room 24: Hear Our Voice

The women responsible for organizing the January 21 Women’s March on Washington (and worldwide) have created a bustling activist headquarters, engaging passersby while bridging the gap between art and political activism. The point here is clear: Art can be a catalyst for change. Colorfully illustrated postcards carry hard hitting slogans such as “Hope Over Fear” and “We Can. We Have. We Will.” These messages encourage everyone to get involved. Pens, senator’s addresses and an in-house mailbox (and postage) create an immediate call to action in a fun, creative setting.

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Room 26: Gender Neutral

Walking into Room 26 is like a time warp, bringing you back to your first day of middle school, hiding in the bathroom stall at lunch – but this time, all of the graffiti on the walls are kind and compassionate words of encouragement. Transparent’s Jill Soloway and artist Xavier Schipani have reimagined a space like those old-school restrooms but in a trans-safe environment that garners feelings of positivity, confidence and love in a time when the place you do your business is everyone’s business.

Written for and originally published by PSFK, and republished by BeautyMatter

Case Study: The Rise of Pink

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Pink, a color that was once thought of as the quintessential mark of femininity, now represents something quite different in 2017.

Beginning in fashion and then quickly adapted by beauty, pink has been reclaimed by women as a modern representation of female strength, repositioning the former ditzy association with the lady-like hue.  Women now wear a bold fuchsia lip or pale pink pantsuit as a symbol of female strength.

This shift in rosy outlook has been in the works for some time.  Over the past decade, the role of women has seen significant change. Women have asserted their position in the workforce (and beyond), becoming confident in their identity, celebrating individuality and creative spirit. Strong female role models, from Beyoncé to Hillary Clinton have encouraged women to lead as women, celebrating the differences from their male counterparts. Instead of rejecting classically feminine colors, they have been embraced.

Over the years brands have used the color to appeal to the female demographic – imbuing it with meaning. The cosmetics magnate Mary Kay empowered women to enter the workforce on their own terms, and rewarded hard work by gifting top performers with blush pink Cadillacs.

Fast forward to 2017, where “millennial pink” is representative of a “post pretty” movement ruled by ironic, honest beauty. Indie cosmetics darling Glossier is the poster child, wielding the color like a product itself.

As businesses start to gain a conscience and align themselves with social movements, pink continues to be a beacon of female strength. Social justice driven brand The Lipstick Lobby donates 100% of net profits from the sale of their signature shade, Kiss My Pink to Planned Parenthood.  The high impact color brings attention to the cause, while at the same time being a fresh and flattering tone on the lips.

Like kale and avocado toast, Pink is currently having a moment. It is yet to be seen what lies ahead for the hue, but it is safe to say that it is no longer just a color, but a symbol of the modern woman – whether she’s wearing makeup or is au naturel. 

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Written for and published by Counter Intelligence

Images courtesy of Pinterest, Glossier and The Lipstick Lobby

Creating Color: Behind The Scenes of Trend Forecasting

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Whenever I tell someone that my profession is working as a color trend forecaster, I often get a lot of blank looks. It’s a relatively under the radar field, and those that have heard of it rarely understand what it involves.

At its root, color forecasting is a tool that helps companies gain an edge by understanding shifts in the consumer landscape and the trends that will appeal to their customers.

What's It All About?

Have you ever wondered how products go from a concept to the runway to the sales floor? There is a reason that all of a sudden, it seems like everyone is wearing fuchsia lipstick. This is the work of color trend forecasting.

A trend forecaster seeks to anticipate cultural nuances, socio-political shifts, innovative design and technologies to inspire the latest and greatest within a particular industry.  There is no magic crystal ball, but instead a practice that relies on research, observation, analysis and intuition to connect the dots.

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What Does The Process Look Like?

These Are The Basic Steps That Go Into Creating A Color Trend Forecasting:

1. Observation: A key component to trend development is watching to see what is going on in the stores, on the street, at events and on the runway. Pretty much everywhere you look can be considered a source of inspiration. As a trend forecaster, your brain never fully gets to rest.

2. Research: Investigating what is on the horizon is what sets apart a trend forecaster and a   cool hunter. Since we are generally working up to 2 years ahead of the selling season, it is important to keep on top of new innovations. Visiting tradeshows, speaking to manufacturers and learning about new technologies all help to create a vision of the future. Understanding what the world will look like for the season in question is an important part of this step. This includes reviewing the art, design, architecture, film, entertainment, and sporting events that will help shape our tastes

3. Analysis: After collecting all of this information, the real work begins. Recognizing patterns is a central part of the process.

4. Intuition: This one is hard to teach. It’s all about instinct, understanding cultural cues and trusting your gut

Some trend forecasting agencies rely on the intuition of one particular expert, a method I refer to as the “guru model,” to analyze market trends. Decisions are made based on the thought leadership of this leading specialist.

Others, such as The Color Association of the United States, embrace a slightly more democratic process by enlisting the help of a panel committee of experts. These influencers are tastemakers in their specific industry. They are often designers, retail buyers, stylists or merchandisers. When they come together it is an explosion of creative energy. At these committee meetings, any source of inspiration is fair game. 

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What happens at a Trend Forecasting Meeting?

Sharing of Ideas: Each panelist brings in what they think will be the driving influences for the season. These resources are often magazine tears, color swatches and found objects, though sometimes, people get very creative. I have seen everything from dried flowers and artisanal salt to vintage playboy magazines to inspire the development of a nuanced color palette. Influences can be researched and be presented as fully formed concepts, or they may capture a feeling, moment or simply, a color.

After everyone has presented their seasonal inspirations, the next step is to identify synergies within all of the committee members’ inspirations. Often times, panelists have picked up on similar influences, which means the trends  - and colors - overlap. This process begins to outline dominant themes, and highlights commonalities in inspiration as well as colo

Once the trend stories have been confirmed and the color palettes are developed, each trend color is named. These names connect back to their driving influences

Depending on what company is producing the forecast, colors may be appear on color cards as dyed swatches, or have a reference to a color notation such as Pantone so that designers can match the color to a reference in their library.

From here, designers, marketers and merchandisers buy subscriptions to these color cards, influencing their creative output, be it the products they develop, in-store displays and promotional materials

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When it comes to beauty, trend analysis can assist in the development of everything from scent – and what we want to smell like – to whether or not matte nail polish will be in this season. Color is one of the biggest influences that encourage purchasing behavior, and as such, color forecasting is big business in beauty.

In recent years, color forecasting has been given a more visible role in retail through the marketing practices of color agency Pantone. The brand has worked to popularize their “color of the year” through partnerships with industry relevant businesses such as Sephora. Despite my personal view that there is not a one-size fits all color for the year, Pantone has become an industry authority, leading many brands – from boutique to mass market– to follow its direction. 

Written for and published by Counter Intelligence