Have you ever made small talk at a party or a first date, personality shining, dressed in your strategically sexy and feminine ‘fit and then casually mentioned that you’re an avid soccer player? And your new acquaintance reacts with a jaw to the floor?
Have you ever worked in a non-profit or academic space, and felt the need to suppress your frivolous girly side? Or held back legitimate concerns or ideas in a professional setting for fear of being a little too much?
You’re not alone. Womxn have long shouldered societal expectations that restrict them to a proverbial box. With time, learning, and plenty of unlearning, HS co-founders Meghan and Leah were inspired to apply their skills and experience to create a brand that upends these notions and celebrates womxn who contain multitudes.
Unsurprisingly, Meghan and Leah are embodiments of the HarperSage #DoYourDuo mantra. Meghan grew up the youngest in a large family of boys. She adapted to their competitive nature and quickly realized that soccer was the perfect outlet to compete and engage her team spirit.
She went on to join the rigorous world of college soccer with the UW Badgers, a world that felt at odds with her burgeoning softer, creative side. Nevertheless, she decided to pursue a major in fashion and textile design while continuing to play D1 soccer. Straddling these two worlds challenged her identity and raised questions of which side was truly Meghan (spoiler- both!) She was a “social floater,” navigating between two different styles, two different friend groups, two different interests, and even two different states- Wisconsin for college and then NYC to pursue fashion.
It was then that she started to wonder why there wasn’t an apparel brand out there that spoke to the experience of having two styles and navigating other contrasting social scenarios. She felt siloed into a single identity when shopping but, as a woman, she craved clothing that would help her express both her soft and strong sides.
Leah on the other hand grew up moving from town to town before her family settled in Tennessee. Southern culture imposed a very traditional and feminine way of being and she leaned right in, even taking up figure skating, a sport characterized by softness and femininity. Between traditional Tennessee living and regular ice show performances and competitions (translation: lots of gel and glitter), it goes without saying that she was comfortable embracing her feminine side.
(Leah as Clara in a production of Nutcracker on Ice).
Leah was also a skilled math and science student, pursuing the subjects in high school and college and facing micro aggressions in these male dominated fields along the way. The adversity she faced helped her develop a thick skin and strong work ethic that would become invaluable to her future role as an entrepreneur. After graduating college, she decided to forego a career in science and applied to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. She was accepted and moved to the city just a few months later. The transition to follow was nothing short of a culture shock, but it wasn't anything a little style update and determination couldn't fix. It was then that she started to tap even more into her masculine energy and also started to dress more comfortable and casually than before so she could endure long days.
Not long after graduating, Leah and Meghan started to commiserate over being siloed into one style, but also learned to celebrate their multitudes. Together they navigated a taxing but equally inspiring city while honing in on their personal styles and shedding the societal expectations that had informed them for too long. Their budding friendship progressed to business partnership when they dreamed of a brand that catered to dynamic women and operated ethically. Two years after writing an initial business plan, HarperSage has not only created three beautiful capsules, but has cultivated a sense of community among peers that challenge the norms, embrace different styles, and celebrate their softness and their strength.