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Megan Kinney on the Meaning of “for Women, by Women” in Modern Times

Megan Kinney

Whether it’s familial ties, activism within her brand, or designing for her consumers, Megan Kinney has seen and done everything for women and by women. Especially in these times where more women are breaking limits and glass ceilings, empowerment is something we all need more of.

The union of core values between Megan and her brand, Meg, are truly authentic, as seen in her journey within the industry. With hashtags like #EmpowHer circulating social media, Megan does everything to uplift women through her clothing and company’s mission.

For many designers, knowledge of the industry and designing begin when they step foot in the classroom of their dream college. For Megan, the learning began as a little girl with a mother and grandmother owning shops in her hometown in Canada. Megan utilized her mother’s work ethic when she established Meg. She was hands-on working in stores, folding and organizing stock, and even stepping up to make sales. Megan learned valuable lessons from her mother and grandmother.

“My mom managed to work every single day, come home and make some experimental dinner for all of us to eat,” Megan reminisces. “It’s ironic to think about, back in the day, how you watched women work; they took on a full-time job, a full-time business, a full-time responsibility and then still do everything at home. No one actually did a very good job of dividing the roles. But, watching as a child growing up, I think seeing other women take a hold of their ambition and be able to make money and experience something independent of family, makes it so that that’s your norm. Which I, obviously, didn’t even think about until I became an older.”

Meg by Megan Kinney

In addition to learning a great deal about what it takes to run a clothing business from the female role models in her life, Megan studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Like many of us, Megan felt as though the coursework of her discipline did not realistically align with the demands of working in the fashion industry. She was eager to start designing and creating her brand.

She recalls the network of friends and mentors she had from the array of talent at FIT. At 22 years old, Megan designed her first collection with assistance from other students, who were the variety of creative people that aided in its production. Her friends came from all pursuits, including photography, makeup artists, hairstylists, and models.

“I had all these people that helped me put together my look book for a 12-piece collection that I launched, just going, ‘I’ll try,’’ said Megan.

After completing her first collection, she had sample sales out of her Chelsea third-floor apartment. She later had an epiphany where she thought to herself: why not combine a store with her living arrangements, rather than having her living arrangements be taken over without it even being a storefront? Since it was the pre-internet era, Megan’s decision allowed her to go directly to consumers without them having to seek her out privately. This is how the first storefront of Meg came to the East Village that she still has to this day.

In expanding her business, Megan set a goal of spreading her brand across America and Canada, but she did not foresee the challenges that arose from managing many stores. Because of this, Megan reevaluated her goals and reassessed the future of Meg.

“In my 40s, after the ’08 crash, I began again and wanted it to be everyone’s favorite little boutique in every neighborhood of New York,” Megan explained. “And so, I proceeded to make decisions about where to open. I thought about where my clients might be. Also being informed by my clients about where she is in return.”

One of the very things you may notice upon looking at Meg’s website is the “For Women By Women” slogan next to the logo. I know I sure did. It’s a principle that entrepreneurs should revolve their business around and live by in order to ensure authenticity, credibility, and a genuine relationship with their consumers.

The slogan, however, is relatively new to the Meg branding. Five years ago, it was “Made in Your Neighborhood” because Meg was manufactured locally. It was after taking a class on branding and witnessing socially relevant events that Megan thought to herself, “Oh yeah, I need to speak to who we are.” After the 2016 United States presidential election, her company, which was always comprised of women, had a moment that pivoted them toward activism.

“For the first time in forever, I realized that through my work, I could actually contribute,” said Megan. “And I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. And hence, I will always be grateful to Planned Parenthood. They were standing there in the doorway saying nothing, but they were like, ‘If you want to help us, we’ll take it.’ After that election, we started our feminist novelty products, and we donate ten percent to Planned Parenthood with each purchase of one. That started the idea that we could raise consciousness to women’s issues through our products. I felt for the first time that everything needed to be a little more purposeful. That became the lane—it wasn’t even a lane we chose, it was just the lane we were already in. We simply decided to speak it loudly.”

Meg by Megan Kinney

In designing for women, Megan always keeps in mind a problem-solving mentality for women just like herself. She thinks about “the urban woman with kids who is living and trying to look cool but needs her clothes to do a lot of work for her because she doesn’t have much time to fuss around in them.” Megan combines functionality, versatility, and easy-to-wear, fashionable pieces in all of her designs. She is also mindful of the variety of different body types women have and what is flattering for all of them.

“We try hard to hit those notes in every collection, and we continue to inspire, push, and find joy in the art and beauty of fashion.”

A recent addition to Meg’s collections was the creation of the Meg Movement over the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it had been in the work prior, Megan felt there was no better time to launch her loungewear than during quarantine when most of us were staying at home and living in comfy clothes 24/7. Not only was this a great moment for Meg the brand, but it was also a much-needed moment of inspiration and hope for Megan. 

“Being able to do our shoot to create the ad campaign for the Meg Movement was probably one of my most inspiring moments over COVID,” said Megan. “I was like, ‘All I ever want to do is be in a room with creative people, making art,’ so it was a perfect moment where that could happen. I got to work again with these amazing women who are fantastic dancers and art directors. It was super inspiring. So, I can hold onto that inspiration and hope that there will be more of it to come in the future.”

The beauty of working locally, Megan said, is the convenience of doing things at a faster pace, but in a bespoke manner, which is something you can’t always get with foreign manufacturing. Recently, Megan is much more interested in using reclaimed goods that she finds locally and producing something with small runs of cherished pieces.

“Now that I do that though, it’s funny because we have our buyback program where we take back old Meg stuff and customers get 15% off new products,” Megan said. “It’s part of our mission to be sustainable and be able to own the product 360.”

Aside from quarantine bringing about the Meg Movement, an appreciation for working locally, and using reclaimed materials, it also brought together and strengthened her community.

“Honestly, I need to credit my clients,” said Megan. “Because as my beautiful staff members remind me, they need nothing, and they’re buying from us because they want to keep us alive. I’m grateful for that, and I’m flattered that I, organically without much thinking, was able to create something that people wanted to latch on to. It’s a big learning experience.”

Though the past two years have been rough on many businesses, those who survived it can say that they have come out of the other side better than ever. With life starting to resume back to normal, with the occasional hiccups, things are looking up. It is important though, to remember what was learned and bring it with us: fight for what is right and keep a sense of community always.

Savannah Holderer

Savannah Holderer, writer at Young Hot & Modern